God’s Patience

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

Some people picture God as akin to a miserly dictator Who is eager to find a cause to crush the vile human race He created. Is that the way the Bible portrays God? Romans 2:4 reads: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 15:5 emphasizes God’s patience: “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Peter wrote: “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

God is patient because He does not want anyone to be eternally lost. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). One meaning of “patience,” according to the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, is “the capacity for calm, self-possessed waiting.” God has promised that there will be a day when sinners will receive their final condemnation (2 Peter 2:9; 3:7), but God is waiting in order that more sinners might accept and obey the Gospel. Wayne Jackson noted biblical examples of this patience:

The Lord’s wrath is not inflicted impulsively. Rather, history repeatedly has demonstrated that God exercises “much long-suffering” toward those deserving of punishment (Romans 9:22). His patience was demonstrated to the generation of Noah’s day (Genesis 6:3). He longed to spare corrupt Sodom (Genesis 18:26ff). Jehovah revealed himself to Moses as a God who is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6; cf. Psalms 103:8). The Lord was even long-suffering with a wretch as vile as Ahab (1 Kings 21:29). For centuries He was tolerant with the arrogant and stiff-necked nation of Israel (Nehemiah 9:17) [2000].

We desperately need God’s patience, just as the apostle Paul did. Paul was given the opportunity to be saved, despite the fact that he was “the chief ” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16; see Nicks, 1981, p. 190). Potential for salvation rests in God’s patience. Rather than instantly destroying people when they sin, He providentially gives people opportunities and encouragement that should lead to repentance (Titus 2:11). God expects us to request His continued patience as we make mistakes (1 John 1:9; Luke 11:4), and He shows His patience by continually forgiving us of our sins when we do (based on the sacrifice of Christ’s blood and our sincere obedience to His will; see 1 John 1:7).

We should emulate the patience of God. Romans 2:6-7 emphasizes the necessity of patience in the lives of Christians: “[God] will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (emp. added). Paul instructed Christians to be patient: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, emp. added; cf. Christ’s parable of the impatient servant in Matthew 18:23-35). People cannot be saved unless they have patience, because without patience, the Christian’s work is impossible (see Ecclesiastes 7:8; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; James 1:4). Patience also is necessary because other essential Christian virtues, including faith, hope, and joy, are dependent on it (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3; 15:4; Colossians 1:11; see Nicks, 1981, pp. 191-192). William Barclay observed:

If God had been a man, He would have taken His hand and wiped out this world long ago; but God has that patience which bears with all our sinning and which will not cast us off. In our lives, in our attitude to and dealings with our fellow men, we must reproduce this loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient attitude of God toward ourselves (1958, p. 56).

God’s patience is balanced by His perfect justice. Unforgiven sin will be punished, but God’s patience allows time for repentance (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:9; see Colley, 2004). Isaiah 30:18 makes it clear: “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is God of justice; blessed are those who wait for Him.” God’s generous patience should motivate us to obey Him.

REFERENCES

Barclay, William (1958), The Daily Study Bible: Letters to Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).

Colley, Caleb (2004), “God’s Mercy and Justice,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860.

Illustrated Oxford Dictionary (2003), (New York: Oxford), revised edition.

Jackson, Wayne (2000), “The Righteousness of God Revealed,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/feature/february2000.htm.

Nicks, Bill (1981), “Patience,” Continuing in the Doctrine, ed. Bill Nicks, M.H. Tucker, John Waddey (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions).

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Praying the Promises of God

The challenges of life can be overwhelming and we often don’t know the way out. In the face of heartbreak and disappointment, what do we do?We need to look up beyond our situation onto the One from whom our help comes. We need to search the Scriptures, and find promises that relate to our situation and start praying them, trusting God to bring them to pass in our lives. We need to learn how to pray God’s promises.

In order to see fulfillment of the promises of God, we need to first come to terms with the fact that these promises are available specifically to us! He wants to fulfill His promises in our lives. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play in their fulfillment: we need to believe His promises and confess them. 

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

There are many examples in Scripture of how God made — and fulfilled — His promises to His people. Here are just a few.

Abraham
God promised to give Abraham a son through his wife Sarah, even though both of them had passed child-bearing age. It looked impossible, but Abraham chose to believe God; and when he was 100-years-old, his son Isaac was born!

Solomon
When Solomon became the king, he asked for wisdom. The Bible says that God gave Solomon a “breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”

The Israelites
When they cried out to God to give them rest, He did. In fact, all of the promises God made to the Israelites through Moses were fulfilled.

David
God made a covenant with David to protect his family. And because of that promise, his house was spared from destruction.

Mary
The Lord sent the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary to tell her that she would conceive and give birth to a son. Even though this was against the laws of nature, she chose to believe the word of the Lord, and it happened exactly like she was told!

The Bible tells us Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If He made promises in the past and fulfilled them, then He will do the same today. He hasn’t changed.

Why should we rely on His promises?

  • He cannot lie: “…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2).
  • He is faithful: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
  • He is able to bring it to pass: “…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:21).

What’s our part?

We need to believe and trust Him who has made the promise. It might take a while for God to fulfill His promise (and in fact He may choose to not to fulfill it until we get to heaven), so that means we have to persevere when things don’t happen as quickly as we would like. But that’s where patience comes in. It’s not just sitting around waiting, but actively holding onto the promises of God, declaring them by faith, regardless of the situation or challenge we are going through.

There are promises that cover whatever area of challenge you may currently be facing. Do you need healing? Wisdom? The ability to pay the bills? Whatever it is, you can pray one of God’s promises that relates to your issue, and hold onto it.

How to Pray God’s Promises

1. Search the Bible to find God’s promises and thank Him for each one of them
“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:62).

Some of the promises you can believe God for are healing, provision, protection, salvation, and His unfailing love.

2. Meditate on them
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

To mediate means to think deeply and carefully about something for a period of time. Focus your mind on the promise that you are trusting God for, and think about how great a God you serve!

3. Personalize them
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Personalizing God’s promises simply means to make the promises yours. For example, if you are believing God for healing, use a verse like Isaiah 53:5 to shape your prayer: He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

4. Speak them daily in faith
“It is written: ‘I believed; therefore, I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

Our words are like seeds. What we speak determines what we eventually see as harvest.

5. Exercise patience
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. (Hebrews 10:36-39).

Why do we need to have patience? Because some these promises might take some time before they manifest. There can be various reasons why, either known or unknown. God may choose to keep His promise in heaven rather than here on earth.

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