God’s Patience and Your Worship
Why does God allow evildoing to continue? What can we learn from his exercise of patience?
‘IF God is Almighty, why does he allow evildoing to continue without doing something about it?’ This question has become commonplace as a result of the constant increase of wickedness. But it is a question to which you should know the answer, because it directly affects your worship of God.
Just as many people today misunderstand why God allows evildoing, so also did persons in past generations. “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily,” wrote wise King Solomon, “the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” Similarly, Solomon’s father David observed why the wicked one did not respect God: “He has said in his heart: ‘[God] will not require an accounting.’” Toward the end of the kingdom of Judah’s existence this had become the attitude of the people, for they were saying in their heart, “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” Yes, they interpreted the existence of evildoing as evidence that God was weak, or that he was unconcerned. They came to believe he would not take any action whatsoever.—Eccl. 8:11; Ps. 10:13; Zeph. 1:12.
But contrary to what people thought, God was interested, and he did take an accounting. Some forty years after the prophet Zephaniah recorded the above words God executed judgment by bringing Babylon’s armies against his irreformable people. But why did he wait so long before executing judgment? Because God is patient.
EVIDENCE OF GOD’S PATIENCE
How desirable is the quality of patience, especially in a person of power! It is an evidence of genuine love, long-suffering and self-control. According to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, “patience” is defined as “the capacity or habit of enduring evil, adversity or pain with fortitude.” And “patient” means: “Bearing pains or trials calmly or uncomplainingly; exhibiting power to endure hardship or physical or mental distress; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain.” And another dictionary includes the thought of being “expectant with calmness or without discontent; also, undisturbed by obstacles, delays . . . persevering.”
In what a wonderful way Almighty God exercises this quality! When the covering cherub in the garden of Eden turned the first human pair away from him, how it must have pained God! Yet he allowed the rebellion to continue and grow, even though he had the power to wipe it out immediately. But in what way has the enduring of this evil rebellion and the resulting history of wickedness been beneficial? Why show patience with rebellious persons?
God has been patient with an important and beneficial end in view. First, to teach everyone once and for all that he is the all-powerful God who can carry out his declared purposes no matter what the opposition may be. (Ex. 9:16) Secondly, to allow an opportunity for the sinful offspring of Adam and Eve to repent and take advantage of his provisions for salvation. An outstanding demonstration of this patience of God was in the days of Noah prior to the flood.
At that time “the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” This evildoing caused God to feel “hurt at his heart,” but he did not impatiently destroy mankind. No, God patiently took steps to provide a way of salvation for any who would repent. He instructed Noah to build a massive ark and to preach a message that warned of impending destruction. Over 2,400 years later the apostle Peter observed that “the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed.” Was not this exercise of patience a merciful consideration on God’s part?—Gen. 6:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5.
After the Flood God continued to show patience. “He was merciful; he would cover the error and not bring ruin. And many times he made his anger turn back, and he would not rouse up all his rage. And he kept remembering that they were flesh.” But God’s nation of Israel spurned his patience, as the psalmist records: “How often they would rebel against him in the wilderness, they would make him feel hurt in the desert! And again and again they would put God to the test, and they pained even the Holy One of Israel.” Yet God endured the pain and distress of this unfaithful people, but the more patience he showed the worse they became. Certainly it is just on God’s part when he finally executes judgment!—Ps. 78:38-41.
GOD’S PATIENCE TODAY
Today mankind has reached the climax of the ages. Evildoing has reached its apex. The human race flouts the righteous principles of the Bible and ridicules its message of a new world. But, as in Noah’s day, God patiently endures these distressing conditions. Many, however, mistake this patience for evidence that God will not require an accounting. In effect, they mimic the unfaithful Jews, who, prior to God’s execution of judgment, said: “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” But they were wrong, and so will all those prove to be who copy their attitude today. This is one of the points the apostle Peter makes in the third chapter of his second letter.
After using Noah’s day as an illustration of God’s taking action against evildoing, Peter assured that this present world is “being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” But when? The apostle warned against impatience. Christians must get the proper perspective—God’s view of matters. “However, let this one fact not be escaping your notice, beloved ones,” he wrote, “that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” Although it had been over 2,400 years since “the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water,” Peter was emphasizing that from God’s point of view that was only about two and a half days ago. Add another 1,899 years since these words were penned about A.D. 64, and it still adds up, from God’s viewpoint, to less than two-thirds of a week! Really, can we accuse God of slowness?—2 Pet. 3:3-8.
Peter argued that one could not rightly do so. “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise,” he continued, “as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you.” Yes, God allows evildoing to continue because he is patient with people, “because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” Can you appreciate that? How are you affected by God’s patience? Do you love him more because of his consideration for those that have not yet learned of his promises? Or do you love him less because you want the fulfillment of his promises in your behalf right away?—2 Pet. 3:9.
FOLLOW GOD’S EXAMPLE
A mature Christian exercises the godly quality of patience. With all his heart he desires the end of wickedness and the ushering in of God’s promised new world, but just because it does not come as soon as he might wish he does not stamp his foot and threaten to stop serving God. Would that not be childish? A child cannot stand to wait, and out of exasperation at those who may cause him to wait he often engages in evildoing. But Peter says not to be like that: “Hence, beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—2 Pet. 3:10-14.
God’s patience is exercised for a good purpose, and Christians should never forget that. Peter goes on to remind us: “Furthermore, consider the patience of the Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given him also wrote you.” Many years before, Jehovah had explained: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.” To this end Jehovah God holds back the cataclysm of Armageddon. His patience is working toward the salvation of hundreds of thousands of persons, and those taking advantage of it may perhaps yet number into the millions!—2 Pet. 3:15; Ezek. 33:11.
Are you among those taking advantage of God’s patience? It is vital to do so, for your very life is at stake! Do not deceive yourself into believing that God will not take an accounting, or that he does not observe your actions. “His own eyes behold, his own beaming eyes examine the sons of men. Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one,” and “all the wicked ones he will annihilate.” For nearly two thousand years Christians have been waiting for His execution of judgment on evildoers, and Bible prophecy shows that it is now at hand.—Ps. 11:4, 5; 145:20.
This, therefore, is the time, not only to take advantage of God’s patience by repentantly turning to his Word for instruction, but to follow His example by also exercising patience. There are so many ways you can do this. Children may not respond to correction and teaching as quickly as you might wish. So remember that they are children, with foolishness bound up in their hearts. Exercise patience with them, even as Jehovah does with you. Then, too, husbands and wives are so often called upon to show patience with one another. Follow God’s example and be patient. Remember how for so many years Jehovah exercised patience toward his wifelike nation of Israel. So exercise patience, all the while doing as Peter instructed: “Awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:12.