2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
My wife used to sing a little ditty to my children when they became impatient about something. “Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient you only start to worry.” They didn’t usually appreciate it. We aren’t naturally patient. We don’t like to be told to be patient. We want what we want now.
That little ditty continued, “Remember, remember, that God is patient, too.” That is exactly what Peter tells us. “God is patient with you.” What does that mean for you and me?
It’s not the same thing as slow. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.” In our minds we impose human reasons for slowness on God. Sometimes people are slow because they lack the power or ability to keep their promise. Ever order something that was out of stock? You wait and wait for it to come, but they can’t get it to you any sooner because they just don’t have it on hand. Is God slow in keeping promises because he doesn’t have the resources?
Some people are slow in keeping their promises because they don’t care. They made the promise because they want to get something out of us. Once they get it, their promise doesn’t matter to them anymore. We may wonder whether God’s promises are like that– just a scam to manipulate us into behaving a certain way. Once he gets us to stop sinning, or to volunteer our time or money, he has what he wants. He is slow to keep his promises because he doesn’t really love us.
Some people are slow in keeping their promises because they don’t want to do what they promised. A friend promises to help you with some project on your home, but it is hard work, and not very pleasant. Every time you try to schedule a day to do the work, he has a reason why he can’t show up. Do we wonder whether the Lord delays for the same reason–he doesn’t want to? Does he find the task unpleasant, or worse, does he find us unpleasant, and so he puts it off?
We insult God when we think like that about his promises–he isn’t able, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to. To us he may seem slow, but his track record for delivering on promises is perfect. Instead, God is patient. And he is patient because he is not willing to see a single soul be lost.
This is the guiding principle that drives everything he does. It is his mission statement, his goal and purpose for all his dealings with us: Save the world, save sinners, save everyone. This is why he promised and sent his Son the first time. He would take the most radical measures anyone could ever imagine to free us from sin. And so he was willing to do what no one ever imagined. He let his Son perish in our place.
Now, he delays his return only because he wants to save as many as possible. He doesn’t need the extra time for himself. People are slow to repent. You may know some of them yourself. You have been working on them for a long time, trying to get them to come to church, trying to convince them to give up some habitual sin, trying to show them they need Jesus. For yourself, Jesus can come as soon as possible. But you have been praying, “Not yet, Lord. Give me just a little more time to work on my friend. Give him just a little more time to repent and believe.” That is what he has done. God has been patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
If the Lord were not so patient, where would we be? Might he have come when we were not ready? But he took his time, and now we are his. If he is just a little more patient, and he gives us tomorrow, that is all the more evidence of his grace–another day to reach those who still haven’t believed the gospel. That’s not slow. That’s patience. Make the most of the time he has given.