God's patience has a purpose
Why is God patient? It isn't that he lacks power. He has enough weapons in his armoury to ruin us instantly.
Peter explains it to us:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
There is a purpose to his patience. He isn't just sitting in Heaven twiddling his thumbs waiting until the time for Christ's return. Peter tells us that he is giving people time to repent.
This is an awesome privilege that mankind has. We rebel, and God gives us a chance to mend our ways, to seek forgiveness. That's the purpose of it. Think about that for a moment. It is simply stunning. God owes us nothing. We don't deserve a second chance.
Even the angels didn't get a second chance. When they sinned, all it took was one sin for the fallen angels to be cast out of Heaven, never to be given a chance to repent. Charnock writes, "O admirable patience that would bear with me under so many, while he would not bear with the sinning angels for one."
"Let it be considered, that that God that would not wait upon the fallen one instant after their sin, nor give them a moments space of repentance, hath prolonged the life of many a sinner in the world to innumerable moments, to 420,000 minutes in the space of a year, to 8,400,000 minutes in the space of twenty years. The damned in Hell would think it a great kindness to have but, a year's, month's, nay, day's respite, as a space to repent in."
With us, instead he doesn't punish each sin instantly. Instead he holds back, and back, and back. Providing opportunities for repentance. He does this with our world.
All the warnings that he gives in his patience are continual invitations to repent. Public disasters, personal calamities, are all much less than we deserve - and God lightens the stroke of his judgment in order that we might survive, so that we might repent. And all the blessings he gives as well as the problems, all of these have a purpose in mind - repent, repent.
This most glorious attribute reminds us that divine justice is not a vindictive thing. Charnock again: "Who can charge God with an eagerness to revenge, that sends so many heralds, and so often before he strikes, that he might be prevented from striking… Hereby he shows, that he would be rather pleased with the conversion, than the destruction of men."
He delays fitting the arrow to the bow, he draws his aim slowly, he hesitates before releasing - all to give the sinner time to repent.
How does this apply?
Obviously - Repent, if you haven't already done so. That's why you are still breathing. God is giving you time. Why hasn't he struck you down? Repent. That means - turn completely around in your life, stop living without God, and start living for him. Come to Jesus and seek forgiveness, and believe in him.
Don't think that God hasn't noticed you, or that because nothing has happened to you that somehow he mustn't be too concerned or angry with you. Don't mistake his patience for indifference
What about those of us who are Christians? God's patience has a purpose for us too - we can't think that we are so holy that God doesn't need to be patient with us too. We have a long way to go. And we should be immensely thankful for his patience. We need to repent too. Repentance is a daily feature of the Christians life. We are a repenting people.
There is comfort here for the Christian. When we look around us at the world, with all the injustice and suffering, we can wonder what God is doing. Here we see - it isn't that he is inactive, or powerless, or careless, or uncaring, or unloving. He is displaying his patience to sinful rebels.
And often those sinful rebels are quite close to home - they live next door to us, they are on our Christmas card lists, they are at our breakfast table, they are at our family get-together's. We talk to them on the phone, we sit across the desk from them at work, we cut silage along with them, or mind their children. They are respectable rebels, but they are rebels. And God is being patient with them, but his patience has a purpose - and we need to help them to see that they are dangling on a very slender thread.