Charles Stanley - The Patience of God
More than likely you heard the Gospel many times before you ever trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You probably heard it from lots of different sources. For example, maybe somebody in your family or maybe at church you heard your pastor. Or maybe you heard somebody in a Bible conference somewhere or a Bible teacher. Maybe it was your friend, somebody on radio, maybe on television, wherever it might have been. You knew it was the truth when you heard it. In fact, in spite of the fact that you knew it was the truth, you just kept on living the way you were living. You'd get under conviction every once in a while, and you knew you oughta change your ways but you wouldn't and you didn't.
And often you would feel frustrated, unclean, separated, unrighteous, unholy, empty, lonely, sometimes hopeless and despairing. But you know what? You just kept on. You just kept on livin' the way you were livin'. Now you and I might ask the question, How can a person just keep on doing that? In other words, what's God's response to that kind of living? Why didn't God just wipe you out? That is, why is it that God just kept on and on and on, putting up with your deliberate, willful, knowing sin? Well, that's what I wanna talk about in this message. And this is our sixth message in the series, "The Power of Patience". We've talked about our patience with one another. We've talked about our patience with God. We have to be patient with Him. His timing's not always ours. But what about the patience of God?
And so I want us to answer that question: Why does He keep putting up with? How long will He put up with it? And what is it that you and I do that brings Him to a conclusion? I'm not going to put up with this any longer. So I want you to turn if you will to Second Peter, and if you will to chapter three. And what's happening here is that there were those who heard about the coming of Jesus, they'd been hearing about it. And in spite of the fact that they'd heard and heard and heard and heard and nothing was happening and so they came to the conclusion, Well you know what, He's not coming. Because if He were comin' He would have already come. So, what's all this stuff about Jesus coming again and the judgment and all that stuff?
So, they were thinking the same thing back in those days and so this is Peter's response, Second Peter chapter three and beginning in the third verse, "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep or they died, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.' For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice," Peter is saying, "that by the Word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His Word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise," look at that. "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".
So, he's answering the question here, what is God up to in this whole issue of allowing people and nations to keep going on and on and on living in disobedience? So I wanna say first of all that patience is an attribute of God. Now an attribute means a characteristic, a trait, that is, it's who he is. It's the reason He acts the way He acts. And so when we think about the fact of a trait of patience for example, remember that the definition of patience is the willingness to wait. And, for example, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament to New Testament word "patience" is the phrase "slow to anger". Over and over and over again you'll find in the Old Testament that phrase: God is slow to anger. That was their phrase for saying that God is patient.
Now I wanna give you a definition of the patience of God. The patience of God is His goodness in withholding punishment from those who sin over a long period of time. It's the goodness of God in withholding punishment from those who sin over a long period of time. And so God by His very nature is a patient God. Withholds His judgment, withholds His punishment over a long period of time. How long? Only God knows. In some person's life it may be this length of time. In someone else's life it may be something else. He's by nature very, very patient.
In fact, He declares Himself. Look back if you will in Exodus chapter thirty-four, God says about Himself that He is a very patient God, "The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him that is with Moses as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed," here's what God said, "'The LORD,'" notice they're all capital letters, "'The LORD the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. Who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgressions and sins; yet, He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.'"
Now look at this. God says this is who I am. This is who I am by nature and by trait and characteristic. I'm compassionate, gracious, slow to anger (very patient) and abounding in lovingkindness. That means overflowing with it. That is there's plenty of it. It's adequate. There's all that need, there needs to be. Abounding in lovingkindness he says. And he says, "Who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin," which is three different words that refer to at different aspects of disobedience to rebellion toward God. He says He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But notice what he says, "He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children the grandchildren and the third and fourth generation".
Now here's what I want you to remember. Oftentimes people get confused about, they say, "Well now wait a minute. God says He is a God of love, goodness, mercy, abounding lovingkindness, overflowing with it. We say amen. And so there seems to be a contradiction. Because how can He be a God of justice, wrath, righteousness, and judgment, and at the same time be a God of love, goodness, mercy, kindness, grace? How can He be both of these"? And you see, one of the reasons that many people don't believe in God, do not believe in Jesus, they say, "Well you, you folks have a contradiction". No we don't.
You see, you'll never understand what God is really like until you receive His Son, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior. Then you know what happens? Your eyes get opened. Your heart gets opened. Your mind gets opened. You begin to understand the things of God, which the Word of God very clearly declares that you can only understand when the Holy Spirit comes into your life, which He does the moment you're saved. Then all of a sudden you begin to see how He can be a God of goodness and love and kindness and mercy and gentleness; and at the same times be a God of justice and wrath and judgment, slow to anger on the one hand, quick to judge on the other at the right time.
And what I want you to see is there's no contradiction in God. He is one God. A God of righteousness and holiness, justice, wrath, mercy, goodness, love, kindness, gentleness. That's who this God is. And once you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, here's what happens. Once you do that, you begin to understand that the reason Jesus died was God the Father executing His wrath upon your sin on His Son, who took your place as a substitute. That's what the passion of Jesus is all about. That's what the death of Jesus is all about. That's what the crucifixion is all about. The crucifixion is all about God making His Son a substitute for what we deserve. And this is why the wrath of God came upon His Son at the cross. He said, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me"? Suffering the wrath of God to pay the penalty for your sin and mine. So that you and I could do what? We can enjoy His grace, goodness, love, kindness, mercy and gentleness.
That's what it's all about. And so, when you think about all through the Scriptures for example. Then I think about how He dealt with the nation of Israel. You speaking of God's patience. You recall that He liberated 'em from Egyptian bondage, took 'em down to Sinai, and to give them the Law. And here's Moses up there receiving the Law of God and coming down and what does he find? In their impatience, things weren't working out to suit them. And they had been moaning and groaning and complaining to Moses about where they were, and here they had been liberated, after four hundred 400 years liberated from Egyptian bondage. They had experienced the miracle of the Red Sea, now they're complaining and moaning, they don't like what they eat and this, that, and the other and so forth. And so what happens is that God sees all this and you think, well, it seems to me that He would just absolutely wipe 'em out. Here they are building a golden calf, complaining, moaning, murmuring, wanna rebel against Moses. He kept on being patient with 'em.
Then I think, for example, about, listen, to what Jonah said. Jonah's one of those minor prophets and it's interesting what he said and we all know something about Jonah. The reason we know about him is because we've acted like him. Amen? We've all run from God at some point. He's called us to do something we didn't like. But listen to what Jonah says. Because here's what happened. He was so prejudiced against the Ninevites, when God called him and said, "I want you to, I want you to go to Nineveh and preach the truth of the one true God, Jehovah". He didn't wanna do it. He didn't wanna do it because he didn't like 'em and he wanted God to judge them because they appeared to be a threat to the nation of Israel. And so he says I'm not going to do it. Goes down to Joppa, gets him a ticket, gets on a ship and heads to Tarshish to escape.
Now listen to what Jonah says now that he's had a little submarine ride in a, in a whale and he come back. He came back. And now he's preached the truth and what's happened? The king of Nineveh, sackcloth and ashes, calling for believing in the one true God, revival breaks out and here is Jonah up there having a pity party because God did exactly what He wanted to do. Now listen to what Jonah says. Fourth chapter verse one, "But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, 'Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You're a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and One who relents concerning calamity.'" He says, "I knew You, I knew You were gonna do it".
I knew that if I went over there and preached they were, they were gonna get saved. I knew that if I went over there because You're a passionate God and a compassionate God, abundant in mercy, I knew You were gonna do it. And so what's happening? He didn't like it, but it's another evidence of God's patience. Somebody says, "Well, why is He so patient with us"? Well first of all, watch this. This is not the reason. It's not because of He, the fact that He looks at us and says, "Well, well, well, well, well. Here's some goodness in him, goodness in her". No. He says our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to the holiness of God. The best we can do is like stinking, dirty, nasty rags compared to the absolute purity of a holy God. So has nothing to do with us.
So what is the reason for God's patience? Look if you will in Romans chapter two. What God said to the Jews in those days, of course He says to anybody, anywhere, whoever they may be. And listen to what Paul is saying to them because of their sinfulness and their rejection of Him. In Romans chapter two, verse four, listen. He says, speaking to them, "Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God is for the purpose of leading you to repentance"? Don't you understand that, he says? "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God".
Now here's that combination, look. Do you not think of the riches of the kindness, tolerance, patience of God? And he says He's storing up, because of your stubborn unrepentant attitude, wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. So why, what's the purpose of God in being patient with us? Listen. The watch this carefully. The purpose of God in being patient with us is what? Is His desire to see us saved. That's, that's His primary purpose, He wants to see us saved. So, what does He do? He's patient, that is He's willing to wait. He gives us time.
Look if you will in First Peter for a moment. And if you'll notice in this third chapter, and look if you will in the twentieth verse, what he says. Speaking of the days of Noah and how God waited and waited and waited in the days of Noah, he says, verse twenty, "Who once were disobedient, speaking of those people when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah". Kept waiting in the days of Noah. God is patient. Why? Why was He waiting? To give them opportunity to believe. Then look at our text if you will. He says in Second Peter chapter three, verse nine, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, why? because He doesn't wanna see anybody lost, not wishing for any person to be lost but for all to come to repentance".
So, His primary reason for being patient with the most wicked, His primary reason for being patient with disobedient, rebellious believers is because He doesn't wanna see the unbeliever lost. And He doesn't wanna see us have to go through discipline after discipline after discipline until maybe one of these days we have gone beyond where we ought to go. Now, This God of justice, wrath, righteousness and holiness is a God of listen, of grace, mercy, kindness, abounding in lovingkindness and love toward us. But there is a limit to God's patience, which means there will come a time when God's patience runs out. And then this loving, gracious, kind, good, merciful God, listen, executes His wrath, His judgment, His righteousness and His holiness upon the wicked.
And you may be one of those persons who's mocked the church, laughed at preachers, don't believe the Bible, want no part of it and you don't even know why you're listening to this. You don't even know why you keep watching this. My friend, it's because God wants to give you a warning. Now watch this. This is not my warning. That wouldn't matter. This is God's warning. My Spirit will not always strive with man. There is a limit to the patience of Almighty God.
Now I want you to think about this for nations first of all for a moment. God was very patient with the Israelites coming through the wilderness there on their way to the Promise Land. But when Moses came down from Sinai and they had built a golden calf and were falling down and worshipping this calf when He had brought them through the Red Sea, opened the waters, and now they're worshipping an inanimate object, He said that's it. He told Moses, "Call the tribe of Levi". Sorted 'em up, killed three thousand of them in one day. God's patience ran out.
Now when I think about that, I think about the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. Listen to what happened. The nation of Israel had their kings, disobeying God, rebelling, violating the Law, doing several things that He would not tolerate forever. First of all, idolatrous worship, serving other gods. And secondly, intermarrying with the pagans. And God absolutely forbid it, made it extremely clear. They kept on: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all the minor prophets, over and over and over again said, "Judgment of God's coming. Cannot keep this up. Judgment of God's coming". Generation after generation, judgment of God's coming. Threw 'em in jail, want to kill 'em, you name it, and what happened? One day the Babylonians came, broke down the walls, burned the city gates, destroyed thousands of people and took some back to Babylonian captivity for seventy long years. You know why? The patience of God had a limit.
Now I want you to think about something carefully. Our nation is the most blessed nation in the entire world. We have more wealth, we have more knowledge, more ways to come up with and invent the most awesome things that mind of man probably could not have conceived of many years ago. Talented, skilled, the wealthiest nation on earth. We have the greatest opportunity to evangelize the world of any nation. We have the means technologically to get the Gospel to every single person on the face of this earth. And shortly in some form or fashion every single, person on the face of this earth with a few languages yet to be translated, that is, people with no translated language, they will be. And they'll hear the Gospel. We have it all in America, but we're testing the patience of God. Here are the principles of the Word of God. He is a very patient God, but He does not violate His own principle. He cannot and still be God.
And I wanna challenge you as an individual, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and you think you can just go on and on and on and on and just explain it away. You may be wealthy with prestige and prominence and position and all the rest. You think God is gonna use that to keep on being patient? No. You remember this. The more you and I know, the more we understand, the more responsible we are. We have a responsibility to live godly before Him. Perfect? No, but godly. Will there come a time when His judgment can no longer be withheld? Yes, there will be. In an individual's life, the life of a nation. And I want to encourage you, stop and think. Why do we rush here and rush yonder, keep ourselves busy and our minds full so we don't have to think especially about this book? Why do those who involve themselves and indulge themselves in some wicked immorality, why do they either try to explain this away or just totally disbelieve it? To keep from thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking what is the truth?
All you have to do is to look around you and you see the consequences of sin. It is the blinded eye, blinded by Satan that would cause anyone to think that they can violate God's Word in such a slanderous fashion and that He is going to ignore it. Listen. He made it very clear when He said in this passage, listen to this, "The Lord is not slow about His promise". What's His promise? Sin, judgment. He's not slow. It may appear that He's slow, but He's not slow. And I challenge you to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Challenge you out of a loving heart for you that you get your heart right with God and help us get this nation right with God.
Father, we thank You for Your patience, not that we deserve it. Thank You for Your love, don't deserve that. Thank You for Your mercy, we don't deserve that. We're not asking for anything we deserve. We're only asking for Your mercy, not because we deserve it, but because of Who You are. I pray that every single person who hears, who sees may understand they've simply heard the truth and now they have to deal with it, either in rebellion and defiance or in genuine, humble submission to Your precious Word, to receive Your salvation, cleansing, a new beginning, in Jesus's name, amen.