Tucked in the heart of the Bible sleeps a tiny psalm of priceless truth.c The singer confessed that as a mother denies her baby access to her milk when it’s time for her darling to be weaned, so God sometimes denies us things we crave. Yet as a weaned infant lies warm and secure in its mother’s bosom, our soul can nestle into God, not knowing why we have been denied what we have clamored for, but content to draw love and comfort from the Father’s heart.
As the heavens soar far above us, high and unreachable, so is God’s wisdom.d Our tiny minds may understand the Father’s ways no more than a babe understands its mother, yet still we can rest in him, bathed in the certainty that when the omnipotent, omniscient Lord lets the inexplicable touch a child of his, it is a manifestation of unfathomable love. In the hands of the One who wouldn’t so much as break a damaged reed or snuff a smoking wick, you are safe.e
The Story So Far
Since our last review we have uncovered another set of hindrances to ministry. If it involved just God and us, ministry would be complex. Yet this is complicated many times over by the involvement of other people and even demonic powers. Nevertheless, every impediment to service will break under the weight of stubborn, faith-filled prayer. It may take days, months or years, but it will happen – provided we don’t let doubt, disobedience or bitterness sap our prayers of power.
Christians are surrounded by serious problems. For us, problems have to be serious – if they smiled we’d see they have no teeth.
Spiritually enthroned in heaven with Christ, we have instant access to the Father. Though evil forces of incredible power impinge upon us, resident within us is One greater than the combined forces of hell.f So we are never helpless pawns in a battle between spiritual superpowers. And divine omnipotence doesn’t sag when adversaries take human form or merge with psychological factors. The origin of our difficulties may be outside of us, but not, in Christ, outside our sphere of influence.
We serve a God in whose presence impossibilities cringe in defeat. Our mighty Lord can manipulate Satan like a puppet. Rest in the love of God, and a hostile world becomes a feather-bed. ‘You meant if for evil, but God meant it for good’g describes every calamity we could ever face.h
Hold on. Victory is certain.
CHAPTER 15: KNOW THE TIME
We have established that a delay does not negate the certainty of ministry. Indeed, a delay makes sense.
‘Did you ever hear of anyone being very much used for Christ who did not have some special waiting, some complete upset of all his or her plans?’ wrote Frances Ridley Havergal, whose life made those words throb with truth.165
So it’s time to wait. Or is it?
Moses was trapped. Ahead of him lay the sea. Behind him was Pharaoh’s fast-approaching army intent on revenge. Time for a prayer-meeting? ‘Why are you crying to me?’ said God. ‘Grab your rod and advance.’a Time for action.
The Israelites spent about a year at Sinai, resting, worshipping and receiving instruction. Though marred by sin, it was primarily a needed time of refreshment, edification and preparation. Then came the marching orders. ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mount . . . Go in and possess the land . . .’b God’s Word is packed with material showing that if there is a time to wait, there is also a time to move. Lest I labor the point, I’ll confine myself to three more incidents.
¶ Samuel was angry. He was miserable. He was hurting. The king he had anointed had let God down. ‘You’ve been sulking long enough,’ said God, ‘Get up and minister to David.’c ¶ If Elijah’s spirits were any lower, they’d be in Sheol. The cords of depression were dragging him ever closer to the precipice of suicide. The Lord’s response went along this vein: ‘Snap out of it Elijah, you’ve got work to do.’d ¶ ‘It’s too soon for ministry. I’m too inexperienced,’ Jeremiah told himself. The Lord had other ideas.e Though covered in a few pages, if the importance of this matter were reflected by volume of words, it might fill half the book. Many of us are tempted to barge on when we should be waiting. The remainder are passive when we should be forging ahead.
How do we know when to move? I’d lend you my crystal ball but my gold fish need it. I wish I could give a definitive answer. But I know God loves a keen seeker. If I had half a chance to quit my job, you wouldn’t see me for dust. The cleaner only dusts me once a month. I could still be there because my temptation is to hibernate, ceasing to actively seek God’s leading, hoping instead that he will shake me awake when the time arrives. In this case, ‘faith’ is an excuse for laziness. In Scripture after Scripture God pleads with us to ask and seek. We don’t find many verses saying, ‘Just go about your own business and God will get your attention when he’s good and ready.’ It seems to me that someone frequently and enthusiastically asking, ‘Now Lord?’ is more likely to get ahead.
When Habakkuk wanted to hear from the Lord, he said he was like a sentry.a Presumably, that meant he was constantly alert for the slightest sign from God; eager to respond immediately. What would you think of a sentry who dozed, expecting – should he be needed – to be awoken by the commotion?
Cab-driver, Martin Holloway, took waiting seriously. On September 20, 1887, Lord Draggs told him he would like to be driven home later that afternoon, after trying out his new yacht. The yachtsman sailed off and enjoyed it so much he decided to complete an around-the-world voyage without returning to notify poor Martin.
Meanwhile, Martin was at the pier wondering what had become of the lord. Early next morning Martin returned. Still no Lord Draggs. Undeterred by a full day’s waiting, he refused new customers and returned the next day, and the next. Days blurred into weeks. Weeks lumbered into months.
After 599 days, Draggs alighted from his yacht to be greeted by – you guessed it. Martin handed him a bill that now totaled almost one thousand pounds. The lord raised his eyebrows, agreed to the amount, and asked to be driven home.
We would have gone about our normal work, assuming Draggs would hail us when he was ready. Our behavior, even our thoughts, would be little affected by him asking us to wait. But not this cabby. He retained the initiative, waiting daily at the pier.b
Of course, we should not abandon other responsibilities until clearly led of God, but he who has ears, listen to the parable of the cab-driver.