The scripture says a lot about seeking the Lord and getting wisdom from Him on the direction He wants you to go. But what about that most dreaded in-between stage, when you’re praying for wisdom and getting nothing, and no doors seem to be opening, and you feel unsettled – like you know your time in a particular circumstance or life stage is short, but you have not yet been released?

In a word, what about waiting?

The Fruit of the Spirit

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit… but it comes as a result of a process.

Paul lists the “fruit” that we bear when we’re walking with God’s spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

Peter gives a similar list, but he doesn’t call them fruit.  His list looks like this (2 Peter 1:5-7):

  1. Add to your faith, goodness.  This makes sense, because without faith we can’t even become God’s kids.  So you have to start with that – faith is the seed that produces the fruit of goodness.  In the Old Testament, God started by giving the Israelites the Law.  They didn’t understand why they were doing what they were doing, but the Law produced “goodness” – meaning they weren’t killing each other and cheating on their spouses, and that sort of thing.
  2. And to goodness, knowledge.  God didn’t want them to stop there, though.  He wanted the Israelites to know Him, not just to obey a set of rules.  God wanted them to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).  Goodness therefore leads to knowledge – knowledge of the Lord.
  3. And to knowledge, self-control.  Now that we know what God asks us to do, and we know God himself, we need the ability to control ourselves in order to do what He is asking of us… but we don’t have the ability to control ourselves unless He gives it to us (remember Paul talking about how he used to continually do what he did not want to do, Rom 7:15-20? Instead, we get the fruit of self-control by getting to know the Holy Spirit (which is why Peter lists it after knowledge.)  So knowledge is the seed that produces the fruit of self-control.
  4. And to self-control, PERSEVERANCE.  We may have learned to subjugate the desires of the moment for the longer-term goal, but what happens when the longer-term goal looks REALLY far away, like it’s never going to happen?  That’s why we need perseverance.  The word implies a struggle: it’s suffering without quitting.  It’s hard, but we stick it out.  The writer of Hebrews says, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (10:36).
  5. And to perseverance, godliness.  Notice that the corresponding fruit to perseverance is patience.  While the word perseverance implies a struggle, the word patience implies rest.  You’re not struggling anymore.  You know that God is going to come through.  Perseverance is the seed, and eventually it bears the fruit of patience.  Once you’ve got that, once you’re in rest, you become godly.  This was one of the key traits that set Jesus apart: when the storm blew up, while the rest of the disciples were freaking out, He was sleeping in the boat.  He’d said they were going to get to the other side, and He knew they were going to – he didn’t have to persevere through the storm anymore.  He was in rest.  He was godly.
  6. And to godliness, brotherly kindness.  Paul lists kindness after godliness.  Now that you’re in rest, you’re not so worried about meeting your own needs anymore; you know God’s got you covered, and you can wait peacefully for Him to come through.  Now you have energy to spare, and you can use it to see and joyfully meet the desires and needs of those around you.  (The fruit of kindness is joy, because it feels pretty great to help others.)
  7. And to brotherly kindness, love.  This is the ultimate destination – to sow love into the lives of others, as we have received it from God.  (“Freely you have received; freely give,” Matt 10:8.)

What this tells me is that we can’t just pray for patience and get it, in the same way that you can’t just pray for a Ph.D. and get it without putting in the necessary time and effort.  It happens as a result of a process – that’s how God set it up.  We have to first believe God, then follow after Him, then get to know Him, and then we gain His power to control ourselves and persevere, even in the face of hardship or long delays.  Once we learn how to do this, we bear the fruit of patience.  That’s when we can “sleep in the boat,” as it were.  We’re not worried about the circumstances – now we can “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7), because we know it’s gonna work out just fine in the end.

David: Waiting for Deliverance

David was anointed to be king when he was 17.  Then the current king, Saul, got (understandably) jealous, and tried to kill him… so David was on the run for thirteen years.  Almost anybody else would have given up long before that… but David had this principle down.  He knew God would come through if he waited for God to act.  And God always did.

  • Ps 5:3 “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
  • Ps 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
  • Ps 33:20: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”
  • Ps 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
  • Ps 38:15: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.”
  • Ps 40:1: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”
  • Ps 130:5: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
  • Ps 130:6: “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”

Why Waiting?

Personally I hate waiting.  I hate anything slow.  I walk fast, I eat fast, and some people say I talk too fast.  If I wasn’t a naturopath I’d be all about microwaves.

But James says that we should rejoice when we face trials (including delays) because “you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3) – there’s that word again – and perseverance is the seed that produces the fruit of patience.  Notice that all of the fruit before patience are about us – they’re about our growth in faith, in knowledge, and in controlling ourselves.  But patience is the one that allows us to start to produce for others – godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  That’s where God wants us.  So James goes on to say that “perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4) – in other words, not lacking any of the other fruits of the spirit.

But it means more than that too – those fruits of the Spirit also bear physical results in our lives.  For example – Abraham’s patience eventually “bore the fruit” of Isaac (Heb 6:15).  The farmer who patiently waits for the appropriate season will eventually “bear the fruit” of a harvest (James 5:7).  Had the farmer tried to reap prematurely, he would not have had a harvest at all – he absolutely had to be patient, recognizing the season he was in and doing the work associated with it (Prov 20:4; Ecc 3:2).

Do Not Despise Small Beginnings

The same is true of us.  God reminds us not to “despise the day of small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10) – everything great started out small.  We all start out as babies.  Every harvest begins with a seed.

Solomon reminds us not to try to “get rich quick,” for instance, because it will become a curse in the end – instead he says that if you gather money little by little, you will make it grow (Prov 13).  He says to build what you already have, and not to tear it down (Prov 14).  He says whatever your hands find to do, you should do it with all your might (Ecc 9).  He reminds us that our part is to do the possible, but we must leave it to God to do the impossible – that is, to bring victory (Prov 21).

“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Heb 6:12).