Sunday, October 6, 2013

How Much Longer?

As children we probably asked our parents on trips that infamous question, “How much longer?” To which our parents (and now us) responded with any number of unsatisfactory responses, of which I have my favorites. The first few times the parent’s answer might be more specific and accurate than to the subsequent requests coming in frequent succession. But like the children, we all want to be there. We want to be over the waiting.

But with God waiting is part of His process of demonstrating faithfulness and our growing in trust. He does not keep us in needless traffic jams or fuel wasting holding patterns in space. Even in the waiting, as with the journey itself, God is working. He may be working to grow us in a specific way, to align all of the factors that He intends, to accomplish something else prior or even along the way. His reasons may eventually be shown and they might not. We could endlessly plug any number of reasons into our minds as to why God may appear to be waiting, and there may actually be elements of truth to all of them. But the one thing we can know in our waiting is that God is working and He is working just as He intends. And if He is appearing to take His time or even taking us in a different direction than we might have intended or expected, it is because He knows exactly what He is doing, and He will equip us give us strength for that journey and prepare us for the task ahead.

Robin and I have been searching God's leading for us in ministry for some time now, and this search has had its high moments and its struggles, with some days seeming to grow very long. And this morning we were heading off to church where I had been on staff for many years to hear a long-time partner in ministry (Bob) preach his last sermon before himself going on a six-month sabbatical.

The Scripture message he delivered this morning was from the life of Elijah, and in particular Elijah’s time of running in fear and aloneness. It was a message which connected strongly with Bob as he prepared it knowing that big changes were coming, and one which connected strongly with me as I thought about God’s leading in the life of myself and my family. It can be and indeed has been very easy to ask questions like, “How much longer?" "How much more?” “What are you doing?” and “What do you have ahead for me?”

There are so many things in our lives that simply do not make sense and the reason for that is pretty simple—left on our own we would do things differently.

As Bob speculated today, Elijah likely thought that after putting the prophets of Baal to death and seeing God bring the rain that the people would have turned and he would have been left standing with God as the victors. But instead, the queen turned even more strongly on Elijah and Elijah fled feeling defeated and alone. Even after the angel of the Lord personally fed him and cared for him, Elijah departed for a destination even further away—the mountain where Moses met God. And God let him go, and in the arriving God met him, asked him what he was doing there, and then He redirected Elijah back into service—comforting, commissioning, and even giving him someone to be his companion (Elisha). When Elijah had believed it was all over, God restored, refreshed, and re-sent him (Read 1 Kings 18:41-19:21 for more).

I thought about taking a different approach to sharing today, but as I reflected on what to write and related it to where God has us right now I was reminded of something Paul wrote.

“And He [the Lord Christ] has said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10, NASB95)

It is my prayer that as my friends are away on their sabbatical that God lovingly and compassionately reaffirms them as He did Elijah.  When I, myself, am tempted to ask my Heavenly Father from the back seat, “How much longer?” that He continues to reassure me as well with, “Trust Me, we’re almost there.” And when each of you who might also read this are confronted with periods of hurt, questioning, waiting, loss and more that you also will find hope in our God who has promised to complete the work in each and every single one of His children that He started, that you would find your strength and joy for your day in Him, as you continue daily to trust Him with your whole heart.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NASB95)

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/6)

Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith—not by sight. This doesn’t mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.

Sometimes I lead you up to a high mountain with only My hand to support you. The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also, the more keenly you sense your separation from the world with all its problems. This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence. Give yourself fully to these Glory-moments, awash in dazzling Light. I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into community with others. Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among people again.

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, ESV)

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” (Psalm 96:6, ESV)

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12, ESV)

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9, ESV)

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