“It’s for your own good.” Did your mother ever tell you that? Mine did on a few occasions—usually when I had some medicine I didn’t want to take or perhaps when I had started an activity (tee ball) that I didn’t want to finish. Now that I look back, I’m thankful that she, well for lack of a better word, forced me to do what it was she was telling me to do. While it may have been unpleasant at the time, it was for my good as I can clearly recognize now. As Christians, we live in a world that is oriented in direct opposition to God and the gospel of Christ. We hear and see things that make us ask on a daily basis “How much longer, Lord?” We look forward to our heavenly hope when our salvation is completed and sin is permanently done away with However, in order to live in this world now, we need a radically different mindset—one that has a proper, godly perspective on our suffering here on earth as we eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of our salvation.
This mindset, brothers and sisters, is not based on our feelings. Notice, that Peter calls his readers to “regard” the Lord’s patience in a particular way. The word translated “regard” is a Greek word that means to evaluate evidence and come to a thoughtful conclusion. It was used in mathematics sometimes. In essence, then, Peter is calling his readers and us as well, not to rely on our feelings and allow them to color our perceptions. Yes, this world is sinful to the extreme. Certainly, the Bible and God Himself are mocked by throngs of people who have decided to become their own gods and will reap eternal damnation as a result. It’s hard to hear and see filth strewn over the airwaves and called entertainment—and that’s just on the Disney Channel. However, in spite of this, we know that no matter what our eyes tell us or our hearts feel that Christ will reign supreme over everything and He will righteously judge all sinners who reject Him. Those who mock may laugh now, but they will not laugh last. Because we know what the end is going to be, we should have a different perspective on our situation and “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation”.
In fact, as Peter has reminded us both in chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this epistle, the span of time that passed from Christ’s return to heaven in Acts and now is not an example of God being lazy and inattentive to what’s going on, but rather it is an example of His “patience”—literally, His longsuffering. God endures the scorn and derision of mankind because, in the end, it suits His purposes. Every minute that passes is not something we should view as “It has now taken that much longer” but rather “We are now that much closer”. Rather than letting our feelings be our guide, we should allow ourselves to meditate on the sure truths of God’s word and remind ourselves, and each other, of the promise of His coming. God endures the mocking of the objects of His wrath. If He can do that, surely we can endure suffering for the sake of the gospel.
In fact, I believe that Peter’s point is to align our perspective with just that truth—that God’s longsuffering with sinners should be considered “salvation”. First of all, as I had suggested, we should not think “How much longer” but rather we should consider how much closer we are to our own salvation with each minute that passes. Secondly, though, as long as God demonstrates His patience, we have the opportunity to share the gospel. There’s still time to warn a soul of the danger of hell and the love of God who will save them if they repent and trust Christ. Therefore, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, as long as there is still a day called “Today” there still remains an opportunity for those who will repent and believe to enter His rest.
Brothers and sisters, if you and I truly have a forward looking faith, that faith should regard the time that we have here on earth as a short term mission trip. We should make use of every opportunity to lovingly call men and women everywhere to repentance. As long as God has not brought an end to time and a final punishment to sin, let’s take this opportunity to tell a lost and dying world of a Holy God, His righteous wrath, and a loving Savior who will save.