As They Are
Your job is to prepare for eternity -- and today is a little slice of the eternity that you'll have forever and forever.
Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? You doing Alright? Well, it’s your good friend, Bob Cook, and I’m glad to be back with you. Believe me, I look forward to these times when we can get together around the Word of God. Does something for my own heart, I’m sure, as I look into God’s Word and then share it as best I can, with the enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God with you, my precious friend. There’s a togetherness that simply defies distance and time, isn’t that true? The old song certainly is accurate. It says, “Though sundered far, by faith we meet around one common mercy seat, blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”
And so the miles drop away and we’re together, and the togetherness is not because we’re such nice people, or that we like each other. The togetherness is based upon the Word of God, God’s eternal, inerrant, infallible, inspired, Spirit-breathed Word, the Bible. That’s what holds us together. And that’s true of any church or organization, or community. Your togetherness is in Christ. We’ll get at that in this broadcast, as we look into the fourth chapter of Ephesians. The last time we were together, we were just dwelling for a little while on that concept of long-suffering, makrothumia.
Now, if you break it down, “makro” is big or long, or large, and “thumas” has to do with breath or emotional… Emotional experience. “Thumas” is used sometimes in the sense of rage or panting. So you get that kind of a background. And when the Greeks put those two concepts together in a verb, “makrothumeo”, they called it long-suffering, which means you hold on for a long time. And long-spirited. There’s another translation of it. You wanna go any farther with this, you can look up my friend Thayer and his big lexicon. It’s a book about 3 inches thick and I oftentimes refer to it.
Long-suffering means long-spirited, and I’ve used a sort of a Cookism definition, large-hearted. You got room in your heart for a long time for people who may not be all that wonderful to get along with. Think of what some of these passages in the Word of God say, “Charity suffereth long,” that’s our word love, Calvary love, agape; Calvary love suffereth long and is kind. Love envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. It suffereth long and is kind. Kindness is connected there with this idea of long-spirited; holding on, not giving up; large-hearted, room in your heart for people. Kindness.
Then in 2 Corinthians 6, the same expression comes up in dealing with the leverage that a Christian has. How do we carry on the ministry God has given us? Well, Paul says, “By pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness,” see those two words there together again, “By the Holy Ghost and by love unfeigned.” When we were studying in 2 Corinthians we took time on each of these words. Some of you old-time listeners may remember that, the leverage that you can exert on the world doesn’t depend on your smartness or cleverness or your contact or your influence. It depends on holiness, this word pureness is the concept of personal holiness. And then by knowledge, and that’s the knowledge of God, a personal experience with God and then by long-suffering and kindness. Your leverage with people oftentimes depends upon whether or not you bear with them, you’re long-suffering with them, and you’re kind to them. It strikes me that so many people that I have met were just hungry for just a kind word.
I was joking with the waitress in some restaurant or other a while back and she came up and said, “Will that be all?” I said, “Well yeah, everything except the bill and maybe a kind word.” And she looked at me with complete surprise, and then she said, “That’s what I’d like, too.” And walked away. [chuckle] People are hungry just to be noticed and have somebody be kind to them. Have you thought of that as an evidence of Christianity, kindness and long-suffering? Long time before you give up. You pray about that in your own life. God will lead you to people who are just needing the kind of ministry you can give along that line. Then Colossians 1:11 says, “Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power,” there you’ve got three references to different kinds of power. The power that never gives up, the power that is a bulldozer that chews up the mountains, and the power that is God’s great authority through the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s the result? Onto all patience. That’s a Greek verb, hupomone.
Don’t blow up or give up, but stay under, stay down. And long-suffering onto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness. You don’t have to be a gloomy Gus and say, “Well I’m on the route to heaven, but it certainly is hard.” No, no. Strengthened to hold on and not give up, and not pop up, and not blow up, but to hang on and trust God to see you through, in your relationship with people. It refers to, you see, with joyfulness, you can be happy as you go on.
Well, 2 Timothy 4 says: “Preach the word; be instant” it means on the job, stay on the job, in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” People don’t get the point at first. Some class or other that I took years ago had to do with communication and I remember that the prof said, “If you say 10 things, the most that anybody will retain is three and the average is one.” We, preachers, that’s pretty discouraging, isn’t it? How much do people remember about our sermons? Well, not an awful lot.
I’ve had people who remembered some story I told, but they couldn’t remember for the life of them what the sermon was about. [chuckle] Oh, you don’t always get the point across, preacher, but you keep on. And you keep on and you keep on. With all long-suffering and doctrine. Don’t give up on people. Don’t give up on that teenager of yours, dad, just because he doesn’t seem to respond to your parental lectures. I was there once myself and I remember having to stand, stand, mind you, while my father seated at the table would lecture me for perhaps 10 or 15 or 20 minutes, and I would simply pull down the curtains of my mind and stand there submissively but thinking about other things. And yet, a lot that he’d said got through, in spite of my teenage unwillingness to be lectured. And you’re in the same place, many of you who are parents, you’ve got kids that just don’t seem to listen, they don’t seem to get it, they don’t seem to care to get it. Well long-suffering. Don’t give up. Because the point gets through, they’re taking in more than you think. One of the geniuses of being a teenager is to be able to listen while not seeming to do so. So, don’t give up. Well, long-suffering.
Keep at it, have a long fuse. Make it a long time before you blow up or better not blow up at all, better said, and have room in your heart for people with their faults. “Accept people, warts and all” as the writer says. That’s the way God takes us. Just as I am, without one plea. That’s what we say. And so, you and I need to accept people the same way. Long-suffering. Now he says, forbearing, this is the end of verse 2, Ephesians chapter 4: “Forbearing one another in love.” Forbear, that’s an interesting word, strictly speaking, it means stand up to. Hold up, erect firm and sustain. But when it deals with the people, it means bear with or endure. Or several times in the Bible, it’s translated suffer. So, forbearance is not standing up to people, as you and I would say, but it’s standing up with people, forbearing one another in love. You take them as they are and you work with them as they are.
And sometimes it means that you have to endure something. A teacher friend of mine, an alumnus of the college told me that there was one person with whom she had to deal as a guidance counselor, who had what we call a tic. And this was a particular ailment that caused the child to cough with a low A flat burp kind of a honk every 10 seconds. Well, you can imagine how disruptive that would be. But how to deal with it. Well, you have to suffer with it, I guess. That’s one of the meanings of this word forbear, see? You have to take people as they are. Husband, you have to take your wife as she is, not as you wish she were. Long about the sixth week of the honeymoon, you discovered that she had some traits that you didn’t know about before. And the same thing is true, missus, of your relationship with himself. After a while, you discovered there were some things you weren’t aware of. Well, what are you gonna do, try to make him over? That isn’t gonna work. No, it never does. What you do is you accept the individual as he or she is, and then you begin to work with them. And always remember that the best prayer to pray is “Lord change me.”
When God begins to change you, heavenward, your partner or your co-worker, or your neighbor is going to see the difference and reflect it in his or her own conduct. Lord change me. Forbearance means that you take people as they are and work with them. How do you do this? Well, number one, you survey the situation and find out just what it is you’re dealing with. Don’t react in an emotional manner against something that you’re not really sure of. Second, analyze the problem, what is it that I’m up against? Third, ask yourself this question: “How can I best work with this person with these circumstances in the light of eternity?” You see, your job is not just to get through today, your job is to prepare for eternity, and today is a little slice of the eternity that you’ll have forever and forever, so you wanna live it for the Lord Jesus Christ. “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not just for people.” So you take people as they are, you study them, you analyze the problem and then you live with and for them in the light of eternity. Alright?
Dear, Father, today, thank you for taking us as we are. Help us to take other people as they are, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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