Godís patience a fountain of comfort
In his treatise on Godís attributes Stephen Charnock makes three points in respect of the comfort God's patience gives. I will explain these points in modern language applying them in a pastoral situation.
1. To the believer God's patience is a great comfort: God is actually called "the God of patience and consolation" (Romans 15:5). Because He is such we in the church may become like-minded, as we in patience "bear with the infirmities of the weak" (v.3), and imitate the example of Christ (v.5).
God's patience is a comfort to believers in that it presents a strong argument of His grace towards them. We reason thus: if God exercises such great patience with unbelievers, who are His enemies, how much more with us who are reconciled with Him through His Son? If God were not patient, salvation would be impossible: for this reason Peter calls it "salvation" (2 Peter 3:15).
If God shows such long-suffering with people who are "fitted for destruction" (Romans 9:22), He will all the more show patience to those that are prepared for glory, who have already repented and believed.
In a pastoral situation, this thought may be presented to those who are struggling with sin and have not yet gained the victory. God is patient, and yet this grand truth must not be perverted to mean that they can continue to wallow in sin.
2. God's patience is a bedrock for believers to continue trusting in His promise. If provocations of unbelievers meet with such an unwillingness in God to punish, how much more will faith in Him meet with the greatest approval from Him?
God's promises, in spite of our weakness, still hold true; and God in patience waits for us to enter into our rest, to hide ourselves in Him, our strong tower.
Doubting Christians are to be encouraged to take hold of Christ in all His fullness; in patience God will teach them all the more to flee to Him through the provided Mediator.
3. The divine patience is a comfort in all our weaknesses and infirmities. Our hearts are far from practical perfection, an yet God does not cast us out. He is patient with the blatant sins of His enemies; He will not be less than this to the lighter weaknesses of His covenant people. Those who may be compared to a bruised reed, He will not break; the lambs He will carry in His arm. As our Father He spares us in order to fear Him all the more and serve Him with awe (Malachi 3:17). Even good men have their follies and distractions in worship; and yet God receives our praise through Jesus Christ.
In whatever stage we have arrived, we are not meant to look behind us, but rather to press forward, for God has promised to fulfill in us what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).
Godís patience motivates His children
The patience of God may be profitably taught for exhortation.
1. Christians are to be urged to meditate often on the patience of God. Such a holy exercise will render God highly amiable to us, for His patience is a more endearing argument than His goodness. It will also make us all the more truly repentant. Could we deeply think of it without being touched with a sense of the kindness of our forbearing Creditor and Governor? As we meditate upon it, a resentment will be awakened in us for injuries done by others to God. Besides, a proper thinking upon divine patience will produce patience in us. "Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve" (Ezra 9:13).
2. The church under our charge is to be led in admiration of her God, not least in His patience towards us, "and bless Him for it." As Paul expressed himself: "For this cause I obtained mercy, that Christ might show forth all long-suffering. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:16,17).
Even though we are regenerated, the multitude of our provocations should cause us to bless the God of all patience. We grieve His Spirit, and yet we are kept for the day of redemption.
Considering ourselves as mere creatures, our disobedience is all the more glaring. Man is vile and yet God abounds in riches towards him. "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4).
3. God has withheld the outpouring of all His wrath for a long time; let us not take it for granted. We cannot presume upon His patience. The exercise of it is not eternal, and even now, "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11). Though He waits, yet He "binds up sin" (Hosea 13:12). His patience speaks Him placable, but does not assure us that He is actually appeased.
4. Let us imitate God's patience in our dealings with others. We would be unlike Him if we were to punish others for wronging us all in a hurry. To be patient is to show yourself Christ-like, and prove that you know Him. "Be ye therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
God's slowness to anger argues the greatness of His power over Himself. So an unwillingness to revenge is a sign of a power over ourselves which is more noble than to be a king over others.