The Fruit of the Spirit, Lesson 5

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson is about patience. Funny how we get impatient with other people, while wishing at times, that others were more patient with us. However I do know some very patient people. To explain what I am talking about I will have to make a very dark confession. A confession that you probably never thought you would have to hear a lay preacher make. But here goes…..I am 44 years old and am just now learning how to tie a tie! I have been wearing clip-ons for years! Embarrassing I know. I started wearing clip-ons when I was a kid and never really learned to tie a tie because I thought, why bother, just wear clip-ons. Also I never saw the importance of a tie, kind of like Adventist pioneer James White who never wore a tie because to him it was useless adornment. But it became very complicated. People would give me real ties for gifts and then I am sure would wonder why I never wore them.

In my late 30s I tried to turn this around as my friend Doug in Texas would try to teach me how to tie a tie. Problem is I would get frustrated and go back to wearing clip-ons and forget everything I learned and poor Doug would have to start all over teaching me again. He was so patient. So is my dad who recently helped me tie my tie in time to get to my grandmother’s funeral. Then there is my good friend Adam who has been secretly teaching me here in Tampa. Secretly because a lay preacher my age should already know how to tie a tie. Once I shocked a poor mother when she was telling her ten year old son in church that he needed to start wearing real ties instead of clip-ons because he was becoming a young man now. I unclipped my tie in front of them and said, “clip-ons like this?” She was shocked to see that I was not wearing a real tie. That’s when I decided I better get serious about learning to tie a real tie.

Adam has been helping me and I have been watching Youtube videos that have helped too. Now every Sabbath morning I get in front of the mirror to tie my tie and how well I do is about as unpredictable as my golf game. One week I get it on the third or fourth try and other weeks I have to give up and grab a clip-on so I can make it to church on time.

Point is that My dad, Doug and Adam have been very patient in teaching me. They don’t complain that they have already showed me a hundred times. They don’t call me stupid and remind me that a 7 year old could do this. They have shown me the best definition of patience and that is turning frustrating moments into opportunities to teach. Isn’t that what Jesus did over and over with the disciples? When they would not remember a lesson He would teach them over and over again. After all we do learn by repetition.

I have had to learn my own lessons on patience. A few weeks ago I was driving up to a light and got in the left turn lane. The light was green but the truck in front of me was just sitting there so I decided to go around him. As I swerved around him I found my self in the path of an oncoming ambulance with sirens blaring! Oh! That’s what the guy in the truck was waiting on!  A few weeks later I am at the bank in a lane with two of those vacuums so I pull up to the second one and another car pulls in behind me to the first one. He got his transaction completed before I did and started honking at me to move! I was still waiting on my money but I pulled out so he could go and he gave me this dirty look as he sped by. I backed back in to get my money. I thought, why couldn’t he understand that I was not through yet? He thought I was finished when I wasn’t and was just sitting there. Then I remembered the truck at the light and how I did not understand why he was just sitting there. So now I have learned to be as patient with others as I would have them to be with me.

One more illustration: Some things in the Bible seem very clear to me, for example, the Sabbath. I wonder why other people can’t see it. There it is right in the middle of the Ten Commandments. Well, when I first moved to Tampa I exited *Maple Avenue from I-275 and drove straight to my new apartment. For years I told everyone I lived off of Maple Avenue. However Tampa is one of those cities where the same street will change names several times as you drive across town. Well after three years I am sitting at the light by my house, looking at the street sign like I have done hundreds of times before, but this time I noticed something. The street sign says “Elm” not Maple. The street changed names and for three years I had not realized that and was telling everyone I lived somewhere else. Now it does not seem so silly to me how other people can see something in the Bible and not notice it just like for three years I had not noticed that I did not live on the street I thought I did. For three years I had been stopping at that light with the sign right in front of me and I never noticed it did not say what I thought it did. So now I understand how someone can read something in the Bible and still not “see” it. 

My prayer this year is that I will be as patient with people as I would like them to be with me! 

* I used fictitious street names to protect my privacy.

You can find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Nightmare on the Golf Course

 

 

 

Tom and I golfing in Chattanooga. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I so wanted everything to be perfect. That is the golf match last week between me and an ole college buddy. Last time we played together was Christmas Eve on a course in the Chattanooga Mountains. I scored a 137 in the mountains that day and we did not even have time to finish all 18 holes! But now, five months later, I have been practicing every week on my day off as well as golfing with my church’s small golf group. I have been going online and reading tips and watching instructional videos. I have paid for private lessons and those are not cheap! After five months of practice, effort and dedication I thought I was beginning to get my game under control. I was excited about meeting my friend Tom for a re-match in Chattanooga. I felt confident, as I was more experienced now, and we would be on a course this time that was not in the mountains. I was looking forward to impressing my friend on the golf course.

 

Imagine how my confidence went up a notch when Tom told me he had not played since our last meeting five months ago. I thought surely my five months of hard work would pay off. The rest of this story is a total nightmare. The first hole was a par 4 and I made it in 8. Not exactly what I had planned. Even though I get an 8 every now and then, I was sure I had gotten my “bad hole” out of the way, and I would sail through the rest of the course. Wrong! That day I scored an 8 seven times! On a par 5 I scored a 10! What I had been looking forward to on the entire 9 hour trip up was now turning ugly for me! Meanwhile my friend Tom who had not even played or practiced all year was cruising along just fine.

 

The worse I play the more frustrated I get and then I play even worse. I would get frustrated every time I had a bad hit and would yell at myself, “William!” I then realized I did not need to broadcast my name to the entire golf course while playing so badly. We decided that we could do no more than double par. So on one hole that was par 4, 8 would be the maximum number of strokes I could take to make it. I was at stroke number 8 while still in the middle of the fairway, nowhere close to the green yet! I yelled out to Tom across the fairway, “I am in the middle of the fairway and already have 8 strokes!” Once again I realized I did not need to be broadcasting my misfortune to the entire golf world.

 

On the next fairway I had a great start! I was on track to make par when I hit into a sand trap next to the green. If I could just hit out of the trap onto the green I could still make par. That never happened as my next 4 strokes never left the sand trap. I was so frustrated I did something I have never done before. I threw my golf club into the sand in disgust! I had just planned a vacation and traveled 9 hours just to make a fool out of myself! At least I was gentleman enough to sincerely congratulate Tom, who easily made par on the same hole. He even mentioned how amazingly easy all of his shots just fell perfectly into place. Hhhmmpphh!! Why me Lord? Why can’t I be like Tom? I try so hard! The whole day was not a complete disaster. Besides enjoying a beautiful day with a long time friend, I did get par on the last hole which was a par 5. In the end though, my friend who has not even been practicing beat me by 16 strokes! I practiced hard for 5 months only to get beat by 16 strokes by someone who has not practiced at all!

 

I hid my frustration well, (besides throwing my golf club into the sand) but was very disappointed that I had nothing to show for all my hard work. Then I remembered reading something in the Spirit of Prophecy years ago. It was to the effect that while some people may have a lot of flaws in their characters, some of them are trying harder to live a Christian life than some of the so called polished Christians. I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me; “William you are frustrated that Tom saw no evidence of your hard work and effort on the golf course. Meanwhile you are studying and associating with people all around you who are really trying hard to be better Christians, even though it may not look like it to you. Some of the people you get discouraged with are actually putting more effort into their Christian walk than you are putting into yours.” Then I remembered how easily Tom’s par came to him on the same fairway that I failed on, even though I was trying very hard. I realized what I had experienced on the golf course, many struggling Christians are experiencing in real life. Just like I would try my best to do everything right and make the perfect shot, I was missing the mark by a mile. Likewise, just because people miss the mark in the Christian life does not mean God does not know they are trying, maybe even trying harder than the polished Christians.

 

I got the message. I decided instead of being discouraged over my nightmare on the golf course, that I would use this experience as a reminder to be patient with others who are making all kinds of mistakes in the game of life. Just like I wished my golf buddy could have looked past my three digit score, and seen into my heart, and known what I was actually trying to accomplish, I will assume that those around me are trying harder to be a Christian than it may appear to me.

 

When I got home I looked for and found the quote I was thinking about earlier. Here it is from Testimonies Volume 2 page 74 in the chapter called, “Love for the erring.” I recomend reading the entire chapter! “While some are continually harassed, afflicted, and in trouble because of their unhappy traits of character, having to war with internal foes and the corruption of their nature, others have not half so much to battle against. They pass along almost free from the difficulties which their brethren and sisters who are not so favorably organized are laboring under. In very many cases they do not labor half so hard to overcome and live the life of a Christian as do some of those unfortunate ones I have mentioned.”

 

 

 

 

For more studies and pictures please visit my personal website.

 

Check out my friend’s sports blog. http://bulldogsportsblog.blogspot.com/