The Patience of God: Having one more opportunity to seek his grace.
Read 2 Peter 3:3-15
“The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Patience is not a highly sought-after virtue in a fast-paced society desiring instant-gratification. We get impatient when traffic is moving slowly. We become frustrated and irritable when people keep us waiting. We get impatient when a restaurant is slow in getting our food. We get impatient when the government does not act as quickly in opening up businesses after the Covid-19 shutdown. We even get impatient with God when he does not quickly deliver us from our trials.
While patience is often difficult for us, it is intrinsic to the goodness of God. In 2 Peter 3:9 Peter highlights that the delay in God’s judgment is not because of some oversight on God’s part, but because of his desire to provide us every opportunity to respond to his grace and forgiveness. In Ezekiel 18, after pronouncing judgment upon those who reject him, he gives an offer of hope, promising that a wicked man, no matter how great his sins, shall receive forgiveness if he turns from all his sin and surrenders in obedience to the will of God for “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, …rather that he should turn from his ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23). For all our failures, God patiently withholds his justice to give us every opportunity to repent.
But the declaration of God’s patience also comes with a warning. For there will be those who see the patient delay in God’s judgment as evidence that he will never judge (vs 4). So, we become complacent, continuing to follow our own lusts while blissfully ignoring the warnings. As time slowly marches on, we begin to think that time will continue “just as it was from the beginning of creation,” even forgetting the judgment of God when he brought a universal flood upon the earth (vs 6). Thus, we abuse God’s patience and use it as an excuse for our sin. We fail to recognize that a time will come when he will destroy the heavens and earth with a consuming fire (7, 11-12).
But this warning is not to paralyze us in fear but bring us to salvation. It is a reminder for us to be diligent in seeking his salvation for God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires all people to come to repentance. This again brings us back to the wonder of his grace and mercy. No matter how much we have ignored him and his word, insisting our following our own agenda, every second we draw breath we are reminded that he is displaying his patience and offering his grace one more time.
C.S. Lewis writes “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world....No doubt pain, as God's megaphone, is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment.” The trials we face today are not God’s judgment, but they are his warning that his grace and mercy can be ignored only so long. While he is infinitely patient with us, he will not be eternally patient, for there will come a time when he will execute his justice. Difficult times are a reminder that we are to seek the Lord while he may be found. Today, take an honest look at your life and make sure you are walking in fellowship with him. His patience withholds his judgment so that we might embrace his grace.