I am probably the least patient person I know. However, it is evidence of God’s grace that the Holy Spirit is making me more into Christ’s image when others comment on how patient I am. This is, after all, the fruit of having God’s Spirit inside me (Gal. 5:22), but I always feel odd when I’m complimented on something where my adequacy falls painfully short of Christ’s. One area where my impatience has hindered ministry is when someone asks me the same question twice, or even worse if someone I’m ministering to commits the same sin twice. My sinful pride wants to say to the person, “we’ve gone over this, don’t you remember what Jesus has done? Isn’t that enough for you to have victory over this issue?” I recognize my hypocrisy as I’m willing to show myself grace repeatedly but fail to heed Christ’s command to forgive my brother seventy-seven times (Matt. 18:22). God has been kind to grow me in this area and show me that the deepest truths about himself, the gospel, and our sin are worth repeating. Take Peter’s words for example:
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have (2 Pet. 1:12).
Note here, that Peter’s audience already knew what he wished to tell them. But he reminds them anyway. Good pastors do this. So do good parents, good teachers, and good counselors. If you expect to be effective in your ministry so should you. God is frequently reminding His people of who He is, what He has done and the promises He has made throughout the Old Testament. He tells His people to do the same, and do to so often (see the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:1-9). Just like a loving father patiently reminds his children of the importance of looking both ways before crossing the street. Just like a good teacher continually exhorts his students to show their work on the math exam. Just like a good counselor reminds his counselee that he is not defined by his past sin but by his new identity in Christ. Repetition of God’s Word and works glorifies Him and brings us good.
Throughout the Gospels we often see Peter speaking too quickly and being corrected by Jesus. He’s quick to stick his foot in his mouth. At one point Jesus even calls him Satan and a hindrance (Matt. 16:23) and to his shame he even denies Jesus (Matt. 26:69-75). But he’s later restored and Peter is asked three times whether he loves Jesus (John 21:15-19). Peter had experienced firsthand the loving and patient repetition of Jesus’ teaching. He then goes on to become the “rock” on which the church was built. He matures and grows into a strong leader. It is this matured Peter who writes two letters of the New Testament. It is this Peter who has learned the importance of repetition.
As flawed humans we don’t always reflect this patient willingness to repeat ourselves. At times, I’ve grown impatient when I’ve had to remind someone of something they already knew. At times, I’ve been shocked when another Christ-follower needs reminding. This is easily corrected when we look at the person of Christ. He was the best teacher the world has ever known, yet He found the need to repeat Himself. He did this lovingly, patiently, often. We’re not on the same level as Him. In fact, we’re not even on the same level as Peter, who was trained by Jesus Himself. We don’t have the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ earthly feet and learn from Him firsthand. This emphasizes how important it is for us to repeat ourselves. Just as we ourselves need to hear biblical truth over and over again. A loving father will repeatedly inform his son not to touch a hot stove. How much more should we repeat those things of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3)?
Don’t grow weary of repeating yourself. Whether you’re teaching Sunday school, leading a small group, discipling teenagers, counseling a friend, preaching to a stadium or reading the Jesus Storybook Bible to your daughter for the 200th time. Your audience may have listened before, but this may be the first time they actually hear. And they will be made the better for it.