by Pastor Joseph Kolawole Ola
Peter’s central message in this final chapter is, I see it, is three-fold:
— a caution,
— an assurance, and
— a charge.
A CAUTION: BEWARE OF SCOFFERS!
Verse 3 (NKJV) — “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts…”
Have you ever met a scoffer before? A scoffer is, simply put, is someone who treats lightly that which ought to be taken seriously. In the particular context of which Peter writes — that is, “the last days” in which we are now living — we are truly surrounded by people who refuse to take the Bible seriously when it speaks about Christ’s return and the certainty of judgement. Perhaps, that may even have been you or me.
The truth is that there will always be scoffers and mockers; we can’t pray them away. However, we need to be aware of them and know how to relate with them. Some of them, we will have to reason with by making them see why we believe what we believe (which, in biblical studies, is referred to as APOLOGETICS). And some, we will simply have to ignore and stay away from, lest they pollute our minds.
As I read this chapter, I also think that the scoffers being described here could also be applied to those who scoff and mock us at a more personal level. There will be people who will seek to make you look stupid for being a Christian. They will ask — either behind your back or to your face — “how has being a Christian helped [you]?” They will rejoice when there are outcomes in your life that are far from the worldly expectations of success or look like a case of unanswered prayer — when you lose your job, or your health, or your money, or a coveted opportunity, or a life goal, or a loved one. Sometimes, right in your face, they will flaunt those very things you have lost, as though to say, “Even without your Jesus, see what I have achieved! How is that Jesus helping you now?”
It is unfortunate when we see Christians who get depressed because of that — some, to the point of taking their life! I say it is unfortunate because true Christianity prepares us for this. If all that brought you to Jesus was the expectation of a perfectly good life where God becomes your Amazon, Jumia, or Konga delivery man who will see to it that what you have ordered gets delivered to your doorstep, you won’t fit in with the rest of Jesus’ community. Jesus teaches us to expect tribulations. (The word for that in the Greek paints a picture of being squeezed together with pressure from every side.)
Life will bring its pressure. Sometimes, we will ask for things in prayer and God will say, “No” — and that’s okay! “No” is also an answer! One thing is sure, God is Good, and He’s got our best interest at heart. If we knew all that God knows which makes Him respond whichever way He responds to any of our requests, we will have no trouble accepting His responses. In fact, we will rejoice at His response, unpleasant as they may be.
AN ASSURANCE: THE LORD IS NOT SLOW
Verse 9 (VOICE) — “Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise — slow is how some people want to characterise it — no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s.”
Scoffers use the delay in His second coming to question if God is going to return at all. Peter responds by saying that God’s perspective on time is not like ours. What seems long from a finite, human perspective is incredibly short from an eternal one. Peter also describes how God is not slow, but patient. God wants to allow the time needed for as many sinners as possible to turn from their sinful ways.
Unlike some depictions of God as vindictive and enjoying inflicting punishment on people, the God we see here desires that all be saved and not destroyed. If we had true spiritual insight, we would not be amazed by the severity of eternal judgement but by the intensity of God’s mercy. Glory!
Again, this part can also find a more personal application to each of our lives. What has God promised you? Which of those promises now look unrealistic in light of the ‘time’ of your life? Would you dare to be encouraged by Peter’s reassuring word? God is not slow!
In September, I started a lecturing role with the Church Mission Society, Oxford in the UK. I’m teaching Master’s Degree students studying “Theology, Ministry and Mission” (accredited by Durham University) with a focus on African Christian Diaspora. The post was applied for by people with PhDs whereas, I was just at the beginning of my PhD journey (I had not even started the PhD when I applied!); all I had, in terms of qualification, were two Master’s degrees. Yet, God favoured me into getting the role. The reason why I’m sharing this, however, is the TIMING factor involved. Let me explain;
When I came to the UK in 2015, part of the dreams I felt persuaded of God to nurture was the dream of lecturing in the theology and ministry space in the UK. I knew I needed to equip myself with the necessary training to be able to efficiently have one foot in ministry and another in academia and do well in both to the praise of God’s glory. However, a few years into my stay, that dream was becoming unrealistic. If anything, I felt like the minimum I would need to accomplish that vision was to have a PhD, but the financial situation of our family and some other factors made that tricky. But as I walked into the premises of CMS Oxford on 6 September this year, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think of the significance of 6 September in my life. I’m good with dates so it didn’t take long for me to remember — 6 September 2015 was the day I resumed my studies at the Bible College in Bradford. It took EXACTLY 7 YEARS between what seemed to be an unattainable dream and the reality of it. And, sure, this is just the beginning.
God is NOT slow concerning His promises! He is NEVER slow!
A CHARGE: GROW IN GRACE & KNOWLEDGE
Verse 18 (VOICE) — “grow in grace and in the true knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Anointed, to whom be glory, now and until the coming of the new age. Amen.”
In light of all that Brother Peter has said in this letter, how better to close it than to reiterate what he was getting at all along: GROW!
How do you grow? By feeding!
To grow in grace is to feed on the GRACE diet. To grow in the true knowledge of Jesus is also to feed on the JESUS diet. You get both diets from the Bible. You get both diets in fellowship with other grace and Jesus junkies (and I heard that the GOGO community is saturated with such folks!). You get both diets as you walk WITH and IN the Spirit.
And as you do, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all!