As a Cleveland Browns fan, I have rooted for the Browns for almost 50 years (hard to believe, but true). Still, the last two decades have just about been the death of me. First, the loss of the franchise to Baltimore. Then, the return of the team as an expansion franchise. Then, a series of coaches all promising success that never seems to come. Then, new front office management. New quarterbacks. New draft choices. New offensive and defensive schemes. New things every year—except the results. Year after year the Browns have struggled. Year after year the fans are called upon to be patient. Year after year the long-suffering of the devoted Browns fan base continues. Year after year. I’ll be the first to admit that patience does not come easily for me (or for most), but the long years of waiting (Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Clippers fans can relate) seem to go on without the promise ever being fulfilled.
In matters far more significant, we also find that patience is not merely a moment. It is in fact a link in a chain that would see us formed into the image of Christ. The apostle James wrote of this:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
Patience is a critical element to spiritual formation, but it is often born of hardship and disappointment. And, when it is born, it is not just as an end to itself. Its purpose is to see us develop in spiritual maturity (“perfect”) so that Christ may be formed and be seen in us. What makes this so critical is that it is not a matter of months or years. We learn to walk patiently in Him over a lifetime, so that we can grow into the very likeness of Christ. As the prophet Isaiah said, “But those who wait on 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 faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
The key is this very spiritual patience James calls us to. The question is this: Will we be willing to wait upon the Lord?
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain