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Merciful Patience

2 Peter 3:8-9
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. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIVUK)

God is infinitely bigger than the watch or diary.  He does not have the little human horizon which cannot see clearly beyond the present, because He sees all the future and the whole of eternity in a single glance.  But although God is outside of time, He knows every tiny detail of what will happen from now until eternity, and that includes the return of Christ (Matthew 24:36).  The fact that Jesus has not yet returned as judge does not mean that He will never come; it just means that there is a little more time for the world to prepare for His arrival.

God has set that date with such skill and care that there is enough time for everybody to have the opportunity to repent and trust in His saving grace.  On the other hand, He does not tell us when that time will come.  He wants us always to be ready (Matthew 24:44).  As our Maker, He certainly does not relish our damnation but rather that we should be saved.  His patience is not indifference: it is the gracious restraining of His wrath against our sin.  The Greek word for 'patience' simply means 'long-angry'.  He hates our sin but has chosen to give sufficient time for those who will repent, to do so (Revelation 2:21).

This truth is essential in shaping our understanding of God’s covenant love for all He has made (Psalm 145:9), and the depth of His longing that all should be saved.  Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16); they have already passed over from death to life (John 5:24).  This doctrine matters because it spurs our evangelism (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and our compassion.  If we realise how gracious the Lord has been to us, should we not pour compassion on others who are equally undeserving (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Peter does not want us to forget that although God is long-suffering, He is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  His apparent delay does not indicate that He has changed His mind about judgement, but rather that He has a deeply loving and compassionate heart which longs to save all who will turn to Him in repentance and faith.  At the same time, He will not forget to justly deal with all who rebel against His grace.  Where is your heart of compassion for the lost, the sinner, the broken and the rebel?  Our faith in Jesus is not to isolate us from a broken world but to propel us to demonstrate His love for not only the wounded but the wilful.  Do not forget that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  They are in your workplace, community, family and even church.  Name them as you pray for them, and tell them that Jesus is patiently waiting for them to repent, before it is too late.

Gracious God. I am amazed at Your kindness in giving everybody an opportunity to respond to Your grace. Forgive me for my indifference towards those who seem to be Your enemies. Thank You for Your patience with me, when I did not deserve it, in drawing me towards Your love and granting me faith to trust You. Please help my family and friends, companions and colleagues to recognise Your kindness and patience in the time You allow before their opportunity is lost for ever. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams