Dr. Richard Halverson, chaplain of the U.S. Senate, spoke before a group of evangelicals who had expressed their anger about the Congress’ inactivity on the subject of school prayer. They were irritated that Congress had not acted with a strong initiative to restore prayer in schools. To those who were seeking greater initiative from the government, Dr. Halverson asked, “How many of you have prayed with your children this month, outside of church?” Nobody raised their hand. Spiritual initiative starts in the home, not Capitol Hill.
Happiness now-people seem to believe that they have an inalienable right to be happy–“I want what I want and I want it now.” No one wants to wait for anything and, for the most part, no one has to anymore. We have the phone moving to the video phone. We have overnight express and in some places same day express.
Computers, faxes, etc. have made everything instant. Waiting is interpreted as pain. People walk into my office and say they are Christians, but I see no difference except that they want to be happy and now expect God to make it so. The problem is that, in this country, you can have what you want when you want it most of the time. People like the fact that they can buy a 50-foot tree and instantly plant it in their yard. Why on earth would anyone want to wait on relationships or wait on God?
In the 1960’s researchers at Stanford University ran the “marshmallow test.” A researcher would tell a four-year old the following: “I am leaving for a few minutes to run an errand and you can have this marshmallow while I am gone, but if you wait until I return, you can have two marshmallows.” After a dozen years they restudied the same children and found that those who had grabbed the single marshmallow tended to be more troubled as adolescents. The kids who wolfed down one marshmallow instead of waiting for two, scored an average of 210 points less on SAT tests. There is real and documented value to controlling and disciplining our desires.
A principal part of faith is patience. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in A Twentieth Century Testimony: I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo-jumbo, as Aldous Huxley envisaged in Brave New World, the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. Patience is that calm and unruffled temper with which the good man bears the evils of life, whether they proceed from persons or things. It also manifests itself in a sweet submission to the providential appointments of God and fortitude in the presence of the duties and conflicts of life. This grace saves one from discouragement in the face of evil, aids in the cultivation of godliness, aids the development of the entire Christian character, and continued till the end, will terminate in reward in the life to come.
When Leo Durocher was manager of the Dodgers, he was once booed for removing a popular pitcher in the eighth inning of a close baseball game. After the game, a reporter asked Durocher how he responded to such vocal criticism, and the manager replied, “You know, baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.” That is often the case with criticism-it grows out of incomplete or inaccurate understanding of a situation.
Once Phillips Brooks was pacing back and forth in his study when a friend came by and asked what was wrong. “The problem is, I am in a hurry and God is not,” Brooks replied. “When God wants an important thing done in this world, or a wrong righted, He goes about it in a very singular way. He does not release His thunderbolts or stir up His earthquake. He simply has a tiny, helpless baby born, perhaps in an obscure home, perhaps of a very humble mother. Then He puts the idea or purpose into the mother’s heart, she puts it into the baby’s mind and then — God waits.”
God is a patient God. The challenge for the Christian in this process of growing spiritually is to learn the patience of God. God forced the children of Israel to live in the desert for 40 years to learn not only obedience but patience. They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
(1 Cor 13:4) Love is patient, love is kind, Paul said. (Dan 10:2-15) Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips;
and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”
Patience builds spiritual character. In March 1995, The New England Pipe Cleaning Company of Watertown, Connecticut, was digging twenty-five feet beneath the streets of Revere, Massachusetts, in order to clean a clogged 10-inch sewer line. In addition to the usual materials one might expect to find in a clogged sewer line, the three-man team found 61 rings, vintage coins, eyeglasses, and silverware, all of which they were allowed to keep. Whether it’s pipes or people, if you put up with some mess, sometimes you find real treasure.”