Have you ever echoed the words of the saints of old by crying out, â€œHow long, O LORD?â€ The life of faith is full of risk and danger. Living the life of Godâ€™s dreams is the most satisfying of all possible lives, but it does not immunize us from hardship, temptations, disappointment, and suffering. The call to follow Jesus is radical. It involves breaking with the status quo of the modern world and learning to live fully as Godâ€™s ambassadors and emissaries. Our text today reminds us that this is not easy. How do we live during those times when we feel hard pressed?
Read 2 Peter 2:8-15
8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. 14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
In the climactic battle scene in Tolkienâ€™s classic work The Two Towers, Aragorn the ranger, Gimli the dwarf, and Legolas the elf have joined forces with Theoden King of Rohan to repel the onslaught of a massive army of orcs unleashed by Salaman an evil sorceror. Before the arrival of the orcs, Gandolf the white wizard had rode off in search of reinforcements and left word to look to the east on the morning of the fifth day. Sensing the impending danger, Theoden evacuates his remaining forces to the citadel of Helmâ€™s Deep. Theoden has only 300 soldiers at his disposal. The arrival of a force of 200 elvan archers bolsters a glimmer of hope, but this hope is dashed when the orcs arrive with an unfathomable corps of more than 10,000 powerful and ruthless foot soldiers armed with explosives and cutting edge siege equipment designed to reduce Helmâ€™s Deep to rubble. The assault begins in the darkness of night. Theodanâ€™s forces are pressed at every point. Only the heroics of Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas stave off the impending destruction. But with the relentless application of brute force, the orcs push the defenders of Helmâ€™s Deep to their last line of defense in the ancient keep itself. With defeat clearly in view, Aragorn persuades Theoden to mount his remaining men on horseback and ride out one more time as the horsemen of Rohan. As the doors of the keep are opened and the fledgling charge begins, dawn breaks over the mountain to the east. At precisely this moment, Gandalf and 2000 calvary troopers arrive to save the day. It was the morning of the fifth day. Deliverance arrived.
Peter is writing to a group of Christ followers who were facing serious challenges to their faith. They were under assault from outside of their communities as they faced a world hostile to their allegiance to Jesus. They also faced a sinister threat from the inside. Peterâ€™s community was beleaguered by a group of false teachers who were exhorting the young congregation to turn away from central claims of the Gospel. Both threatened to shipwreck the faithful.
In response, Peter writes to encourage the Christ followers to live fully as the people of God so that they may serve effectively and fruitfully in their work of extending the influence and reach of the Gospel during its dramatic expansion in the 1st century. Peterâ€™s ancient words offer a compelling vision to modern day Christ followers.
What is Peterâ€™s message to Christ followers under siege? How does this text speak to us in the 21st century?
The reason that Christ followers from time to time cry out â€œHow long, O LORD?â€ is that God has chosen for Godâ€™s people to remain in the world as Godâ€™s witnesses and representatives. Godâ€™s desire is to reach all nations with the hope of the Gospel. Godâ€™s mission to bring hope, healing, and reconciliation to the wider world is the reason for the ongoing existence of the Church in the world. Such a stance can in trying times lead to a longing for God to usher in fully his end time promises of a New Heaven and a New Earth. In the face of Godâ€™s call to mission and our longing to experience a new age of salvation, Peter calls for a faithful perseverance. In other words, Christ followers are to cultivate an ethos of patient persistence in their walk with God. This is a risky life. It also does not pay quick dividends. An old Russian proverb reminds us, â€œPatience doesnâ€™t always help, but impatience never does.â€ The spiritual writer Thomas Ã¡ Kempis remarked, “All men commend patience, although few be willing to practice it.” Peter roots his calls for a faithful perseverance and a patient persistence around three broader themes, which can empower us to live patiently with endurance as we seek to serve as Godâ€™s people.
First, Take Hope in the Promises of God.
Donâ€™t mistake the apparent absence of Godâ€™s action as evidence of Godâ€™s inability or unwillingness to act. Peter begins his letter with an audacious claim: â€œHis divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness.â€ This claim however depends on how we answer a fundamental question: Whom do you trust for guidance through the world?
It is easy to say, â€œI trust in Godâ€ when times our prosperous. But during tough times, the temptation is to turn inward and trust in our own resources and personal resilience. Or to give ear to hucksters who claim to have easy answers but really offer only empty words. Peter describes them aptly, â€œThese are waterless springs and mists driven by storms.â€
In contrast, Peter reminds us of the rich resources available to those who follow Jesus. These resources are vital for living the life of Godâ€™s dreams. Their importance only grows during times of trial.
Persons who live lives of faithful perseverance and a patient persistence root their trust in the promises of God. In the first chapter of his letter Peter wrote, â€œThus he has given us, though these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.â€
What separates the robust promises of the Gospel from the empty words of the false teachers? The Gospel is time tested and reliable. It is rooted in eyewitness accounts. It is testified to through the centuries by the faithful lives of past members of Godâ€™s people. It is witnessed to by the Scriptures â€“ both ancient Scriptures from Israel and by the writings of the Apostles such as Paul who produce authoritative testimony for the community of faith. Most important it is attested by God â€“ the Father who identified Jesus as His Son, the Holy Spirit who moved women and men to prophesy about God, and Jesus the Messiah whose kingdom and future coming is sure.
Second, Give thanks for the Patience of God.
Peter affirms Godâ€™s patience in this text. God does not hasten the end of human history because God longs for reconciliation with humanity. The Bible affirms Godâ€™s role as Judge and the reality of final Judgment, but the overarching message of Scripture is Godâ€™s desire to bring hope, healing, and reconciliation with women and men. If God appears slow in acting, it is because he desires more people to enter into relationship with him and experience the salvation available through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter reminds us, â€œThe LORD is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.â€
The people of God can learn to live lives of faithful perseverance and a patient persistence by responding to Godâ€™s missional desire for a wider salvation with thanksgiving.
Last, Live as the People whom God Created Us to Be (Grow in grace 3:18).
Peter asks a provocative question in verse 11, â€œWhat sort of persons ought you to beâ€¦?â€ Our lives in the presence have eternal implications. A New World lies on the horizon. The Scriptures paint a vivid picture of a New Heavens and a New Earth as the climax of history. Peter evokes this imagery to inspire triumphant living in the present. The future is certain therefore live confidently in the present as witnesses to the transforming power of the Gospel.
The sort of daring life that Peter envisions is a life that reflects and manifests the character of God. It embodies faith, goodness, knowledge of God, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love before a watching world. This sort of life is what propels the Gospel to impact the world around us. This is the sort of life that unleashed the early church to move from 12 apostles in the mid-30s of the 1st century to 25,000 adherent by 100 AD to 25,000,000 by 400 AD.
Thomas Ã¡ Kempis wrote, â€œCarry the cross patiently, and with perfect submission; and in the end it shall carry you.” The life of faithful perseverance and a patient persistence remembers the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It recalls the anguish at the apparent end of Jesusâ€™ life and movement that his death on the cross provoked, but it affirms that on the Third day, Jesus was raised to new life. As the psalmist reminds us, â€œWeeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.â€ As a final word, I think that Peter would steadfastly concur with Paulâ€™s exhortation to the Galatians, â€œSo let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.â€ (Gal 6:9)
May we live by faith, be known by live, and serve as voices of hope in the world. Amen.