It's coming round again, Slowly creeping hand, Of time and its command, Soon enough it comes, And settles in its place, Its shadow in my face, Puts pressure in my day.
That’s from “These Days”, one of my favourite songs by Australian band Powderfinger. It captures the tyranny of time. We all have a love-hate relationship with it. Why does 30 minutes in a café with a friend go so much more quickly than 30 minutes on the treadmill?
Over the past year or so I have spent many a Monday morning immersed in 2 Peter, working through it verse by verse in our senior clergy meetings. What a joy it’s been. I’ve especially come to love 2 Peter 3 because it has reminded me once again about how I should use the time I’ve been given. So I thought I’d share three things that have struck me.
1. Scoffers forget but we remember.
Students of biblical theology will know that the time between Jesus’ first and second coming is known as the “last days”. Peter tells us these days will be full of scoffers. And aren’t they just!
Peter says these people scoff at God’s word. They accuse God of not being true to his word. Yet Peter puts an accusation back to them – they are the ones who “deliberately forget” what God has said in the past and what he says about the future. In other words, they deliberately ignore the truth that when God speaks things do happen. They accuse God of not following through with the judgement he’s promised. Their conclusion is because he hasn’t acted, he can’t act.
These scoffers are ignoring God’s word to their own peril. What a helpful corrective Peter gives us. God’s word is true and trustworthy. He’s shown that in the past and the day of judgement will come because God has promised it will. As we live among the scoffers today – and as in Peter’s time these people would come from within the community of God’s people – my job isn’t to wilfully ignore God’s word but these days are for remembering God’s great promises.
These days are for remembering God's great promises
2. God is patient and the days are urgent.
While the scoffers forget, Peter wants believers to remember. Peter wants us to have the right perspective of time. These thousands of years of waiting is God being patient, with a purpose. He wants people to be saved.
He delays sending Jesus so a mother in a village in India, or a businessperson in London, a child at a Christian school in Africa, or a student, a young woman, a family, a dad invited to church somewhere in Sydney, can become a Christian. This is what these days are for, for people to become Christians. That’s what 2 Peter 3 says.
God is delaying Jesus’ return so our friends, our aunts, cousins, parents, our neighbours, work colleagues, the person in your course, the person at the gym, might become a Christian. So as I go about my daily work, carry out responsibilities to care for my family, spend time with friends, get a haircut, go to the doctor, I do it all under the bigger broader canvas that God’s agenda is for people to know Jesus as Lord.
"God's agenda is for people to know Jesus as Lord"
2 Peter 3 is such a blessing, isn’t it? It rescues us from ourselves. Rescues us from slipping into some kind of thought that these days are all about me, my happiness, my success, my flourishing. They simply aren’t. These days are about people needing to hear the good news of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. These days are for proclaiming the gospel. They won’t go on forever. So this is the time to love those around us by continuing to be bold in our witness of Christ.
3. Be holy, look ahead.
I love that Peter doesn’t just give us the truth of what’s coming but, like any good preacher, he then applies that reality to our lives. Given that judgment is coming, he asks what kind of people ought you to be? Peter tells us there are three ways to live (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
First, live with your eyes fixed on what’s ahead. Second, live holy and godly lives. We are to be the spotless ones, the unblemished ones, living blamelessly, at peace with God. Living lives that honour rather than dishonour Jesus. Finally, Peter says keep sticking with Jesus. Not moving away from the secure position that comes when we put our trust in Jesus. Not falling for any other truth.
These days we Christians are engaged in many significant battles within our community. Battles about caring for the vulnerable, or fighting for religious freedoms. Battles to defend and promote God’s ways as the best way for all of us to live. It’s easy to think that winning these battles is the most urgent thing, the main game. Yet, sitting behind these present, important battles is the truth that ultimately this world is heading for judgement and people need to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
I’ve been encouraged and challenged by 2 Peter 3 to make sure I am looking forward to that great and terrible “day of the Lord” and live in the light of it. That these days are days lived for God and the proclamation of his Son the Lord Jesus Christ.