Years ago when my brothers, sisters and I were in Ireland with mom and dad, as missionaries, I asked dad if I could learn to drive. I went through the registration process, and took driver’s education, learned the signs, and got used to driving on the opposite side of the road. They gave me a plastic sign for the front window of the van, on one side of the sign was a yellow “R” (meaning ‘restricted’) and one the other side a red “L” (meaning ‘learner’). We placed the “L” on the window, and started off. I was now an official ‘learner’. Of course dad had to show me all the details of driving the van, clutch, gas, brakes, lights etc… One Sunday, dad decided to drive, and he took the dual carriageway (hi-way). We came to the red light, and we were on our way. All of a sudden, cars were coming at us, lots of cars! Dad realized he had made the mistake of forgetting what country he was in… He was on the wrong side of the road. We came to a screeching halt, and so did the other cars. Now there were several angry Irishmen coming at us, shaking their fists, and yelling some things best not repeated. Then one of the men stopped and pointed to the red “L” on the front window. “Give this man some room here. He is just a learner.” He took over the situation and began to motion to the others, to move back and let dad turn around and get on the right side of the road.
Years have passed, and dad is gone now, but I still have the red “L”, that dad used from then on in his ministry to teach some special lessons.
I can think of so many times when I could have used this little sign, just to remind me to be patient with people. Patience is hard to come by, because it usually means difficulties, and stress. When you pray for patience, God may send you a grouchy neighbor or a stubborn child or some difficult situation to ‘stretch your faith’ just a little more than last time. Patience means endurance. Endurance means to stand up under pressure. Pressure… well we don’t like that. We want everything to be peaceful, and calm. Life just isn’t that way. It is unpredictable and things happen. This is where Christianity is put to the test. Usually we react without even thinking. A harsh word slips out and then we remember, “I am a Christian”. The phrase, “What would Jesus do?” comes to mind and we feel shame for failing once again to be patient.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “Christians aren’t perfect… just forgiven”. Well it is so true. Christians are not perfect. Righteous – because of the work and blood of the crucified and risen Savior… but not perfect in every situation in life. Others see the imperfections, and think, “You hypocrite”. Well, I don’t think that always fits. You see, Christians are LEARNERS. It takes time and focus and prayer and growth to be like Jesus. Not that we are asking for the world to be patient while Christians grow in Christ. That won’t happen. It will help reach the world for Christ though if those who claim to be followers of Christ will take it seriously.
Is this growth process a bit frustrating? Sure it is. The Christian’s biggest battle is with himself. That is why the Holy Spirit was given to the Christian, (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8). As frustrating as it is at times, hard times that come should bring to our minds, God is at work in us, (Philippians 2:12-13), and that is good, real good! Listen to James, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (patience). And let endurance (patience) have it’s perfect (complete) result, that you may be perfect (full grown) and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4.
The Christian life is an unbelievable adventure. Enjoy it, share it, grow in it, and NEVER STOP BEING A LEARNER.