The Apostle Paul was an eager man and writes about his eagerness throughout his epistles. He is eager to remember the poor when he writes to the Galatians. He has an eager expectation and hope as he exhorts the Philippians. He urges the Ephesians to be eager to maintain unity. Being eager can apply to all types of situations, but the believer will find himself eager to do the things of the Lord and to honor him. Such eagerness is placed on our hearts by God to do his will and further his kingdom.
This eagerness infiltrates all areas of my life. One such eager desire of mine is to love my students well through all their needs and wants, hopes, aspirations, and education. I often pray that I will love them well. Loving them requires that I be more than teacher sometimes. The role stretches to mother and father and doctor and counselor and referee.
In these many roles, I find my sin is so plainly (and abundantly) exposed, particularly my impatience. Impatience is not news to me. I don’t like to wait (especially on little people who interrupt me). I was convicted of my impatience and how my impatient attitude and words affect my little people. Then I read 1 Corinthians 13 again.
This passage is so well-known and its verses so-often quoted that I usually fly right on through. But the Holy Spirit slowed me down to read Scripture with more care and better intentions. God’s word that pierced my heart and sank deep into my soul was this: love is patient. Love’s first attribute, first adjective, first expression, is my great struggle. Love is patient. If I love them, I must be patient.
That which is so difficult for my natural self is expressly laid out as a command. I must love and this love is patient. This is impossible to do naturally. And here lies the beauty of sanctification—what I have no ability to do, God commands as necessary and also graciously provides the capability to execute.
John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, addresses the seeming tension between God’s commands and man’s inability. If man is unable to do what God commands, God’s commands might seem to mock or jeer, since damnation is the outcome. He, however, quotes Augustine who says, “God orders what we cannot do, that we may know what we ought to ask of him.”
So it is with my desire to love and my native hostility toward patience. God orders that I love and that this love be patient love, so that I can cry out to him in and with my weakness; and in his faithfulness he will answer with the power to do as he commands.