Now and Later

Now and Later

James 1:12 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When I was a kid, my favorite candy was called “Now and Later”. Small squares of taffy individually wrapped in a variety of flavors wrapped in colorful paper sold at every corner store. A bit sour at first, it took a while to chew it until it softened and completely swallow it because it stuck to every corner of your mouth. The inventor decided to take a bar of taffy and cut it up so it could be enjoyed – you guessed it – now and later. Previously the bar was sold in whole pieces so it had to be consumed all at once. Surprisingly this candy has withstood the test of time and is still available in nineteen different flavors. Have you ever eaten a “Now and Later” candy? It is very dense, thick and chewy. At first it requires a great deal of jaw strength and a whole lot of work to make it soft enough to enjoy. It takes a while to process and swallow to digest. So it is with faith and the process is called endurance. The only requirement is patience.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation now. Afterward (later), they will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. Why would God test and tempt us now? He doesn’t. God will test us, but it is our flesh that does the tempting. Today – there are many in the middle of a test who think God is tempting them or otherwise engaging them in this difficult process. It is human nature to try to escape those situations and conditions that require us to “patiently endure.” Who wants to be stretched? Who asks to struggle? Yet throughout our life certain circumstances and difficult conditions call for this very thing. We must learn to patiently endure because Jesus told us those who “endure to the end will be saved.” I think we have painted a multifaceted picture with brilliant color of what that means in accordance with our situation or condition. However, God in all things sets forth a redemption process in our life. We endure the process and He produces the outcome. Not just any outcome, the best of all possible outcomes. He gives us victory in all things through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are overcomers.

What does it mean to patiently endure? I looked up both words and here is what I have come up with. To be patient means bearing provocation. Provocation is anything that incites, instigates, angers or irritates. Provocation occurs each day. People seem to be the ones who hit the deepest nerve and many will give credit to the enemy. Proverbs tells us that if we fall under pressure that our strength is too small. There is no provocation that can overtake us unless it is our reaction to give in to it. Provocation is like the giant taunting David in the midst of the battlefield. His words and verbal attack could not hurt God’s Man. He patiently endured his brothers ridicule and the Philistines banter. He won!

To be patient means bearing annoyance. I grow annoyed every day don’t you? Little things become bigger things by dwelling upon them. How many thorns in the flesh do you have? Overcoming annoyance means to learn to ignore disturbances and those pointless arguments. We must learn to focus on the One who brings peace and rest to our mind, will and emotions. Those who trust the Lord will have perfect peace. Annoyances become disturbances that distract us. Leading us from following Jesus to be driven by the fuel of emotionalism.

To be patient means bearing misfortune. Everything may not work out the way that we think it will or expect it to but that does not mean it is not working in our favor. God takes every detail of our life and works it out for our good and His Glory. When reading the Gospels, it is hard to understand sometimes the doubt and disbelief exhibited by the disciples. However, we have the whole picture. We see Jesus on the Cross. We know that He released His Spirit and soon it would be available to us. We know that He is coming back from the dead and resurrected to life. But to these men, this was real life. Depicted in real time without a higher perspective or futuristic vantage point. They say Jesus persecuted. They witnessed the violent beatings and torture of the Man they called Messiah. They heard the nails being driven into His Hands and Feet. They experienced the humiliation of the Cross and the belittling of those who watched everything they believed made a sacrifice that day. We were not. We are given the whole story beginning to end. Yet many still do not believe…it was the same then as it is now. Unmet expectation only means that it was not in Jesus Christ. He will fulfill every desire of our heart if we are patient in misfortune.

Patience is bearing delays, deferment or postponement in life. It means taking a seat right there and being still when God says, “Wait.” I don’t like to wait. In fact, over time I can see all the ways the Lord has offered me opportunities to learn to wait. A little here and a little more there. Over time, I have become much more patient. From my early childhood to young adulthood, my grandmother probably told me once a day – you must be patient. The church told me no matter what to never pray for patience for the process is too hard. Knowing all this, the Word of God tells me that I must by all means endure the process that produces patience to receive God’s Blessing. Proverbs says a hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. I wonder if God proverbially calls life a tree so that we will come to realize growing faith is a slow process involving many seasons. We will wait. Those who wait in the Lord are promised not just the strength to do so but in their humble state to be lifted up at just the right time. I know you are tired of waiting – I feel your pain. I also know the joy and life that comes when the dream or desire is finally fulfilled. It is always worth the wait.

To be patient is to bear hardship. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people. Sin is the rampant. Love has grown cold. Worldly expectation cannot count on fulfillment because the heart is fickle. Difficulties are certain. Oppression will come. Suffering is inevitable. Feeling any better yet?

Of course, the final thing and probably the one most understood is pain. Human beings experience pain from birth. It is a common thread. We know how to support each other through painful processes including physical infirmities, emotional breakdowns and mental suffering. Most people have some form of compassion. Pain is part of life because of sin. It was introduced by the first humans who chose their way over God’s Plan. They picked the lie over the Truth and so here we are now. Your sin does not necessarily produce the pain in your life because of anything you do or do not do. It is just a prevailing factor of human depravity. If a virus or germ goes undetected by our immune system, it becomes an infection. If our body doesn’t come against it fighting it, it will lead to death. Sin is a factor in our DNA. God’s Word, His Will and His Way are given to us and we are guided by His Spirit to avoid it. However, we are still subject to the invasion of our life due to the sin that is already here. God’s Grace given in Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin and death over our life. Though there is pain, there is the promise that He will relieve our pain, wipe our tears, and heal us forever.

All of those bearings in life will inevitably happen in your lifetime, but the thing that makes the difference between going through them or to do so patiently is this: to do so with fortitude and calm without complaint, anger or the like. I have endured many things in life. However, by definition there are not many of them which I have done so successfully. I have quit and I have definitely complained. I have been angry. Pitched a fit. Walked away. How about you? God uses these natural situations and everyday occurs us to teach us endurance. To endure means to bear without resistance, to hold out against, to sustain without impairment. It is to tolerate and put up with it. Those who learn to do so are promised God’s Blessing in their life now and later.

Maybe you are thinking as you read this – you have outlined my life, trials, tests and temptation in great detail – are you really trying to make me feel better about it? “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a change to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing!” God has a purpose in this process called life. It is not easy. It requires patient endurance that is only possible by faith and confident hope. That is not easy either – faith is evidence of unseen things that cannot be experienced in the natural. It is to explore possibility in the impossible. It to live a life that is illogical compared to our flesh and human nature. It takes time to produce such a change in the heart and mind. Trouble is when the pressure and pain that produces endurance hit us – it is our desire and temptation to escape. Temptation is the personal desire to give up, give in, or go another way when faced with obstacles and oppression the force the God in us to be expelled from us. The pressure of death to life is overwhelming. New life takes time. Like a tree planted by the riverbank going through many seasons, but the promise is that we will prosper in all of them. A tree must withstand every season because it is planted with deep roots in the ground. What about you? Are you planted in a firm foundation of faith? Are you patiently enduring the change of each season? Are you struggling just to hang on? Does the end of your rope appear to be a disappearing thread?

I Peter 2:19-21 (NLT) For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

I used to perceive God only as futuristic. This was my way of avoiding the things I did not understand or could not reconcile to the Love of God and found contradictory to His Character. There will be things in my heart and mind that I struggle with. Certain outcomes that do not meet my expectation. Are you patiently enduring today or just struggling to get by? I want to encourage you today. If we decide to apply faith and confidence to our struggles each day, it will produce peace and joy as God begins to complete the work that He began in us. Do not be discouraged. The disciples struggled to believe in all things with Jesus right there with them. God is pleased when we patiently endure. He did not say that we were perfect, He is perfect. It is His Perfection that blesses us as He makes good out of every detail of our life. We must only try wholehearted to seek Him and we will find Him. Patient endurance is holding on to our faith without wavering from our faith. He knows life is hard. He knows we are tempted. He knows we are only human. He is working every detail for our good. His Blessing is not our success or failure to overcome the obstacles presented in each day but our simple obedience called patient endurance.

Mark 6:47-50 (NLT)  Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 

When the disciples were caught in a storm in the pitch black darkness right in the middle of the lake, Jesus was walking across the lake. We often think it is to them, but in the Gospel of Mark it tells us that Jesus was going to pass them by on His Way to the other side. It was a test to measure their faith. Their faith ran out before they made it to the other side. They cried out to the Lord in fear and terror. So He came to them… Jesus will do the exact same thing for you. Yes this may be a test. This may be the opportunity God has designed to grow you in faith and confidence. If you are in need of strength or courage, cry out to Jesus today. He did not tell you that you must do it alone. He is our example. The Lord is our every present help. We are not called to be the strong ones but to be yoked with Jesus so He can be our strength. Don’t go it alone. He is our Lord both now and later.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT) Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s