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God's Tactical Patience (John 13)

God has given us very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). We have the promise of eternal life (1 John 2:25), the assurance that He has already, “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). We may find ourselves asking with Peter, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now?” (John 13:37). In other words, the promise is already mine, and Your power is unlimited, so why not bring me into heaven right now?

The wisdom of God involves tactical patience. In the military, tactical patience is a battle strategy, by which leaders allow situations to develop and unfold, withholding action until the opportune time for success. Missions can utterly fail from hastiness, if even the right actions are taken at the wrong time. Jesus is ever-aware of divine timing. He says, “you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later” (13:36). He asks Peter, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times” (13:38). Jesus knew that Peter would die as a martyr, glorifying God (21:19). He knew Peter would join Him in heaven later. But it was not time for that. It was time for Peter to be allowed to fail in his flesh, so that Peter could then triumph when the Holy Spirit was poured out! Why could he not enter heaven yet? God still had much to do in him, and then through him, in his earthly life.

God cleanses us, regenerates us, so that we long to enter heaven. Yet, the Holy Spirit wants to birth in us a burden, a fire, a spiritual drive for the work He longs to do on the earth. We begin to say, “Please don’t take me until I see Your works done in this life, until I see many souls come to you, until I see Your purpose for my life fulfilled.” Of course, we must return to Jesus’ prayer, “Not my will but Yours be done,” yet I believe the Holy Spirit plants this desire to live a fruitful life that will impact as many souls as possible. Let us not just enter heaven, but let us take as many there with us as possible!

If we could see how far we are from the character of Christ, we would also understand why we remain on earth. He has already cleansed us by His word, but as we go along, He washes our feet to get at the finer details of dirt (13:10). But our Master does not stop there. He says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (13:14). This is the height of servanthood and the depths of humility. Who are we to take a posture of self-importance or pride with one another when our Lord Jesus was so humble? As with anything else in the Christian life, knowing God’s will is a great start, but it amounts to nothing if it does not change our lives. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (13:17). With tactical patience, Jesus is giving us opportunity to move past a mere appreciation for humility into actually beginning to live as a humble servant in everyday life.

Lord, in the time I have left, teach me to lovingly serve my brothers and sisters. Until my time comes, Lord please fill me, shape me, and use my life for Your kingdom!

Alex Mack

Teaching Pastor

The Rock Church

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