Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Patience of God

This is one of those attributes that you hardly ever hear people speak on, but I have been both encourage and challenge by the patience of God. Encourage when I look back and see just how patience He has been to me and challenge because I know how impatient I often am! But when we speak of the patience of God what are we really speaking about? Most of us, at least most of the men have needed patience at the stop light or in traffic or maybe when we’re in a long line somewhere, we might be a little short on patience! But both of these illustrations are not what we are talking about when the patience of God! Why, because it is never said of our God that He is patience about things or circumstance. Why? Because He knows all things! When we speak of the patience of God we’re not talking about enduring hard times as much as about being longsuffering toward people!

Defining Words 
There are three words that are often used to describe the patience of God, patience, longsuffering and forbearance. Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon give these synonyms for forbearance as self-restraint, to tolerate, to put up with. Forbearance is usually thought of as an action, a relatively short-term restraint or act of tolerance, Romans 3:25 might be an example of this.

Longsuffering is similar to forbearance in its meaning and application. The chief difference is that longsuffering, as suggested by the word itself; is a type of forbearance which is not just exercised in the immediate moment of an experience. Rather, it is a character quality developed and exercised over the long-term course of many similar experiences. 

Turning again to Strong’s and Thayer’s definitions, the Greek word for longsuffering means: bear long, slow to anger, slow to punish, slow in avenging, slow to wrath. In the Greek language, it is the compound word “macrothumeo.” “Macro” means “long in relation to time and place.” “Thumeo” simply means “wrath.” Putting the two words together—macrothumeo—means literally to go for a long period of time before exercising wrath. We see from this definition that the longsuffering aspect of patience represents progress beyond forbearance. In Romans 2:4, Paul speaks these words about God, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Here God is described in the same verse as both forbearing and longsuffering, and that these are the products of “the riches of his goodness.” 

In the case of God, this does not mean that he must “progress” from forbearance to longsuffering. In him, both qualities dwell fully and are exercised in total perfection and harmony. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably in different translations. As we’ll see there is a close connect between these words and at times they are almost inseparable!

God is the God of Patience 
Our God is the God of Patience! Paul calls Him this in Roman 15:5, not only because He is the author and source of patience, but because He is patience, or longsuffering in Himself! So how does our God reveal Himself as the God of patience?

God of Patience in the Old Testament 
There are many Old Testament passages that reveal this character of God, but three stand out in connecting the patience or longsuffering of God with His grace, mercy, goodness. In Exodus 34:6 we read, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” Numbers 14:18 declares, “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” Psalm 86:15 says, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” We see the patience of God in Nehemiah 9:17 “…but you are ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and did not forsake them.” This is repeated again in Psalm 103:8.

The Patience of God with Sinful Man
Paul knew this about himself when he wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Peter reminds us how patience or longsuffering God was in the days of Noah! Peter tells us that “…the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared” that was 120 years! Peter also reminds us that God’s longsuffering toward sinful man now in our time is being shown, “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 Pet.3:9). But really if we look at this verse closely, who is His patience toward here in this verse? The context reveals it to us! At the beginning of chapter 3:1 it is addressed to the beloved, in verse 8 they are mention again and in verse 9 he mentions that “the longsuffering toward us or you.” Who is the beloved and who is the “us” or “you”? Peter was writing “to those who have obtained like precious faith…” (2 Pet. 1:1). He was writing to those who had been called (2 Pet. 1:3). So this patience is to toward the elect in the midst of a wicked world we will be preserved and His patience is waiting for the repentance of all who will repent!

The Patience of God with Israel 
There are many Scriptures we could look at in the Old Testament that would show us just how patience God has been with them. But I will confine myself self to two passages in the New Testament that speak of the patience of God. First in Acts 13:18 where we read “Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness.” If we follow their history into the promise land we find that they rebelled against God time and time again, but yet He was patience with them and still is. The other Scripture is in Romans 9:20-24, But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? These verses show the amazing patience of God toward Jews and Gentiles, but especially Israel here in Romans 9-11.

The Patience of God toward and through His Servants and Saints 
Thing of just how patience God was with Jonah, we know the story, but what is amazing to me is that the whole time Jonah ran from God He know that what was patient! Look at what he says in Jonah 4:1-2, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” Jonah knew this was who this God of Patience God is! Paul reminds Timothy and every preacher to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Tim 4:2). Sometime we expect people in the assembly or new believers to get it over night, but what we forget is just how long it took us to get it and just how patience God was with us!

We all have experienced the patience of God in our lives. Sometimes we even tell others “be patient with me God isn’t finished with me yet.” Funny thing is we want others to be patient with us but were not always so willing to be patient with others! But if we are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, patience or longsuffering will be one of the evidence of such control (Gal. 5:22). We are exhorted in Ephesians 4:2-3, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” If we are motivated by the love that has been poured out in us then it ought to be displayed and two of the things we read of in the “love chapter” (1 Cor. 13), is that “love is patient and “love suffers long.” Paul knew just how important this patience and longsuffering is that he mentions over and over in his writings to the people of God. In Colossians 1:9-11 he prayed, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” Latter in the same book he says, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col 3:12-13).

Maybe one of the reasons we have so many divorces, so many problems in the family, and in the assemblies is that we’ve lost sight of just how patience the God of Patience is! Maybe this is the One of the reason we’re so quick to discard and dis-regard one another! May we view Him more and more as the God of Patience and may He help us to display this more to one another!                  

No comments:

Post a Comment