The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 227)

The Plant that Finally Bloomed

Christian Living

“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
There were sins we had committed in the past that could come back to haunt us and paralyse us to the extent that we find it hard to forgive ourselves. We bear guilt, self-reproof, self-contempt, and self-pity on those issues. These feelings become life-long injuries to the soul and when we are unable to free ourselves from our past, we can become impatient with ourselves to the extent of giving up all hope, even life itself. Even though we may not go to that extreme, we can end up committing moral suicide by casting off faith, love and hope in God. In such a case, we will be full of bitterness against people, the government and even God.

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
We are sometimes guilty of impatience towards those who are dearest and closest to us. Husbands often exhibit impatience towards their wives and vice versa. We chafe against one another like an ill-fitted yoke on the shoulders of the beast. Our defects in manners, in habits and in constitutional ways of thinking, acting and speaking can easily annoy one another. During courtship days none of these imperfections bothered us, but after marriage, it is a different story altogether. How do we conquer the feeling of intolerance towards each other at home? Summon patience to fight our battles for us. Patience will remind us that perfection, faultlessness, and absolute satisfaction do not belong to this world. To expect them in this life is but an empty dream. The only way to conquer our unrealistic expectations is to patiently submit to one another with God's help.

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
When we acknowledge that all things come from God, we must also believe that all the gifts a man has come from God also. All the talents and giftedness are given by our Creator; none of us can claim any credit to the possession of them. When we forget where our gifts are from then we will begin to praise men for their talents and ignore the Giver of all good things. On the other hand we will become impatient with those who are less gifted than us. We look down on those who are slow to learn and are quick to forget. We shout at their mistakes and are intolerant towards their lack of understanding. Our pride makes us think and act as though we are more superior than others.

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
On this side of Heaven, we will always meet people who are unfair, biased, unjust, and even evil in their dealings with others. After all, we are living in a fallen world full of self-centred sinners who live to protect their own interests. Perfect fairness and justice belong to God alone. To be patient and loving towards the unjust is a natural divine attribute that only God possesses. It is because God is patient and merciful that while we were yet sinners, God reconciled us to Himself by the death of His Son. Similarly, a godly man will try to reconcile his enemies to himself by the death of his impatience towards them even if evil was done to him.

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
When a man is alive in God, he realises that everything he has and every talent he possesses, even his emotional constitution, he owes them to God. Not only that, the natural environment he is in, the climate, the soil, the heat or the cold are all given by God. They are at God's disposal and dispensation, not ours. At any moment when we complain about the situations we are in, we are actually showing our impatience towards the God who through His providence and wisdom has brought these things to pass.

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.

Satan arouses our impatience to cause self-pity in us and disharmony within our families, pride in us to look down upon those who are less gifted than ourselves, hatred for those who cause us hurt, and doubt in God. Always remember God's patience towards us so that we may summon patience as our weapon to gain victory over the many battles we need to fight daily. Pray earnestly for patience in all circumstances of our lives!

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!

Dixie Chua
- Dixie Chua is an editor of Fishers.

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