The Gift of Patiently Waiting
Poor choices. We have all made them. We all make mistakes, we all make poor decisions, and we all sin. They tell us that hindsight is 20/20, but what we do not always realize is how hurtful, painful, and damaging some of those poor choices can truly be. We do not always see the ripple effect of those sins. Through hindsight, we can see how our actions do not just affect us. We see it impact those who pray for us, who love us, and those who know us. Through hindsight, we can see the impact of our sins.
It’s humbling, is it not? I look at some of the choices in my own life and wish I could turn back the hands of time and keep myself from making those mistakes. I wish I would have respected myself, others, and God more than I did in the middle of those mistakes. That is what I wish for all of my mistakes and all of my sins. I wish I would have chosen obedience instead of selfishness.
I listen to others struggling with sins of the past and instead of pushing them closer to God, the guilt and shame pull them away. They wonder how God could ever love and accept them because of whatever they had done. If that is you today, please know that God’s arms are open to you in complete love and acceptance. It is not about what we have done, but who He is and what He did. Who He is is true love and what He did was die on the cross to be able to pull us in close in love and acceptance.
Let’s take a look at Paul’s story.
Read: Acts 8:1-3 and Acts 9:1-19
If ever there was an enemy of God, Saul (later called Paul after his conversion) would have been it. He was religious, committed, and zealous, but he does not seem to have accepted that Jesus was God made flesh. We first find him here in Acts 8 approving the execution of Stephen, the first martyr. The Bible then goes on to talk about how Saul ravaged the church, throwing men and women into prison, simply because they had taken Jesus at His word and believed that He truly was the Son of God. They believed in shaking off the chains of religion and clinging to a relationship with Jesus.
Saul was blinded, thinking he was doing the right thing. He thought he was honoring God, but instead, he persecuted Him. Present and approving of murder, hunting God’s people with the intention of throwing them into prison, and this is exactly the person that Jesus sought to bring close to Himself. Jesus sought the same person who would later tell us that he was the worst sinner of them all. Saul’s conversion shows us that no one is too far away from God that He can’t pull us in close.
But there is a message that is even more beautiful in the midst of this and it applies to all of us!
Patience meant that Jesus came at just the right time. As I look back on my life and wish that I could go back and change things, Jesus shows patience in waiting. Jesus could have revealed His risen self to all of those at Stephen’s arrest. Jesus could have shown up as Stephen was being executed. Jesus could have shown up when Saul first started persecuting the Church. Instead, Jesus shows up at just the right moment. He showed up when Saul was ready for Him. By showing up when He did, Jesus’ message had spread to Judea and Samaria. By showing up when He did, Jesus allowed the seeds to be planted through Stephen’s life, message, and death. By showing up when He did, Jesus changed the future for Saul and for the Church. Saul’s conversion made way for new churches to be planted and for more people to be reached with the Good News.
Patience means that Jesus never leaves us alone. Just because Saul was sinning does not mean that Jesus was not trying to get his attention. If we take a step back and view Saul’s story with more of that 20/20 vision that hindsight offers, we would notice that Jesus was there when Stephen spoke to the same crowd that would execute him, the same crowd of which Saul was a part. Jesus was there in every single person that Saul arrested and threw into prison. Jesus was there on the road to Damascus. It is easy to hold onto the belief that when we sin, He is hands-off and unwilling to come close, but look at how Jesus was around, wooing Saul to Him.
Patience means Jesus loved well, according to His mission. One of the definitions of patience is simply to wait before responding. If we respond to a situation prematurely, we may not be viewing the situation correctly. We may even respond out of anger rather than responding with love. Waiting allows us to see things clearly rather than being blinded by our own emotions. Jesus loved well by waiting. He responded to Saul (and to us) in love according to His mission. Here’s the truth about God’s love: Nothing can separate us from it. (Romans 8:35-39)
Sometimes the biggest touch we need is one that allows the scales to fall from our own eyes. When the scales fell from Saul’s eyes, he saw the truth of who Jesus truly is.