PATIENCE AND FAITH
"For I know the plans I have for you." says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope...when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me."--Jeremiah 29:11
As I'm writing this a song is playing in my head: The waiting is the hardest part. Maybe that's the title, Waiting. I don't know music like some do. Waiting is a universal problem. I don't like it myself, but I'm learning that it's a very important skill to have. The best example I can think of that shows the consequences of being impatient is credit card debt. I have a friend whom I've lost touch with that still owes me $80. When I reminded her many years ago she claimed she didn't remember borrowing the money. Now that's scary. A person like that could get into some major credit card debt.
Delayed gratification is a wonderful thing because we appreciate the thing we've waited for so much more than we do when we get it right away. Whatever happened to saving for the things we want. It's just too tempting to get out the plastic, have what we want now and worry about paying for it later. The downside is that we end up paying far more than the item is worth because of interest charges and we are burdened with the stress of unpaid debt. A stress that can bring us to homelessness, poverty, and shame.
I always hated owing someone money. It would bother me everyday until I paid it back. I'm grateful that I have that conviction and I'm discovering that God actually blesses patience. So many times when I want something but walk away from it instead of buying it, I will find that exact item later for a much lesser price. God knows the desires of my heart and He loves to give me even the smallest thing that I'm longing for. My most recent delayed purchase was a board game called Clue. My daughter and I like to play games when boredom hits. I've been wanting the game Clue for quite a while. I remember playing it at my cousin's house when I was a child. Well guess what I found at a yard sale on Friday? The game Clue in a box like new with every piece intact for the bargain price of one dollar.
I just love when that happens. I love to see the blessings of my faith. Some people might call that a coincidence but I know better because I've had things like that happen to me so many times that it defies the law of coincidence. The word coincidence suggests something rare and random, a total fluke. But when these flukes begin to occur on a regular basis we can no longer call them coincidence. We must acknowledge the power behind them.
Patience and faith bring so many blessings. But faith is more than just believing in God. It's believing that God knows each one of us personally and wants to bless us and help us. What difference does faith make in a person's life? Well first of all our faith determines where we will spend eternity. People who believe that life is over when they're dead don't really know that for sure because they haven't died yet. Eternity is a long time, too long to take a chance on spending it somewhere unpleasant.
Another difference faith makes is the quality of our lives on earth. I remember reading about a woman who feared losing her job because she worked on commission and the sales at her register were very low. Someone suggested that she pray and ask that God would give her favor with people so they would come to her register to pay for their purchases. She took the advice and was amazed. God did bless her with what she asked for. Her sales doubled, then tripled.
Faith is a journey. It's a day by day discovery of God and his goodness. I don't always think of praying about every problem. I still try to figure things out on my own. I want to reach a point where prayer is my first reaction to every problem. That's the kind of faith I want. Hannah Whitall Smith calls that kind of faith "the life on wings". Every time I see a bird with wings stretched motionless, floating on the wind, I'm reminded of that life on wings that I long for. What an amazing way to live. And that's the way God created us to live. But how many ever find it?
I'll tell you the story about someone who did find the life she longed for. I discovered a wonderful author, Jan Karon. Her book, The Mitford Bedside Companion was something else I discovered while yardsaling on Friday. To me the best part of that book is her essay at the beginning titled, "I Know The Plans I Have For You." She shares her life story of how she got started as a writer. She was working in advertising and feeling very unhappy in that career. She longed to write books. So she began to pray.
"What do you want me to do, Lord? And how am I to accomplish it?" was her plea to God. After two years of persistent prayer, God spoke to her heart and said, Go. And I will go with you. So she sold her house and moved to a mountain village in North Carolina with the intention of having a peaceful place to write. After wrestling with doubts and a serious case of writer's block, Jan Karon had a surprising mental image of a man walking down a village street. This inspired her to begin writing about a fictional Episcopal priest named Father Tim. She took the first two chapters of her writing to a local newspaper editor and soon she was a columnist. After writing two years worth of columns she had a complete book. That book was the first of a bestselling series of Mitford Years books.
And this is my favorite part of that story. Jan Karon, at the end of her essay, tells us why she shared her early struggles as a want-to-be writer: "I tell you all that in order to assure you of this: God has plans for you, too. His plans are for good. And if you trust Him, you have both a future and a hope. How do I know this to be utterly and absolutely true? Because I have lived it. And I am living it still."
Now there is a testimony to the power of faith. Patience and faith will greatly increase the quality of our lives. We only need to put them into practice.