We're nearing the end of March, a month dedicated to Five Words That Change Families. We've looked at Surrender, Purpose and Discipline, and today's word is essential to the previous three: PATIENCE.
Surrendering our desires to the Lord won't come naturally to us, nor to our spouse. Pursuing God's purpose won't be a simple call for us, nor for our children. Disciplining ourselves to say no to indulging the pleasures of the flesh will be a significant struggle for us, as it will be for our siblings and parents.
Unless you live alone, you will experience firsthand the moral deficiencies of those you love. Their sin will splash into your life, either directly or indirectly. They will experience the same from you. So, if you're going to exist as a family of unity, peace and love, you need to be a family rooted in patience.
Here are four basic principles to remember:
1. God has been patient with us.
The patience of the Lord is referenced all throughout Scripture. Numbers 14:18, Psalm 86:15, Nahum 1:3, Romans 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are just a few examples. But those verses aren't historic, as if we look back in time and learn about who God was. Those verses reveal who God is in relation to us right here, right now. Because God is patient with us as we stumble, so we must be patient with our family members as they mature in grace.
2. Only God can change your family.
In Psalm 51:10 David prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Isn't it interesting that David doesn't promise God that he's going to change? Rather, he pleads with God to create a new heart and a new spirit within him. David was onto something - only God can produce change in a person. We don't have the ability to change ourselves, nevertheless our family members who live with us.
3. Our attempts to change others result in damage.
Despite what Scripture says, we still try our best to change of our family members. We do that with threats, accusations, manipulation, guilt, and a variety of other techniques. We think that if we yell loudly enough, punish harshly enough, or mope long enough, our family members will change. Perhaps for a moment they will alter their behavior and we'll get what we want, but that won't last. Sadly, what often lasts longer is relational hurt and bitterness.
4. Patience requires waiting.
If you're going to extend patient grace to your family members, you have to be willing to wait. God will change the heart of your spouse, he will mature your children, and he will grow your parents and siblings ... but he will do so in his perfect timing. The winds of the Holy Spirit will blow in conviction, as his Word promises, but he won't consult you first and ask when you want it to take place. Patience will require you to wait on the Lord.
Maybe you're thinking, "Paul, that doesn't sound very helpful. Am I just supposed to sit around and do nothing?" No, don't get me wrong - patience is not a synonym for inactivity. You need to have loving but honest conversations with your spouse about marital conflict. You need to discipline your children and correct wrong behavior. You need to respectfully confront your parents and siblings when their sin splashes into your life.
But, the one thing you can’t do is change their hearts. For that, you have to wait patiently on the One who is wise and faithful and present and good. His timing is always right.
Paul David Tripp
- What would you like to change about a family member? Now, look in the mirror - how do you struggle in the same or similar way as your family member?
- How did you attempt to change someone this week with threats, accusations, manipulation or guilt? Whom do you need to go to and ask for forgiveness?