The great Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh painted the image you see above. In the foreground you can clearly make out two peasant workers – perhaps husband and wife – resting in the shade from the midday sun. Two great mounds of hay are the evidence of their hard, back breaking labour. In the background are the animals and the hay cart, as well as a vast field of hay that is still yet to be harvested. How long they have been there we do not know. Will they get all of the hay in today? We don’t know this either. What we do know is that the fruit (the hay in this instance) didn’t grow overnight and bounty isn’t enjoyed until the work is done.
This painting teaches me so much about God’s work and our hope.
GOD’S KINGDOM IS MEASURED IN DECADES NOT DAYS
I have to understand this: In God’s Kingdom, there is nothing that changes overnight. His plan of redemption unfolds slowly, sometimes painfully slowly. If you doubt this just read the story of Joseph (in prison for two years); Israel (in Egypt for 400 years); Daniel (in Babylon for around 60 years); Hebrews 11 .. all sobering reminders that God’s schedule is not our own. God tends to measure in decades, not days. Trusting God during the winter seasons is not easy – and it’s not supposed to be. When everything around seems to be falling apart faith demands that we trust God anyway.
I was reminded of this just this week. I was trying to play a tricky Tenor Sax jazz solo by the brilliant Charlie Parker. I was reminded that success doesn’t come without an extended time of trying.
This is how God typically works—and it requires patience.
GOD’S KINGDOMS ROLLS ON AND DOESN’T STOP
In God’s Kingdom the “new” is being created (and will still yet be created) and the “old” is (and has) passed away. There is a great permanence to what God is doing. He doesn’t build for the moment or even a lifetime, He builds for eternity. The two peasants in the image will be doing the same thing again next year, and the year after, and the year after that. This is because hay isn’t permanent! It gets used up. Things in this life wear out and break down. There are some things that cease. There are some things that seem like it would be a really good idea if they ceased sooner. There are some things, however, that are supposed to last. Marriages. Friendships. Values. Character. Yes, all of these go through changes – marriages can sometimes be hugely affected by the droughts and valleys of life – but they are supposed to be forever.
Sometimes we can do all of the “right” things, and still things fail. Our world is a world pricked by thorns (Genesis 3:18) and the labour in it is full of sweat (Genesis 3:19). again I’m reminded that patience is not optional but I’m also reminded that one day, just like the harvest, there will be a glorious end to hardship. Whilst I wait, I have to remember that God is working, sometimes underground, to bring about a harvest above ground. What God is doing isn’t always known, or seen. Sometimes it’s hard to see. Take hope. God is working.
GOD’S KINGDOM DOESN’T GET TIRED DOING GOOD
How do I know God is working in me? Well, Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that the fruit of the Spirit is patience. Allowing The Holy Spirit to bring about His fruit in our lives requires us to engage in the work. Unlike the peasant farmers in the image, I cannot rest because God doesn’t rest. I engage in all forms of spiritual activity so that God would have his perfect way with me.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve had a hard time recently with one situation or another and you just kind of fell that you’re done. How can you recover a “Gods Kingdom” perspective about his work? Here are some ideas:
Go to God
The fruit of the Spirit could be described as “the character of God in us”. It’s a helpful notion. If we are lacking the character of God, the only place to go is God Himself. Do you remember how patient God is with you? When was the last time He gave up on you? (the answer is never by the way, just in case you were unsure!). God doesn’t give up on us, even though there is good reason to. His patience hasn’t yet been returned. He longs for more to be done in and through us – and since we aren’t there yet – this shows a great measure of patience. In fact, it’s a God-measure of patience.
Confess your Sin
It’s hard to be patient when we are discontent with where God has placed us. We are prone to think that we should be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else but the truth is God has us wherever we are so that He might work His righteous purposes out in us. The moment we grumble or grow bitter our hearts are declaring that we know more than God. The Famous preacher, CH Spurgeon, once said: “clear your heads of deceitful fancy.” In other words, “don’t be dreaming about a world you haven’t been given”. God has assigned to us our portion and if there is an discontent in our hearts it needs to be confessed and repented of.
Expect to wait
Expectations matter. My wife recently took one of my daughters to the Accident & Emergency department at the Hospital. The expectation was that there would be a long wait. (Actually, they were in an out very quickly). If you get into the mindset that God is going to get you out of a fix, quickly, then you might be discouraged or become bitter. God
sometimes often allows us experience the very things that we hope we won’t, in order to grow in us the desirable fruit. It’s helpful to remember God’s Kingdom is not in a rush. God works slowly.
Prepare with hope
Paul wrote to the church in Rome and said:
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Prepare yourself with hope. Paul said:
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy
In other words: don’t stop hoping, and as you do be strengthened. Hope is strength. What is it that we hope for? Three things:
- that we are being transformation into the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:2-3)
- that we will yet see the salvation of God (1 Timothy 4:10)
- that we will see simply Christ Himself (1 Timothy 1:1)
Don’t Give Up!
Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up
The opposite of patience is giving up. Don’t. Don’t grow tired of doing good. Keep at it. Pursue it. Chase those things that stir your affections for Christ and fell those things that don’t. Know that God has created you on purpose to have purpose so whatever that looks like pursue it with patience.