Praying for Patience


I have always been a little hesitant to pray for patience even though I need to grow into this fruit of the Spirit more fully. My hesitancy is because God knows my shortcomings and daily engineers circumstances that give me multiple opportunities to exercise patience. I have even cautioned my peers, “Be careful what you ask for in terms of patience. God may just set up a situation this day to put the virtue into practice.” Someone or something may challenge you. There are unpleasant confrontations with people and there are frustrating things to be fixed that are woven into each day’s agenda. These encounters have us praying, “Lord, give me patience!”

Paul counseled the Ephesians to live up to their calling in Christ and “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of peace” (4:2-3). These beautiful instructions give pastor and people guidance for relating within the church. The idea of “bearing with” means showing self-restraint and patient love for those who may ruffle our feathers at times. Difficult and adverse circumstances compel us to depend on God in order to “keep the peace” and keep ourselves “at peace.”

Since retirement my wife and I keep “bumping into each other” in our coming and going as we try to relate in our house. She is home this summer from substituting at the local school. I have moved my office into the family room. We have already gotten on each other’s nerves. I have said to her and I’m sure she has thought the same, “Is it your mission each day to see how many ways you can ‘push my buttons?’”

I have heard pastors complain about people problems and I’ve heard church members fuss about their pastors. Both sides needed patience to cope. When asked, “How were you able to last over 26 years with the same people?” I could answer in several ways. The same way you make a commitment to your spouse “for better, for worse!” Pastor and people have that kind of commitment to each other.

But, I could also answer, “the people were patient with me.” I know churches that have put up with some difficult pastor’s year after year. I tip my hat to these dear saints. They know that their leader is not perfect. They not only pray for him to be better, but they keep relating to him, listening to him, and encouraging him. In the end they see him grow in Christ. These kind of members need some credit for sticking with their pastor through thick and thin. They are making their pastor a better servant for Christ.

I would ask my pastor friends, “What does it mean to be patient with your people?” It means knowing that there is good in everyone. You just have to patiently pursue it and over time you see it. It means that you can let another “blow off some steam” and not let it close you out from them. Disagreement doesn’t mean division. A study of evaluation processes over these last 26 years tells me that all of us have blind spots and people have varying perceptions of us, often inaccurate, but we have the opportunity to show them otherwise over time.

A further counsel to church leaders would be to be patient with your circumstances. Change is slow in the church. Don’t force it, but persistently and patiently work toward it. This word in the original language denotes emotional quietness in challenging circumstances. Church leaders have a stewardship of leadership and God holds us accountable for that. I said to an esteemed fellow leader one time who was contentious about some church decision that we were on opposite sides of, “I am the pastor and God is holding me accountable to lead. If I don’t, I’ll have to answer to Him!”

Now, this doesn’t mean that we railroad decisions based upon pastoral authority, but there are times when we have to explain the burden we feel for doing what we think God is telling us to do. But, block out sufficient time to patiently bring people along. Talk about your vision, get others to buy into it, talk about it some more, widen the circle and include even others, then go with it! Here’s some parting advice I’m still trying to heed… dare to pray for patience, learn patience in the daily encounters God provides, and bear with others as you pray that they will patiently and lovingly put up with you.

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Very good Mike, and thanks for sharing it! I recently (yesterday) preached an ordination message for one of our associate pastors. I used the passage from 1 Peter 5:1-11, and the opening focus was about being a shepherd of God's flock. The key word is shepherd--as David noted, "The Lord is my shepherd..." and Jesus declared, "I am the Good Shepherd." There is a big difference between being a trail-boss and being a shepherd! Patience is a good word needed for shepherds as they seek to lead, instead of drive, the flock!
    Thanks again for lunch and the special time of fellowship!
    Blessings on your transition into retirement!
    Glenn

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    Replies
    1. Your feedback is "point on!" Pastoring for many years and now, being a Director of Missions gives you a certain perspective on the need for patience with and shepherding of the flock under our care. Thanks, dear friend!

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