Martin Collins, examining the life of Gideon in Judges 7 and 8, highlights three principles regarding faith: (1) God tests our faith, (2) God encourages our faith, and (3) God honors our faith. To be sure, faith that is untested is not faith at all. God wants to see whether our faith is real or counterfeit. As we exercise our faith, God strengthens it, making it reflex-like. In the endeavor of conquering the Midianites, God clearly demonstrated to Gideon, through His systematically whittling his army from 30,000 to 10,000 to 300, that His providence, and not Gideon's might, would bring the victory. The greater church of God could profit from the knowledge that size, budget, or charismatic leadership has little to do with the impact of the Gospel. Like many of us, Gideon required many assurances from God to realize that He would accompany him in battle. Once Gideon became convinced that God would do what He said He would, his faith and boldness increased exponentially. The stratagem with the pitchers, torches, and the shout, "the sword of the Lord," upended the vastly larger enemy forces which Gideon routed with ease. As God gave Gideon the victory, He also gave Gideon some new tests to his newly acquired leadership, some of which Gideon passed with flying colors, such as his diplomacy with the Ephraimites. He also rightly refused the title of king, reminding Israel that the Lord was their real king. Gideon faltered somewhat in his final years, assuming the lifestyle of royalty, presumptuously fashioning the spoils of victory into an ephod, thereby unwittingly encouraging Israel to return to her idolatrous ways. What the Midianites could not accomplish by swords, Satan accomplished by earrings.
Ted Bowling, acknowledging that the full panoply of emotions, including fear and anger, is a gift from God, nevertheless cautions us that we are to use these emotions responsibly, carefully, and with extreme caution. God does not tell us never to be angry, but He has mandated that we channel it constructively. Recently a man killed his wife on a cruise because she just "would not stop laughing at him." His uncontrolled anger has undoubtedly cast a grim shadow on himself and on his hapless family for the rest of their lives. Several Biblical luminaries showed displays of somewhat less than stellar self-control, leading to serious character blemishes, as Peter's angry cursing became punctuated by a rooster's crowing as well as a poignant glance from his Master, and Moses' striking the rock terminated his ambitions to enter the promised land. Like Peter and Moses, we are subject to making major errors and suffering major consequences if we don't rely on God when Satan or the World throws us a curve. I Peter 5:7-8 counsels us to cast our cares upon God in order that our uncontrolled emotions do not keep us from the Kingdom of God.
Ryan McClure, demonstrating that in every phase of our lives we are confronted with tests and trials of our patience, posits that we should cultivate the "Heinz Ketchup" aphorism ("The best things come to those who wait"), rather than live by the "Burger King" appeal ("Your way, right away"). We learn in Exodus 34:5 and Galatians 5:22 that longsuffering and patience are characteristics God wants us to learn because they are integral parts of His own character. As God's called out ones, we need to learn to be patient with people (makrothumia) and with events out of our control (hupomone). If we learn to cultivate patience, God promises that He will spare us from the hour of trial (Revelation 3:10). We should make patience a high priority in our spiritual walk.
Martin Collins, reflecting upon the impatience demonstrated in the world's holidays, concludes that most of mankind has a serious patience deficit. Demonstrating or developing patience, a cardinal characteristic of God, in the face of trying events is a clear indication that we are developing genuine godliness. We must learn to turn trials into positive growth opportunities, as did Jacob, who had to develop patience in the midst of myriad, frustrating delays. We must learn to endure patiently, with the help of God's Spirit, waiting for God to accomplish His purpose in us. After identifying 18 negative consequences of impatience, the sermon offers five steps to developing patience: 1) staying focused on the goal, 2) learning to think before speaking, 3) looking for ways to give our service to others, 4) working out our conflicts with others, and 5) working with God through the Spirit to develop godly patience in us, developing a calm, positive attitude and peace of mind.
Longsuffering, or patience, the fourth fruit of the Spirit, is a much needed virtue in a fast-paced, impatient world. This Bible Study highlights the basics of this godly attribute.
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