Thursday, September 14, 2023

             Words and conversations between friends are often intimate and personal.  We have the freedom and joy of sharing openly and honestly.  Friends usually enjoy a certain measure of transparency and clarity with each other.  As we have noted, Peter’s letters were written to friends—even brothers and sisters who shared a common faith and the same Lord.  In 2 Peter 3:8, he addressed his initial readers as “dear friends.”  Even many years later, I think Peter would consider believers in the twenty-first century to be his friends too.  He offered some valuable encouragement to his “dear friends” in the words he wrote in 2 Peter 3:8-10.  We read, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”  In these three verses, we find some difference-making truths that speak to us today.
            First, Peter wrote about God’s patience.  And are we not thankful that God is patient with us?  Take a moment now to thank God for all the many ways that He has expressed patience toward you.  He patiently loved us and called us to salvation when we had given Him every imaginable reason not to love us or to bless us with His saving grace.  The Bible teaches that while we were yet sinners, or still sinning, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  While we often reach our breaking point and limits of patience after a day, God’s patience, by comparison, lasts for a thousand years.  Even now, God is still at work completing His purposes for the creation on His timetable.  Like the Father in Jesus’ story about the prodigal son, the Lord still looks and draws us to Him.  He is generous with His grace and patience.  He looks for us and beckons us to come to Him and to enjoy Him and His grace.  He waits to offer a loving embrace and perhaps that long-sought second chance. 
            Second, we should never confuse God’s patience with slowness.  God is not prone to stops and starts.  He knows His plans.  Jeremiah reminds us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).  While we can only see the immediate moment at hand, God can see tomorrow, next year and eternity.  He works with eternity in mind.  What we might be tempted to call slowness, God calls sovereignty.  While we might act with haste or impatience, God acts with providence and prudence.  Where we are often impulsive, God is intentional. 
            Third, God’s patience is keyed to His desire for men and women to repent and to come to Him in surrender and faith—unshared and unbroken faith.  As Peter noted, God does not desire for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance and new life that only He can provide.  Have you ever considered how God is extending patience to you today?  Maybe you have broken some commitment you made to Him.  Maybe your walk and service are weak and struggling.  Maybe you have moved away from Him and allowed some distance and time to rise up between the Lord and you.  The emptiness that you feel could be God calling you to repent and to return to Him.  God often stirs feelings of restlessness in us to get our attention and to draw us back to Him.  To repent means we let go of things we have held onto more tightly than the Lord.  To repent means we acknowledge that His ways are right and we need to return to them.  We can be grateful that we have today to seek the Lord.  Tomorrow may or may not come but God has graciously and patiently provided us with the gift of today to know and enjoy Him.
            Fourth, Peter wrote about the Lord’s return as a thief in the night. He will come in His way and time.  There will be no marketing campaign or countdown clock.  A thief does not announce his arrival in advance.  He simply comes.  And the Lord will come for His people.  His coming will be a surprise to many and unexpected to many others.  Those who spent their days dismissing the Lord or scoffing at His promises to return will find their mouths open in shock, dismay and even fear.  Some will be surprised that the Lord did not come for them.  Some who expected to meet or to see the Lord will discover that He never knew them.  Past, present and future are changed in an instant.  The past is redeemed.  The present is changed.  And the future is much different than many might have expected when they were making plans for it.  Even the heavens and the earth will be changed at His direction and command. 
            We can take Peter’s words to heart because he wrote as one friend speaking to another.  And we are friends indeed if the friendship is grounded in Christ.  Give thanks today for the patience of God.  Be grateful for His loving invitation to repent and return.  Be eager and watchful for His return so that you are not caught unaware and unready.  Have a great Thursday!

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