It may seem counter-intuitive, but we are not only called to suffer for the sake of Christ, but suffer well. Now man’s way of suffering is to demand why, blame others or turn our backs on God. But suffering well for Christ starts with changing our perspective, by looking at our suffering through God’s eyes not ours. And when we do this, we can then see the purpose, practice obedience, and persevere victoriously through the suffering. The Apostle Paul’s theology of suffering well was this: it produced joy in seeing the Gospel Message advanced, it exalted Christ, and it increased our faith.
We are not “acquainted with grief” in the same way Jesus Christ was. When illness, injury, or affliction strikes us…we suck it up, endure, and just live through it, waiting for it to end. But Jesus faced sorrow head-on…knowing intimately what it was to suffer. He very plainly explained to His disciples in Luke 18:31-33 how He would be mocked, insulted, spit on, flogged, and killed…personally taking on and experiencing all the pent-up evil of this world. We taste suffering and sorrow…but Jesus is intimate with them.
God’s gracious gift of salvation is for everyone…for He wants all to be saved.( I Timothy 2:4) But we shouldn’t take His slowness in judgement as a sign of weakness, indecision, or wavering…but rather as long-suffering. For it’s only by God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience is He willing to give all of us the time to change our minds and repent.
For many, God is this tyrant sitting up in heaven taking great delight in causing good people grief and suffering. But this Scripture tells us quite the opposite. God’s desire is that no one perish…but with this Scripture also comes responsibility and accountability on our part. II Peter 3:9 tells us, “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.” So what’s God promise in this verse? His promise is the Day of the Lord…or Judgement Day. God gives each one of us ample opportunity to turn our lives around… but it’s our decision though whether we respond or not.
There’s been many times when I think I know more than the Lord. I’ve foolishly and smugly concluded that God didn’t have all the facts…or that He just didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. But who am I to advise or give guidance to the Lord? I can no where grasp or begin to comprehend the mind of God as a gold-fish can care for itself in its bowl. It is totally beyond my capabilities to understand God and His works. So again I must humbly confess, “You are God and I am not!”
God is not hesitating out of uncertainty…it’s not from indecision either that He has held off judging the world. No, it’s because of the Lord’s long-suffering grace and mercy that He delays the Judgment Day. For in I Timothy 2:4 it tells us, “God our Savior, Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Our Lord wants no one to perish, but all to come to the saving reality of Jesus Christ…but neither will God wait forever.