My Hardest Sermon to Preach
Dr. Jim Denison
During the Korean War, two American soldiers were stationed a long distance from the conflict, and were allowed to rent an apartment off base. They hired a local Korean boy to do their housekeeping, and were immediately impressed with his positive, joyful spirit. So they began playing pranks on him. They nailed his shoes to the floor, put water buckets over doorways, smeared grease on stove knobs. And the boy would smile and pull out the nails, dry himself off, clean off the stove, with never a word of complaint.
Finally they became ashamed of themselves and told him they would stop their pranks. He said, “You mean, no more nail shoes to floor?” “No more.” “No more water over door? No more grease on stove?” “No more.” He smiled again and said, “Okay, then, me no more spit in soup.”
We all have problems in our relationships from time to time. This morning I want to talk to every person who has a problem in a relationship today, and every person who might have one in the future; in other words, each of us.
The thesis of God’s word this morning is simple: we should be as patient and kind with each other as God has been with us. But that’s hard. I hate waiting in lines, and I take red lights personally. Several of our staff think it’s really humorous that I have to preach on patience today. This is my hardest subject personally. But I’ve found hope even for me this week, and for us all.
How God treats us
Let’s begin with some definitions.
“Patience” translates makrothumia, which literally means to be “long or large-tempered.” In other words, to be longsuffering, patiently enduring under injuries inflicted by others.”
“Kindness” translates chrestos, which means “goodness, kindness, generosity toward all people, no matter what they have done to us.”
And the two need each other. I can be patient but not kind, waiting in line but not happy about it. I can be kind but not patient, kind only until the person makes the same mistake again. The two need each other, just as two wings of the same airplane, as water requires both hydrogen and oxygen.
Now, listen to what the Scriptures teach about the long-suffering of God toward us.
“God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is patient with all people, even those who are rejecting his love, wanting every person to come to eternal life.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). Four other times the Old Testament says this about God.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). God was patient even with Paul, the murderer of his people. He is therefore patient with you, no matter what you’ve done.
And listen to what the Scriptures teach about the kindness of God toward us.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1). Three other times the psalms say this about God.
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). He is kind to us even when life is not.
“When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5; cf. Ephesians 2:7).
I remember as if it were yesterday the Sunday morning in Midland, Texas I was preaching on the sermon title, “Is God Fair?” I had written a sermon defending the fairness of God, when one of our Sunday school volunteers saw the title and said, “Aren’t you glad he’s not?” I had to go back to my office and rewrite the sermon. Aren’t you glad he’s not fair, but patient and kind with us today?
Why should we be patient and kind?
But that’s God. Are we expected to be as patient and kind as he is? Apparently so.
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13-14).
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).
Why are we commanded to be patient and kind with others? There are at least three reasons. First, this is our best witness. Paul said, “As servants of God we commend ourselves . . . in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love” (2 Corinthians 6:4,6; cf. 2 Timothy 3:10). If Paul could learn to be patient and kind, anyone could.
Think about those people who have had the most lasting impact on your life. Why? For me, it has always been their personal kindness and patience. Dr. John Newport, the most brilliant man I’ve ever known, preaching a revival at New Hope Baptist Church and eating lunch with our people, being so kind to us.
My sixth grade teacher who went each afternoon after class to an impoverished part of Houston to teach reading skills, and took me along a few times. A high school arts teacher who sponsored our boys club and gave evenings and weekends each year to us. My biology teacher who sponsored our Christian Student Union and met us weekly at 7:15 a.m. for prayer. My college Old Testament professor who played tennis with me each week and came for my ordination and wedding. I’ll never forget their patience and their kindness.