There are just those days and weeks . .
and sometimes seasons in life . .when no matter how hard you try, you come up empty. The more you try taking two steps forward, the more you find yourself taking three steps back . . the more you seek to achieve or gain, the more you seem to lose. In fact, there are just those certain times when you feel so empty and fearful, that you become convinced you are even running . . “out of empty”.
“He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
and asked him to put out a little from shore.
Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch’ . .
they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break . .
and both boats began to sink.”
In Luke 5 we find a frustrated Peter who had found his “empty” during a long night of miserable fishing – no doubt he was muttering a choice vocabulary of colorful words while washing his nets . . no doubt he was far from the first fisherman to ever have his patience tested as well!
Jesus spared no words on the subject of adversity and testing in the Christian life: he often warned the disciples of the trouble that was just around the corner (John 16; Matthew 10). Paul would offer a similar warning to his disciple Timothy (2 Timothy 3) and if you stop to consider a rewind of Paul’s ministry-life, perhaps there was none other more qualified to speak on the subject of patience when well-past “knee-deep in empty” . . and that is exactly what he did …
3 Keys To
A “Be Patient In Trouble” Life In Christ …
When I was growing up, there were many an occasion when my parents admonished me to “have patience” to which I often replied “If I wanted more patience, I would have just asked for it!!” or “If I wanted more patience, I would have been a doctor” or “I don’t want patience, I just want things to work”. Sorry God and sorry Mom and Dad – I was (and still am) a handful of aggravation and frustration.
The truth is – none of us want to hear the admonition “be patient” when everything is coming up empty – but the admonition is right there in Scripture for our benefit so it only makes sense to ask-back this question: “How did Paul find patience and put it into practice when he needed patience most?” Romans 12 is one giant billboard with loads of clues – especially verse 12.
1 – Focus on the end game – OUR HOPE
Like Peter (1 Peter 1:3-6), Paul never lost perspective and never got tangled up in trying to make heaven happen on earth. Your chapter today may be tough, but the book ends well for those who have put their trust in Christ.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (2 Cor. 2:9)
2 – Reject trying hard and move towards trusting hard – KEEP ON PRAYING
Patience runs thin for those that stubbornly run through life in pride-filled independence. Paul took a radically different tack . . “For me to live is Christ ..” (Phil. 1:21) and found His indwelling Savior to be a far superior choice to a prayer-less life.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph. 6:10)
The first two keys patience for Paul also show up in his beautiful Pastoral-prayer for the Ephesian church .. “I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe ..” (Eph. 1:19-20)
3 – Patience is not passive but purposeful – LOOK AROUND
Paul refused a stuck-in-neutral “victim lifestyle” but rather incessantly saw trouble and hardship as opportunity to serve others . . how else could he have arrived at a Romans 12 kind of faith that chose to be “a living sacrifice” . . “never lacking in zeal – serving the Lord” . . “practicing hospitality”?
When Paul challenged Timothy to “endure hardship” (2 Timothy 4:5), it was anything but launching a “woe is me” campaign on Facebook . .Paul instead saw the context that trouble landed him in and never lost sight of the very same people to which Christ had once said “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering.” (Phil. 4:6)
the most contagious form of generosity …
starts from a place of extreme hardship – such was the case for the Macedonian believers (2 Corinthians 8) – even Jesus himself drew attention to the poor widow’s sacrificial Temple gift of two copper coins (Luke 21:2).
Who knows for sure what the personal life context was of a female customer at a St. Petersburg, Florida drive-through Starbucks in August of 2014, but one thing we do know, she looked around when ordering, noticed another customer right behind her, and decided to pay for both. This act of selfless generosity would repeat itself 378 times in a row over a 10 hour stretch at this one Starbucks that day. A little thing led to an unforgettable big thing . . what might have been a line plagued with patience-challenged patrons was transformed by one selfless deed.
Find yourself today in a season of “not”? If you will remember to focus on the end game in Christ, keep praying . . and resist self-pity by looking around for an opportunity to bless even one other life, you will soon discover that the “Not” was just a “Not now” . . and the “Not now” is just a lead-up to a “Now is the time” miracle. A Savior will come to your empty “boat” and unmistakable life-transforming peace and worry-free joy will be yours.
Just ask one very distraught, dejected, downtrodden Peter.
He could have sulked, but instead he “looked around” and willingly made the very boat that came back to shore empty a platform for Jesus . . only to discover that God often does His best work when we are . . . out of empty.
How is God encouraging you today?