Bible Study Series
Contemplating the Almighty
The Divine Patience
How well do you know God’s patience?
1) Proof of God’s patience is that
a) He tolerates us a) He tolerates us
b) He did not cast us into Hell the first time that we sinned
c) Even though He does not know us well, He still endures us
2) God’s patience is best seen through our
a) sin and rebellion
b) suffering and affliction
c) persecution and martyrdom
3) God’s patience is necessary
a) only until we get saved
b) all throughout our earthly life
c) all throughout our earthly and Heavenly lives
4) Patience and power
a) have nothing to do with each other
b) are connected because patience actually triumphs over power
c) are connected because God’s patience is a demonstration of His power
5) Regarding God’s patience
a) when we sin we can expect it
b) it is applied as He so chooses and so should not be taken for granted
c) it can obtained by following the correct steps
6) When God disciplines us
a) it is because that is what is the best for us at that time
b) it means that His patience has run out
c) it proves that God is not all that patient to begin with
7) When we do not get what we want when we want it
a) we should finally realize that God does not really care about us
b) we should realize that God waits on high to give us good and so should be patient ourselves
c) we should complain incessantly
8) When it comes to other people’s sins
a) we need to ask God for His grace for us to be as patient towards them as He is
b) we cannot be like God so we should just follow wherever our heart leads us
c) it is always better to demonstrate divine wrath rather than divine patience
9) Being patient
a) always implies long-suffering
b) is easy if you just grit your teeth and mumble under your breath
c) is always easier for other people
10) The more we realize how patient God is
a) the more we can feel free to sin
b) the more we should be than c) the less we have to be patient ourselves
Of all the divine excellencies, God’s patience is perhaps the most abused. It is all too easy to think lightly of the riches of His long-suffering. We expect God to be patient while we continue in sin and enjoy our evil habits. It is incredible that the Most High should choose to suffer at all because of His rebellious creation, let alone to suffer long. Most of us have no reasonable choice when we are forced to be forbearing-God does. His long-suffering is our privilege and not His obligation. We take time for granted. We think we deserve much of it and are owed a long and happy life. It is this heart of arrogance that leads to our ungratefulness. We expect instant reward for obedience and eternal deferment of our sin’s effects.
The very heart of God’s patience is a response to, as are so many of His qualities, our sinfulness. What is it that we deserve? For what reason in ourselves should God not have quickly terminated our lives and hurled us into eternal damnation? He needs us not. Any instance of the Lord’s patience, be it in scripture or experienced personally in our lives, is a tremendous tribute to Him. That sin is not quickly judged and executed is a reality which our reasoning cannot adequately answer, but which our spirit can certainly wholeheartedly worship the Almighty for. That God is good, there lies no question. Instead, it is the unimaginable extent that draws our hearts to wonderment. Our minds can stretch to recall all that the Lord has done for us. We can muse all His works and praise Him for what He has given, and still we would only touch on the fringes of His overwhelming goodness toward us. We do not now and perhaps may never fully understand all of the great benefits we have obtained because God has been patient with us.as been patient with us.
The patience of God may be defined as an admirable endurance of a trying or offending situation or person which emanates from a heart of understanding. It must be distinguished that God does not merely tolerate us, but that He is patient toward us. The distinction lies in that patience stems from understanding, tolerance does not. God rebukes the heart that says, “He has no understanding.” He knows we are weak and frail and though His patience should never be identified as a condolence of sin, He nevertheless does understand. He fully realizes that though He is eternally and immutability perfect, we do require time to grow and mature. He is a God who has tremendous compassion on a sinful people. A most sublime description of the Lord Most High is that of Psalm 103:8-14, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, flow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness. He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Our hearts cannot fathom the greatness of our Lord, One who does not rule tyrannically like so many lesser men but with loving-kindness and compassion. How we should bow low in reverent worship for such a God.
The distinction between mercy and patience is often difficult to discern. Both are similar in the function of withholding just punishment but differ in the nature of the object to which each is directed. Mercy finds its respect toward the afflicted; patience is exercised toward the rebellious. Mercy seeks to heal and restore; patience is more synonymous with long-suffering. The greatest recognition of either, though, lies not so much in proper and concise definitions, but in appreciation of their tremendous significance in our lives. Neither is a secondary theme, but both are venerable and glorious aspects of the Lord’s dealings with us. It requires no difficult contemplation to realize how immensely patient God is with us. We are usually generous in providing many opportunities for its application.
The divine patience is truly amazing when reflection is upon the consistent rebellion of creation toward the Lord. The angel who had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, who was anointed to guard the very holiness and glory of God rebelled. His initial creation of man, given a single restrictive command, disobeyed. A nation chosen and blessed given so much by the God of their covenants became idolaters. His apostles denied Him; His church neglects Him. Those whom He has redeemed and regenerated grieve Him. After a reign of peace, the nations will gather to fight Him. Yet He still loves all and cares for all, devising good plans and desiring to be in intimate fellowship with all. Never has He given up; never has He regretted dying for us though the sacrifice was great. He seeks people such as us as the primary gratification of His great love. Year after year, He longs for a right heart. Our present existence and salvation is a tremendous tribute to His long-suffering.
It lies beyond our capabilities to fully appreciate the patience of God because we do no rightly grasp His holiness nor our sinfulness. If we even minutely pictured the intense outrage our sin has on the Holy One and the terrible wrath that it demands, we would fearfully bow low with much trembling and thank the almighty God for enduring sinners such as ourselves. This divine attribute is best understood when we realize that we are not immediately punished as our transgressions merit. Much of the Lord’s relationship with us is one of giving. This we can more easily personally experience. But to not receive what we rightfully deserve penetrates more into the realm of supernatural knowledge. We know what we did not get because scripture tells us what we should have. But even then, we fall vastly short in full appreciation because we cannot realize, while still in our fleshly bodies, just how many things we have each done that required the Lord’s forbearance.
Isaiah 30:18 says, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who wait for Him.” The remarkable fact of the divine patience is that it always functions in seeking our good. He waits to be gracious, He waits to have compassion, He waits for repentance. The truth of so mighty a God waiting for anything is indeed amazing. We rush to sin; He longs to apply grace. Through and through the Bible, the “perfect patience” of God is most exemplified by His withholding His deserved wrath and allowing us time to repent. “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.” He tarries in bringing us home so that He might bring the most possible. He is under no obligation to wait for anyone but He does, and consequently, we have benefited much.
The patience of God can be readily identified as a manifestation of His awesome power. In Nahum 1:3, we read, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” And Numbers 14:17-18 says, “’But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as Thou hast declared, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness.”’” Through the demonstration of His long-suffering, the Lord Most High exercises self-restraint. He, being a person and not a machine, exercises His attributes and actions not automatically, but on the basis of intelligence and reason. Though sin does call for immediate justice, the personality of God may demonstrate patience instead. He can, not only perfectly control His creation, but He can perfectly control Himself also. A passage which evinces this sublime truth is that of Romans 9:22-23, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” He does not mechanically lash out at sin but gives us “time to repent.” This is not to imply that His justice is frustrated but that it has been deferred. Such a choice is determined by His infinite wisdom and can never be challenged by the natural reasoning of man. Repentance is our privilege not God’s obligation.
Though God is exceedingly patient with us, we should never assume its application. It is a gross evil to think that we can enjoy our sinful “pleasures” now and then repent when we want to, all the while expecting the Lord’s endurance. As stated earlier, He is not required to be patient with us; He gives no inclusive promises concerning the forbearance of our sin. We cry for justice against sinners, forgetting how great a one we are too. It is pure arrogance to expect God to be long-suffering while we indulge in our selfish, fleshly desires. To the rich fool in Luke 12, He says, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you,” and to the Christian, He commands, “be zealous, therefore, and repent.” Both the warning and promise in scripture is, “’At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation.’” We must pursue holiness now.
A great irony of this theme is that it is “easier” for God to be patient with us than for us to be “patient” with Him. We are such a greedy, discontent people. We tend to despise inconveniences. regardless of their spiritual value and arrogantly think that we know what is the best. He knows what we want, and He knows what we need, but He gives us what is the most excellent. The trusting heart believes this and does not despair because it knows that it will see the goodness of the Lord. The pattern is all too familiar: He gives, we are temporarily satisfied, we want more, He withholds, we grumble. We then dictate our order and demand immediate fulfillment. And should our request not be swiftly discharged, we doubt God’s love and concern and too often turn to other means of fulfillment. The patience of the Lord is duly manifested in how He endures an ungrateful people such as us.
When the Lord executes His anger, it is not because He has spent His patience, but because the proper time has come for Him to expend His wrath and judgment for the purpose of His ultimate glorification. The determination of this time lies not in the judgment and wisdom of men. Whether He acts swiftly as He did with Dathan and Abriram hurling them alive into the pit or suffers long as with Israel or ourselves, we must accept all. God is kind in all His deeds. That He suffers long as a result of our sin truly is a stupendous demonstration of His divine excellencies. But even if He should act otherwise, our response must also be one of awe and love because He is a great God. We can never be in a position where we can question the Lord’s actions. It is pure arrogance to demand that He suffer longer with anyone whose heart is unrepentant.
How great a demonstration of patience is shown in the parable of the wicked tenant farmers. God sent a prophet to the nation of Israel, but they beat him. He sent others, but they were also beaten or stoned or killed. Finally, He sent His Son saying, “They will respect My Son,” but they crucified the Lord of Glory as an outcast. They rejected their Creator. He provided opportunity after opportunity, but they tenaciously clung to their greedy and selfish desires. Still, He longed to gather them the way a hen gathers her chicks.
Again, we see in the prodigal son the Lord’s magnificent love. He squandered his estate on worldly pleasures before he repented and returned to an eagerly waiting father whose response was a compassionate embrace. “But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” The joy in heaven is incalculable when one sinner repents. God eagerly longs for the salvation of a soul so that He might lavish upon him all of the riches of His divine grace.
Israel, as they confessed their sin, praised God again and again for His great patience and compassion. They realized that it was this that stayed their just execution. In Nehemiah 9:17, we read, “But Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness; and Thou didst not forsake them.” And again in verse 31, “Nevertheless, in Thy great compassion Thou didst not make an end of them or forsake them, for Thou art a gracious and compassionate God.” They proclaimed their Creator as “the great, the mighty and the awesome God.” He is We take for granted this mighty theme of the divine patience. We too often “think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience.” The Lord is compelled by no obligation to endure our rebellion. For what reason should the great and awesome God suffer long for an evil people? He does so because He desires, beyond our deepest appreciation, an intimate fellowship with us. We would do well to heed Scripture and “consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself.” He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. It is a praiseworthy thing that the Lord’s patience is much greater than our own. It is also very much an essential and necessary thing. Even as the enlightened people of God, we are still so ungrateful. But even what we cannot fully comprehend, we can still love and adore. “Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.”
What does God’s patience mean to us?
We can be patient when sinned against
No one will ever live life without being sinned against many times. This may be something horrible like physical or emotional abuse, betrayal, or cruelty. Or it may be more subtle like deceit, gossip, or being deliberately ignored. But it all cases it hurts. When we are sinned against our first response is usually to strike back to inflict more pain than we received. But perhaps we should first pause and ask God for grace and wisdom: grace to not return sin for sin and wisdom to know what the most righteous response should be. But to do any of this we need patience. We need to understand as deeply in our hearts as possible how God is patient towards us and does not immediately lash out at us when we sin against us.
We can be patient when people behave or think stupidly
It is easy for us to become frustrated and impatient with people who are being, in our humble opinion, stupid. We feel that we understand the situation so why can’t they? It is obvious to us that something is wrong and/or harmful so why do they insist on continuing to do it?
Yet we all are very stupid. Is not sin perhaps the greatest display of stupidity? Are we not failing to see the great blessings that we are sacrificing in order to obtain a cheap, temporal pleasure? And this is in defiance of God’s written word, our conscience, other people’s counsel, reason, and consequences (our own or others), yet we insist on sinning. However, God continues to be patient with us.s to be Perhaps God has placed us in that frustrating situation so that we, who apparently know better, can teach those who do not. Are not trying circumstances the greatest teacher of patience? When we are in a situation which is frustrating perhaps we should not see it as a waste of our time but as an opportunity to further develop our character so that we might become more godly.
We can be patient with other people’s weaknesses
All of us have talents or skills and, in addition, when we are saved the Holy Spirit gives each one of us spiritual gifts. These are areas where we excel beyond the average person’s abilities which, by definition, means that we will be prone to feel superior to others here. Perhaps that is why God included 1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
If we are running fast and easy and someone falls down should we not go back and pick them up and help them move forward? We all have weaknesses where we hope and expect others to be patient with us yet if we are not patient with them then how can we expect it in return? we expe Pride pounds its chest and says, “See what I can do” and runs ahead. Humility looks to God and says, “Let me help you.”
Answers to quiz
2) a 1) b
Rose and Andy have been married for ten years and generally things are pretty good with them. However, they quickly and easily bicker even in front of people who are strangers or guests that they are having over for dinner. It is common for them to criticize every little thing that the other one does and this will go back and forth for several long minutes. This bickering never degenerates into anything harsh and there is never any name-calling, but it is still uncomfortable and is a bad witness to their non-Christian family members. How can you use the theme of patience to help them to defeat this sin?
1) In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s patience means to us?s patience means to us?
2) How has God been patient with you?
3) What are some examples of people or situations in the Bible where the patience of God is clearly seen?
4) How can we learn to be more patient?
5) What are the greatest obstacles in our thinking or character to learning to be patient?
6) How do difficult circumstances teach us to be patient?
7) When we find ourselves becoming easily frustrated and impatient with someone what should we do?
8) Should we a) always, b) sometimes, c) never be patient when someone sins against us? Why?
9) If God is so patient with everyone then why when two people commit the same sin might one immediately suffer harsh consequences from that sin whereas the other person seems to get away with it?
10) As perfect as God’s patience is, there are times when even it will cease. In general, under what circumstances could we say that it is time to stop being patient and time to take a different course of action?
Copyright Bob La Forge 2011 email: email@example.com