Summary: An examination of God's longsuffering, which both comforts and motivates us.
The Longsuffering of God
Intro: Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, "Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet." She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off then it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on - this time on the right feet. He then announced, "These aren’t my boots." She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn’t you say so?" like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, "They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them." She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, "Now, where are your mittens?" He said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..."
The parable of vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7 teaches us (a) that God cares for His people, (b) that He patiently waits for them to produce fruit, and (c) that there is an end to God’s longsuffering.
A good understanding of the nature of God’s longsuffering is both reassuring and frightening. It gives us confidence that He will be patient with our failures and shortcomings, but also motivates us to quick action to make correction before His longsuffering with us runs out.
I) What is longsuffering?
A) By definition, longsuffering is
1) “Patience, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs” (Thayer)
2) “That quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy (Vine)
B) It is demonstrated and illustrated by the actions of God.
1) God declares both His longsuffering and justice as He allows Moses to see part of His true essence in Exodus 34:6-7
2) Later, Moses appeals the this aspect of God’s nature to save the rebellious Israelites (Numbers 14:11-12, 17-20)
3) God showed longsuffering to Israel as a nation throughout their history. Romans 9:22-24 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, (23) and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
II) The relationship between God’s longsuffering and our salvation.
A) Peter states that God’s longsuffering is salvation! 2 Peter 3:15a “consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation”
B) This is true because it gives us time to repent!
1) On an individual basis
(a) Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
(b) 1 Timothy 1:15-16 “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (16) However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
2) As inhabitants of the earth (2 Peter 3:9)
3) Longsuffering should not be confused with indifference or inaction.
(a) 2 Peter 3:7-8 .
(b) ILLUS: A mother once chided her doctor, when her daughter was ill and she was worried. "Why don’t you do something?" she asked. "I am doing something," replied the doctor. "I am waiting."
C) But if we despise, abuse or deny God’s longsuffering, we hinder our own salvation!
1) We despise it by not repenting! (Romans 2:4, above)
(a) As was the case with Jerusalem Matthew 23:37-38 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (38) See! Your house is left to you desolate.”
(b) Jezebel of the Thyatira, Revelation 2:21-22 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. (22) Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
2) We abuse it by using it to clear the guilty! (cf. Exodus 34:6-7)