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We are an impatient people who want everything done in a hurry. But God refuses to be rushed.
In the words of author James W. Moore:
We love instant results. We want everything done in a hurry these days. We don’t want to wait for anything. We are so different from the earlier generations who ordered things from the Sears catalog and waited with great anticipation for weeks or even months for the items to ...
We are an impatient people who want everything done in a hurry. But God refuses to be rushed.
In the words of author James W. Moore:
We love instant results. We want everything done in a hurry these days. We don’t want to wait for anything. We are so different from the earlier generations who ordered things from the Sears catalog and waited with great anticipation for weeks or even months for the items to arrive. We want to pay a little down now (even if we can’t really afford it) and get it today.
We are impatient people looking for immediate action and instant gratification, so much so that God’s patient ways sometimes confuse, perplex, and bother us. We are impatient, but God is deliberate, steady, and long-suffering. We look for the speedy way, the shortcut, the instant answer, the immediate solution. But God takes the long way ’round. God refuses to be rushed.
The way to become a spiritually mature Christian is to spend so much time with Christ that we begin to think and act like him, to spend so much time with him that we take on what the apostle Paul called “the mind of Christ.” It just takes time and effort and commitment. There are no easy, instant solutions. What we need to remember is that the things that matter most take time, effort, commitment, discipline, lots of practice, lots of hard work . . . and lots of patience.
Working chapter titles include, “Lord, Give Me Patience, and Give it to Me Right Now”; “Lord, Give Me Perseverance”; “ Lord, Give Me Faith”; “Lord, Give Me Forgiveness”; “Lord, Give Me Love”; “Lord, Give Me Childlikeness”; “Lord, Give Me Life”; “Lord, Give Me Grace”; and others.
This book includes twelve chapters and a discussion guide.
Scripture: Mark 10:17-22
Some years ago, a noted senator was asked what was the single most difficult aspect of being a United States senator. His answer was interesting. He said the hardest thing to deal with was the frustrating fact that his constituents back home had a "bad case of the simples!" That is, they expected him to work instant miracles in Washington.
They so easily reduced all complexities to neat little black and white simplicities. He said they didn't seem to realize that the most meaningful and significant accomplishments take time, effort, commitment, sacrifice, discipline, perseverance, and patience.
In a sense, this was the rich young ruler's problem. When he came to Jesus in search of real life, in search of something to fill the inner emptiness gnawing at him, in search of something to satisfy that deep hunger in his soul, he wanted no complicated personal involvement. He wanted an easy answer, an instant miracle, a simple solution. But when Jesus told him that this was no simple matter—that this is a life commitment that touches all that you have and all that you are—impatiently, the rich young man turned away sorrowfully because he wanted a fast, easy, simple remedy—a quick fix.
Remember the story with me. Jesus has set his face toward Jerusalem. He is on his way to the Holy City, on his way to the cross. This is serious business now. He is thinking deep thoughts when the rich young ruler runs up and kneels before him and asks about eternal life.
There are some fascinating things to notice here. This man is a rich young ruler—that is, he has all the things we (in our world) so openly long for—wealth, youth, power. Some would say, "He has it made! He has it all—wealth, youth, power. What more could he want?" But you see, that is precisely the point. Despite having all those things, something is missing in his life. He knows it, he feels it, he senses it. Something is missing! There is a void, a vacuum, an emptiness, a hunger that is not satisfied, a thirst that is not quenched.
Money, power, youthfulness—wonderful as they are—are not enough. Something more is needed to make his life full. He knows that his life is incomplete, so he comes to Jesus in search of a quick and simple solution. After all, he is probably used to getting exactly what he wants, simply and quickly. He is a "ruler."
When he speaks, people are quick to say, "Yes, sir." When he calls, people jump and come immediately. When he wants something, people rush to "step and fetch it."
Now, although we are not rich young rulers, that mindset is not alien to us. In a sense, we have become a spoiled people who are impatient with delays, detours, or even disciplines. We want things done for us quickly and simply. The push button has become our symbol. Why wait or work for anything? J. Wallace Hamilton in his book Serendipity put it like this:
"Pay one dollar down. Get it now!" "Clothes cleaned—one hour." "Cars washed—two minutes." [We] ... itch for the instantaneous—instant coffee, instant biscuits, instant cereal, ... [instant credit, instant e-mail, instant faxes]. We are impatient people ... looking for near ways, short cuts, quick results, simple solutions ... [and usually we want somebody else to do it for us]. (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1965, 158)
I'm thinking of the family planning a vacation who says, "We should go to London this summer. Call our travel agent. She will make all the arrangements." Or the businessman buzzing his secretary on the intercom and saying, "Wedding anniversary coming up this weekend. Pick out something nice for my wife and have it sent out." Or the children who break their new toy and say with a ho-hum shrug of the shoulders, "It's okay—Daddy can get us another one."
In something of a similar vein, the rich young ruler may have approached Jesus that day asking for eternal life because when Jesus shows him the cost of discipleship, the commitment demanded, the effort, the change, the risk, the personal involvement, the sacrifice that touches even the pocketbook, the young man is disappointed and he turns away, trudges away, misses his moment because he wants a religious quick fix rather than a total life commitment.
The point is clear: the things that matter most in life do not come quickly, easily, or simply. Not long ago, I read about a new car owner who called an auto manufacturer. He said, "Was it your company that announced that you recently put a car together from start to finish in seven minutes?" "That's right! We did it," said the executive proudly. "We put a car together from start to finish in just seven minutes." To which the caller said, "Well, I just want you to know, I think I have that car!"
The things that matter most take time, effort, patience, sacrifice, discipline, and deep commitment. Too much, too soon, too easily—is the perfect formula for frustration, heartache, and mediocrity. When we get too easily and reach too quickly, we tend to appreciate too lightly. To be sure, some things you can get immediately by pushing buttons or paying money down or by pulling out a plastic card. But the great things, the real values, do not come that way; they have to be grown and cultivated. You can get a sports car or a flat-screen TV with a quick down payment, but character, morality, integrity, maturity, spiritual strength—these you have to wait for, work for, want intensely, commit to, and cultivate and grow slowly but surely.
Sometimes our children's choirs sing an anthem called "Little By Little." It has this significant line in it: "Good things that are here to stay, don't get done in just one day."
The rich young ruler just didn't understand that being a disciple is no simple matter, that becoming spiritually mature is not instant or easy. It is costly! But it is a greater treasure by far than anything we have ever known. Let me illustrate the point further by looking with you at three things that we really need to work at and commit ourselves to if we are to attain any measure of spiritual maturity and understanding.
1. First, There Is Prayer
Developing a meaningful prayer life is no simple matter. It takes time and effort and energy. It takes practice. It takes patience.
Not long ago, I was watching a late-night TV talk show. The host was interviewing a man whose name you would recognize immediately if I were to state it. He is known all over the world as one of the greatest golfers of all time. He is a world-famous sports figure. He made an interesting confession on TV that night. He said, "I have never been what you'd call a real church-going Christian, but I do consider myself a religious man. When I was a little kid (four years old), my mother taught me a bedtime prayer, and I still say that same prayer today. It's the only one I know."
You know, that seemed kind of sad to me because that is not what happened in other areas of his life. As he grew older and stronger, he did not continue to play golf as he did when he was a "little kid." I should say not! Through hard work, practice, effort, discipline, sacrifice, and commitment, he became one of the superstar golfers in the history of sports. He became one of the finest athletes to ever walk on the face of the earth. But at the age of fifty-two, he is still repeating the same prayer he learned as a child of four. His prayer life had never grown, never stretched, never matured. It was static. There was no development at all. There is something disheartening about that, isn't there?
But who are we to throw stones at him? Most of us are in the same boat. Speaking of boats and prayer, remember the story about the two men caught in a small rowboat in the midst of a storm. As the waves rose higher and the boat threatened to capsize, the men knew that they needed help. They decided prayer was their only hope. So in the teeth of the gale, one of them shouted, "O God, you know that I haven't bothered you for the past fifteen years, and if you'll just get us out of this mess, I promise you I won't bother you again for another fifteen years!" Somehow that fellow had missed the point of what prayer is all about, hadn't he?
When all is said and done, the real question with regard to a good prayer life is: Do we really want a good relationship with God? Do we really want a strong friendship with God? Do we want it so much that we will work at it diligently and consistently and persistently for as long as it takes? Simply put, prayer is friendship with God and healthy friendships take time to develop. They need to be nourished and cultivated and celebrated until they become as natural and as comfortable as breathing. Strong friendships don't happen overnight. They have to be worked at.
If you want to become a doctor, lawyer, minister, teacher, musician, an architect, engineer, or athlete, it takes determination. You have to plug away at it. It doesn't come easily or simply or overnight. Maybe the same thing is true with prayer. Maybe it takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience.
2. Think Next of the Scriptures
Developing a meaningful understanding of the Scriptures is no simple matter. The truth is that while the Bible is in nearly all of our homes, not all of us are at home in the Bible. How is it with you? Do you feel at home with the Scriptures? Is the Bible a friend or a stranger to you? When crisis comes, you need a friend. In desperation people have turned to the Bible for strength, for comfort, for the word of life, expecting instant simple solutions, and sometimes they have come up empty because they didn't know how to find its treasures.
Edward Blair, in his book The Bible and You, points out:
The person who is looking for a way to master the Bible in three easy lessons will be disappointed. In the first place, one can never master the Bible. One can only be mastered by it. In the second place, the Bible is so immeasurably rich that the human mind cannot possibly embrace it all in a few attempts. Familiarity with the Bible comes only by long exposure to its contents. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1953, 52)
I know a minister who does an interesting thing. In preparing for funeral services, he takes the Bible of the deceased person and skims through it to see what has been marked or underscored or written in the margin. He says he discovers a lot about the person from his or her Bible. Interesting, isn't it? And it raises a good question: What would your Bible say about you?
3. Finally, Think about the Church
Being a real, committed church person is no simple matter. Becoming a real, devoted church person is a growing, developing thing. It is not a single act or event. It is not one experience suddenly over and done with. It is a process, a pilgrimage, a life commitment.
The initial salvation experience, however it may come and however wonderful it may be, is only the beginning; there is much to follow. It's like a wedding. It is easy to have a beautiful wedding, but it takes a lot of work and commitment and love to make a beautiful marriage. I am convinced that many professing Christians do not understand this. They have the simplistic idea that when they have "accepted Christ" and joined the church, that's all there is and there's nothing more. They see this initial experience as the final goal when really it is only the starting place. They think they have graduated when really they have barely enrolled. It is a wonderful thing to become "newborn," to become a "babe in Christ," but to remain a spiritual baby is tragic. Babies are sweet and adorable, but if they remain infants and never grow up, we consider that a calamity, and it is.
Ernest Hemingway, the superb storyteller, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. His novel, The Old Man and the Sea, was cited. It's the story of an old man, a Cuban fisherman, who for eighty-four days had gone without a catch. On the eighty-fifth day, he went a bit farther and caught a giant marlin. It was a great struggle to land the prize catch. It took three days, but finally the old man, with his hands torn and bleeding, his body aching with pain, won the battle. He had caught the fish. He couldn't get the huge fish into his boat so he lashed the eighteen-foot marlin to his boat and headed for home, thrilled with his victory. But then the sharks came and feasted on his catch. When the old fisherman landed in his harbor, all that was left of his magnificent catch was a skeleton. His great earlier victory ended in heartbreaking defeat.
When we look around, we see the sad fact that this happens to so many people in their faith experience—they end up with only a skeleton of some earlier victory.
Excerpted from Lord, Give Me Patience, and Give It to Me Right Now! by James W. Moore Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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