My Hardest Sermon to Preach

A second reason: patience and kindness toward others is necessary for our own souls. Jesus told us not to bring our gift to God until we had made things right with our brother (Matthew 5:23-24). More long-term stress is generated by unforgiveness and impatience than perhaps any other single factor.

Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite writers. Remember his definition of anger: “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you” (Wishful Thinking 2).

Third, success seldom comes quickly. The National Sales Executives Association has discovered that 48% of all sales persons make one call, then give up on the prospect; 25% quit after the second call; 12% call three times, then quit; 10% keep calling until they succeed, for 80% of all new sales are made after the fifth call to the same prospect.

Success seldom comes quickly with God’s people, either. Abraham was 75 when God first promised him an offspring (Genesis 12:4,7), and 100 when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:5). Moses was a shepherd for 40 years, and wandered in the wilderness for 40 more, until coming to the edge of the Promised Land.

We must be patient and kind, trusting in God’s will and in God’s time.

How to be patient and kind

Make this your goal. We have heard God’s word command us to be patient and kind. Longsuffering and undeserved kindness are a choice, never deserved or natural.

It’s far easier to respond to anger with anger, to criticism with criticism. Lloyd Ogilvie says, “Tell me what ticks you off and I’ll tell you what makes you tick.” Decide you don’t want to be a problem person, and that you want to be more patient and kind with the problem people in your life.

Let God be the judge in your relationships.

Scripture is clear: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19; cf. Deuteronomy 32:35).

I once heard Chuck Swindoll tell a pastor’s conference how to deal with critics and opponents in the church: “Tell God on them.” And leave them with him.

Lewis Smedes’ excellent book, Forgive and Forget, explains what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is not excusing, or forgetting, or explaining away. To forgive is to pardon—to refuse to punish, even though you could, as a governor pardons a convicted criminal. To release the person from the punishment they deserve.

Let God be the judge, while you offer longsuffering kindness. But you can’t do this alone.

So, ask the Spirit to help you.

Paul prayed for the Colossians to be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11). The Spirit can empower us to be longsuffering and kind.

Scripture teaches that “[God’s] love is patient, love is kind. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. . . . It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, 7).

Patience and kindness are the “fruit” or result of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Ask God to help you make them your goal in your relationships, to love through you, to be longsuffering and kind through you, by his Spirit. And he will.

Conclusion

Now, where is the problem relationship in your life? With whom? Over what issue? Very specifically, would you choose longsuffering kindness, let God be judge, and seek the Spirit’s power and help? Believe it or not, God can work a miracle. Let me prove it.

Corrie ten Boom, the famous Holocaust survivor and marvelous Christian, once experienced this very miracle. Here’s how she told the story:

“It was at a church service in Munich, Germany, that I saw him, the former S. S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, my sister’s pain-blanched face.

“As the church was emptying, he came up to me. ‘How grateful I am for your message, fraulein. To think that, as you say, [God] has washed my sins away!’

“His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? ‘Lord Jesus,’ I prayed, ‘forgive me, and help me to forgive him.’

“I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer: ‘Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.’

“As I took the man’s hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on God’s. When God tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.”