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Philosophy Lite: God's patience surpasses any human understanding

By By Raymond Smith
Aug. 10, 2012 at 3:10 a.m.

Raymond Smith

Robert Ingersoll, the famous atheist of a century ago, after delivering one of his addresses, pulled his watch from his pocket and said, "According to the Bible, God has struck men dead for blasphemy. I will blaspheme him and give him five minutes to strike me dead and damn my soul."

There was a period of perfect silence while one minute went by; two minutes passed, and people began to get nervous; three minutes, and a woman fainted; four minutes and Ingersoll curled his lip. At five minutes, he snapped shut his watch, put it in his pocket, and said, "You see, there is no God or he would have taken me at my word." The story was told later to Joseph Parker, who said, "And did the American gentleman think he could exhaust the patience of God in five minutes?" (H.A. Ironside)

In Jesus' parable of the "Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants, the idea was brought out quite forcefully that the Father's patience surpasses any human understanding. The story is found in Mark 12:1-12. Also.

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. II Peter 3:9 King James version.

If God did not possess this priceless trait, very few of us would have any hope. Millions can testify that they ignored or ran from God for much of their life, but finally came to understand that salvation is available to all who call upon his name regardless of the sins of their past. Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven" describes this God of patience who relentlessly pursues men for his kingdom

The end of the matter is never give up on God, for he will never give up on you. Your sins may seem to you unforgivable, but you must not be trapped by thinking in human terms. God makes no distinction between degrees of sin. When you call upon him, he will forgive to the uttermost.

God's patience has to do with self-restraint. We humans are prone to fly off the handle when things go badly. Dale Carnegie, in his book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," addresses this problem and tells us that the person with self-restraint can work through many a problem and come out on top. God, in his patience does not lose control because he is God and does not exhibit human frailties. He did punish Israel a few times, but not before giving them plenty of time to repent. Psalm 86:15 says, "But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering and plenteous in mercy and truth."

If we did not have a God of such mercy and patience, we could not survive. The thought comes to mind about America. Where do we stand in his timeline of patience? Surely he is dissatisfied with our worldliness and immorality.

Raymond F. Smith is president of Strong Families of Victoria.

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