11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[a] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.2 Peter 3:11-18 (NIV)
Having patience is not always a strong suit for me. When I have determined to make a purchase, I want the item to be readily available. Afterall, I have done my research and completed my mental gymnastics regarding should I buy or should I pass. Once I decide to buy, I want to do it right then. I also want to take it home immediately. This same mental battle and impatience occurs when I am determining whether to do something or not. Once my course of action is determined, I expect to place everything into motion now and not later. Lucky for me, I have usually had wise individuals in my life who temper my impatience. Perhaps you have a similar impatience.
In the letter of Peter in which we find our passage today, we hear Peter caution the people to have patience. He speaks of the destruction of the old heaven and earth making way for the new heaven and earth. The anticipation of this change appears to make the people extremely eager for its arrival. But the Lord is patient to ensure all are given an opportunity to accept salvation. Since the Lord is patient, the people must also be patient. Peter warns them to not be carried away by the error of those who are not following God’s wisdom. Instead, during this period of waiting they should use it as an opportunity to grow.
Waiting has always been an element of what it means to be God’s people. Throughout the story of God’s people in the Bible, we see many situations in which God’s people have to wait. We also see many times when an individual or group gets impatient and tries to force something to occur or at the very least starts complaining a lot. Examples include Sarai’s wanting a child, the Israelites in the wilderness, David wanting Bathsheba, Judas wishing Jesus would overthrow the Roman oppressors, and others. Human attempts to force God’s hand or taking matters into their own hands never seem to turn out successful. Hence, the warning of Peter to be patient and not lawless.
The season of Advent in the church calendar is all about anticipation and patience. We anticipate the completion of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. The same anticipation which the hearers of Peter’s letter had. After over 1900 years of waiting, we struggle with remaining patient and some distort what Paul, Peter and other messengers of God have said. Yet we know God keeps God’s promises but the timing of their fulfillment belongs to God. Let us heed Peter’s warning and follow his suggestion. May we use this time to not become impatient and strike out on our own but instead grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.