Makrothumia 5

Jeremiah 33:12-14

(OK, not what Roger's talking about here, but pretty funny anyway! and it's Friday!)

If you have ever been around new construction in progress you know of the mess the ground becomes during all the work. It doesn’t matter if it is a single home, a whole subdivision or a corporate building, when the building is going up the ground is a wasteland.

But, in time, when the work is done, lawns are planted. Ornamental trees and plants are put in, and what was once desolate becomes a beautiful landscape.

Jeremiah is quoting a promise from God. What does the area look like at the time of this writing? What will it look like? When will this happen?

Sometimes it is difficult to envision what the future will bring. It is hard to anticipate the beauty that can exist when you are looking at the here and now and the desolation that may exist.

We experienced it in past houses we have owned, houses that needed repair. We experienced it as the new parsonage began to take shape (it began as a hole in the ground with cement blocks in a cow pasture!).

We can all experience it if we look at the spirituality of the world around us. The number of un-churched people – those who do not know God and do not appear to be interested in God – seems to grow daily.

Most mainline churches have declining congregations. Current trends in mainstream America are far from the Christian ideal.

Our own faith may look like a shambles from time to time. We may have doubts. We may have fears. We may have worries. We may wonder why we can’t have the faith that we should.

Our first response should be to remember that God is faithful. He has patience with us, and we need to be patient with His plans.

We need an attitude of makrothumia with our faith. We need to be patient with ourselves and with our world. But it should not be an idle patience. We need to have an active patience – makrothumia – a persistent, dogged, driving faith that moves forward and deepens each day. With an attitude of makrothumia we can cling to the hope and promise that God offers, of pleasant fields, of answered prayer, of heaven on earth.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you use to remind yourself daily that God will fulfill His gracious promise?

Makrothumia 4

Luke 18:1-6

I like grits. It amazes me to say that, but the truth is that once I tried them I enjoyed them. In the spring of 2003 I was in Alabama to get my license for being a pastor and I was surrounded by southerners who kept insisting I try grits. I eventually did, and I believe my exact words at the time were “I’ll try them just to get you to shut up.”

In today’s passage we have a teaching very similar to the one in Luke 11. What was the reason for this teaching? What do we know about the judge? What did the widow want? What did the judge eventually do? Why does Jesus emphasize the judge’s words in verse 6?

The passage spells it out right at the beginning. Jesus was teaching a lesson about having makrothumia in prayer. He wanted the disciples to know that they should pray and never give up in their prayers. They need to be persistent in their asking.

But this story has a slight twist. We already have a lesson on persistence in prayer in Luke 11. What is different here is the judge. He is a non-believer. He does not fear God and he does not care for people.

Why does Jesus include such a character in his lesson? Perhaps the judge represents all non-believers in the world, all the Gentiles and the pagans that the disciples would encounter in their own ministries.

he judge eventually does what is right and good, not because it is the right thing to do and he knows it. He doesn’t have a conversion of the heart because he believes in God, nor is he a merciful man.

He does what is right and good simply because the widow exhibited makrothumia. She was persistent, relentless, unceasing in her pursuit of what is ultimately good.

Why do I like grits? It isn’t because of the way they look, and they really have no appetizing aroma when they cook. I like them because I tried them, and I tried them only because of the persistence of others.

Ultimately, it will benefit others if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ. We know that. But they do not. And we can’t expect them to wise up to the truth if the truth is not already in them.

How can we get others to try God, to visit a place of worship, to read a Bible passage or two? They won’t do it on their own, but they may do it if we persist in inviting them to meet God. We need to be patient in our prayers for others, and patient in our attempts to spread the good news of God. Our evangelism requires makrothumia.

DAILY CHALLENGE: If you have invited someone to worship with you, and they turned you down, invite them again.

Makrothumia 3

Luke 11:5-10

As a parent of three children I have had my resistance worn away many times by persistent nagging. Like most children, our kids have an uncanny ability to beg for something until I have reached a point where I can not stand it any longer. They get what they want, not because it is the best thing, but because I want peace.

In today’s passage Jesus follows his instruction on how to pray with this example. At what time of the day is this example set? What is the predictable response? According to verse 8, why will the friend eventually give in? What familiar saying of Jesus appears in verses 9 and 10? How do verses 9 and 10 relate to the story in verses 5-8?

At a recent meeting of pastors the comment was made that we are told not to test God, yet in Malachi 3:10 we are invited to do just that. The same concept seems to appear here as well.

The most familiar passage from Luke 11 is the instruction “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Sandwiched between this comment and Jesus’ teaching on how to pray, is the example of a persistent friend who makes his neighbor get out of a comfortable bed in the middle of the night to help out.

One interpretation can be that God is inviting us to nag Him for what we want. The implication is that God will give us what we want if we simply tire Him out with our persistence.

But the verses which follow go on to explain of how our heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children. This leads to a more subtle interpretation. The focus is not on God, but on us. If we are in step with the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, then we will have patience – makrothumia – in our faith life. But we will also be asking, seeking and knocking for those things which are good.

It may be that we will not tire God out with nagging. Instead we will show our faithfulness and patient persistence in our holy desires.

And there is the lesson in light of makrothumia. We should set our hearts and souls on what is good and holy, praying for God’s goodness for ourselves and others. But we must be faithful, willing to devote the time and effort in earnest and sincere prayer. Our spiritual growth and service of faith requires a dogged persistence, a dedication, a sacrifice of effort, from us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you pray at least once a day? If not, establish a time and place each day to be in prayer.

Makrothumia 2

James 5:7-8

When the new parsonage was built I dug up a maple sapling that was growing beside the old parsonage. I wanted this tree from the old place to be part of the new place. It was less than a foot tall when I planted it behind the new house and for years our daughter liked to point out how tiny this little tree was.

Last summer I stood beside it, and its top branches reached over my head.

What does James urge? What real life example does he compare our faith to? What hope does he offer in verse 8?

Working with plants and crops can teach a person about patience. Farmers plant in the spring and then must tend the crops for months until they grow to maturity. It is a process that involves hope and planning, but mostly patience as they wait for the plants to grow to maturity.

Such is our faith. The seeds of faith have been planted in us, either through our upbringing or through a conversion experience. We are now on a path of spiritual growth, and like the farmer’s crops our souls require the time needed to grow and mature.

After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus many believers thought the end of the world would come quite soon. Two-thousand years later we are still following the teachings of those first disciples, still working to be faithful followers of Christ.

When will it end? When will Jesus return? The answer is still unknown. In the meantime we are to continue with our faith, and continue to serve the Lord by doing good to those around us. We must continue to work toward perfecting our faith and living a life of godliness.

The maple tree has grown but it still has a lot of growing yet to do. In time it will reach full maturity. If I had pulled it up in frustration after just one or two years it would not have reached the height it is right now. And it would never have the opportunity to keep on getting taller and stronger.

Our faith needs time to grow. In spite of our failings and the trials of trying to be a good and holy Christian, we must persist. There is no set time for Christian life (twenty years and you’re done!). We must be patient and stand firm in our faith. And we must persevere and persist in our growth.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Find a new way to grow spiritually, such as adding Bible study, more prayer time, or more acts of mercy to your life.

Makrothumia 1

Psalm 13:5-6

I remember years ago when my brother and his wife, Kathy, bought their first house. It was an absolute mess – filthy and in need of a great deal of repair. Shortly after moving in Kathy was in tears, overwhelmed by how far the house was from what she wanted it to be.

Her father explained that it would come with time. We don’t get what we want immediately. After twenty years his house was still not exactly as he wanted it.

Psalm 13 begins with a common lament. Psalm 13:1 says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” By the end of the psalm the writer has a glimmer of hope. What conclusion does the psalmist have in verse 5? What will the psalmist do?

The opening to the psalm can be something we cry out from time to time. Our desires for what is best or what we simply want to have can seem so far away from us. It is difficult to have patience in life.

We want the best job. We want a great home. We want our dreams fulfilled as soon as possible.

The same can be true in our spiritual life. We want answers to our soulful yearnings. We want to understand the workings of God. We want to reach spiritual perfection immediately. But it doesn’t come that quickly.

As faithful followers of Jesus Christ we need patience. In the Greek the word for “patience” under the fruit of the Spirit is Makrothumia (pronounced Meh-kro-thue-mee-yuh). It is a term that was also applied to the steady progression that the Roman Empire exhibited as it grew over hundreds of years to overcome most of the known world. Its meaning is more closely associated with “persistence.” It is an unstoppable, steady approach to things.

As Christians we must exhibit makrothumia in our faith. In spite of how far we may feel we need to go spiritually, we need to continue moving forward, continue moving deeper in our relationship with God. It requires the study of Scripture. It requires persistent and constant prayer. It requires a stout heart to resist the temptations of sin and our own temptations to give up.

No one is perfect, but we should be working toward perfection, improving our souls and our hearts each day. To be in step with the Spirit, to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, we must move forward toward perfection with an attitude of makrothumia – patience, persistence. We must trust in the Lord and know that He is good. And we must trust that we can keep growing, in spite of spiritual failures, to become a more perfect person in God’s grace.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show God that you trust in Him to help you move forward spiritually?