What does it mean that God is Patient and Long-Suffering?
If we are being honest, patience doesn't come naturally to most of us. I know it doesn't for me. But it is very natural for God.
So, what does it mean that God is Patient and Long-Suffering? God is slow to administer justice so that mankind could be saved (2 Peter 3:15; Romans 2:4). He has self-restraint in allowing offenses toward Himself. Mankind has been shaking their fists at God in rebellion to Him and His ways since the fall. God has been long-suffering and patient with His creation as He is not willing for any to perish but for all to have eternal life in Christ (2 Peter 3:9).
Wow! The patience and long-suffering nature of the Lord is one to be praised! Let's look more into these wonderful attributes of God!
If you have spent any time in the Old Testament, you'll quickly discover the patience and long-suffering nature of God. My goodness, God made a people for Himself in the nation of Israel and these people had some serious issues. The people as a whole would follow Him for a time and then fall away.
Even though the Temple, sacrifices, offerings, ceremonies, and the law for the most part were ever before them they strayed. Yet, God was always stretching out His hands. Always calling them back to Himself. Not destroying them as He did with other nations who continually rejected Him. When other nations were destroyed Israel remained because of God's faithful promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3).
Yet, even they knew the curses of God due to them because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness.
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was Esau not Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and given his inheritance to the jackals of the wilderness." Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; this is what the Lord of armies says: “They may build, but I will tear down; and people will call them the territory of wickedness, and the people with whom the Lord is indignant forever.” And your eyes will see this, and you will say, “The Lord be exalted beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachai 1:2-5)
Due to Israel's disobedience and rejection of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ (Matthew 22:37), God has reached out His patient hands to the gentiles, us. Paul in Romans 10:20-21 (quoting from Isaiah 65:1-2) speaks of this very thing, this wonderful patience of God for not just the people of Israel but of the world. God is speaking in Isaiah 65:1-2, and says,
“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’
To a nation which did not call on My name.
I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts."
This is God's description of men. Their thoughts and ways. People who look upon creation and know that there is a God, a Creator (Romans 1:19). Who suppresses the truth in their unrighteousness, and don't seek for God (Romans 1:18). Rather, they seek for the created thing and worship idols that were made rather than the Creator Himself (Romans 1:22-23).
All peoples everywhere have done this. All are guilty of "walking in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts."
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
The Glory of Restraint and Patience
I am not naturally patient. Often my initial response to any challenge or annoyance is to show my irritation in my disposition and tone of voice. This is wrong and needs to change. I hate that I do it, none the less I still do it. I have all confidence that as I seek God's working on changing this with me, that He will.
Yet, God is not like this. He is not inconsistent with His behavior, He is unchanging. This includes His dealings with us. He was patient and long-suffering, He is, and He always will be.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, bold added)
And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15, bold added)
This restraint and patience of God as it relates to men is salvation. The restraint and patience of God gives men time. This time is necessary for our salvation. As noted in the section above, all have sinned. Not only are men (speaking of humans, both men and women) born into sin because of Adam. All men sin from the earliest moment. It is in their nature, in their flesh (Romans 7:18). We all demonstrate this truth, even little babies by our works. Doing what ought not to be done (Romans 1:28-32). The time given by God because He is long-suffering and patient is for our salvation.
We need time to hear the gospel.
We need time to seek for the God who has been stretching out His hands to stubborn and obstinate people.
We need time to repent.
God gives us that time, and it comes from His long-suffering and patient nature. This is incredible considering the depths of our sin against Him. It is something that is quite frankly in-comprhehndable. God is sovereign and all-powerful. It is not as if God couldn't just swat us like a helpless fly on the wall. He doesn't though. He has in fact blessed us beyond measure. He has given us:
Air to breathe.
Strength to our bodies.
Food and water.
Shelter and clothing.
And so much more!
All the while we spurn His name. Rebel against His commandments. Seek everything else but His glory! Rather in His patience He has not just allowed for us to live. But given us everything we need to do it! All so that we could have the opportunity to be saved from His holy wrath. Amazing! Use this time that He has given you to repent and believe upon the Son, Jesus. Who has borne the punishment of God reserved for men because of our sin. Praise Him, all the earth, worship His holy name! (Some of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim) (To discover more about God, see our page, Who is God?)