"Gospel Power for Personal Patience"#89-18
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 2, 2022
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2022 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Listen (5-10mb) Download (35-70mb) Reflections
Text: Luke 2:40-52
Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking He was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You." "Why were you searching for Me?" He asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in My Father's house?" (Luke 2:41-49, NIV)
Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Amen.
Waiting ... searching ... do you know what that feels like? That's surely what those December days before Christmas felt like, right? Children will tell you that those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are an eternity. Grownups, too, were part of that anxious anticipation. Together, you counted down the days. The anticipation was built. Presents gathered under the tree. You decorated, celebrated, and orchestrated gatherings and feasts. And now, for many, it's done. It's over, right?
How about the New Year's Eve wait? Maybe this year was a year of waiting. And now the midnight of last year has come and gone. The ball in New York City is in storage for next year. Tomorrow you may be back to work, back to school, or back to the routine. The waiting is over. Or is it?
I suspect that you, even now, may still be doing your share of waiting. The cultural, holiday hype might be over, but you might be waiting still in your heart today. Are you still waiting for money issues to clear up—especially after that holiday hit? Are you still waiting for a relationship to improve—perhaps with a new resolve this year? Are you waiting for new, hopefully, good news about your health, about a job? As the waiting continues, do you find yourself eager, frustrated, anxious, fearful, and downhearted all at the same time?
That's how Peggy Harris felt for 68 years. You see, Peggy married the love of her life, Billie Harris, just six weeks before he was deployed overseas in World War II. Billie was a fighter pilot. On July 17, 1944, he took to the skies for a mission over Nazi-occupied northern France. He never returned.
That summer of 1944, Peggy received word that Billie was missing in action. Then she received news that he was alive and on his way home. Then she was told that he was killed in action and his remains were at a cemetery in Europe. Then the cemetery location was changed. Then she heard that the grave might not be his at all. So Peggy waited. She waited for months, then for years. She wrote her congressman to try to find out whatever happened to Billie. She waited and waited and wrote and wrote again and again—for over 60 years!
A few years ago, Billie's cousin decided to see what he could do for Peggy. He made a request for his military records and he found the answer. Billie was lost in action on that fateful day in 1944. He was buried at one of the most famous military cemeteries ever, in Normandy, France, with a white marble cross marking his grave. Finally, he was found!
And Peggy waited the whole time. She never remarried. She loved Billie. These days she sends flowers ten times every year to adorn his grave. Cemetery officials say that she is the last widow who still visits her loved one there. And Peggy is glad to do it. After 68 years of wondering and waiting, she's finally received her answer.
I wonder if you feel a bit like Peggy Harris. Maybe you haven't been waiting for 68 years, but your wait feels long and it feels difficult. It's not merely causing you anxiety; it's literally taking the life out of you. You wonder if you can make it any further.
I want to tell you today, dear friend, that you do not wait alone and that God is in the business of fulfilling His promises to all who wait on Him. The whole Bible recounts the actions of God for us. Even the main teaching is about God coming at the right time for the world so that all might be saved. You know the verse. It says, "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son" to live, to die, to rise again for you! He is the One who promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
For you, today, as you wait in worry or fear or eager impatience, God comes through even in the midst of your anxious wait. His living Word is here to encourage you. His everlasting love is yours to lift you up. The Bible reminds us in Psalm 27 that even in the middle of struggles and pain, "Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (Psalms 27:14, ESV)
You can patiently trust God today even amidst the waiting. Because your Savior, your Lord stands with you to be your strength, even now. But it's so difficult, isn't it? Being patient is not our natural persuasion. We're not willing waiters. We want to get on with it. We want life to move forward right now. We want instant results. We're a microwave world in a hurried, harassed culture. Our desire is to get to the next step right now. The faster it can happen, the better it is, we think. And much of the world meets our need for speed.
Now, with certain things, fast can be innovative; it can be good. But our impatience can also lead to a life of pain. Especially when life slows down on its own terms, or when life spins out of our control. Then our speedy expectations can lead to unbearable heartache and grief.
There are times, despite our modern inventions, despite our advances technologically, when life slows down, times when answers come too slowly, times when we are left to wait, and wait, and wait.
And if you're honest with me today, when you are waiting anxiously, it's often because you are disappointed with God's response. Maybe you don't think He is concerned about you at all. So, like we all tend to do, we take matters into our own hands, we make our own plans. We do things our way for immediate answers and satisfaction. Often, that temporary solution gives way to even more waiting, more disappointment, and more anxiety.
Waiting anxiously becomes a sin when we give in to that temptation that we somehow care about our life more than God does. It's exactly the opposite. God loves you with an eternal love. Whatever is happening in your life today it can't separate us from His love, His grace, His power.
That's what our text for today is teaching. Jesus shows us how to wait with hope—how to deal with the things in this life in full view of the Father's promises and love. The most important thing throughout one's life is to be connected by faith to God, in His House, in His presence, in His Word, with a family of believers! If you need patience, if you need help for the waiting that you're enduring, the Son of God, in the coming weeks, will take you on a journey that provides encouragement, refreshment for your soul, and staying power as you wait.
You see, Jesus understands what it means to wait. Let me ask you this question: What did Jesus do most in His time on earth? Miracles? Teaching? Preaching? No. He waited most of all. In Luke 2, we hear the 12-year-old Jesus was eager to start His ministry—so eager that He even appears to forget about His own family for a time! Verses 41-46 tell us: "And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it ... they began to search for Him ... After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions."
Jesus caused quite a bit of distress for His mom and dad. But as the Son of God on a mission to seek and save the lost, He couldn't hold back. He felt the urgency of His important purpose. And even at 12 years old, His listeners were amazed at His comments and His answers.
You can't blame Mary and Joseph for being in distress. You can hear it in Mary's voice. It says His mother said to him, "Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been searching for You in great distress." But Jesus replies with eagerness: "Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?"
Jesus' parents didn't understand what He was telling them at the moment. He was aware, He was ready, but even Jesus knew that instead of starting His ministry right then and there, He needed to wait. So Luke tells us: "And He went down with them, came to Nazareth and was submissive to His parents. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and with man."
So Jesus waited. He waited for 12 years before He had a chance to go to the temple. He got a taste of His ministry during those few days in Jerusalem, but then He had to wait again. It would be another 18 years before Jesus started His ministry at age 30.
If you've been waiting for a long time, you're not alone. For most of His life, Jesus waited. Yes, He was eager. Yes, He had a deep and abiding desire to do the Father's work of redeeming and restoring the world. Yes, He was passionate about His mission that would involve the sacrifice of His life for the sake of all. But even He, as the God-Man who came in your place for your salvation, even He had to wait for the proper time.
Please be encouraged by this. Please hear that Jesus understands your restlessness, your fear, your feelings of helplessness, and your downheartedness. He gets it. He knows what it's like to wait. But He also provides a path through waiting just for you. I call it Christ's secret path to patience, in plain sight for all to see.
Our solution to waiting seems always to be, "Oh, Lord, give me the answer right now." Even with patience, we tend to pray: "Lord, give me patience, and give that to me now, too!" Jesus' focus was different. His concern was about the things of God always and being prepared for the answers that were to come, no matter the wait.
For Him, the key in all things was to always be fed and nourished by God's Word. His visit to the temple in Jerusalem reflected Jesus' ongoing immersion in the Word of God. Do you remember how He quoted God's Word when He was tempted by the devil at the beginning of His ministry? Jesus heard and He learned the Scriptures. These became His firm foundation and an important tool to face adversity, including the challenge of waiting.
If you want to wait effectively, you need a steady diet of God's Word. Remember, the Bible is not just another book; it's living, it's active, it's precious wisdom, reliable promises from God Himself. God's Word refreshes your soul and it brings you new life. It is essential to making the long journey of life as a person who waits. When you feel panicky or forgotten, God's Word steadies you and gives you a bigger picture for that perspective. It reminds you of God's faithfulness and fills you with a supernatural peace. It's a key to waiting out anything effectively.
Read the Gospel of John, read the Psalms, or request devotional material from us here at Lutheran Hour Ministries because the Word of God is the fuel you need while you wait.
Second, when it comes to patience, Jesus sought the company of others. When He was 12 years old, He went to the Temple. His presence in His Father's house meant being in the company of fellow believers for learning, for encouragement. God's house, His church, is a place of believers gathered around His Word, sharing, learning, serving in the power that only He can provide. You weren't ever meant to be alone!
I know for many of you out there this program is such a blessing to you and I am honored to be with you every week. I pray that you keep listening, keep sharing this with others, but if you are able, you need to also be connected to fellow believers, to God's holy ministry in His church. His gifts were meant to be received and shared!
And, finally, third, Jesus devoted Himself to prayer as He waited. We hear about Jesus' practice of prayer in Mark 1: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed" (Mark 1:35, NIV).
If you're in the position of waiting, prayer is essential. Prayer is when you bring your burdens and struggles to God. You cast your cares on Him. If you don't, you'll end up carrying them around with you. And while God may not give you what you want immediately, He is there with you always, sustaining you as you walk the road of your challenge.
The Word of God, the company of other believers, and the gift of prayer-all these blessings center on one thing: being in relationship with your Savior Jesus, to receive and to share His gifts. Patience is a "God's Word, God's House" gift! You grow in patience by God Himself growing it in you and through you. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit as He lives in you and works in you through His Word. Jesus, who suffered all on the cross, who suffered the eternal anxiety of being separated from the Father because of our sin, His life, His death, and resurrection, they are proof that in faith, waiting on God, waiting with God, and waiting for God—it's always worth the wait!
Isaiah, chapter 40, brings some of the most compelling encouragement, then, for our patience. To the burdened and struggling listener who was waiting for God's restoration, the prophet proclaimed: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is an everlasting God ... He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, young men shall fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV).
That's the Gospel power for patience in this life laid out for all to see! It's the promise that God will be faithful to you through it all. His promises will always be fulfilled for you; maybe not in this day or that, but ultimately in the joy and promise of an eternal life with Him. God's promises are the power to live boldly in His grace right now and because you know that no matter what is happening in your life at this moment, you are secure in God's hands because of Jesus' work for you on the cross.
That's how our church in New York waited. As we prayed for a place to worship back in the '90s. With no money, no building to gather, with only prayerful hope and the anticipation of God's blessing for us and our neighborhood, seemingly out of the blue, a church building worth 2.5 million dollars was donated to our mission—incredible, miraculous, something that was pure gift. I always remember thinking amidst all of our waiting if God wants something done, there will be the resources, the people, the time to do the work. If not, there will be something else wonderful to do.
In fact, that's how a precious relative of mine, now in heaven, that's also how she waited, as she prayed for her husband, year after year after year, prayed for him to come to faith. Jesus walked with her, and He waited with her, and He heard her prayers. After decades of waiting, her husband received the gift of life and salvation through Jesus Christ.
I know it's weary to wait. I know that circumstances can seem overwhelming. So, this year do you find yourself searching and waiting? Then take Jesus' example to heart. Let the things of God be central to your life, let the Good News of Jesus Christ, the power of His Gospel, fill you with the patience that comes in knowing that God cares for you always, He is with you, and through it all, waiting on Him, with Him, and through Him, is a wait that is worth it for you and for those you love. Here's to a blessed New Year always to you in Him. Amen.
Reflections for January 2, 2022
Title: Gospel Power for Personal Patience
Mark Eischer: I'm Mark Eischer here in the studio now with our Speaker, Dr. Michael Ziegler. Happy New Year!
Dr. Michael Ziegler: Happy New Year to you, Mark!
Mark Eischer: What is your prayer for this year that's just starting?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: I love the passage that Dr. Seltz quoted in the sermon from Isaiah 40. So, that's my prayer for my friends and loved ones and for you listening, that as you wait for the Lord, He would renew your strength, so that you could mount up on eagle's wings, run and not be weary, walk and not grow faint.
Mark Eischer: Very good. What can our listeners expect to be hearing in the upcoming weeks here on The Lutheran Hour?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: If you remember, we ended the year leading up to Christmas, by listening to the Gospel according to Luke.
Mark Eischer: Right.
Dr. Michael Ziegler: And we're going to continue on that. We're going to keep listening to Luke as he unfolds this narrative about Jesus. If you attend a local church, a worshiping community, and that church uses the common appointed readings, you'll notice that they're also following the Gospel of Luke this year. So the readings that we're using will complement those. Some cases it'll mirror them, but in other cases, it might be longer. We might take two or three readings and patch them together into one longer reading.
Mark Eischer: That's a characteristic of your preaching that you'll take longer sections of Scripture. If you go to church, you might hear the pastor preach an entire sermon on one verse, but sometimes we take entire chapters, or portions of chapters, and give the listener an extended reading. Why is that a benefit to the listener to hear more Scripture than you would normally hear in a sermon?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: Thank you for that question. First, I want to say I fully affirm we can preach a sermon on just one verse, and I've done that. But as you pointed out, I also like to take a longer chunk. First, this is how the Gospel writers intended for their works to be heard, or read, or received by us. You know that there's no chapter divisions or versification divisions in the original texts. They were meant to be read like you would read any biography, from start to finish. And if you had time, if it was really a page turner, you might just sit down for two or three hours and read through the whole thing, or read bigger chunks of it.
This is what people did in the ancient world. They would gather together and listen to an appointed storyteller retell the whole thing, maybe two, three hours, and this was a common thing for those ancient audiences to do. Obviously, we can't do that in a 30-minute radio program, but I hope this could be an invitation for our listeners to sit down and listen to the entire Gospel of Luke in one setting or read it.
Mark Eischer: Another advantage of this is that the listener is hearing these passages, familiar passages, in context—what came before, what comes after. How is that also a benefit?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: I think there's a helpful analogy in how we listen to modern biographies. So for example, I've been reading this biography on Teddy Roosevelt, our president. And when you see his whole life in perspective, it draws you to him. It helps you get to know where he is coming from. So you learn about how he suffered from asthma as a child. How his wife and his mother died suddenly when he was a young man. How he went to North Dakota and became a rancher. How he was shot at point blank range and survived only because he had a 50-page speech in his coat pocket, and then refused to medical attention and gave an hour-long speech. It says it takes more than that to take me down.
So you read this whole story of Theodore Roosevelt and you're drawn to him, but you wouldn't be that; you wouldn't be so drawn to him unless you had his whole life in context. It's the same, or similar, with the biblical accounts of Jesus. They are given to draw us to him, but of course He's not a dead figure from history. He is alive and He wants to have this—as Dr. Seltz said in this sermon—this relationship that's deepening with Him.
Mark Eischer: Was there any particular experience in your work in the parish, that prompted you to take this approach in your preaching?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: As I endeavor to preach and teach a variety of ages of people, down to preschoolers to older people, I found that nothing holds people's attention like a story told. And to realize that in the Bible, 80 percent of what we have in the Bible are really captivating stories, and if I can retell these stories in a powerful way, it is going to engage the most people, for the most powerful reasons. That is to help them get to know God through Jesus.
Mark Eischer: The listener may not know this, but when you are doing those sections of Scripture, you're actually reciting that from memory. You're not reading this from the Bible itself. Why is that important in your approach?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: That's the fuel that I put in my spiritual tank, so to speak, to prepare to speak to you in these messages, that I need to be filled and enriched by the words of Scripture. I found that method that works really well for me is to internalize it, to commit it to memory, say it over and over and over again, and the Lord brings things to my mind that I wouldn't have received on a quick cursory first pass.
Mark Eischer: In addition to the Gospel of Luke, what other Bible books might we be hearing this year?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: Well, I still have to nail down the plans, but one book that I really am sometimes vexed by, but also drawn to, is the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. So that is one that I have spent some time learning by heart and would love to share that with our listeners this year. So, hopefully, the book of Ecclesiastes.
Mark Eischer: As the situation allows in this new year, will you be traveling? Will you be getting out and about and speaking publicly?
Dr. Michael Ziegler: Yes. As the situation allows, we are coming out of the pandemic, and I'm getting back into traveling, which is a part of this position, as you know, from former Speakers. So coming up this year, I'm going to be traveling to North Dakota in January. So, it's going to be chilly, so we'll dress warm, but we'll go to Minot, St. John, and Grand Forks, North Dakota. Then in February, I'll do some local speaking engagements here in Missouri, in Arnold, Missouri, in Fetus, Missouri. I'm going to travel to California for Air Force Reserve duty at the end of February. Then southern Minnesota and central Indiana in March. In April, Iowa, and Kentucky. Then this summer, some overseas travel. So, very full, full schedule.
Mark Eischer: As God wills, we look forward to having you meeting some people, meeting some listeners, and being able to share the Word with them.
Dr. Michael Ziegler: That's the best part is meeting people, seeing God's people, God's church, spread across the nation, across the globe. That He continues to work through His people in powerful ways, to draw others to know Jesus.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Within the Father's House" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)