So I am just about finished with a great book I’ve been reading called Courageous Gentleness: Following Christ’s Example of Restrained Strength by Mary Ann Froehlich. Today I read her chapter of Patience and I want to share it with you because she makes such an important point. I also loved it because she used one of my favorite passages in the bible (the one that led to my being saved on the day this passage was shared in church). If you enjoy this little bit I highly recommend reading the entire book because I have gained so much out of it! (I’ll be back with you for a bit after you’re done reading. *wink)
PAUL LEARNS PATIENCE
Now read my favorite example of Paul’s patience in Acts 16:22-35, which puts any struggles I have with practicing patience to shame. Paul definitely practiced what he preached.
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailor was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailor woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
The jailor called for lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved- you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailor took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailor brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and the whole family was filled with joy, because they had come to believe in God. When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailor with the order: “Release those men.”
To experience the full impact of Paul’s experience in Acts 16 would require being shielded from the end of the story. In hindsight we immediately jump to the miraculous outcomes. The jailor and all of his household were saved. They washed the wounds of Paul and Silas and spread a meal before them, probably a celebratory feast. Then Paul and Silas were released from prison. But that is not where this story started. And in our own lives, we also cannot see the end of the story when we are trying to remain faithful to God in excruciating circumstances. Imagine that you and someone you love have been
- severely beaten,
- thrown in prison,
- put in a cell with no air or light, and
- fastened in stocks to ensure that you cannot escape.
Then the miracle of miracles happens. As you are worshiping and trusting God, He sends an earthquake to free you. This is the best action movie script ever written. God has literally broken your chains and opened your prison door.
And you don’t leave?
Isn’t it obvious that God has miraculously engineered your escape against all odds? Isn’t it clear that He has not only saved you but also made a way to lead the other prisoners to freedom? You are the hero of this action movie.
And you do….nothing? Are you crazy? Are you stupid?
But Paul patiently waited. Paul, the man of action, stayed put. He certainly didn’t know what he was waiting for. Like us, he understood God’s bigger miracle and purpose only in hindsight.
How often do we not reach the end of the story because we didn’t patiently wait and endure? Was it a bad marriage? Was it a cruel parent that we cut off communication with? Was it an adult child on drugs who pushed us too far? Was it a boss who didn’t appreciate us? Was it a friend who betrayed us?
Luke tells us in Acts that the other prisoners were listening and watching. When Paul and Silas stayed put, the prisoners followed their example. Remember. The world is watching us. When Paul tells us to not become weary in doing good, he means it. He encourages us to not give up, especially when we do not know the end of the story. God calls us to trust Him as we practice gentleness toward others and patiently wait.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I had heard it many times in AA, “Don’t give up before the miracle happens.” The reminder that God will work in your life if you turn to him and you hand your life over to his care. In his timing and through your growth as He is free to mold and shape you, you will experience the blessings He has in store…as long as you don’t give up or take the control from him.
My problem is I have very little patience. I would have been the one, that as soon as those prison doors were flung open and my shackles were free, bolting for the door! FREEDOM!!! At the first sign of God moving in my life and I start to see the small blessings He has provided to encourage me, I get over excited and I think, “Ok, we’re sailing now. Pull the main sail and let’s get boogying!” …then the wind dies down as soon as I get my hopes up.
When we deal with trials, particularly severe ones or ones that we have had testing us for an extended amount of time (or both), we tend to see even the small things as being bigger than they truly are. I have to be careful and look at the whole picture before thinking “this is what I’ve been waiting for!” If it does not fit with God’s promises, if it’s only a small piece of what it could be…you probably need to keep waiting. A miracle is around the corner if we wait and trust in God.
Just as Paul and Silas waited. They saw the people in the jail with them and all of the souls that needed their help, that needed Christ’s love. They may have been waiting for God himself to come walking through the cell doors, who knows. Either way, they knew that as they were facing death one minute and then they were freed from their chains the next, their faith was strengthened that much more. I also find it interesting that the writer of this story was guided to include the fact that all of this happened around midnight. Are we not told that with each new day our strength will be replenished? They knew that God was watching out for them and so why rush? God is obviously protecting them. God obviously wants to continue using them. They knew they needed to wait until He showed them what He wanted them to do next. ….Enter jailor.
Just as a teacher teaches us a new lesson and we get our gold star, we know that there will be another lesson the next day. That one gold star does not mean we are free to go our merry way. So, patience. Patience and faith. Faith and growth through trial and error will eventually lead to blessings upon blessings. We still need to put the work in while we’re being patient. Just as Paul and Silas had to share the word of God with the jailor and his family. They still needed to be disciples, no matter what their final outcome would be. Because they were faithful and patient and they continued to do the work of God, they were blessed with their freedom. True freedom. Not the hasty, irrational and self-seeking “freedom” of an escaped convict. A pardoned freedom in which wrongs were righted and everything was as it should be.
Tags: blessings, faith, God, Mary Ann Froehlich, Patience, Trust
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