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Masterpiece Week 5: The Art of Patience – Sermon Notes

Masterpiece: The Art of Patience

Pastor Svea Merry
July 15-16, 2023


Do you have any recurring dreams? I have a few. There’s the one about walking into a classroom and it’s time to take the final but then realizing that I’d forgotten to attend the class all semester. That one stresses me out. Then there’s the flying one – usually I’m in a large airplane and for whatever reason I’m suddenly at the controls in some kind of emergency situation and have to land the plane. I actually rather enjoy that one.

But the one that always wakes me up on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak, usually involves trying to get somewhere important under pressure or in a hurry. Often, in this dream, I’m back several years in my family’s life when my kids were little, and I’ve gotta go pick them up from school, and in the dream, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get there. My car breaks down, or trees keep falling in my way, or once I was running to get there and my shoes kept turning to some sticky liquid.

I think this recurring dream confirms how much I struggle with frustration when I have a goal that I can’t quite reach, or I feel under time pressure, or maybe feel responsible to someone but obstacles keep getting in my way of doing what I need to do.

Do you have a variation of this dream too or do I just need more therapy?

It is really frustrating when we are trying to get somewhere or do something, and things get in our way. Worse yet, when it’s people who get in our way. Worse yet, when they’re people who should be on our team but they’re just not working with us. Worse yet, when they’re actually working against us to try to stop us from accomplishing what we need to do.

It's totally natural to feel frustrated by situations or people like this. It challenges our patience – and apparently for many of us it frustrates us to the extent that we keep processing it in our sleep. Now, it’s not wrong to get frustrated from time to time, in a little bit we’re going to look at some interactions that Jesus had that show him processing some frustration. Feelings of frustration, like anger, like fear, are initially reflexive emotions and not in and of themselves bad, but like with anger and fear, what we do when we feel this way is key.
You know what character trait melts away frustration? Patience. People who are highly patient in the face of irritations or obstacles struggle far less with frustration and are far more skilled at navigating life in a way that reflects Jesus.


In our sermon series this summer, we’ve been delighting in this verse from Ephesians chapter 2 that reminds us that we are God’s handiwork – His masterpiece — created to do good works. Our series thesis has been that we are good works of art created to do the art of good works. And we’ve been walking through the character qualities that fuel how we do good works from this verse. These dispositions reflect the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Master Artist to the world around us.

Before the past couple of weeks while we took an intermission on this series for messages on worship and baptism, Pastor Caleb walked us through the art of humility and Pastor Rick talked about the art of gentleness. I encourage you to go back and catch those messages if you missed either of them. And now today we’re resuming our trek through these qualities with the art of patience.


Now, what we’re talking about today isn’t that kind of patience that kids struggle with when they’re waiting to open their Christmas presents or later in life when we’re anxiously waiting for a wedding, or a baby to arrive, or anything else that we wish would happen sooner. And to be clear to all you many healthcare workers, these are not the patients we’re speaking of either, although, they admittedly may represent great opportunities to practice the art of patience.

What we’re focusing on today is how to be like Jesus when situations or people are becoming frustrations, irritations, or even outright obstacles. This is what the apostle Paul is referring to when he instructs us to show ourselves worthy as ones who are patient with one another, bearing with one another.

The Greek word the Bible uses that we translate as patience is macrothumia, which literally means “long-temper”. Now, maybe you’ve never heard anyone described as being a long-tempered person, but I bet you know what it means when we say someone has a short temper. Biblical patience is the opposite of being short-tempered. It is having a maturely-developed spirit that can absorb irritations, obstacles, and difficulties without lashing out or losing it.

Consider this with me: I don’t think this list of attitudes that Paul wrote here in this verse we’ve been exploring are random. I think they build on each other. To shine in the art of patience, we’re going to need to utilize humility and gentleness. Because it takes humility to be honest with yourself about this question: “How often am I the one who frustrates other people?” And it takes a gentle person to care about the answer.

If this is messing with you a bit, let’s try this question: Have you ever asked yourself, “How often do I cause God to have to be patient with me?” Do you have the humility to identify what you do that is at cross purposes with God?

God’s patience with us:

God is on an important mission in this world. He is actively seeking to save people from every nation and every generation; people who are saved through the gift of grace given by Jesus Christ. He is steadily driving towards the day when Jesus will return, and all things will be restored to the way they were before sin entered the world and caused the brokenness we experience now.

That can sound good to us and yet even we who are aiming to be fully devoted followers of Jesus can be at cross purposes with God’s mission. We don’t always live in God-honoring ways. We shy away from opportunities to share our faith for fear of how someone might react. Or, how many times do we know what we ought to do that would please Him and we don’t do it? How often do we fail to love others like Jesus would? How often do we give in to temptations that offer short-term pleasure despite it keeping us in long-term dysfunction? Isn’t it amazing that God hasn’t given up on us?! God’s patience with us is heroic.

I practiced a draft of this message on a younger friend of mine, and after I got done saying that, she started singing Taylor Swift’s, Anti-hero song. “It’s me, Hi, I’m the problem. It’s me.”

I’ll be honest with you, I need to own that I’m the problem at times. While I was working through this subject and felt the weight of recognition of how much I need God to be patient with me, it crushed me a bit and I had to spend some time in repentance. And if, in your humility, you’re beginning to feel that right now, or if you do a little later after you’ve had the opportunity to process this a bit more, God’s word has what we need to understand and trust in His heart towards us.

The middle of Psalm 103 contains a beautiful description of God and His macrothumas, His long-temper. This is verses 8–14:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

Take this in again.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

We fail Him. We sin, which means literally to miss the mark like an arrow that doesn’t hit its target. Sin isn’t even just the bad stuff we do, it even includes the good stuff we don’t do, and yet:

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

I’m one of those people that hates to know that I’ve disappointed someone. Like a good firstborn, I want to live up to expectations and please people, and when I know I haven’t, I have a tendency to shrink back and fear that I’ve ruined something good in a relationship, but I needn’t fear this with God because,

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

God, the Creator, the Master Artist, is doing a good work in each of us over our lifetimes. He is patient and slow to anger with us. He forgives us over and over. He does not expect more of us than is appropriate because He made us and knows us our weaknesses and He overflows with compassion for us.

Patience is one of the beautiful colors that the master artist weaves into the tapestry of our lives. And yet, as He made us not just to be His artwork, but to also do the art of good works, He commissions us to be patient with other people just as He is with us.

Now, God doesn’t want us to do this in a guilt-trippy way. It’s not like He’s up in Heaven saying, “Man, I have to put up with a lot from all you so the least you can do is put up with a few others like yourself.” No, He wants this for us because not only is it good for other people, it’s good for us too.

Some of the biggest regrets I have in life could have been prevented if I’d just been a little more long-tempered. As God was doing a work in my own heart on this topic, I couldn’t stop thinking about a specific time I completely lost it with one of my kids and I yelled and yelled at him at the top of my lungs. My heart still breaks remembering the hurt look on his face. Over the course of working on this message, I asked for his forgiveness again even though this happened years ago, and he graciously gave it to me, but I wish I could turn back time and have a do-over on that day. Greater patience on my part would have spared a kiddo I love the hurt I caused, and it would have spared me the regret that I have over this incident as well as many others that would be harder to admit to you. This regret motivates me to want to grow in this aspect of life and makes me realize that God’s call to patience is as much for our own benefit as patience-givers as it is for other people as receivers.

Test me on this idea. If you’d just been a bit more long-tempered, what personal hurt or regret could you have avoided if you’d been more patient? Do you want to join me in seeking God’s gift of becoming a more patient person?

Now, first, let’s acknowledge reality. Most of us quickly express wanting to be more patient, but we also seem to be hard-wired to make excuses for why we shouldn’t have to be. What are the factors that we use as excuses to not be patient? How about being in a hurry? Or being too tired? Being stressed or emotional seems like a no-brainer; Of course, how could anyone expect you to be patient with someone who is working against you, making you feel betrayed? Or how about when we feel like we’ve already been really patient with someone, and our patience is just used up?

If we’re going to get better at being patient, we’re going to need to some guidance, and so let’s look to our best example of all and see Jesus at work.

Jesus’s patience modeled:

We’re going to observe Jesus through chapter 13 and 14 of the Gospel of John and watch him navigate this list, but before we do, we need to set some things in context, because we wouldn’t grasp the full power of Jesus’s patience if we didn’t realize what he was up against.

We’re going to observe Jesus and his disciples while they are in the Upper room for their last supper together just hours before Jesus would be betrayed and arrested and then killed the next day. Jesus knew this was about to happen to him. Throughout the Gospel of John, he refers to the death he knew he was going to die as “his hour” and after arriving in Jerusalem, he began warning his disciples that his hour was approaching. It was time for God’s plan to save people through what would be accomplished by the death of Jesus and the glory of his defeat of death by his resurrection.

Jesus had said to his disciples back in John 12:23,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,

he was resolved to follow through with his death knowing it was his mission all along, but it didn’t mean he was marching to it gleefully. Jesus was fully God but he was also fully human. He says a couple of verses later,

Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” Jesus knows the misery that awaits him, and he is, as we would imagine, feeling dread over it.

Chapter 13 begins, “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

He then demonstrated his love, as Pastor Caleb pointed out to us in his sermon on humility, by taking on the humblest of servant actions and washing the feet of the disciples. Including the feet of Judas, the disciple who just after this left to go sell Jesus out to his enemies. Jesus knew this was about to happen too, and his incredible graciousness is admirable, but verse 21 lets us in on his emotional state over it all, telling us “Jesus was troubled in spirit.” Judas left and the countdown clock to Jesus’s death ticked louder.

Making the situation even more intense, Jesus revealed to the remaining disciples that he would be with them only a little longer, and that another one of them, Peter, was going to deny and disown him, not once but three times. Peter was one of Jesus’s closest followers. He was in the innermost circle of disciples who had the greatest access to Jesus. Being his typical impulsive self, Peter had just expressed that he would give his life for Jesus to follow him, and it was in that moment that this crushing pronouncement comes that Peter would instead deny even knowing him. How would you be feeling if you were in the room with them? Awkward? Frightened? Stressed?

Remember this list? Let’s see how many of these describe Jesus’s reality.

Hurried? Jesus knows the minutes are vanishing before he will be arrested and killed.

Tired? The text doesn’t say anything specifically about Jesus, but we do know that when they leave this room, they go to the Garden of Gethsemane where he asked his three closest friends to pray for him while he prayed on his own and they were all so exhausted that none of them could stay awake.

Emotional and stressed? We know that’s the case. We’ve already seen the verses telling us Jesus was troubled in both soul and spirit.

Feeling betrayed? He’s just watched Judas, a man who had been following closely at his side as his disciple, go off to sell him out, and he’s anticipating the ache of being rejected by Peter, one of his closest companions.

Already been really patient with people who you feel should have gotten it by now? Let’s keep looking to Jesus and learn from him.

As John chapter 14 begins, these factors are swirling. If there is ever a time when it would be understandable to cut Jesus a whole lot of slack and not expect him to be our picture of patience, it would be here. But our Jesus is the ultimate Masterpiece, the ultimate expression of one who embraced the art of good works, not the least of which was the art of patience.

In the midst of all this tension in the Upper Room, Jesus says to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus reassures them of the anchor they have because of their faith in God and pushes them to realize their security in their Father God in Heaven, and the Son of God in their midst, is all that they need.

Author and theologian D. A. Carson emphasizes in his commentary on this chapter, “On this night of nights, when of all times it would have been appropriate for Jesus’s followers to lend him emotional and spiritual support, he is still the one who gives, comforts, instructs.”

Could there be a more powerful picture of perfect patience than someone who is able, even on the hardest night of his life, to still be attentive to the emotional and spiritual needs of others? If that kind of patience seems unattainable to you, take heart remembering first that this Jesus is the same Jesus who loves you and is patient with you too.

Reflect again on Jesus’s words and receive a first principle that can help us in situations that try our patience. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” When troubled, remember God.

Jesus told his disciples that they need not feel troubled or distressed, but to remember all they have because of their relationship with God through His Son. We who know God know that we are loved by an all-powerful, good God who knows the details of every situation we face and better yet, already knows how it will all play out. Any difficult situation we find ourself in is within His ability to bring about His good purposes even if we can’t see it yet.

You can add volumes to your patience when a situation is spiraling into chaos by resting in your belief in God. He is in control. He is at work. And He is good.

And if you don’t yet know Jesus as your God and Savior, maybe this is another way that He’s calling out to you and inviting you to believe. He is trustworthy and life is so much better with Him.

Well, in the next verses, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and will come back to take them there. He reminds them that they know the way.

But then Thomas, yes, the one with the “doubting Thomas” reputation but who I think is more often just the one who has the guts to say what others are thinking, blurts out, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Before we see Jesus’s response, remember, he’s aware of the countdown clock ticking away for when he’s about to be taken into captivity and the time is short and getting shorter by the second. His entire ministry has focused on revealing the way to salvation, how to know and be at peace with God, what the kingdom of God is like and how to be a part of it. And now here’s this basic question from someone who has not only been with him to hear nearly the full extent of his teachings, but also from someone he is expecting to teach and develop the ones who will multiply this message to the ends of the earth after he is gone. Shouldn’t he have been a little further in his understanding by now? What would your patience level be with Thomas’s question if you were Jesus?

But Jesus stays focused on what’s important and says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If you’re already familiar with this deeply significant verse, have you ever admired it for the long-tempered focus that it reveals in our Savior? Can you picture the gentle strength in his face, despite the pressure, the emotional turmoil, the potential discouragement over his disciples ongoing failure to comprehend, as he looks at them and states one of the most important things ever spoken about the way of salvation?

A second great principle about growing in our patience that we can learn from observing Jesus is to remain focused on what is most important.

Situations or people may cause us great frustration or even discouragement, but as play the long-game of what is most important, we can stay locked-in on responding well. Not that this is easy. I’m not sure even Jesus would say that it is easy. Let’s go back to the passage and see him get hit with another missing-the-point question from another disciple and then we’ll develop this idea a bit more.

8 “Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

In Jesus’s response this time, it seems like we can detect some frustration in his voice – a reaction that I appreciate being able to see. Remember, frustration, even disappointment, are natural, reflexive emotions and not wrong to feel in and of themselves. It’s what we do with those feelings that reveals us to be short- or long-tempered people.

Watch our long-tempered Jesus again remain focused on mission, focused on what was important:

The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;

What we can observe here is that even under all the pressures that we often use to give ourselves a pass on patiently caring for others, Jesus stayed focused and locked-in on communicating his mission. Now, I’m admittedly not doing justice to the true meaning of this theologically-rich passage and I wish we could delve into all that John originally intended for us to understand from Jesus’s words, but just like the disciples learned both from what Jesus directly said, and also from watching what he did, for our purposes today, we’re intentionally keeping our attention focused on what we observe about Jesus’s patience.

And what we see of him is that he stayed focused on the long-game of his mission. When you process a situation or relationship in light of what is ultimately most important, it grounds your patience. But how do you discern what is always most important? Jesus taught elsewhere that the greatest commandment of all is to love God and to love others. So here’s a tool: when you feel your patience being tried, ask yourself, “What does love require of me in this situation?”

Any time your patience is running thin, it is an opportunity to grow in how you love God and/or love others. Don’t underestimate the positive impact this can have on your own discipleship. Don’t underestimate the impact this can have on how you represent Jesus to others around you.

And yet, playing the long-game of loving people in view of what’s really important is one of those things that is easy for me to say and yet so hard to do. I fail at it all the time. Which, thankfully, brings me to the third principle we can glean from Jesus here. And that is that we have help available to us. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help.

A few verses later in John 14, Jesus encouraged the disciples with the wonderful news that not only do they have the words and example of the Son of God, they also will have the Holy Spirit to help them:

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

While becoming more long-tempered is tough, we don’t need to white-knuckle our way to it. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5. It’s one of the qualities that as we grow in our faith, we can ask the Spirit to remind us of what we’ve learned and to develop it in us. If you don’t feel strong in this area of your life yet, don’t be discouraged. God’s handiwork is ongoing.

We have the Holy Spirit to teach us and to remind us to look to Jesus’s example, and as we seek to be like Him, we don’t have to do anything on our own strength. We have the Spirit of God living within us, giving us the ability to do good works that we wouldn’t have the strength do on our own.

The next time you find yourself at risk for losing your temper or lacking the patience with someone you wish you had, take a deep breath, and ask the Spirit for help. Ask the Spirit to help you remember what is most important in the situation or relationship. Ask Him to give you the kind of patience that He has with you.

The good news today is that God is patient with all of us. He wants patience for us because not only is it better for others, it is also good for us as it protects us from saying or doing things that we later regret. Even if patience feels like a real struggle, take heart, each struggle is an opportunity to practice your belief in God, your focus on what’s important, and to let the Holy Spirit strengthen us in us what we need to do the art of good works a little more beautifully each time.

So I’d like to land this plane right here and now and pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help for each of us as we seek to be more beautiful in the art of patience.

Dear God…