Friday, January 27, 2017
The Vision (1.27.17): The patient in spirit
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:7-10.
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
This verse addresses the dangers of impatience during difficulties. The teaching starts: “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (v. 8a). The main exhortation here is for the believer not to have a short-term view of any hardships he must face in this life.
We must remember the account of faithful Job. He went through terrible distress, but Job 42:12 records, “So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.”
Sometimes we give up too soon. If we would just persevere we might see blessing even in this life. Nevertheless, the believer must remain faithful even if he does not see immediate blessing in this life. He must look at his life from the perspective of eternity. To alter the last stanza of “Amazing Grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years …will we even remember the things that seem so large and upsetting to us here and now?” Better is the end than the beginning!
In his Ecclesiastes commentary, Charles Bridges observes:
The ordinary trials of the Christian life are grievous in the beginning; but fruitful in the end. Therefore, whatever be the trial of faith, never despond (p. 142).
God, who in mercy and wisdom governs the world, would never have suffered so many sadnesses, and especially to the most virtuous and wisest men, but that he intends they should be the seminary of comfort, the nursery of virtue, the exercise of wisdom, the trial of patience, the venturing for a crown, and the gate of glory (p. 143).
The corresponding and completing part of v. 8: “and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (v. 8b). Well has it been said that patience is a virtue. Paul called it a fruit of the spirit (see “longsuffering” in Gal 5:22-23).
Notice that the opposite of patience is pride. Pride is the father of impatience. Pride says: If I were in charge things would be better. If God would just do things the way I want, all would work out well.
More gleaning from Bridges (pp. 144-145):
Patience is the child of faith.
Let the Lord take his own course, as certainly he will. But trust him for the end in his own time and way.
Beware of fretfulness in walking through the rough and thorny path.
Never forget that we are most incompetent judges of his purposes.
….hastily to give up good purposes because of difficulties—would prove us to be poor novices in the Christian life. Proud self-confidence expects to carry all before us, and after repeated failures sinks down in despondency. The patient in spirit is content—if it must be so—with feeble beginnings, poor success, and many repulses.
We can apply this to so many things. We can apply it to our spiritual life. When we consider our own personal spiritual growth and maturity we might wonder why we are not making better progress. We can apply it to how we think of others. If we expect the Lord to be patient with us, why can we not be patient with others? We can apply it corporately to our church. And we can apply it to the church’s influence in our culture. We want more, but we must have a spirit of patience!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle