God’s Unreasonable Patience!
UNREASONABLE – Message #4
Pastor Chuck Hill – Trinity Fellowship Church
Sunday, May 3, 2009
2 Peter 3:3-15
A man’s car stalled in the heavy traffic as the light turned green. All his efforts to start the engine failed, and a chorus of honking behind him made matters worse. He finally got out of his car and walked back to the first driver and said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to get my car started. If you’ll go up there and give it a try, I’ll stay here and blow your horn for you.
I read a story this past week about a teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on.
When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off then it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on – this time on the right feet. He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.” She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.” She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, “Now, where are your mittens?” He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots…”
How many of you like to wait on things? How many times have we wanted something to happen, but got impatient because it did not happen now!
As we continue to look at some of the traits of our amazing God, we are going to look at one that we would do well to pick up on in our own life.
This characteristic or quality of His nature is His PATIENCE.
You know, there are a number of very interesting definitions that people have come up to describe patience. Maybe some of them will help you get a better understanding of just what patience really is. Here’s a few. One description is that…
- Patience is accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it.
- Patience is an inner calmness that comes from the knowledge that God is always in control.
- Patience is the ability to accept trials without grumbling!
One of the most interesting descriptions I found was this:
- Patience is the ability to put up with people you’d like to put down.
Well, there are basically two words in the Greek language (which the New Testament was written in) that are translated into our English language as patience. The first one literally means: to “Cheerfully Endure” and the other means “Long Temper” (which is basically the opposite of having a short fuse).
Well, today I want you to discover that God is patient, not indifferent or unresponsive – but extremely patient!
We find this idea all throughout the bible, but especially in the 2nd letter from the apostle Peter. Here he writes about God’s unbelievable and unreasonable patience.
In 2 Peter 3 he writes and says,
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.”
2 Peter 3:3-15 (NIV)
Well, as I’ve already said, this morning I want to talk to you about God’s patience…but more than that, I want to share with you how His patience affects our lives.
Here’s the thing. For 3 weeks now we have been discussing a number of the attributes or characteristics of God’s nature…and so far, they have all seemed to be obviously connected to our lives. But this aspect of God’s nature has the potential of coming across as being somewhat unimportant or unrelated to you and me. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
So let me share with why God’s patience is so crucial to you and me and those we know and love.
First let me say,
God’s patience has always been misunderstood. Throughout the course of time people have struggled to understand God and they’ve even thought that maybe His patience was really a sign of His indifference or lack of concern in their lives. So, as I begin…I want to set this straight…when it comes to the PATIENCE of God…
I. DON’T MISTAKE GOD’S PATIENCE FOR APATHY.
Listen again to what Peter wrote in verses 3 & 4. He said,
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
2 Peter 3:3-15 (NIV)
Maybe you’ve heard this – but there’s a French proverb that says,
“Laziness is often mistaken for patience.”
But I think maybe the opposite is true as well; patience can often misunderstood for laziness or even apathy.
It’s like the mother who’s daughter became very ill…so she called her doctor and he rushed right over. Only, once he arrived – he simply observed her. Well, the mother became so worried and angry that she scolded the doctor, asking him why he didn’t do something. And in response the doctor said, “I am doing something, I’m waiting!”
Have you ever struggled to understand if God was being patient or apathetic in one situation or another in your life?
Well, it was just such a case in the life of the early church, so Peter wrote this letter in response to the concern. In fact, this letter was written within 30 years of the resurrection and the people then were thinking that God was not going to do anything. Can you imagine how it is today, over 2000 years since the resurrection?
Peter tells us that in the last days (in which we have been living since the resurrection of Jesus) that people would say that God is not going to do anything. That He either isn’t able – or doesn’t really care.
Here’s the thing though…one of the primary teachings of the church is what we call the “imminent return of Christ!” It is the belief that Jesus will come to call His followers home to reign with Him forever…and it won’t be long before He returns. We also call it our “Blessed Hope!”
You see, the Second Coming of Jesus was something that the early church leaders often talked about. They proclaimed the fact that Jesus would one day return. The writers of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) all retold the stories Jesus preached and reminded people that Jesus Himself declared the fact that the day was coming when He would return for His own (those who would place their faith in Him). And even the other writers (like the apostles Paul and Peter) wrote about this promised hope we call the Second Coming.
But unfortunately, there are many Christians who don’t really expect Jesus to return anytime soon.
The reason is because we tend to think that if He hasn’t come in 2000 years – then He probably isn’t going to come anytime soon.
And for those who are not followers of Jesus who may mock Jesus’ claims of returning…are probably the very people who need Him to be patient so they can have the time to still discover the truth of who He is…because they’re just not ready yet.
But the fact that He has delayed His return is not because He has forgotten or is somehow indifferent to our desire to see Him again. It is actually His Patience that is holding off His return…because His desire that we would all place our faith in Him.
In this letter, Peter wanted to point out to the skeptics that just because it has not happened yet does not mean it will not happen because God is not on the same time clock that we are.
God is not operating on our time table. Do you remember what verse 8 says? It says,
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”2 Peter 3:8 (NIV)
Well, Peter based this verse on something that the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 90:4 which says,
” To you, a thousand years is like the passing of a day, or like a few hours in the night.”
Psalm 90:4 (NCV)
I love the way the Message version translates this verse. It says,
“Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.”
Psalm 90:4 (MSG)
Here’s the thing that both Peter and the Psalmist was trying to remind us…God lives in eternity and is not limited by the same time-space concepts that we are.
But just because God is on a different time frame does not mean that He is indifferent or apathetic about the return of Jesus – it just means that He is patient or as some versions say… He is “long-suffering”.
We should not look at the time that has gone by as an indication that God is slow about the promises that He makes, but that it just not time yet.
The Lord is patient, He is not eager to punish those who reject Him.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 says,
“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NLT)
You see, here’s the thing that we need to understand…God’s time frame is completely affected by His patience.
So let’s be careful not to mistake His patience for apathy. But let me tell you why He is so patient.
II. THE MOTIVATION FOR HIS PATIENCE IS THE LOST.
The bible tells us that God wants everyone to have time to repent.
Look again at verse 9. It says,
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
Paul would say it like this in Romans 2:4,
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
Romans 2:4 (NIV)
God was patient in the Old Testament times.
1 Peter 3:20 speak of the patience of the Lord during the days of Noah. Noah preached for 120 years, yet no one else entered the ark, but God was patient to allow Noah that long to build the ark and try to convince people of their need to repent.
In the story of Jonah God sent Jonah to preach to the terribly wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah did not want to go because he knew that God would withhold His wrath if they would repent. (Jonah 4).
Here’s the thing…repentance is something that WE MUST do if we want to be saved and spend eternity in heaven.
I know we’ve discussed this before, but the word “repentance” literally means, “to change ones direction” – or maybe even better said – “to change the direction of your life and thinking…and to go in the opposite direction.”
In the context of the New Testament, it means that we change our mind concerning how we are living and that we then submit ourselves to God and His ways for our life!
If we come to the realization that our current way of living is not pleasing God (because we are leaving Jesus out – or are not adhering to His word), then to repent means that we are going to leave our current ways (or our old ways) and choose to change the path we are heading for God’s ways.
You see, there is coming a time when this life will end. So, once Jesus returns or when we die…it will be too late for us to change, it is game over at that point, and there are no more chances. But God’s love for us motivates Him to be patient with us.
His patience is currently providing us with the time and opportunity to confess our failures and repent of living according to our ways rather than His.
Verse 10 tells us that there is coming a time when Jesus will return to call His family home…and it will come like a thief in the night. This means that we must always be ready.
The question is:
Are you ready to stand before God today and face the judgment for your decisions and how you’ve lived?
Peter tells us that all we know will be destroyed when the Lord returns, we must be ready for that day by giving our life to Jesus and then living for Him. And as believers – we must honor our commitment of faith by choosing the right paths in life. And if we fail…then we must repent and make a change. There must be a directional to how live.
Without a change – there is no repentance. Words alone don’t hack in the faith. Faith requires accompanied actions.
You see, the whole purpose of God’s patience is because He loves you and me. He loves everyone…and He doesn’t want anyone to suffer. His entire motivation for being patient is His love for the people He created.
If you aren’t serving God – I mean really, sincerely serving God…then take advantage of this gift of His Patience and make things right today!
You see, Jesus is not your insurance policy, He is your life if you belong to Him.
III. HIS PATIENCE IS A BLESSING TO THIS WORLD.
The ultimate blessing that we have because of God’s patience is found in verse 15.
Listen again to what it says. Peter tells us,
“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.”
2 Peter 3:1-15 (NIV)
We are told to regard the patience of the Lord as Salvation.
Why? If God was not patient with us, then He would wipe us out whenever we committed our first sin. None of us would live to be very old would we?
Instead of thinking that God is indifferent or apathetic, we should look at His patience as an opportunity to win more people to His kingdom while there is still time.
If I could guarantee you that Jesus is going to return on May 4th, would there be some people that you would go try and share the gospel with between now and then?
Do you have some loved ones or friends that you would like see in heaven? I want you to think about these people for a moment. Now go out and share the gospel with them with that some urgency.
Are there some things in your life that you would want to get right before May 4th?
Then get it in order now because God is patient…but we don’t know when His patience will end.
So don’t waste your time…His return is imminent. Use the time you have wisely.
Patience is a hard thing to come by in our instant society. Our God is patient. He has not sent Jesus back yet because it is not time, God does not want any to be left out of the kingdom of God.
I hope that you will thank God for His patience and recognize it as a gift in your life
God is patient with you because He loves you. He sent Jesus to die in your place so that your sins could be washed away.
God wants nothing more than to see you in heaven. You can make that happen by giving your life to Jesus today.