sermon

God’s Desire is Our Hope

Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.

December 10, 2017

Text: II Peter 3:9,   O.T.: Isaiah 40:1-11,  N.T.: II Peter 3:8-15a

            The world is filled with people pleading with God to act. They’re praying for God to intervene in a painful situation. Then, many become angry at God for not answering their prayers. They want evidence God is saving them. They want God to act in ways they can understand as good.

One of the great critiques we hear about God is if He’s All-mighty, why does He permit evil. One person who said to me that he was an atheist argued a good God wouldn’t permit evil.

Christians are among those who are puzzled by God. A church member returned from the South Pacific in 1945. He was still upset about what he had experienced 60 years later. He expressed his despair with God when he began crying as he told me, “I stopped praying over there, Jack. When we came back, there wasn’t counseling for us. One day we were seeing terrible things. The next day we were on the ship going home and going back to work as if nothing had happened.” For a while, he continued going to church. Eventually, he gave up.

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, two world wars have been fought, eight regional wars have been waged. Hundreds of millions of people have died are the world. All this has happened in the face of the greatest technological and educational achievements in human history.

We’ve sent interplanetary explorers to the farthest reaches of our solar system and are decoding DNA. But for all of our education and knowledge, evil persists.

America has the strongest armed forces in human history. Our principles of government are second to none. Our national commitment to educational excellence is a light to the world. But, evil retains its grip on our national life.

God’s delay in acting to end evil has led some to be impatient with God. We don’t have time to wait for God’s intervention against evil. Lives are being lost while we wait!

Early Christians knew our problem. The Emperor Nero was accused of burning the Roman Forum in 64 A.D.  He deflected the charge by blaming Christians. Between Nero’s persecution and the Edict of Milan in 313, Christians faced 129 years of persecution and were blessed with 120 years of peace.

II Peter was written during a time of Christian persecution. His letter was to people who yearned for God’s protection from evil. Roman justice was no justice. Only God’s intervention would end the darkness. They prayed for Jesus’ return to save them.

II Peter reminds us not to give up on God. Don’t follow false teachers of the Gospel from impatience. Many Christians are so desperate for hope in a world that seems dominated by evil that we substitute a Gospel that preaches a God of Christian entertainment rather than the God who waits.

Remain patient while you wait for Christ’s return.

Often times when we grow impatient with God’s intervention in the world, we stray into areas that that don’t trust God. We discourage people from believing in God. We don’t show patience that comes from faith in God.

God always acts to benefit His people – no matter how mysterious His ways seem to be. When we submit to God, despite the darkness around us, we give light to a disbelieving world.

Psalm 37:7 describes waiting for the Lord as “resting in the Lord.”   When we rest in the Lord, we resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands. We focus on God’s purpose for waiting. This is a time of “holy rest” – a time of giving God time to show us His purpose.

When we take matters into our own hands, we risk straying from depending on God and returning evil for evil.

Jesus says in Matthew 5, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you?” The harder task, and more holy task, is to pray for those who persecute you. “Loving your neighbor as yourself,” isn’t just for when it is easy. It’s for times when your neighbor isn’t treating you well and you are waiting for God to intervene.

Resting in the Lord involves remaining silent before God. In Psalm 46:10 we’re instructed, “Be still and know that I am God.” Remaining silent while we wait for God’s work to be completed prevents us from discrediting God. How many times have you heard impatient Christians resort to words that harm others? They don’t know the value of keeping silent – waiting for God to act.

When we use words that harm other, we expose our lack of respect for Christ. We choose to use the tongue as a weapon to damage another person. When we wait patiently and withhold a vicious word, we reveal our trust that God is in control. He is still working His purpose out, even if we don’t understand it.

II Peter reminds us that God’s delay in answering prayer, just as Christ’s delay in His Second Coming, isn’t so we’ll perish. God’s delay is so all people should repent. God’s desire is that both people in a relationship will repent.

Mutual repentance is the foundation for reconciliation.

That’s important to remember. God’s delay isn’t just for us to repent. It’s intended for all people to repent – even the one committing evil. In other words, God’s return is delayed by the fact that all people aren’t repentant.

The word repentance in Greek is metanoia. It means, to return or change direction. Basically, it means to change the direction of your mind. When your mind changes, your words change and your actions change.

The modern world is filled with people who take matters of running the world in their own hands. They don’t trust that God is running things for the salvation of the world. They need to act because they don’t trust God is acting in a manner that promotes good.

Personal ambition and self-fulfillment are the objectives of our modern world where God is marginalized in our national life. We have replaced dependency upon God with self-reliance. Many even use God as an excuse to commit evil against their neighbors.

If there is any age in need of repentance before the Lord’s return, it’s the generations of the last two centuries – around the world. The track record of the modern world is far worse than the era of the Crusades or the Inquisitions for which we Christians continue to repent.

Far more lives have been lost – far more injustice has been perpetrated during these past two centuries than all of human history – combined. There is no greater justification for the Church being passionate about preaching Christ’s mission than what we’ve seen and experienced during our lifetimes.

When God’s intervention is delayed, we ought not condemn God for refusing to answer our prayers. We ought to remain silent before God, wait patiently, and consider what we need to do to reconcile our hearts and minds with God.

If we want to see a change in the world, then it begins with us examining our own impatience with God and repenting. As Jesus said, “Don’t see the speck of sin in another’s life, before we see the log of sin in our own life.” We need to preach repentance to a world in need of hope by showing our repentance for others to follow.

When we do that, we are seeking to restore our relationship with God.

God’s desire is that our relationship with Him be restored. That is the ultimate goal of His delay in intervention. Restoring our relationship with Him begins with our attitude and approach while waiting for Him to answer our prayers. Only after we repent of our impatience, are we ready for Him to intervene. Repentance takes the first step toward seeing the hope that lies in God’s final act of intervention – when He returns to this world in glory!

Amen.

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