Continue in Watchful PrayerNovember 24, 2018
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.
— 2 Peter 3:9
At a time when it is so essential that we put forth our best efforts to reach the unreached, many churches and organizations are cutting back on their giving to foreign missions.
They are opting instead to develop their own local churches. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but the emphasis on reaching the lost is very often diminished in favor of simply forming social communities for their congregations.
What happened to the days when we did BOTH?
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It is clear that we need to support home missions in the United States, where multitudes have yet to hear the good news of the Gospel. But we must never stop ardently supporting foreign missions to reach the nations and ethnic groups that have never heard the name of Jesus. It isn’t a matter of one or the other — we must give sacrificially in this last-days period to do both.
The sad truth is that we are living in a time when passion for the lost is waning. Many pulpits don’t deliver messages about Heaven and hell — and they don’t give invitations for the lost to be saved in their churches.
On top of that, there has been a steady decrease among churches in giving to foreign missions. Unfortunately, all of this is indicative of a radical change in beliefs, practices, and philosophy of overseas ministry at exactly the moment when foreign-missions support is needed more than ever.
If only churches would band together to support foreign-mission organizations! Added to the new communications technology of our day, that support would accelerate the time it would take to reach every nation and ethnic group of the earth as a precursor to Christ’s return.
I certainly don’t condemn churches that spend money on building projects because their existing facilities have been outgrown or are in need of renovation. Our own church in Moscow recently completed a major reconstruction process, so I understand the need. But I feel saddened when churches continue to buy “bigger and better” while at the same time overlooking souls for whom Christ died — yet those same souls have never heard His name!
Even with all our local building programs and church needs, foreign missions simply must remain at the top of our list of priorities as pastors and leaders.
I shudder to think of the moment when we will stand before Jesus and give account for what we did or did not do for those who’d never heard the Gospel message. Those believers who gave sacrificially will be elated to look into the Savior’s loving eyes. But those who gave nothing to reach the lost will not stand well with the One who gave His life to reach them.
If you were to stand before Jesus today and give an account of how you used your money and personal efforts to reach the lost, how do you think you would fare in terms of eternal reward?
When the apostle Peter wrote about the last days, he said, “Knowing this first, that in the last days scoffers will come after their own lusts. And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3,4).
Indeed, there are many scoffers who mock those who believe that these are the last days or that there will be a rapture of the Church. These cynical “dissenters” argue that people have been talking about “the last days” for 2,000 years, yet nothing has changed during that time. They allege that it’s all a fantasy.
The word “scoffers” means those who scoff and make fun of something through mockery. This group is very prevalent today. They say, “If Christ was going to come, He would have come by now. This ‘rapture’ business is simply fantasy. The world hasn’t really changed as you claim. We simply have better news coverage, so we’re more aware of the darkness and tragedy in the world.” Many in this group are bold to assert that the heralding of Christ’s soon return is based on ancient texts that have no relevance to today and no basis in reality.
Peter predicted a day when scoffers would come — before Jesus returns — and rise up to mock people (like me!) who teach others what God says regarding the end times.
But what these mockers don’t understand is that the last days started on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out (see Acts 2:16-18). For 2,000 years, we have been living in what is theologically called the last days. That may seem like a long time to us, but Second Peter 3:8 says, “…Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Theologically, this 2,000-year period called “the last days” has only been two days on God’s prophetic calendar! But why has God taken so long to wrap up this period and move to the next prophetic phase on His calendar? The next verse, Second Peter 3:9, answers that question: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
The word “slack” is a form of the word bruduno, which means to be tardy, slow, delayed, or late in time. By using this word, the Holy Spirit tells us that God is not slow regarding the promises He has made. He made them, and He will fulfill them — but He is “longsuffering” for the sake of those who still need to come to repentance. The Rapture will occur the instant the last person who will repent is saved. Then we will be miraculously transformed and translated to meet the Lord in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The word “longsuffering” is from the Greek word makrothumia, a compound of the word makros and thumia. The word makros means long — and the word thumia describes great patience. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament says, “It is the Spirit who could take revenge, but who utterly refuses to do so. The delay of God’s punishment rests on God’s long-suffering.…”14
In other words, God is exceedingly patient with those who are unsaved, and He is willing to wait for the redemption of that one last person who will repent. That is the longsuffering of God — and the reason why God has waited and waited and waited. But as we conclude these last of the last days, that one unsaved person will repent and come to Christ. When that occurs, this age will close and we will be removed from the earth. The Tribulation will commence in that split second.
14 Cleon Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), p. 588.
Second Peter 3:9 says, “God is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness….” This refers to the scoffers who say the Rapture and prophetic events that lie before us will never take place. But God is not slack! In other words, He is not tardy, delayed, or slow in fulfilling His promise. His heart of love is simply holding out for the last soul to be saved.
Verse 9 goes on to say that God is “…not willing that any should perish….” Although it’s true that all will obviously not be saved, He is waiting for the Gospel to reach the “four corners” of the earth and for that last person who will turn to Him and be saved. This shows just how long is the longsuffering of God!
You see, God knows what hell is, and He doesn’t want anyone to go there — which is why we must be serious and committed about taking the saving message of Jesus to the world now, at the end of this age. We must win as many as possible to Christ because that door is still open for the lost to be saved — to be brought into glorious fellowship with God, to avoid hell, and to make Heaven their eternal home.
In the end of these last days, it is imperative that we stay sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, always ready to open our hearts and witness to people. God is waiting for that last person who will repent to enter His Kingdom — and then the Rapture of the Church will occur. In light of all the end-time events that are occurring right now, it is possible that this could happen at any moment.
Today I want to encourage you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you share Christ with others. Stay open and obedient to every nudge to witness. And every time you share Jesus with someone, do it with the anticipation that with each person won to Christ, we are coming closer and closer to the wrap-up of this age!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, thank You for helping me see as You see. Thank You for giving me Your heart for those who are lost and headed for hell. More and more, I sense Your compassion and Your longing that every person would receive the free gift of salvation as we approach the end of this age. Help me stay sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit so that I never miss an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with a heart that is ready to receive.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am regularly spending time with my Heavenly Father and becoming more and more sensitive to what is important to Him. The Father loved people so much that He gave His only Son to die on the Cross to redeem them. He doesn’t want even one person to be lost and eternally separated from Him. More and more, the desires of my Father’s heart are becoming the desires of my heart. Therefore, I live every day endeavoring to stay sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And every day He gives me divine opportunities to share the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ with those I encounter whose hearts are ready to receive.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you live each day with an awareness that one day you will stand before Jesus and give an account for what He has asked you to do regarding reaching the lost?
- When is the last time you obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit to share Jesus with someone? What was the outcome of your obedience?
- Can you think of a time when you sensed the Holy Spirit asking you to witness to someone — but you held back? Since a person’s eternal destiny is at stake in that kind of situation, what can you do today to make sure you are ready to obey the next time you sense the Holy Spirit leading you to share the Good News of Jesus with someone?