This is a screen shot of an advertisement on some website I was browsing. Ask.com just unveiled a new catch phrase for their site, “Instant Getification.” I came across these yesterday while browsing the internet and watching a show on TV and it really caught my attention. And another one I just thought of: the commercial where everyone is using their debit card in the fast-food line at the mall (or wherever) and someone gets in line using cash, and everything halts to observe the absurdity and display the lack of patience with such an act. “Don’t slow everything down, we’re in a hurry, got keep it moving, and using your debit card will make that happen for you,” is the message, playing upon the fear of other men becoming impatient with you because they can’t wait any longer. Just look at how much marketing there is by the media, websites, television, etc, that is getting us to drop the whole idea of patience and utilize some product because it will give you the least amount of headaches, or whatever. And wow how this thinking has affected our society. We have things at our disposal like a PEZ dispenser, within comfortable reach, more than any other time in history and if we don’t get it, we whine, cry, pop of at people, and grumble about it. The more humans obtain ease and comfort, the more we turn away from trust and reliance in Christ, and as a result, the more miserable we become because we assume we are owed it, because that is the non-sense we are drowned in daily. Our society (as well as any really) is just such a clear display that comfort does not solve the problem of sin, it makes it worse and makes people even more greedy because now they have a taste of abundance.
Although all of these small advertisements and statements out there in media and culture, on the surface at least, are just little sound-bites that really amount to nothing in themselves and can be brushed off individually, the problem is they all add up to a large bombardment of statements that make you and your gratification the center of the universe. They subtly change our thinking as believers. And like it or not, deny it or not, they affect us. Why has road rage increased? Impatience with the to-go line @ any number of restaurants just because they are five minutes later than they said? Anger at the support guy on the phone attempting to fix your downed internet connection? Because we all have a basic assumption that we deserve what we spend our money on (because, dang it, we work for it!), namely because we are in sensory overload with these statements getting us to abandon patience. Everything is, “I need this ASAP,” from bosses to ourselves dictating to everyone else how they should hurry up, keep moving, don’t slow down, “I needed this yesterday,” and it is making us a very miserable, godless society, because God is no longer God (we don’t need Him in a society like ours), we are our own sovereign authority.
It has affected the church as well. Joel Osteen, a very large mainstream preacher in the “Evangelical Church” (what that means anymore, I’m not sure) makes you and your gratification the center of the universe as well. As proclaimed by him, God is the means to an end, self-gratification, not the end Himself. Though each message varies with its approach and means, this is the same essential message preached by The Secret, Oprah, Dr. Phil, Satan even (in the Garden of Eden), and it is killing us as a culture. We are all running around like little gods fighting for each others’ crowns so that we can instantly gratify our sinful desires all the more. He’s very nice and friendly to his audience, but his message is one of self-importance, Your Best Life Now type of thinking, instead of Your best life for eternity before the face of Christ, enthralled in His glory, not yours. I mean his latest book is entitled, “A Better You.” Who, God? No, you. He denies he is a self-help brand of Christianity, but read the title again. Have we lost all ability to comprehend statements that we are so easily deceived by something like this on a large scale? It seems many are, because millions of people watch his show every Sunday and say he has changed their lives, with tears. And I won’t negate that making yourself the center of the universe feels good. for a time. It feels great in the here and now to sin by suppressing the glory of God and exalting your own glory above your Makers’ (who matters infinitely more than we do). But what about the long-term effects of such thinking? Ya know, eternity? It feels good for a time to sin, and then it creates a giant vacuum in your soul that is never filled up, like constant hunger pains, that if continue when you die, will go on forever.
What does the Scripture say about all of this? “In view of God’s mercy (and patience),” (Romans 12:1-2), “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear] with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3:15) I believe that last verse is where our focus needs to be. We are commanded to be patient, but we can’t be! We’re sinners in need of grace to be patient. Look at how unbelievably patient Christ has been toward us through His perfect life, death, and resurrection! It is God’s sheer grace and mercy that He does not destroy all of us at this instant for the way we treat Him, and how discontent we are with our lives. Christ was so infinitely patient that He went to the cross on our behalf so that we could have the best of all that exists, God Himself, not self-gratification apart from Him.
We find the greatest joy in selfless glorification to God through Christ. And it’s not merely that we imitate God’s patience toward us (of course we do that), but for me to say, “Be Patient,” is just another law that we cannot fulfill because of our fleshly sinful nature. It’s true that we need to be more patient, but we need more than just setting our will against impatience like the culture (and Osteen) tells us to do. We need something to galvanize us and change us from the inside out. We need the supernatural version of patience, from the Holy Spirit. We need the fruit of the Holy Spirit increasing in our lives by growing in the knowledge of the Gospel, because, as Michael Horton rightly notes, “We are swimming in a sea of narcissistic moralism,” and cannot possibly on our own counter the selfishness of our worldly culture. And this supernatural version of patience by the Spirit comes from the Gospel itself. This is where looking at the whole work of Christ working in our favor to the glory of God we see the infinite patience of God toward sinners and how because of His patience, we have been ransomed from certain eternal destruction and best of all, brought into the presence of God Himself to enjoy Him forever. Sit there and meditate on the mercy of God toward you, a sinner, in regard to impatience, discontentment, envy, covetousness, grumbling, things I struggle with as well in my life. With the patience of Christ in the Gospel at the forefront of our minds, how can we not be patient and changed forever, countering our cultures’ invasive bombardment that patience is overrated? Praise Jesus for the cross that frees us from the bondage and decay of this world!