In God’s Place, at God’s Pace

Isaiah 30:18  Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

John Piper’s introduction and conclusion of a sermon, “Battling the Unbelief of Impatience,”

Road_BlockedImpatience is a form of unbelief. It’s what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God’s timing or the goodness of his guidance. It springs up in our hearts when the road to success gets muddy or strewn with boulders or blocked by some fallen tree. The battle with impatience can be a little skirmish over a long wait in a checkout lane. Or it can be a major combat over a handicap or disease or circumstance that knocks out half your dreams.

The opposite of impatience is not a glib, superficial denial of frustration. The opposite of impatience is a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness either to wait for God where you are in the place of obedience, or to persevere at the pace he allows on the road of obedience—to wait in his place, or to go at his pace….

…Let me close with an illustration of a man who lived and died in successful warfare against the unbelief of impatience. His name was Charles Simeon. He was a pastor in the Church of England from 1782 to 1836 at Trinity Church in Cambridge. He was appointed to his church by a bishop against the will of the people. They opposed him not because he was a bad preacher but because he was an evangelical—he believed the Bible and called for conversion and holiness and world missions.

For 12 years the people refused to let him give the afternoon Sunday sermon. And during that time they boycotted the Sunday morning service and locked their pews so that no one could sit in them. He preached to people in the aisles for 12 years! How did he last?

In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience. [Note the linking of faith and patience!] The passage of Scripture which subdued and controlled my mind was this, “The servant of the Lord must not strive.” [Note: The weapon in the fight for faith and patience was the Word!] It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would on the whole be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times, when without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burthen. (Charles Simeon, by H.C.G. Moule, p. 39)

Where did he get the assurance that if he followed the way of patience, there would be a blessing on his work that would make up for frustrations of having all the pews locked? He got it, no doubt, from texts like Isaiah 30:18, “Blessed are all those who wait for the Lord.” The Word conquered unbelief and belief conquered impatience.

Fifty-four years later he was dying. It was October 1836. The weeks drug on, as they have for many of our dying saints at Bethlehem. I’ve learned that the battle with impatience can be very intense on the death bed. On October 21 those by his bed heard him say these words slowly and with long pauses:

Infinite wisdom has arranged the whole with infinite love; and infinite power enables me—to rest upon that love. I am in a dear Father’s hands—all is secure. When I look to Him, I see nothing but faithfulness—and immutability—and truth; and I have the sweetest peace—I cannot have more peace. (Charles Simeon, p. 172)

The reason Simeon could die like that is because he had trained himself for 54 years to go to Scripture and to take hold of the infinite wisdom and love and power of God and use them to conquer the unbelief of impatience.

And so I urge you in the words of Hebrews 6:12, “Be imitators of” Charles Simeon and of all “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”


For additional study see the connection of faith/hope with patience in Romans 8:25; 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:12, 15; James 1:3; Revelation 13:10. For other texts on patience see Psalm 37:9; Lamentations 3:25–27; Luke 8:15; Romans 5:3; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:5, 22; Ephesians 4:1–2; Colossians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 5:7–11; Job 1:21; Luke 2:25, 38; 2 Timothy 3:10. For God’s patience see 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4; 9:22; 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 3:20.

To read or listen to the entire sermon, click here: