The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 227)
“Auntie Dixie, you are an avid gardener, would you like to adopt this iron plant?” Ming handed me a plastic bag with a miserable looking section of the stem of a Dracaena plant (commonly known as iron plant) sitting in a pot with bone-dry soil. The leaves of the two young shoots coming out from the stem were withering away – evidence of severe dehydration.
“Where did you get this plant? It is almost dead!”
“An elderly lady came to visit my mother a month ago and she presented this plant to us but no one wants to take care of it. I only like plants that bloom constantly and bear fruits. I have no patience taking care of this iron plant which is so uninteresting. It has nothing but leaves.”
“Ming, this plant is called fragrant Dracaena. It is cultivated for its beautiful ornamental broad green folige. It needs well-lit places with warm and humid conditions to flourish. When the plant is mature, it will produce clusters of fragrant yellowish flowers. All you need to do is to give it time and care and it will bloom for you one day. You have to be patient.”
“Oh no, auntie Dixie, I have no patience and I want instant gratification from things I do. You can have it.” I ended up with this sick 'baby' to nurse back to health. What Ming said got me thinking about Patience and Passion, two characters from John Bunyan's book The Pilgrim's Progress. Patience signifies the willingness and determination to persist in doing something for a good cause whereas Passion is the discontentment of the lack of power to possess what one wants.
In the book, John Bunyan portrays Patience and Passion as two children sitting on two chairs in a small room:
“The name of the oldest was Passion and the other was Patience. Passion seemed dissatisfied; Patience was quiet. Christian asked, 'Why is Passion dissatisfied?' The Interpreter answered, 'His administrator wants him to stay for his own good until the beginning of next year. But he wants it all now. Patience is willing to wait.' Then one came to Passion, brought him a bag of treasure, and poured it at his feet. He picked it up, rejoiced, and they all laughed at Patience. I (Christian) watched as he wasted it all. He had nothing left but rags.”
Passion wanted something and he wanted it now, but Patience was willing to wait and suffer for better things to come. Passion was ruined by what he craved for while Patience received his reward.
Patience is important in all aspects of life. It is sad to see people rushing around trying to feed their passions and have no patience for things of beauty and of lasting value. Very few people are interested in looking into the heart of a flower to admire its beauty and intricacies. Impatience is Satan's playground for him to create havoc in our lives. Let us not fall into the trap of Satan allowing him to create disharmony within ourselves, in our family, in our relationship with others and to cause us to doubt God's love for us, through impatience.
There are two aspects to patience: a passive aspect and an active aspect. The passive form of patience is a quiet, calm and courageous endurance of the trials that God in His providence chooses to bring into our lives. Nothing can happen in our lives that escapes God's knowledge and evades His control; especially when trials come because of our faith. In such instances we should exercise Christian courage and patience until it pleases the Lord to release us from them. The active form of patience is a quiet believing, waiting for, and in expectation of, what God has promised in His Word.
In Luke 21, in the midst of Jesus' foretelling of the destruction of the temple and the signs and calamities that should precede and accompany it, He said, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19), and He also said, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt 24:13). When a believer is under severe testing and yet suffers in patient endurance without falling away from Christ, that gives conclusive proof that he is a true believer.
Every life is like a vast field of battles that one has to fight daily; the battle of trials, insults, temptation, injury, provocation, and all kinds of suffering and pain. What sort of weapons do we use to fight these battles? In order to have victory over them, sometimes we have to summon hope to overcome disappointment, self-denial to conquer passion, prayer to over-power temptation, but most of all, we need to summon patience to deal with our daily encounters. First of all, we need to be patient with ourselves and with our family members, then we need to be patient in our dealings with other people and most important of all, in waiting before God.
Be Patient with Ourselves
Even after we have received Christ as our Saviour, in times of weakness, we may still slip back to our old self, wallow in self-pity, and refuse to serve the Lord. In moments like these we must remember that we are still 'work in progress' and that the hand of God is patiently and busily chipping off undesirable corners in our character to make us more Christ-like. Remember what Isaiah said about our Lord, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Is 42:3). If the Lord has not given up on us, we should not allow our past sins to overwhelm us. Let us be patient with ourselves and let God mould us in whatever way He pleases for His glory. Patience can help us to conquer self-pity.
Be Patient with Our Family Members
Similarly, we need to patiently cherish our children, because they are only loaned to us for a short time to love and to mould before we release them into the world to be on their own. They are born sinners just like us and they need our patient guidance and love to bring them to the Lord for salvation and sanctification. Our impatient shouting and screaming will only drive them into the arms of Satan, who will lead them in the ways of the world. Patience helps us to conquer disharmony in our family life.
Be Patient Towards Those Who are Less Gifted than Us
The Bible says, “The LORD tears down the house of the proud” (Prov 15:25a) and “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). Our pride will bring down all that we think we have achieved on our own! God has given each person the capacity to learn and the intellectual ability to understand. When we think that we are wiser than others, there is always someone else who has higher intelligence than us. It is foolish of us to be proud of our achievements. Patience will help us to conquer our pride.
Be Patient with The Unjust
Man's natural tendency is to hate those who have done injustice to him. But it was while we were still unfair and unjust to others that God showed His mercy towards us and saved us. Think of those people who are still in their sinful state and outside the Kingdom of God. They are truly miserable and in a worse state than ourselves. Should we not show kindness and patience to them so that we may win them for Christ? Our hatred for the unjust can be conquered by our patience towards them. When we do that, we are actually imitating God who shows love and forgiveness to those who rebel against His sovereign rule. We need to summon patience to conquer our hatred towards those who have treated us unjustly.
Be Patient in Waiting Before God
We often hear comments like, “Why doesn't God answer my prayer the way I want?”, “Why does this disaster strike me? Surely I don't deserve it!”, “Only if God has given me a better husband, I would be able to serve Him more faithfully!” etc.
Every complaint reveals our ingratitude towards our loving Heavenly Father who has our best interest at heart. Sometimes, due to our pride and impatience, we consider God's ways offensive to us! We doubt that God's way is the best way because we do not trust His invisible hand in guiding us throughout our existence on earth. Patience with God's way is the best weapon to conquer our doubts.
Finally, you may wonder whatever happened to Ming's Dracaena? Ming's impatience has deprived her of the joy of seeing the plant bloom eventually in my garden. I patiently cared for this tree for ten years and watched it grow from a tender plant to a stately two-storey tall tree which finally bloomed! My patience did pay off. Patience can turn many adverse situations into God's blessings for us!