Smelling invisible roses?

Lewis Letters


Patience in a string of interminable disasters may seem impossible. Patience in the flow of ordinary things may seem too boring for words, especially when we have dreams of the extra-ordinary. This third brief post on the theme of patience comes from C.S.Lewis.

‘For him who is haunted by the smell of invisible roses the cure is work’ (MacDonald). If we feel we have talents that don’t find expression in our ordinary duties and recreations, I think we must just go on doing the ordinary things as well as we can. If God wants to use these suspected talents, He will: in His own time and way. At all costs one must keep clear of all the witchdoctors and their patent cures—as you say yourself.’

From The Collected Letters of C.S.Lewis, Volume III. 
(To Edward Lofstrom: on the need to do one’s duty while having patience with God.)
16 January 1959

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Patient faithfully?

Utmost
I imagine there are varieties of patience but not all of them are Godly. I imagine it’s possible, humanly speaking, to be patient cruelly, or greedily, or angrily. Godly patience is best revealed in Christ, ‘who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross’. The cross required more than an afternoon’s patience. This second brief post on the theme of  patience also comes from Oswald Chambers.

‘Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…’ Revelation 3:10 ESV

‘Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says-‘I cannot stand any more.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him.”

From Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest

Patient tenaciously?

Utmost
It’s the thing about a hero that they win in the end.
Having a trustworthy hero can change the way we
face the past, the present and the future if only we
are able to outwait the doubts about him that each
new peril we face creates in our minds and hearts.
This first of 3 brief posts on the theme of patience
comes from Oswald Chambers.

‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10

‘Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a disciple has is not that he will be damned but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for-love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men-will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o’-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted. If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled. One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. Remain spiritually tenacious.’
‘Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…’ Revelation 3:10 ESV

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

Not drowning, doubting… (6)

Isaac laughs

‘…what is that to you?’
John 21:22

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.’
Hebrews 6:15

 

It means a lot to me that even after the Egyptian episode and the Hagar incident (both of which, to me at least, suggest impatience on Abraham’s part) Abraham still becomes our example of patience as well as faith.

Of course we learn patience; even Job, and the prophets mentioned in James 5.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) and not an innate quality for any of us.

Abraham, in the long run, learned to wait patiently and received what was promised;
Isaac his son born to Sarah, and descendants ‘as numerous as the stars’.

‘What is that to you?’ Jesus asked Peter when he inquired about John’s fate.

Jesus had just described the death Peter would die in glorifying God when Peter noticed John (known to be a favourite of Jesus’) following them and asked, not unreasonably I think, ‘What about him?’ Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Sermon
It’s so good that the disciples are drawn ‘warts and all’ in the gospels; their doubts, their failures, their jealousy of one another regarding who would sit at Jesus’ right hand in his kingdom; we are shown all of that and more besides.

The other day I found myself confronted with Jesus’ question, ‘What is that to you?’ in light of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah.

 

I was reading Luke’s gospel; that passage in chapter seven where John the Baptist, in prison and soon to die at the hands of Herod, sent his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

In prison, John heard about Jesus’ miracles; already he had been convinced that Jesus was the messiah; he had already gladly said, ‘…my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease’. He knew that Jesus, in the synagogue in Nazareth, read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me … He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners … to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4)

We read familiar passages of scripture so many times yet suddenly something speaks to us, making new connections to encourage us (or to rebuke our little faith) or both; or more. Exciting, isn’t it?

Sure I knew that John was in prison when he sent his disciples to Jesus but I had never connected that with Jesus reading from Isaiah in Nazareth. Suddenly it seemed only reasonable that John’s attention would be drawn to that portion, ‘He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed’.

john baptist


Perhaps I am making too much of this; perhaps it says more about me than about John, but if such a connection is valid, if even John was liable to doubts in the light of God’s blessings in the lives of others but not in his life, then I find it, not too perversely I hope, encouraging.

 

When we are tempted to ask like Peter ‘What about him?’ or like John ‘Are you (really) the one? If you are, then what about me?’ is the only answer we can expect Jesus’ answer to Peter, ‘What is that to you. You must follow me.’

I don’t believe so. Two passages of scripture came to mind as I thought about it.

First, from Romans 12:15, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’ which speaks for itself I think as a tonic against our self absorption.

And then, from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul’s assurance of the comfort that produces patience, the ability to endure suffering and see it become a blessing for ourselves and for others too.

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.’ 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

What’s that to you?