“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.” (2Pe.3:9 NKJV)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…
The Holy Spirit shows us by the words of Peter, the apostle, that the Lord always comes just on time! He never comes too early! He never comes too late! He never makes mistakes! Though, in the account of men, there is a vast difference between one day and a thousand years, yet, in the account of God, there is no difference. All things past, present and future are ever before him: the delay of a thousand years cannot be so much to him as putting off any thing for a day or even for an hour is to us.
An example: In the eyes of Martha, the fact that Jesus didn’t immediately come when He had been warned by Lazarus’ two sisters that their brother was sick, it was a mistake: He arrived too late! They told Him: “… if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (Joh.11:21). Jesus, yet, knew well what He had done: He delayed His departure for two days and He arrived four days after the death of Lazarus! Why? Not only that the faith of His disciples might be consolidated in Him but also that a lot of others might believe in Him and be saved. He had made no mistake. He arrived on time following His “watch” and His plans! What a precious lesson for the growth of our faith in His words and of our trust in His character! All the promises of God in Him are the Yes, and in Him the Amen (2Co.1:20 YLT)! All His judgments are also accomplished just on time according to His “watch”, in His time! Our impatience and lack of discernment push us to believe the opposite.
How many times have we not said just like the prophet Jeremiah: “… My strength and my hope have perished from the LORD.” (Lam.3:18). The psalmist confessed saying: “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried out to You.” (Ps.31:22). Another wondered if the Most-High is not the same anymore; if He has changed; if He is not favourable anymore; if He has no mercy anymore; if His promises are not valid anymore and if in His anger He has shut up His mercies (Ps.77:7-10). He confessed, nevertheless, at the end, that all his apprehensions were but the result of his weakness and lack of trust in God! The Lord reassures us who believe in Him that “contrary to hope we can hope” (Rom.4:18), that He has made us “prisoners of hope” (Zec.9:12) and that love “hopes all things” (1Co.13:7).
It is not only the lack of trust in God, which is the source or our impatience and lack of discernment. No, it is also because man walks in vain imaginations; he is disquieted in vain … (Ps.39:6-7). How many times have you and I not said something identical or similar? God’s faithfulness has, however, belied us and has proved that all our fears were unjustified. I often remember the case of the women who “said among themselves, Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us? But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away——for it was very large.” (Mrk.16:3-4). We even go beyond that: We dishonour Him as if He were not able to intervene in due time … The Lord, however, is not impatient. He knows what he does! He wants that we do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb.6:12). His omniscience and His divine wisdom guide us well and for our good.
When we cross difficult times, we believe that we will not manage to endure or resist until the end, but He, knowing our potential, will never permit that we be tempted beyond our strength: Oh yes, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1Co.10:13), says the apostle Paul. Oh yes, “For the LORD will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, …” (De.32:36). Finally, when the ‘hurricane’ fades down, we realize that God’s thoughts … are not our thoughts, nor are our ways His ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isa.55:8-9). God, who is faithful, will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able. That means that when we fall into sin it is because of us! Let us humble ourselves, therefore, before Him admitting who we are and what we have done …
The Lord is not a man so that one can deduct that His promise should not be accomplished because of a very long delay or because He changed His plans or because He forgot His promise or because He is not capable of keeping it anymore (1Sam.15:29; Num.23:19). Let’s humbly admit that it is we, very often, who do not keep our promises, but not the Lord! One of my superiors, a serious man and of good character, a Christian Catholic man but not practising, told me one day: “But don’t you see how many centuries have gone by and nothing has happened and notably with regard to His second advent?” Poor man! He was ignorant of the words of the Holy Spirit who says: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness … (2Pet.3:9). Unfortunately, there are many professing Christians that think like that, who are discouraged and who dishearten others and give opportunity to mockers who argue that God’s promises will never occur.
He is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish …
God’s desire is that men should have time for repentance and an opportunity to be saved: He “… desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim.2:4). They ignore that God is full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” (Ps.86:15). It is necessary, therefore, to believe that our Lord’s patience is intended for our salvation (2Pie.3:15). What love, what patience, what kindness! God doesn’t want that any one should perish; however, many will perish because the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (Joh.3:19). If, on the contrary, they had made that proper act of justice in their heart with sadness according to God, admitting who they are and what they do, God’s grace could then reign on them and thus enrich their life. Then all the promises of protection and of blessing would be in the “agenda”… But how is it ever possible for men to see God’s grace “flood” their life when they live either in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life or in lies and doubtful compromises? God’s grace is not for perfect men or women but for those that admit humbly and in the fear of God who they are, what they have done or are doing and put their trust in Christ… Repentance and faith are the means to avoid perdition. They are wrong all those who believe that God’s grace is a «passe-partout». No! God’s grace can reign only under one condition and this condition is justice … Repentance is the basic act of justice between man and God! There is no salvation without repentance and without faith working through love.
The purpose of God’s “delays”
God, in order to bring us to repentance uses His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. It is God’s goodness that leads us to repentance (Ro.2:4). He waits for us. Of course, He uses chastisements, exhortations, warnings etc. to wake us up from our spiritual sleep. If your son or daughter does something wrong and continues in it, you are ready to “long-suffer” hoping, waiting, etc., for his/her conversion and salvation. Why? Because you love your child and you feel responsible for him or her. If someone who does not belong to your family behaves badly, then your “long” suffering is not so long; it is of short duration, if not null. It is, therefore, God’s patience and goodness that lead man to true repentance! Let us, therefore, be His imitators! It is not violence or fear or terror … although the fear for the consequences of sin doesn’t remain without effect, because it is also written that “In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.” (Pr.16:6). Each and every man should consider the fact that he is not cut down immediately in his sins, not as a proof that God will not punish him, but as a demonstration that He is now forbearing, giving him an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life. No man should infer that God will not execute his threatenings to any man who sins.
The end of “longsuffering”
Should we infer that His longsuffering is without end and that sinners will never be judged? No, no, no! His longsuffering will end someday and then we all will reap what we have sown! We will all stand before the throne of God to give account of what we have done in our life. The fact that I do not want or desire that my neighbour perishes does not mean that he will not perish if he does not repent and believe in Jesus Christ’s saving sacrifice. We, as parents, have never wished to punish our children but we were often under the moral necessity to punish them.
God does not want the death of the sinner; He does not want any to perish. However, He does not want to enforce his salvation. If man does not repent he will simply deserve eternal damnation. It is written “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die …?’” (Eze.33:11). God has made all the necessary arrangements that all men might come to repentance and accept God’s mercy through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is written, if any one comes to Him truly penitent and desirous to be saved, he will not be cast off. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Joh.6:37). Consequently, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him”? (Heb.2:3)
May all men, believers and unbelievers, understand, appreciate and make full use of God’s longsuffering before it is too late! Amen!