Growing Fruit: Patience June 21, 2015

Galatians 5:16-26

Grandmothers can be quite patient. There is a story about some grandmothers in the former Soviet Union. I am not sure if it was in Latvia, Estonia, or East Germany. The story may have been equally true in any of the nations formerly controlled by the Soviets during the Cold War.

The story goes that after the Soviets gained control of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, churches were closed. Gatherings of Christians were forbidden. The Soviets even built “government housing” that kept the people cloistered and away from any hint of Christianity.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe, some grandmothers gathered together and secretly buried a church bell. Throughout the Cold War these same grandmothers were praying. The Soviets tried to stifle any Christian practices. But the grandmothers kept praying. Obviously, some of these grandmothers were not grandmothers when the Cold War started. But even after they became grandmothers, these women prayed.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western Christians were wondering if there were any Christians left in the former Soviet Union. As expatriate Christians traveled back to those countries, they heard the story of the bell. The bell was hidden so that the Soviets could not destroy this symbol of Christian hope. For it is by the bell that Christians were called to the church building to worship together. The grandmothers who hid the bell and kept on praying for their families and their people, patiently waited for the end of communism.

If I could retell the full story of those praying grandmothers, then we could hear how the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of patience in the church. I think you get the idea. No matter how long it takes, the church keeps praying for the nations. The Holy Spirit is able to encourage us to be patient as we see world events unfold.

We do know that for years the prophets of Israel would speak the word of God to the people of God. The prophets would be abused, but they would still speak God’s word. Their spirit-enabled patience helped turn Israel back to God. This turning might take some time, but the prophets were patient.

Where did the prophets learn such patience? They learned it from God himself. For God was patient during the time of Noah. While the ark was being built, the people had a chance to turn to God. They did not turn to God. So only 8 in the ark were delivered from the flood.

God also showed his patience by sending Jesus Christ at the right time. The prophets told about one who would come and set the people free. Jesus sets people free. In Jesus’ ministry people turned to God. The kingdom of God was being established on earth through Jesus. It was after Jesus’ rising from the dead and ascending to heaven that more people entered God’s kingdom on earth by turning to God.

The most dramatic person to turn to Jesus was Paul. While wanting to correct the people who were followers of the Way, Saul traveled to Damascus. On his way to Damascus Saul encountered Jesus. After being blinded for 3 days and told to find Ananias, Saul turns to Jesus. Saul becomes Paul and becomes one of the greatest missionaries of the church. Nations heard about Jesus because of Paul. Paul endured many whippings, beatings, and stonings. But he kept on patiently speaking about Jesus.

Why is God so patient? Why do Christians have to endure so much as we speak about Jesus? The answer to both of these questions is so that we can repent. God does not want any to die. God wants us to know him and his ways while we are living in this world.

Yet, there are people in this world who continue to refuse to repent. For whatever reason, men, women, and teenagers do not want to live as followers of Jesus. People in this world want their own happiness fulfilled. People in this world want to be the rulers of their own lives. People of this world think they can live well without God.

Yet, for all of the routes to happiness, we have broken marriages, broken families, and devastated nations. For all of the self-ruled people in this world, we have set up kingdoms that are at war with each other, making this world a living hell. For all of the people who try to live without God, we see empty lives that can find no satisfaction, no matter how much money is spent or how many people are used up.

But God is patient. God wants us in his life. God wants you to find happiness, by knowing Jesus. God wants us to find peace in this world, by knowing Jesus. God wants us to live with him, now and for forever.

As the Holy Spirit is filling the church, the church gains this fruit of patience. For the Spirit helps us to discover happiness in having our sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus. For the Spirit of God shows the church how to be part of God’s kingdom. For the Spirit of Christ allows us to see the benefit, the importance, of life with God.

As the church pursues God’s ways, we find that even when times are tough, we patiently discover that people will turn to God. We endure much as a church so that this world can hear about Jesus. We are patient as our friends and family turn to Jesus.

The grandmothers of the former Soviet Union were patient. The Holy Spirit grew the fruit of patience in them, even when life was hard and the church was persecuted. When times are hard and the church is persecuted in other parts of the world, we still see patient Christians waiting for people to turn to God.

Will we be patient? Will we keep our faith in Jesus when times get tough? Will we keep praying for this nation, even when nobody repents? God’s kingdom has not fully come. For God wants us to repent and turn to him. Will today be the day that you repent and enter God’s kingdom here on earth?

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