This year we want to focus on who God is. Each month we will concentrate on a different attribute of God, and we’ll have one of our authors share what the attribute has taught her about Him. Plus you’ll find pretty free art downloads at the end of each post! We pray this series draws us closer to God as we meditate on who He is. Gloria Furman continues the series with some thoughts on what it means that God is long-suffering.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
God moves in mysterious ways. Perhaps you’ve read this phrase on a meme or heard it in a song. God does move in mysterious ways—decreeing and orchestrating things in such a way that boggles our minds. God’s timing, perhaps, is one of the aspects of how He works that leaves us humans slack-jawed and, at times, frustrated.
In 2 Peter 3:9 we read that the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness. What is this promise? And why do Peter’s readers suppose that God is slow about bringing His promise to pass? What is the purpose of God’s slowness?
A few verses before and after verse 9 show us the immediate context for Peter’s encouraging words. In verses 3-4 he warns that scoffers will come in these last days, “following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” So, there are scoffers who deride God’s alleged slowness, suggesting that God’s slowness may imply incompetence or disinterest on His part. Now look just a bit further down at verses 10-13 for more contextual details:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Jesus’ return, referred to as “The Day of the Lord,” is the promise that is in view in this letter. Peter not only assures his readers that “the Day of the Lord” is coming, but he describes the manner in which it will come and how we ought to live in light of it.
We’re given explicit directives on how we are to live throughout his letter, summarized by the phrase in verse 11 “in lives of holiness and godliness.” God’s supposed slowness is not license for us to live sinfully, but a call to renewed commitment to live not according to our own desires like the scoffers do, but according to God’s desires.
God’s long-suffering—His patience—is grace to us. While we yet live, we have an opportunity to trust Christ in repentance and faith. If you woke up this morning in this fallen world (and I’m assuming you did!) then these moments—however painful or grievous they may be—are God’s kindness to you. You may yet repent and believe in Christ crucified on your behalf for the first time ever. If you are a believer, you may glory in the gospel yet another day and revel the sweetness of your salvation in Christ as you endeavor to walk by faith in Jesus in “holiness and godliness.” Your salvation is one day nearer than when you first believed—praise the Lord!
Imagine the most expensive wrist watch on the market owned by a wealthy individual. The time kept by that luxurious watch is the same time that exists even for the poorest person who has never even seen a watch. The idea that a mere mortal can “have time” is an illusion. God created time—He owns it—and He allows us to steward His time even as He is making the best use of the aeon. The Lord is not slow as some count slowness. God is deliberate. He is purposeful. He is patient and gracious, not wishing that any should perish. He is willing to save every rebel who accepts the amnesty offered from the King of Kings through the cross. He is God. And based on the promise that Christ would return—and He will return—we wait for His appointed time with patient hope and confident urgency, fleeing from sin and reaching out to those who do not yet know the God who is so long-suffering that He mercifully grants us time to repent.
Gloria Furman is a wife, mother of four, cross-cultural worker, and writer. In 2008 her family moved to the Middle East to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai where her husband, Dave, serves as the pastor. She is the author of Glimpses of Grace, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, The Pastor’s Wife, Missional Motherhood, and Alive in Him. www.gloriafurman.com
We have provided free art for you to help you keep God’s holiness in your focus this month. Just click on the links below to download. We’d love to know what God is teaching you this year—share on social media with the hashtag #GodIs2017.