A song I recorded a few years ago is entitled, “All the Time in the World.” And there’s a lyric in this song that I think is pretty amazing. It says, “You can turn to Him again and again.”
We welcome that truth when we’re in trouble. We embrace it when we’re praying on someone else’s behalf. We recommend it when a friend needs an encouraging word. But what about when we sin? Do we really believe that we can come to God again and again for the same nagging sin that just seems to hang on like slop on a hog? Does Jesus ever get to the point where He says, “That’s far enough…I’ve forgiven you soooo many times for this but you’ve crossed the line this time.”
We tend to think that way for two reasons. One, that’s the way we operate. We can cut people a break, one, two, maybe three times, but hey, enough is enough for crying out loud!
Peter thought like that, remember? In Matt 18 we read… Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Some translations say “seventy times seven.” Wow! What Jesus was saying was “I want you to be willing to forgive, and forgive, and forgive and forgive.” Now what He was not saying was to remain in an abusive situation. He was not saying for you and me to ignore immaturity or irresponsibility on the part of friends, family, or associates. But he was saying that when someone comes and humbly asks for forgiveness, we are to respond with the same kind of forgiveness offered us in the cross.
But there’s a second reason we have issues with forgiveness…both offering it and receiving it…and it’s this: We don’t really understand grace. We believe, deep down, that we have to do some kind of penance or payback for the sin we’ve committed. Sure, Jesus died and rose from the dead to take us to heaven, but until we get there we’re on our own for the really big sins we commit!
Now here is what comforts me in this regard: I have seen, in my own life, growth in the realm of patience. (One of the things I’ve learned is not to pray for it! Romans 5 teaches us that trials produce patience, so I’ve learned to leave that up to God! I pray for grace these days, not patience).
But seriously, at this point in my life, I’ve learned to wait on some things that just a few years ago would have driven me up the wall if what I was praying for or desiring didn’t happen right away. I’m much more patient with my kids than I was some years ago. And this development is what gives me hope because it’s based upon a promise. It’s found in Philippians 1:6. It says… Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
What God started, God will finish! And the work started in you and me as Christians is that great work of making us like His Son Jesus! If I can get it right once in a great while, and if I can see progress in my life in the realm of patience, gentleness, forgiveness and other godly qualities, think of what God in His perfection can extend toward you and me; perfect patience, perfect gentleness, and perfect forgiveness, no strings attached! You know why? Because He’s not in a hurry.
Making us like Christ is a lifelong process. It’s a commitment the Father has made to us and He sets the terms. He said it would take longer than you and I would like, but that it would get done, nevertheless. You see, He has all the time in the world.