Bearing Forbearance: A SOAP Study on Philippians 4:4-5

Scripture: Phil. 4:4-5

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (ESV)

d – or gentleness (NIV) or graciousness (HCSB) or considerate (NLT)

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (MSG)

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. ” (AMP)

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your [b]forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (ASV)

Other mentions of forbearance…

✓ O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach.” ~ Jeremiah 15:15

✓ 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?” ~ Romans 2:4

✓ Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” ~ Romans 3:25

✓ Where your fathers tried Me by testing [My forbearance and tolerance], And saw My works for forty years [And found I stood their test].” ~ Hebrews 3:9

✓ Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.” ~ Colossians 3:12–13 1

Observations:

1. Forbearance, a word generally found in the King James Version, has two meanings: One is to delay repayment of a debt and the second is an attribute of God’s nature, specifically holding back rightful judgment in favor of patience, mercy, and kindness.

2. Forbearance’s short-term benefit is repentance and its long-term benefit is freedom.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, KJV).

In this instance, Paul is warning us not to confuse a delay in discipline/judgment as disinterest or a lack of grace. Instead, Paul is emphasizing the fact we should forbear to judge others given God is constantly forbearing in judging the world.

3. Forbearance is a versatile quality God highly esteems. In fact, several of its facets connect to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. Whether manifest as patience, endurance or gentleness, forbearance is woven throughout the Bible (Proverbs 25:15Ephesians 4:2).

Applications:

1. We live in a world where much comes down to bandwidth and margin. Whether in business, law, or real estate, we tend to think of forbearance has a negative term as it implies the inevitability of a negative outcome…a turning over the keys, if you will. And I think for many of us this results in seeing forbearance as a surrender of control when it reality it’s a surrender of immediate judgment.

Conviction: We talk about making room for Jesus (“prepare Him room” – a popular phrase in worship circles), but often we don’t emphasize making room for forgiveness. Forbearance, while a present action, invests in the future and says when someone wrongs me…when someone offends me…I’m going to be ready. Not for retaliation, not for revenge or manipulation, but for patient grace, for meekness as the model of humility. Hence, why forbearance is an extension of 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Forbearance has been said to be a honorary fruit of the Spirit; however, the more I think about it, forbearance is perhaps better described as a fruit basket of the Spirit.

2. A repeated command in Scripture is “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14Proverbs 20:221 Corinthians 4:5Isaiah 40:31). Thus, it could be said…

God requires us to wait upon Him in order to help us develop forbearance.

For when we wait upon the Lord, we ultimately increase our capacity to forbear with those around us (1 Peter 3:8).

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Furthermore, sometimes the best place/time to wait on the Lord is when we’re working. As a finance employee, being single-focused on a particular task can come in handy, not only for the job at hand, but in my aim to hear God. Sure, there may be days I feel I’m sinking in the mud of mundanity; however, if I choose to see my effort as an opportunity to listen to my Creator, not only will I develop a more sensitive ear, but a more forbearing heart in the sense I’m cultivating yieldedness as opposed to self-sufficient tolerance.

3. If we’re meant to bear fruit, each others burdens, and with each other in love with all humility and patience forsaking self-righteousness, then forbearance helps get us there. It’s embracing the fact we can reflect the very nature of God without using it our advantage (Phil 2:6-8) as we make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). It’s a remarkable tool in our spiritual arsenal as it flips the legal IOU mentality for a selfless IOU reality that says. ‘I owe you nothing more than what God shows me every day.’

4. Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s easy to ‘conditional-ize’ forbearance among those we’re comfortable with. We compartmentalize and ration it as we please…as we see fit. I’m sure many of us have seen this demonstrated in secular settings…in the workplace…in the field and beyond. And part of this ties to the obvious…not all are saved, following the Lord, or aiming to be like him so we can’t expect to be on the receiving end of what, rather who, we’re trying to emulate.

At the same time, we can’t give up in being the change we crave, specifically respect to forbearance, being an agent of unbiased unity. When we zoom at Philippians 4 as a whole, note how Paul structures the chapter. Before he talks about how to think and act purely, how he’s learned to be content in all things…how he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, he first talks about being united. He’s taking vacuum out of the equation.

Forbearance isn’t an exclusive right or privilege, it’s part of a corporate calling that goes beyond the bandwidths and margins we so often quantify. If we truly want to lead a full life, we must be open to full kindness as it’s part of how God leads us to repentance. And shouldn’t we ultimately want this for everyone?

Bottom line: The bridge between being ‘slow to anger’ and ‘abounding in love’ (Psalm 86:15) is forbearance.

Prayer: (see 20:51-22:19)

Footnotes

  1. The New Living Translation words it this way: Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Photo creds: Wallpaper Studio 10

Rousing Resilience (Part 1)

We all have heroes.

Whether they’re family members or historical/cultural icons…we all have figures we look up to1.

Of course, not all protagonists and champions are alike; however, when we consider their innate qualities, it’d be hard to find any who lacked some form of resilience.

What is resilience, you ask?

Well, for starters, it’s the theme of this year’s Acquire the Fire event (hence, the topic’s prevalence).

Yet, as far as definition goes, resilience bears rich substance2. In fact, when we dig into Scripture3, we find resilience to be a number of things. Among them…

  • A refusal to quit…
  • A pledge to stand firm…
  • Courage maintained…
  • Boldness with honor…
  • …and a fearlessness rooted in two instinct-defying words…

“I can’t.”4

Now, I know it sounds weird, but when we confess this itty-bitty sentence to God, it not only offers Him great delight, but it also allows us to see just how much “He can.

Why? Because owning our weakness is the first step to being set free from it!

In other words, when we admit and release our crap to God, He doesn’t just listen – He intervenes, He intercedes…all the while, showing us the pathway to real, radical heart change.

Pretty cool, eh?

But resilience doesn’t stop there.

‘Cause when we drill a little deeper, we find resilience also enables us to know how…

  • …our helplessness can be expressed as acceptable worship and reference (Hebrews 12:27-29).
  • …our weakness can be flipped into God’s strength filling in the holes of our efforts (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • …and our problems can (and will) be fixed simply by fixing our eyes on the One who ultimately is in control (Psalm 16:8, Hebrews 12:2).

Honestly, when you think about, this can be especially encouraging, considering we will encounter adverse circumstances at some point, whether it’s an abusive relationship, financial and/or occupational turbulence, past woundedness, and/or the stubble of our sin. But even when life seems stuck on cruise-control and hope is nothing but a fleeting fairytale, we can still know “no fear5.

Cause truth is: all it takes is one simple shout of surrender to bounce back…

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…one victorious “Yes” to God in the face of apparent defeat…

…and one resolute declaration of “God is enough”…

even if 6 we’re walking through hell, unsure of what’s to come (see Daniel 3).

And I’m sorry, Captain Nesmith, but the phrase, “Never give up. Never surrender” doesn’t fully capture the essence of true resilience. Because the only way to “never give up” is to surrender…abandoning any independent pursuit that suggests we’re strong enough to adjust our course.

At the end of the day, the only means of courage is to admit we must be filled with it to live it.

And that, my friends, is what real resilience is all about it.

Next time, we’ll examine some practical points on how to live resilience out in a transformational way.

In the meantime, I leave with some passages from Isaiah & one from Habakkuk:

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In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength~ Isaiah 30:15

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” ~ Isaiah 40:29

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint.” ~ Isaiah 57:10

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” ~ Habakkuk 3:19

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Footnotes

1) Which is how we’re designed

2) And is arguably one of the most overlooked faith terms in Scripture.

3) Especially Joshua, 2 Timothy, Philippians and Romans

4) Point inspired by Christ Is Life Ministries

5) The fact this sentence contains a “triple-negative” doesn’t devoid it of truth.

6) The story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego really centers on these two words (Thanks to Kemtal Glasgow for the inspiration)

 
Cover photo from thefeministwire.com

Staying the Course – The Importance of Not Quitting (Part 1)

I’m going to be quite frank: I’m not a fan of my day job.

I mean…don’t get me wrong. I take great pride in being bivocational, serving as a full-time volunteer youth pastor with a permanent governmental position on the side.

But on some days, I’m telling you…I seriously consider buying some “Just for Men” products just to combat premature greyness potential.

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After all, it’s hard to stay engaged at work when you sense your passion bucket is drying up…when the only thing keeping your midday heart afloat is a splintered desire for excellence.

‘Cause truth is: Sometimes, it’s easy to want to quit…to unplug and refresh, especially when you feel you’re heart and résumé are headed in opposite directions.

However, when we soak in the Word and rest in the arms of Christ, we can find value in steadfast persistence, even when our circumstances don’t make sense. Yes, we may be burning for a reset compass to the tune of 90°, maybe 180°, but this doesn’t have to compromise our faith in staying the course.

Think about the ministry of Christ…

Whenever Jesus encountered a difficult situation, what’s the first thing he did? He yielded. He relinquished his prerogative and instead, referenced the Father so he could be filled with wisdom and understanding.

In other words, Jesus lived what God said…because he saw his life as a pure reflection of the Father’s heart and continually established the hope of glory as his vanguard.

Thus, the more Jesus yielded, the more supernatural strength he received, which in turn, helped him not only stand firm in the midst of trials, but also live a lifestyle of perpetual obedience.

Essentially, when we discern the ministry of Jesus, we see how holy surrender is the best way to never give up.

But maybe you’re still scratching your head, wondering how this relates to the humble workingman stuck in cubicle country. I mean…it’s not like these factoids can ease the burden of two rush hour commutes a day or the patronizing, unprofessionally filtered dialogue ponging up the airwaves and hallways…

or can it?

You see, studying the nature and ministry of Christ not only inspires us to live a life worthy of the calling set before us (Ephesians 4:1), but also compels us to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24-26). Without it, there’s no way we can expect our natural perspective to calibrate to where it needs to be.

And yet, on the flipside, I understand the profile of the unfulfilled employee whose frustration mounts whenever a co-worker is promoted out of bias or when another is  intentionally disregarded.

However, whenever I feel suffocated or ignored by a colleague, I remember the attitude Christ had whenever he encountered animosity.

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And suddenly, my crap doesn’t feel so…crappy anymore.

True, I may be tempted to vent steam in the face of what feels like discriminate functionality. But glory to God if I’m hard-pressed. Glory to God if I feel abandoned…if I’m stuck in a jam and the only way out is reliance upon His unfailing masterheart.

Bottom line: You may find yourself in a bland situation, feeling like you’re filing your creativity away …or stuck between provisional responsibility and a dream pursuit.

But whether you feel pinned under overwhelming pressure or hardened by lifelessness, the point is: Don’t quit…but stay the course!

Remember each season of your life is a stepping stone in the direction of the unfathomable calling God has for you. So don’t believe the lie that God doesn’t care about the job you do…or that everything has to make sense in order to embrace the opportunity in front of you.

Instead, press in, press through and put yourself in a position to hear God’s heart and voice, so when you hear His call, you won’t hesitate to obey even if you don’t fully understand the answer. For God always sees the ultimate goal and nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37). After all, He not only sees the light at the end of the tunnel – He is the light.

Let’s pray…

God, we want to be difference makers at our jobs, even though it may seem most of the people we work with tick the living shrek out of us. God, we want to love what’s hard, not just what’s easy. We don’t want to give up and surrender the chance we have to be light in the darkness. We may not be a fan of what we do. We may not see how this pertains to our calling. But by faith, we’re going to believe there’s a purpose behind the position you’ve blessed us with. We don’t have to see it to believe it and we don’t have to like it to live it. At the end of the day, we’re going to be obedient. And we trust that you’ll create and develop in us a stronger desire to selflessly serve while standing tall in adversity. It’s not about us. It’s all about you. So take this numb heart and breathe life back into it so we may be able to give life back to others. Amen!”