Author: Ron Graham
Patience and Grace
—God Is Longsuffering
When you think about “patience” what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Is it some circumstance in which patience is a problem for you? Most people have a problem with patience, either in showing it themselves or being shown it by others.
If we would truly understand patience, we must first think about the patience and longsuffering of God. This is the paradigm or pattern of all true patience. In this lesson, we look at the patience and grace of God through Christ, so that we may understand patience at its foundation level.
Patience goes hand in hand with kindness. The patience of God stems from God's kindness or grace. In this lesson we will keep in mind that God is longsuffering toward us because he wants to be merciful toward us, and to save us from his wrath.
1 God's patience is long but not endless.
God is not patient forever. His patience is qualified by an “until” like all good patience should be. God is longsuffering, but only for as long as is proper and right. Then God's patience gives way to wrath and vengeance.
"The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (1Peter 3:20). But God's patience did not last forever. The flood came (2Peter 2:5).
God "keeps his lovingkindness for thousands..." God, in his grace, patiently allows opportunity for mercy and forgiveness. "Yet he will not leave the guilty unpunished..." (Exodus 34:7).
God would be unjust to leave unpunished those who don't respond to his patience and lovingkindness. Through every generation God holds people accountable in this way (Ezekiel 18:20-24).
Patience therefore does not mean never being angry. It means being "slow to anger" rather than quick tempered (Proverbs 14:29). This is how God is patient.
God is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and plentiful in mercy, but he will not always strive with us, nor will he keep his anger forever" (Psalms 103:8-9).
God's patience is illustrated in the "dig it and dung it" parable about the fig tree (Luke 13:5-9).
It is interesting to compare this with the fruitless figtree that Jesus made to wither (Matthew 21:18-19).
2 God's patience allows repentance not rebellion.
Patience is not an end in itself. It has a reason. The point of being patient is to "let patience have its perfect work" (James 1:4).
The reason God is patient with sinners is that he gives them opportunity to repent. God is not willing to tolerate evil. Nor does he desire to punish evil.
God wants to forgive wrongdoing, and so he works patiently to bring every sinner to repentance. "God is longsuffering toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9,15).
That's his goal of grace. God gives people time to repent, but not a licence to keep on sinning.
God's statement about Jezebel is instructive. "I gave her time to repent but she does not want to." God makes it clear that he does not want Jezebel and her followers to continue in sin, nor does he want to punish them. He wants them to repent. However he warns of "great tribulation unless they repent..." (Revelation 2:20-23).
Paul sums up God's patience and kindness in allowing us to repent..."Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
3 God's patience is shown in loving discipline.
Before we finish our lesson about the patience of God, we should add that God's grace and patience has a strong element of discipline.
This is likened in the Bible to a loving father who is a strict disciplinarian (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Without getting sidetracked into a discussion about the discipline of children, we can help ourselves understand the longsuffering and lovingkindness of God by imagining two kinds of fathers.
- The first lets his children run wild and is willing to grin and bear it.
- The second controls and corrects his children calmly, constantly, and consistently, with both firmness and loving devotion.
Which parent is showing true patience? The second —and that's the kind of patience our God of grace shows toward us.
“Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work”
James says, "Let patience have its perfect result" (James 1:2). Patience is a virtue, but not as an end in itself. It's only because patience results in a "perfect work" that there is any real point to it. By enduring our troubles, and not letting them get us down, we can derive benefit from them.
So what is this beneficial result? What is this "perfect work" of patience? We become "strengthened with power through God's Spirit in the inner person" (Ephesians 3:16). Patient endurance makes us spiritually fit to "fight the good fight" (2Timothy 4:7).
Our troubles may prevent us from following a course in life that was our will to follow. Instead, we have to put ourselves in God's hands, trust him, and let him do with us what he wills. "For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-16).
"The Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, comforts us in all our affliction. With this comfort from God, we ourselves will be able to comfort others who are in any affliction" (2Corinthians 1:3-7).
By patient enduring and waiting upon God, we receive supernatural help from Him. We become a beacon of hope for other sufferers.