"P" is for Perspective - Part 2

By: Craig Mercer

August 20th, 2021



A God of Patient Wisdom

In our previous blog, we looked at the shaping power of perspective on belief and action. Here we want to zoom in a little more on how our view of God's character influences and affects our lives and those we help. E.B. White, the author, once observed a profound reality about humor; "Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process!"(1)


We have all had that friend that misses the punchline of a joke and looks bewildered and confused, beckoning you to explain it awkwardly as the humor evaporates as a result. While this is true of humor, there is a more significant application of this truth we can fall into regularly when studying Scripture and theology. In our eagerness to grasp what God has revealed about himself, we tend to study his attributes systematically and separately. Sometimes, inadvertently and unknowingly, we flatten the text to more intellectual and cerebral activity.

Dan Wallace, a Greek professor, once said,

"As a New Testament professor, the biblical text is my task-but I made it my God. The text became my idol. Let me state this bluntly: the Bible is not a member of the Trinity. One lady in my church facetiously told me, "I believe in the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Bible." (2)


In our eagerness to grasp what God has revealed about himself, we tend to study his attributes systematically and separately.

While there is tongue-in-cheek humor in his observation, it highlights a ditch any of us can fall into! God is not a set of propositional truths to be parsed but a personal God to be known, loved, and pursued. Michael Reeves states, "…Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God. To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for…." (3)


While it is necessary for us to study the attributes of God one element at a time for comprehension and absorption, it is important to return them into a relational context to avoid killing the truth in the process. Brian Godawa so insightfully states,

"If the Bible communicates God and truth (theology) primarily through story, image, symbol, and metaphor, then a theology that neglects those methods is not being strictly biblical in its method. A scientific approach to God will ultimately depersonalize God through analysis and redefine Christianity through philosophical abstraction rather than embodying God's personal presence through lived-out stories." (4)


God is not a set of propositional truths to be parsed but a personal God to be known, loved, and pursued.

So I want us to take a look at God's patience and wisdom and see how fusing them can help us experience the vitality of God's revelation through Scripture.


God of Patience

What does it mean that God is patient? "God's patience means God's goodness in withholding of punishment toward those who sin over a period of time." (5) This means God is neither hotheaded nor hair-triggered in his disposition towards us. His patience is actually a means to bring us to repentance when needed. "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (6)


God is not a set of propositional truths to be parsed but a personal God to be known, loved, and pursued.

Therefore we are to progressively reflect that in our interaction with one another as articulated by Tertullian, one of the early church fathers,

"Patience is the habitual disposition to bear with trials and frustrations without complaint, to exercise forbearance under difficulties, to be undisturbed by obstacles, delays, and failures, and to persevere with diligence until the gridlock is broken or the predicament rightly grasped." (7)


Because God is patient, we have an unrushed God! God is outside of the temporal mechanics of time as we experience them. Thus, all things are present tense to him. As such, God can't be hurried or caught off guard. He feels no pressure to get things moving faster. God's wisdom allows him to be patient because he knows all variables and ends. "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (8)


He is the unrushed God, who knows the end of all things, who has all power, whom nothing can frustrate. God is qualitatively different to us, God does not need to hide, minimize, aggrandize, or apologize for any action, thought, or motive because, in his sovereign goodness, he is always doing what is right and good.

Because God is patient, we can rest in our imperfect communication! "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (9)


God does not need to hide, minimize, aggrandize, or apologize for any action, thought, or motive because, in his sovereign goodness, he is always doing what is right and good.

While those around us can always misunderstand us, we can never be misunderstood by God! He knows the depths of our imperfection and still pursues us! What a helpful perspective for those that struggle to verbalize their inner world!


God of Wisdom

The other attribute is wisdom:

"The power to discern truth from error and righteousness from unrighteousness, and make deliberate choices that eventuate in good rather than evil." (10)

"Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure." (11)


In his wisdom, God can apply what he knows perfectly, in the best possible way, in the best possible moment.


Timothy Keller says,"God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows." (12)


An important question for us to ask is, how should knowing the God of patient wisdom affect how we sojourn with others? The intentional application of God's patient wisdom will sharpen our discernment (13), strengthen our unity (14), shape our instruction (15), causing us to be patiently wise and winsome in our communication (16)!


An important question for us to ask is, how should knowing the God of patient wisdom affect how we sojourn with others?

The God of patient wisdom relentlessly pursues us, consistently stands with us, steadfastly loves us, and compassionately relates with us. Next time, we will look at love and justice and explore the impact of knowing a God of loving justice!




References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._B._White He was the author of several highly popular books for children, including Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

  2. https://bible.org/book/export/html/3419

  3. Michael Reeves: Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 10). Intervarsity Press.

  4. Brian Godawa. Word Pictures: Knowing God Through Story & Imagination (Kindle Locations 602-604). Kindle Edition.

  5. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 200.

  6. Rom 2:4

  7. Tertullian, On Patience, ANF 3:707–17). Oden, Thomas C.).

  8. Num 23:19

  9. Psalm 139:4

  10. Horton, Michael (2013-02-05). Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples (Kindle Locations 1472-1473). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

  11. Ps 147:5

  12. https://twitter.com/timkellernyc/status/327444450064351233?lang=en

  13. "...But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." Heb 5:14

  14. "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Col 3:12-13

  15. "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." 1 Thess 5:14

  16. "The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Prov 16:23-24




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