John Piper’s book, Battling Unbelief, has an excellent chapter on impatience. After explaining that the impatient person is actually not trusting God, he gives several examples to illustrate his points.
One of them is a fable about a man who stopped at a well and without realizing it, left his money behind him. A second man came and found the money, then left with it. A third came just as the first returned for his purse. The first man demanded his money and when the third denied any knowledge of it, the first man killed him. In this fable, God is questioned about the fairness. Why should one person become a murderer? Why should someone get a large sum of money without earning it? Why should an innocent person die over it?
The answer went something like this: the first man was the son of a thief who had stolen the money from a relative of the second man, so the second man was getting what was his anyway. The third man was a criminal fleeing the death sentence, so he got his just dues.
The point of this fable is that we don’t know exactly what is going on in the lives of other people and we cannot truly understand why things happen to them.
This touched me today because I was wondering about my responses to some people. Did I say the right thing? Or not?
I asked God to help me with it and was given Romans 8:9. It says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
Right away I’m thinking, yes, the Spirit lives in me, but sometimes I don’t understand the Spirit. Why would He give me words of comfort if I think a person needs a rebuke? Why would He give me words of rebuke or challenge when it seems like the other person needs to hear comforting words? If I am trying to serve Him, why does He put things that don’t make sense on my platter and tell me to pass it on to others?
The answer is obvious. I don’t know everything. When it comes right down to it, I don’t know my own needs. How could I expect to know the best thing for someone else?
Last week while listening to David Jeremiah, I was challenged by his statement that when God promises to supply all our needs, He’s not thinking of what we think we need, but what He knows is best for us. What is best for us might be difficult circumstances, trials, tests and temptations, even a very hard life. He knows our hearts and our frame, and He knows what is required to build our faith and keep us clinging to Him.
Could it be that in those times I think I have said or done the wrong thing, that my words are an unexpected expression of the Holy Spirit who lives in me? When I think the Spirit should be harsh, He is gentle. When I think He should be gentle, He is firm and persistent — because He knows what the other person needs, and I don’t!
I don’t understand the ways of God perfectly, and for that reason need to trust Him and watch that I am not “leaning on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledging Him” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Certainly I could say the wrong things to people because I am impatient with them, but I never realized that it also possible to second-guess myself about everything I say because I am not trusting God.