Blog / Book of the Month / “Patience Tested” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Lent Sunday Sermon February 25th 2024 – Mark 8:27-38; Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16; Romans 5:1-11

“Patience Tested” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Lent Sunday Sermon February 25th 2024 – Mark 8:27-38; Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16; Romans 5:1-11

“Patience Tested” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Lent Sunday Sermon February 25th 2024 – Mark 8:27-38; Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16; Romans 5:1-11

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 25th 2024: Season of Lent / Mark 8:27-38; Genesis 17:1-7, 15, 16; Romans 5:1-11 “Patience Tested”

        And Jesus went on with His disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told Him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” And He strictly charged them to tell no one about Him.

         And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

         And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”     

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. You’ve heard this phrase, or you’ve said it yourself, “patience is a virtue.”[1] Are you patient or impatient when it comes to matter of faith? Are you good at trusting when the fulfilment of the promise is long in coming? Do you have patience when things are not unfolding the way you think they ought to unfold; the way you want them to unfold?

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and his name was still Abram, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I Am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless, that I may make My covenant between Me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”[2] Now God had already had a conversation with Abram like this before, in fact back in chapter 12 of Genesis when Abram was 75 years old,  “the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation ...”

When Abram was 75 years old God says “I will make of you a great nation” and then when he was 99 years old the LORD says to Him that He will “multiply [Abram] greatly.”

There is a 24 year long gap of time between the two times the LORD made this promise to Abram. And in those 24 years Abram and Sarah, who’s name at that time was still Sarai, had no children together; in fact at one point, during those 24 year, after God says to Abram “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”[3] Abram responds to the LORD saying, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? ... You have given me no offspring and a [servant in] my household will be my heir.” [Then], the word of the LORD came to [Abram and said]: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And He brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then [the word of the LORD] said to [Abram], “So shall your offspring be.” And [Abram] believed the LORD, and [the LORD] counted it to him as righteousness.”[4] So here we have Abram, upright, one made righteous by God, confident in almost every way.

During those 24 years, between 75 and 99 years of age, Abram was reassured by the LORD that the promise was going to be fulfilled ... all Abram had to do was to trust that the LORD would do it.

Part way through those 24 years, Abram was tempted not to trust, not to trust God’s promise, and this temptation came from someone very close to him: seeing that she had not produced any children Sarai, Abram’s wife said to Abram, “[Look], the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant [Hagar]; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”[5] Abram fell to this temptation and didn’t say, as he should have, “No, let us trust the LORD and His promise.” So when Abram was 86 years old, Hagar the maid, gave birth to Ishmael a son of Abram; but Ishmael was not the promised child that the LORD had appointed for Abram. Ishmael was born out of lack of trust in the promise of God.

Abram who was to become Abraham (the Father of Nations), who has his faith credited to him as righteousness by the LORD also shows us a profound lack of faith in the birth of Ishmael. So then you may be left asking? “If Abraham, a hero of the faith, struggled with trusting God, is there any hope for me?” Trust is a very important element of faith. Nowhere does scripture say that, Abram lost his faith, but when we think on God’s promise to Abram and Abram’s handling of that promise, it does shed some light on last week’s Old Testament reading[6] where Abram, (now Abraham) was told to take his son Isaac, his only Son with Sarai (now Sarah), the son of the immediate fulfilment of the LORD’S promise to Abram, and then sacrifice him (sacrifice this Isaac) on mount Moriah. Here we backtrack to a time before last week’s reading.  

Ishmael was born out of impatience and a profound lack of trust in God but Isaac on the other hand was a miracle child, a life changing child for Abraham: after the birth of Isaac Abraham trusted God, and after that Abraham did what God asked, Abraham trusted that the LORD would work miracles to make all His promises come true. In fact in the Epistle of Hebrews, in the New Testament, the writer tells us that, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead.”[7] Remember what you heard last week, when they were almost at the place where Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, Abraham said to his young men [who had come with them], “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”[8] Here Abraham gives no indication that he would return alone, considering what the Book of Hebrews teaches it would be safe to believe that Abraham thought that even if his son Isaac were to die God would raise Isaac and the two of them would return to his men who were waiting with the donkey.

Where Abraham had failed in trusting God before—even though Abram had been given great faith—here we see the genuine nature of Abraham’s trust in the promise of the LORD, his trust that God would do for him as God had promised and that the LORD’S future promises were to be believed. This test of Abraham’s trust and patience were not just for the building of his personal character, no, we have it here for us today in God’s Word today for encouragement in patience.

Do you ever struggle to patiently trust God’s promises to you? There’s a quote falsely attributed to the Bible, you know it, “God helps those who help themselves,”[9] this is not a God pleasing quote and it's not Scriptural, yet many in the world live by it, have you lived by it? For lack of patience are you tempted to find alternatives to God’s pattern and plan, is this you? Are you left looking for ways to speed things up on your own as Abram and Sarai had? Remember love is patient and what then is impatience: a lack of love, a lack of trust? ‘But I'm in a very dark place,’ you say, ‘It’s a really emotional time in my life,’ ‘I’m under a lot of psychological pressure,’  ‘I've got physical, medical, health concerns: Surely that counts for something? Clearly God will let me take matters into my own hands in this case, He won’t mind if I set aside His concerns for my own concerns?’ In the dark of night, in the cold light of day have you been left wondered ‘why is this all happening to me? Why hasn’t God done anything yet? Why is it all taking so long?’ Trusting promises that take a long time to be fulfilled is hard for us to do, we are an impatient bunch, just think, from the LORD’S first promise to Abram to the day Abraham stood on the mountain top with the knife in his hand, that stretch of time was right around 40 years. The Holy Spirit had given Abraham his faith in the LORD around 40 years before that day, and still there were tests to his faith. You received the promise of eternal and everlasting life in your baptism and there are some of us in our congregation for whom that promise came nearly 90 or even nearly 100 years ago.

Often when we look back it’s easier to see the handiwork of God in our lives even through times of trial and suffering, looking forward is something different, Saint Paul tells us that “we walk by faith, not by sight.”[10] It’s hard to see the outcome of what’s ahead of us, that’s why trust is such an important part of faith especially when we are called to “rejoice in our sufferings,” because, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”[11] is one thing, having the patience to trust in the LORD while it looms ahead of you, and while you pick up your cross and follow Christ through it, is something else. Have courage, the prophet Jeremiah provides you with this encouragement, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.”[12] As Christians then we are called to patiently put our faith and trust in the LORD; to put our faith and trust in Jesus, remembering His promises to us as we await our ultimate blessings in Him.

In today's Gospel reading, from the Gospel of Mark, we hear how Saint Peter struggled to trust Jesus when Jesus plainly explained what was to come. Saint Peter swayed by impatient human concerns fell into sin, like Abram had done when he’d fathered Ishmael with Hangar the maid, convinced that he knew what was best over and above Jesus. Saint Peter falters in his trust and rebukes Jesus. And what does Jesus do? Jesus stops Peter dead in his tracks saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” When we struggle to trust God nine times out of ten it’ll be because we’ve set our mind on the things of men, and in doing so we’ve lost track of God’s purpose and His promises for us. We impatiently lose track of God plan for our salvation.

So then we ask? ‘If Abraham and Sarah struggled with patiently trusting God, if Saint Peter struggled with patiently trusting Jesus, is there any hope for me?’ You are not alone, to a varying degree we all struggle at patiently trusting our Heavenly Father, and we all equally fail at following the Word of the LORD Jesus, and in illness and in adversity and tribulation and trouble and suffering we easily can come face to face with some mighty temptation from Satan that beckons us to go our own way, apart from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is there any hope for us? Not outside of Jesus! Your hope is in Christ Jesus, not in yourself, your hope is in Christ Jesus not in some kind of strength in numbers. If all the world is wrong that holds no water when you recognise that the LORD is right. Of course being uniquely wrong is no help either, what Abraham first impatiently got wrong became his greatest spiritual strength once he believed God would do what He promised; so too with Saint Peter. What Peter at first rejected he later embraced and preached: the plan of salvation that is for you and for me, the plan that would see Jesus die for our individual lack of trust and for all our sin and then be raised up to new life, so that you can have the same. You see this is God’s ultimate plan for you, that no matter what difficulties and suffering you face in life, no matter what cross you have to bear in following in Jesus’ footsteps, in the end God the Father through Jesus will bring you to life everlasting in heaven where every hardship you’ve faced will be no more and you will live in perfect peace, trust and love. There you will be free.[13] This is God's promise to you.

In your baptism you are washed into this plan of salvation, you are sealed into it, bound to it; you are given the Hope that is Christ Jesus: and in your baptism you belong to Him. His forgiveness therefore is yours and you can now place your trust in Jesus. He becomes your Hope through all trials and tribulations whether they are short like it was for Saint Peter or whether it was long like it was for Abraham because Jesus endured all suffering with patience even unto death!

Lastly it’s good to remember that during their lifetime both Abraham and Saint Peter were forgiven for their lack of patient trust in the LORD, and this forgiveness is not just for them it’s for you too; run therefore to Jesus, the One who is Trustworthy and True, the One Who displayed perfect and patient trust towards His Father in heaven in thought, word and deed, even while He was begin put to death by the very people He came to save! Dear ones, Jesus is greater than Abraham’s heart and bigger than Saint Peter’s heart and He is bigger than your heart,[14] He will not lead you astray, and He has you in the palm of His crucified and risen hand; remember Jesus teaches us saying, “I give them eternal life, [that’s you] and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Therefore no amount of impatience or suffering can snatch you out of your LORD’S hand, therefore for the sake of your peace of mind set aside all those things you fret over, all those things you worry about, all those things that lure you into impatiently going your own way they are not as strong as you Jesus. There is no need to lose your soul over chasing after these things. Compared to the things of this World your Lord Jesus is unmatchable. Therefore if “patience is a virtue,” as they say, and as you’ve said along the way, then it’s not about your patience: first, thankfully, the LORD “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,”[15] and then secondly the virtue of Jesus’ perfect patience is now credited to you as though it was yours all along and this is the very best of Good News. Amen. 

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] 14th Century English Proverb, Oxford Treasury of Sayings & Quotations, 4th Edition Oxford University Press 2011, page 330. 
[2] Genesis 17:1-2
[3] Genesis 15:1
[4] Genesis 15:2-6
[5] Genesis 16:2
[6] Genesis 22:1-18
[7] Hebrews 11:17-19
[8] Genesis 22:5
[9] Algernon Sidney (1623-1683), later quoted in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard's Almanack (1736).
[10] 2 Corinthians 5:7
[11] Romans 5:3-4
[12] Jeremiah 17:7
[13] Revelation 21:4
[14] 1 John 3:20
[15] 2 Peter 3:9 

Photo Credits: Main Photo from freepik