The Patience of God - Part III
August 21, 2008 • By Ed Wrather
Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men (Paul‘s defense before Felix). - Acts 24:10-16.
If we have tested the patience of God by living outside of His will, how do we make the course correction to live as we ought to live? It can be a very difficult and costly decision, although for those who have made those decisions most are glad that they have made them. The apostle Paul says that he strives always to keep his conscience clear before God and man.
A friend of mine had been having trouble knowing for sure if he was saved. It had been a troubling thing over a period of years. He lived a very upright life and was one of the more faithful members of the church that I was the pastor of at that time. He finally arrived at the conclusion that he had been saved, that he was a child of God. However, we prayed and asked God to reveal if he had any unconfessed sin in his life. As far as he knew he didn’t. A few days later he woke up knowing that he had stolen from a former employer. This was many years ago. He had stolen, he said by using the employer’s equipment for personal use. As he came to a realization of that, he knew he had to confess this to his former employer and pay for the cost of using the equipment. It was a very hard and costly thing for him to do, but he immediately made the confession and reimbursement. It was a great relief to him, and it was as though a great burden had been lifted. His employer did contact me and gave this money that had been paid to the church anonymously.
Several years ago I heard on the news about a man that had confessed to murdering and raping a young woman 19 years earlier. What a horrendous crime. The man responsible was living far away, was married and had two children. He had started attending church and through his pastor contacted authorities and confessed to this crime. His conscience would not let him live with this unconfessed sin. Authorities say that most likely the crime would never have been solved without the confession.
A prison inmate once wrote to me and shared that he was a truck driver at one time and had also been a serial murderer. After he was saved, he knew that he could not live with keeping secret what he had done. A clear conscience is a precious thing. We as Paul should always strive to keep our conscience clear before God and man.
For most of us a course correction back toward the will of God will be much easier than the examples that I have given. Whether it is easy or hard it is still the right thing to do and the sooner we make the change, the better. Now, is always the best time to get right with God. The patience of God far exceeds our patience, but He will not indefinitely allow His children to live in sin. If we are really His children He will chasten us.