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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Prayers You Can Pray!

Like in any relationship, it can be a little hard at first to know what to say. Praying is no different! It might start off a bit rocky, but the more you talk to God, the more natural it will feel. Pretty soon praying will become a regular part of your life. 

No matter what situation you’re in, God wants to hear from you. He wants to lead and guide you, give you wisdom, provide for you, and protect you. Though He doesn’t always answer in the way we would like, He does always answer.

Here are a few prayers for when you’re at a loss for words. So go ahead, and start the conversation!

When you want to commit your life to God for the first time:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for me. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Amen.

When you want Him to be the center of your life:

Dear Jesus, I want you in the center of my life and I commit, through your power, to serve and obey you anytime, anywhere, at any cost, to do anything. Amen.

If you just prayed one of these prayers, we’d love for you to talk to us.

When you renew your commitment to God:

Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit. For it is Your business, not mine. You will know every shade of my suffering; You will care for me with Your perfect Fatherhood. (George MacDonald)

When you first wake up:

Dear Lord, I give You my hands to do Your work, my feet to go Your way, my eyes to see as You see, my tongue to speak Your words, my mind that You may think in me, my spirit that You may pray in me. Above all, I give You my heart so that You may love through me. Amen.

When you are scared:

Father God, I am feeling fearful today. Life seems uncertain and out of control. I know that the Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” You alone are perfect love; would You please remove this fear I feel and replace it with confidence in You? I trust that You will take care of me — moment by moment, day by day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

When you want to be in God’s will:

Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will. Don’t let me go mad by poking about outside it. (Corrie Ten Boom)

When you need wisdom and direction:

Father God, there are so many decisions to make, and I don’t know what to do. You said if we lack wisdom, all we need to do ask. So I humbly ask that You would pour wisdom into my mind today, and may the right choices be clear as I discern Your will. Thank You!

When you are sick:

Father, I am feeling lousy today. I ache all over and feel very weak. You said that Your grace is sufficient for me. Please strengthen me and give me joy, no matter how I feel physically. Amen

For your children and/or grandchildren:

Lord, I am so glad that You know each of our children and grandchildren by name. I forget about that, sometimes. Thank You for sending Your angels to surround each one of them and for protecting them today. Father, please turn their minds and hearts toward You. Help them to want to please You in everything they think, say, and do. Thank You!

When you are moving:

Lord, I have such mixed feelings about moving. There are so many memories here in this house, but I know it’s time to go. Thank You that despite all the changes going on in my life right now, You never change. You are and always will be a constant in my life. Help me to remember that when I am packing and unpacking. Amen.

When you want to be reflecting Christ:

Lord, make my life a window for Your light to shine through, and a mirror to reflect Your love to all I meet. Amen.

When you’re in conflict:

Dear God, when Your son Jesus died and rose from the dead, He broke down walls of hostility. Father, You know the conflict I am having right now. I don’t know how to resolve it. Thank You that You are my Savior. Please save and restore this relationship. Amen

For others:

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest Your weary ones. Bless Your dying ones. Soothe Your suffering ones. Pity Your afflicted ones. Shield Your joyous ones. And all for Your love’s sake. Amen. (Prayed by Father Timothy Kavanagh)

For thanksgiving:

For health and strength and daily food, we praise Your name, O God. Amen.

When you need more faith:

Teach me to treat all that comes to me with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will govern all. Amen. (Prayed by Elisabeth Elliot)

When your marriage seems to be falling apart:

Dear God, our marriage is really shaky right now. I really don’t want it to break-up. Show me ways I could show (name) I love and care for her/him. You are merciful. Please show Your mercy by helping us love each other more. Thank You! Amen.

For protection:

Father God, I need Your protection. My family needs protection. Help me to love and respect You more. Amen.

For being an instrument for God:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

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