The Problem with God’s Perfect Patience
“Was it not because I held My peace and closed My eyes that you ceased to reverence Me?” (Isaiah 57:11b AAT)
Looking back on my teenage years makes me cringe. Although I was raised in church, I got involved in crime, drugs, and promiscuity at a young age. Gradually, sex took center stage in my heart which led me to give over to all kinds of perversion during my twenties. By the time I became a Los Angeles deputy sheriff, I was hardened by sin and trapped in my own spiritual prison.
Now, I can clearly see the Lord’s hand on my life despite my past willful rebellion. Not only did He bear my stubbornness, but He patiently wooed me unto Himself, until He finally won my heart.
The patience of God is a marvelous thing. Matthew Henry described it well: “It can endure evil and provocation without being filled with resentment or revenge. It will put up with many slights from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.” I will love the Lord throughout eternity for all that He put up with to save me.
However, one can easily mistake God’s patience for His grace. For example, a person in sexual sin may not experience judgment right away. So recklessly and unconcerned, he travels down a path of destruction—convinced that there will be no consequences. Such foolish thinking has been the downfall of many a sinner!
But because of His good and merciful character, God is exceedingly patient with every sinner to allow him time to repent. The apostle Peter said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come...” (II Peter 3:9-10a). Therefore, it is extremely dangerous for anyone involved in habitual sin to assume that because his day of reckoning has not yet come, there won’t be one.
The longsuffering nature of God becomes a problem—or stumbling block—for the hard-hearted person who chooses to abuse it to his own destruction. As Solomon once said, “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1) In one sense, the Lord is like the nice guy who patiently endures the provocations of the neighborhood bully until one day he snaps and flattens the guy! The Lord doesn’t have a temper like man does, but sooner or later, the time comes when His patience with sin and rebellion runs out, and the sinner is left to face the consequences of his actions.
What a wonderful God who will “endure evil and provocation without being filled with resentment or revenge (and) put up with many slights from the person (He) loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.” It is certainly true that the Lord “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish…” But equally true is His reason for such patience: He is looking “for all to come to repentance,” so they won’t have to face the aftermath of their sin.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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