Grace and peace to the entire household of faith, in the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my earnest prayer that you are all enjoying the blessings and protection of our Savior.
There is a word out of Heaven that has been resounding in my spirit over the last month or so. Though it has come through many different vessels and seeded in many different sermons or lessons, the core thought has been about patience. Now usually, when the word “patience” comes up, it usually has to do with our need of it. Hebrews 10:36, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” It is as true today as it was when God dictated it over two thousand years ago. However, I want to flip the script and speak of God’s patience.
The fact that God has been patient in the extreme would hardly be debated by anyone who knows Him. Had he been like so many of us, He would have cut us off a long time ago. In fact, it is in Him that we see the clearest example of that level of patience more appropriately described as “long suffering.” It might be described as a “painful patience.” His waiting for us has been punctuated by His discomfort with the choices and actions of lives bent on sin. Yet somehow, He has continued to love us, even when we were sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Though we are now His children, we still often make choices contrary to His will. We still disobey Him. Yet He has such patience with us. Aren’t you glad that He has been such a patient, and indeed, a “long suffering” God?
But here’s where today’s thought becomes so applicable to us. He will not hold His patience forever. In Genesis 6:3, He said, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” In the Days of Noah, He announced that the wickedness of that generation would only be tolerated for another 120 years, a kind of “grace period” while Noah declared that God’s judgment was coming in the flood. I believe that He is pronouncing a sentence on this generation as well. Judgment is coming and it will not take 120 years.
St. Paul, on His second missionary journey, travels through Greece, preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While many were converted to Christ, the culture was wholly devoted to the worship of many gods. In Athens, the capital city and cultural center of Greece, the apostle encounters an altar dedicated to “the unknown God.” This greatly civilized people, whose idea of government is alive in our own 21st century, believed in many gods. For fear of missing one and therefore offending one of their gods, they thought that they would cover all the bases by building an altar to “the unknown god.” St. Paul expertly seized this as an opportunity to convert what they believed and to use it as an opportunity to witness about the true and living God. “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). Paul says that the one you worship as “the unknown god” is really The True God. It is He who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He lives in temples not made with hands. He is not worshiped with men’s hands as though He needed them or anything else. Finally, He has made all people of one blood to live upon the earth that He made. This is the one that determines when men live and when men die. He does this so men could seek after Him. Here then is the conclusion of the matter. In the past He has looked upon the sin of mankind and “winked at it” but now commands all men to repent. It’s not that He was ever fine with sin, but rather that He forestalled the judgment that it rightfully deserved. But now, He demands repentance.
So why now? Now, because He commands repentance if one hopes to escape the wrath of the True and Living God. Now, because He has put up with all of us far beyond any other standard of endurance. Now, because we are still in the age of Grace and it will soon expire. Why now? Because now is the time!
Bishop Gregory Wells, Sr., D.D.