God is not in a Hurry

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. -Hebrews 6:12

This is not an easy article for me to write. I hate waiting. I live in a culture that is also very fast-paced, expects immediate gratification and is results oriented. I am wired this way myself by nature and personality. And while we may think this is “normal” life, it is interesting to note that it is also very much a cultural dynamic. We are actually in the minority, with a very different approach to time than many other cultures who are not as bound to time as we are.

I travel a lot to India for example where being “on time” as we think of it is very unusual. If a time is given of when something will begin, what that really means is that that is the time people will begin to get ready! Also, I quickly learned the expression “two minutes” doesn’t literally mean “two minutes.” In fact the expression “just five more minutes” usually safely translates to about “thirty minutes to one hour!”

I’ve also learned something else that has always puzzled me until being in other cultures like India. That “revelation” is this: Jesus is not operating on American time either! In fact, now I joke when in other cultures that when Jesus said “He is coming soon” he certainly didn’t mean “soon” as Americans think of it!

There is no denying the Western world has seen massive progress and change because of our obsession or emphasize on time. But there is also no denying we greatly stress ourselves out more than other cultures because of our “pace” and “race” to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. Also, we have set ourselves up for perhaps greater frustration and disappointment than others because we expect immediate results, solutions, fulfillment, progress and answers.

In fact, most dangerous of all is how this affects our relationship with God. We feel we are so “busy” and “strapped for time” that we “have no time” for God, prayer, His word or simply waiting on him. We also expect immediate answers to prayer and because that doesn’t (or usually?) happen, we conclude prayer often is pointless, a waste of time, doesn’t work or God doesn’t care.

But the truth is this: God is not bound to time like we are. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is above time and exists beyond time as we know it. He holds eternity in his hands and is Himself the possessor of eternity and giver of eternal life. This is a mystery to us but a reality to Him.

God is also not in a hurry like we are. Think about it. Jesus didn’t enter human history for thousands of years even though humanity was in need of salvation and a perfect Savior from the moment Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden. But Scripture tells us the reason for what appears like a “delay” was rather an issue of perfect timing:  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:4-5).

Here again: even when He did finally come, Jesus didn’t even begin his public ministry until He was thirty years old! The reason was once again timing. Even His crucifixion and resurrection had “it’s perfect time”:  My hour has not yet come. (John 2:4). My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. (John 7:6).

And think about his earthly ministry. John 21:25 tells us: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Jesus accomplished more in three years than many accomplish in thirty; yet do you ever once read of Jesus being panicked or stressed out or in a hurry?

If anyone had an excuse for being “too busy for God” it was Jesus! Yet, what do we find him constantly doing in the midst of his “busyness?” He was constantly “breaking away” from the crowds and “pulling back” to spend more time (not less) with His Heavenly Father. Jesus was never “in a hurry” or “too busy.”

And now it’s been over 2,000 years since He promised to come again and right every wrong. In fact, in regard to Jesus’ second coming and the salvation/judgment he will bring with him, 2 Peter 3:8-9 reminds us: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Jesus hasn’t returned yet not because he doesn’t care; but preciously because he cares so much! And secondly, what seems like a “long time” for us is not to God who has an entirely different relationship with time than we do. God is never “late” but always acts at just the right moment in just the right way.

God is also not stressed out like we are. We stress because we are impatient and have a lack of trust in God. But Scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:1: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Seasons and timing are so important in every aspect of life. Sales people, athletes, entertainers and so many others will tell you it is all about “timing.” Anyone who has worked in farming or gardening also knows the importance of “seasons” to ensure healthy crops and a harvest. You don’t just plant a seed one day and wake up the next to an abundance of fruit! It takes time.

The same is true in pregnancy. Sometimes you wonder if anything is going on in there and we “can’t wait” for the baby to be born, but every week of pregnancy is essential in so many ways to a healthy child being born. Problems in fact occur when a baby is born “prematurely.” It is so important the baby is “fashioned” and “formed” and is given the time necessary to “develop” in the womb, despite how anxious we are for it to come into our world so we can hold it!

This is a great example by the way, of the fact that God is after something deeper and greater in our lives than we often make a priority. We want results but He is deeply concerned about developing our character and testing our faith to reflect Christ more and for us to become more spiritually mature. How does this happen? One word: (and no it’s not a swear-word!) patience.

The verse I opened this post with reminds us that faith was not the only thing by which the Biblical “hero’s” of the faith inherited what God promised them. There is a second equally important quality that enabled them to possess in reality what God spoke to them: perseverance or patience.

I don’t know about you, but faith doesn’t bother me like patience does! There is a reason for this. The very word patience actually means “to suffer long.” The King James version in fact translates “patience” as “long-suffering.” There is a “pain” in patience or we could say “waiting is painful!” But as Thomas Paine, an iconic American Revolution figure once wrote: “Yet we have this consolation with us, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Take a look at pretty much every character in the Bible and even in real life. Their success, accomplishments or fulfillment of God’s promises to them had one thing in common: it took time! While we can read the life-stories of characters like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and others in one sitting, the reality is they went through a long, hard, grueling process of possessing God’s promises.

Abraham had to wait about twenty-five years from the time God made a promise to him to actually seeing the first-fruits of that become reality. By the way, there is a great but sobering lesson in Abraham’s story. Perhaps growing impatient or tired of waiting, Abraham decided he should try to “help God” and force something that was meant to be supernatural to happen through merely human effort and natural means. The result of that decision brought problems into their marriage and consequences of conflict down this very day for future generations and entire nations! (Read Genesis 16).

Joseph suffered for 13 years before being promoted as prince of Egypt and seeing his dreams become reality. Those 13 years prior may have seemed pointless and utterly confusing being completely opposite what God promised him, but they did have their purpose in refining and building his character and preparing him for greatness.

Moses and the Israelite’s went through an awful lot of conflict and confrontation with Pharaoh before being set free from their slavery in Egypt. Joshua had to fight battle after battle to take possession of the promise land. David though anointed king at a young age, faced years of being on the run and in hiding from the jealousy of his predecessor.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. -Hebrews 6:12

There are so many others we could speak of but here is the point: God has the power to fulfill his promises in an instant, but they do not come about instantly the moment he speaks them or reveals them to us. In fact, he often waits until humanly speaking it becomes impossible! He does this both to test our faith but also develop our character. God’s ultimate purpose is not our fulfillment but our becoming more like Jesus. And if you are anything like me, the fruit or character trait of patience is one area I still have a lot of need to grow in. So my prayer is that God will hurry up and do it quickly! (Just kidding…well…kind of).

But don’t miss the real danger. This “gap” between the promise and fulfillment is the place the enemy would like to plant doubts, discouragement, despair and disillusionment. We get excited about God’s promises (rightly so because they are awesome!). And we look forward to the fulfillment (again rightly so because it is exciting!). But we often fail to see the process and think about the space between the promises and the fulfillment. We also fail to see the point or purpose during that “gap.” It makes us uncomfortable and agitated (like pregnancy!).

But that “gap” is just as important for reasons that granted are harder to discern or understand. But this is where the “real growth” takes place. This is where character is refined and developed. This is where our faith is tested and stretched. This is where our trust in God is proven as genuine. This is what makes the fulfillment all the “sweeter.”

Don’t give up! Don’t lose heart or faith in God! Trust him even when you don’t understand what He is doing. Exercise not only faith…but patience. For if you do, you will see the power of God and bring glory to His great name, becoming a testimony, example and blessing to many others of his faithfulness!

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. -Romans 4:18-21

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