Patience is not the ability to wait a long time; it is the ability to wait until the Appointed Time, and the wisdom to be productive until then.

That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises,

–Hebrews 6:12

One of the greatest dangers that we may face as leaders is the mistaken belief that inaction is a sign of patience. Sometimes, when we are given a mandate or have goals that are long-term in nature, we can at times become so focused on the events, desires, and potential fruit of our labors in the distant future that we neglect what we ought to do in the present. Joseph was certainly not idle while he awaited God’s deliverance. He was diligent when he served Potiphar, and continued to be active and diligent even when wrongfully cast into prison.

He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: To bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom. (Psalm 105: 17-22)

It is clear that while Joseph in time was given authority in the prison, his stay there was not pleasant. We would do well to remember this fact, and that Joseph’s deliverance from the prison to the palace and great authority would not have come if he had not been diligent in the work he had found to do there. What are you doing while you’re waiting on God’s promise?

God will always give you intermediate assignments to prepare you.

Even as the word of the Lord tried Joseph, you will be tried in your call. This is not merely for testing, but for development.

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Psalm 12: 6)

This is the process by which impurities are removed from silver, and by which it is strengthened for its intended purpose. A great deal of our purpose in God tends to reveal itself through the work He has us doing while we await the fulness of His promise. While you may not presently be able to undertake the great work that you envision for the future, there will always be some form of it presently available for activation, if only on a smaller scale. These seemingly lesser assignments are intended as a part of the progression toward and development into the leadership role to which we have been called. David had his father’s sheep, the lion, the bear, and Goliath to deal with before taking on the task of turning a band of discontented, distressed, and indebted men (1 Samuel 22: 2) into great warriors and military leaders. It was this that formed the basis of his transition to ruling an entire nation.

A discouraged warrior is a vulnerable warrior

Throughout the history of human conflict, those engaged in war have always sought out means by which they could strip their enemies of courage. Some used loud horns to signal a charge, others would create terrible siege machines and weapons, and still others would descend upon their foes while wearing terrifying masks or with a blood-curdling scream. Many of the devices and weapons of war throughout the ages were designed not just to deal out death, but also to inspire fear. Most people don’t fight as hard when they’re terrified, and it’s pretty hard to defeat an opponent if you’re cowering in terror. There are many devices by which the enemy will seek to directly oppose us in our call, but most of the time he will instead try to intimidate us into inaction.

The enemy is not all-powerful, nor does he have an unlimited number of agents to work through. Thus his chief weapon is deception, and he will often try to deceive us into being too afraid or too frustrated to take action, and since he is thereby relieved of at least some of the effort he was having to make against us, he is then able to cause trouble elsewhere. Very often we become discouraged because of such tactics, or because we simply lack the proper perspective.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2: 3)

There is indeed an appointed time for what God has called you to do and to be, and the Lord has determined to make a declaration through your life and leadership that will speak through the ages and beyond. Some things may seem to be delayed or denied, but in fact, many times the vision is waiting for us to be ready to walk in it. Since it will surely come, we would be best served by assuring that we are prepared when its time comes.

It is therefore vital to remain in right relationship with God and obedience to what He wants us to do right now. Sometimes this is our biggest problem in the area of patience. We must understand what we ought to do now, and make the most of all opportunities which are already set before us, not only so that we are prepared for what is to come, but also because what we do now often determines what is to come.

Points for Discussion:

  1. Examine where you are at right now, as compared to the vision God has given you in all its fullness. Evaluate your present activities and whether they are conducive to God’s intended future for you and your ministry.
  2. Write a brief sermon on patience and its application to human relationships.