26 Sep Quarter Four Lesson Eight
Patience: One of the keys to Fruitfulness
We have discussed in previous lessons “the message”, meaning we must always keep the gospel as first importance in ministering to others. Now, we are focusing on “the man”, meaning the character of Christ that we must be seeking in order to be fruitful in ministry. In the last lesson, we discussed the need for humility; in this lesson, we will look at the need for patience.
When a farmer plants his field he has to wait, to be patient, and to depend upon the Lord to bring the fruit up at the proper time. Likewise, we must cultivate patience in our ministry to others, depending upon the Lord to bring forth fruit at the proper time. Damage can be done to people when we set a specific time-frame for their growth, and demand to see fruit in their lives immediately. Patience is needed in ministry and patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Consider now Luke 13: 6-9:
“And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Question 1. In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable; what did the owner of the vineyard want to do with the fig tree that did not bear fruit?
The owner says, “This tree hasn’t produced any fruit for over three years. Why should it take up space in my vineyard; cut it down.”
Question 2. In Luke 13, what did the vinedresser ask to do with the barren tree?
The vinedresser entreated the owner on behalf of the tree. He said, “Give me one more chance with this tree. Let me do some work and amend the soil. And if my work isn’t successful, then you can cut it down.”
Now rather than debating all the potential meanings of this parable, let’s simply focus today on the patience of God and the intercession of Jesus as it is illustrated here for us in this parable.
We can see the patience of God, the owner of the vineyard, from the beginning; after all, he had waited three years for that tree to bear fruit. It isn’t as if the owner was being harsh or unreasonable; is it? And yet, the vinedresser (Jesus) asked for more time. The Vinedresser did not argue that the tree was worth saving or that the owner was wrong to expect fruit. No, the vinedresser knew that the tree deserved to be cut down; but he interceded based on the work that he, the vinedresser, planned to do.
Dear friend, we have a very patient Father in Heaven; but He is also just. God gave His perfect law, and every one of us failed to fulfill it. We did not bear fruit; we deserved to be “cut down”.
But God, in the person of Jesus Christ, made a way for us to be transformed from worthless, non-fruit bearing people into glorious and fruitful trophies of His grace. We deserved death, but Jesus interceded for us. He went to the cross, rose from the dead and is even now interceding on our behalf.
Jesus did all the work: He did the suffering, He became sin, He took on all God’s wrath. He was cut down so that we might be spared and raised up.
Oh friend, rejoice in the work of your Jesus! Put your voice with those of Heaven who sing, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, Revelation 5:9-11 (NASB)
Question 3. Have you experienced the patience of God in your life which led to your salvation and transformation? Explain.
It is important for us to remember God’s patience in our own lives so that we might gain perspective in our dealings with unbelievers as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Please consider the following passages of Scripture and provide your thoughts on them below:
“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15 (ESV)
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” Colossians 3:12 (ESV)
“Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 (NASB)
Question 4. What do the above passages teach us about patience?
As we are ministering to others let us always keep in mind that fruit takes time to produce, that God is the one responsible to bring forth the fruit, and that it is God’s timetable as to when the fruit will be produced. Any ministry you do will require much patience. In the beginning it might seem that you are not very fruitful, and you might be tempted to give up on those to whom you are serving. In those moments remember that you are planting the seeds of the gospel, and it takes time for seeds to grow and produce fruit. Patience is needed.
One of the most amazing stories of patience in ministry is that of Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming and Nate Saint and their wives who ministered in Ecquador. While serving the Quechua Indians Jim Elliot heard of the Auca (also called Huaorani) Indian tribe. The Aucas were a violent and murderous tribe and had never had any contact with the outside world. Jim wanted to bring the gospel to them so he made a plan with the other missionaries which was called Operation Auca.
These five men spent months reaching out to these unreached Indians by flying over their village and then sending gifts down to them via a bucket lowered from their plane. Eventually, the Indians began to show signs of acceptance by sending gifts back in the bucket up to the missionaries so they decided to make camp near to where they lived.
One morning, after considerable time in praise and fervent prayer, the men radioed their wives saying that they were going to go into the village and would radio them again later.
The last radio contact they made was Jim calling his wife saying, “We’ll call you back in three hours.” The missionaries’ bodies were all found downstream brutally pierced with spears and hacked by machetes.
After Jim’s death, Elisabeth, her daughter Valerie and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, moved to work with the Auca Indians. The love of Christ shown through their forgiveness allowed them to have amazing success with the once vicious Indians. Jim’s life was not a waste, in fact, God used his death to bring salvation to many Aucas and as encouragement and inspiration to thousands of believers worldwide.
Jim gave up what he could not keep, to gain what he could not lose. That is, he gave up his life to gain fruitfulness in ministry. And yet he never saw the fruit. It was years later, through the love and forgiveness shown by Jim’s wife, Elizabeth and Nate’s sister Rachel that many Aucans came to faith in Jesus. Operation Auca required much patience before fruit was produced.
Oh the patience required by those who go out sowing the seeds of the gospel. When we desire to see people saved through the gospel we must patiently wait for the seed of the gospel to do its work. This is exactly what God does, as it says in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Question 5. According to 2 Peter 3:9 why is God patient?
God could wipe all of humanity off the face of the earth right now, and be just in doing it. Look how the whole earth has turned its back on Him, refused to submit to His authority, chosen to live life on their own terms rather than doing what God said is right.
And yet God does not exercise judgment right now; He is patient with this world. He is waiting for the gospel to go forth, being patient, not desiring that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. God’s patience was your salvation.
Like God, we want to be patient in waiting on the salvation of others and also in waiting for the sanctification of others. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” We approach each situation uniquely, but always with patience.
Friend, not only has God been mercifully patient with us, but someone else—a parent, a spouse, a pastor, a teacher, a friend—has no doubt been patient with us also. You probably know people who have prayed for you and waited on God to do His work in your life. Those same dear ones are probably still waiting (hopefully with patience) and praying for God to continue His work in our lives. How can we not also demonstrate patience with those to whom we minister?
Question 6. Would you say that, in general, your life is characterized by patience, or that you lack patience and need to develop and cultivate it?
Question 7. We all need to develop and cultivate patience in our lives more and more, what is the method of doing so?
It is important to remember that patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and that the Spirit’s work is to point us to Jesus (John 14-16). The way to cultivate patience in our own hearts and lives is to remember the gospel. Remember what it cost Jesus to save you—His life’s blood. Remember His labor of love as He hung on the cross, and how He was cut down so that you could be spared. As we turn to Jesus and look at Him, as we see and contemplate the gospel again and again, the Spirit of God cultivates the fruit of patience in our heart and life.
An excellent biblical example of patience in ministry is Jesus and the patience He exhibited in His dealings with His disciple Peter. The name Peter means “rock” but his given name, before Jesus changed it to Peter, was “Cephas” which means “sinking sand.” Upon reflection, you may consider Cephas a more apt name than Peter, but Jesus named Peter based on the work that Jesus planned to do in Peter’s life not on Peter’s performance.
If we look at the life of Peter, we see one who was prideful, impetuous, and reactionary. He frequently said and did things that were not well thought-out and that often got him into trouble. For instance, on the night Jesus was arrested, Peter impetuously cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (Mark 14:47). Another time he put on his coat and jumped in the water to swim to Jesus (John 21:7). Peter’s pride was clearly evident in the times when he had the audacity to rebuke or contradict Jesus as he did in Matthew 26:
“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 32 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Matthew 26:31-33 (NASB)
In spite of all Peter’s blunders, Jesus was very patient with him. He walked with Peter, talked with him, rebuked him when needed and encouraged him often. Finally, when Peter fell by publicly denying Jesus three times in sight of where Jesus was on “trial” for His life, we see the great patience of Jesus in eventually restoring Peter. Jesus did not cast Peter off, did not refuse to let Peter come back in repentance, but forgave him and exercised abundant patience with him even in the process of his restoration.
Notice the restoration of Peter:
“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:15-17 (NASB)
Question 8. How do we see Jesus’ patiently restoring Peter?
Cephas was unstable, shifting like the sands, but through the patient work of Jesus he became Peter, solid as a rock. Likewise, we want to see men and women come to Christ and grow into maturity, thereby becoming fruitful for the glory of God and our own joy. This requires patience, and much of it.
Let us close this lesson with instructions for you as you seek to minister to others:
“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NKJV)
Question 9. What role does patience play in ministering to those trapped in sin?
It is easy to be patient with some people, but being patient with those who are caught in the snare of the devil can be a challenge. Yet this is the call to the man or woman of God who would be useful to the Kingdom of God, who would rescue the perishing and care for the dying.
Question 10. As you consider the lesson today, and the teaching on patience, please explain the importance of patience in ministry, and how we can grow in it.
“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NKJV)