A man and his toolbox arrived at his destination and rang the doorbell. “Good morning, ma’am, I’m the plumber. I’ve come to fix the pipe.” “But I didn’t call a plumber.” “You didn’t? Aren’t you Mrs. Foster?” “No, she moved away a year ago.” “How do you like that? They call for a plumber, claiming it’s an emergency, and then they move away!” Sometimes it seems as if God responds to our emergencies like the plumber responded to his call. In a crisis we often cry out to God for help and when He doesn’t respond according to our demands we soon get discouraged. Don’t despair, God’s answer may be delayed. Notice a few thoughts about God’s Delays:
1. God’s delays is a proof that His ways is unlike our ways.
Someone said, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” A delay does not mean that God does not care. 1Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” He does care and He will respond in His time and in His way. This is something to keep in mind as you pray, as you witness, and as you serve Him. Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Illustration: Elijah announced a three year drought in 1Kings 17. In 1Kings 18 three years have expired and Elijah begins to pray for rain. His persistence (the seventh time) in prayer represents Elijah’s inability to predict precisely when the rain would fall. We may not know when God will answer our prayer, bring relief from a trial, or save a lost loved-one but we can persist in prayer until He does. (1Ki 18:41f)
Illustration: Israel’s journey was the long way around to Canaan (Ex 13:17-22). The arrival in Canaan was delayed to prepare Israel spiritually by retrieving the Law at Sinai and to prepare militarily for the battles they will face in the Land of Promise.
We must wait, we must trust, and we must follow His ways. His ways are unlike our ways. His way is the best way. His ways is not without purpose.
2. God’s delay’s prepare the stage including the people.
Illustration: In Esther 5 Esther had been granted permission to see the king. He demanded to learn of her request. Her plan was to divulge her request at the banquet she had prepared for the king and Haman. At the banquet she was asked once again by the king to explain her request upon which she was promised half the kingdom. She replied in verses 7-8, “Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.”
She delayed in telling for 24 hours after promising to tell him at the first banquet. Why? Honestly, we don’t know! Here’s a thought. The stage is not ready and the hearts of those involved are not thoroughly prepared. God is not mentioned at all in the Book of Esther but He is clearly behind the stage orchestrating the performance.
It says in Genesis 37:5 that Joseph dreamed a dream and from that moment until the moment he was exalted to rule over the land of Egypt God was preparing a stage “to save much people alive.” (Ge. 50:20) Genesis 41:46 says that Joseph is now 30 years old. The process of preparing Joseph and his family including Egypt took approximately 15 years.
Illustration: Jn 11 says that Jesus delayed in coming to Bethany. The delay set the stage. He said finally to His disciples in verse 7, “Let us go into Judaea again.” Jesus waited for Lazarus to die. Though He provoked Mary and Martha He arrived in His time and ministered His way. By the way read the chapter carefully and you’ll discover that everyone benefited from the delay including many salvation decisions (Jn. 11:45).
3. God’s delays provoke faith.
Ga. 6:7-9, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
God promises a return based on what we have sown. The reaping will be “in due season” or when God deems best or on the day of judgment we will be rewarded on the basis of that which we have sown. The idea is that we must wait upon God. The waiting period is not a deterrent but a season of time designed to provoke our faith.
What does the wait for an answer to prayer or for Christ’s return provoke? Note 1Jn 3:1-3, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
- Waiting on His imminent return should purify our souls
- Waiting on His return should provoke hope, faith, and expectancy
- Waiting on His return should produce an urgency to get the Gospel around the world
4. God’s delays make it plainly clear that the outcome was unmistakably of the Lord.
The truth is the Lord will answer our prayers or He will return in a day when you think not. Mt 24:44, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”
What would happen if Christ returned as we would predict or if everything went our way as predicted and the outcome was according to our demands?
2Ki 5:9-12, “So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.”
If the outcome of Namaan’s healing went as he had thought he would have taken the glory away from God. If man can save himself he would take the glory from God. Ro 4:2, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.”
Illustration: David fought Goliath in a manner that does not make sense. However, we can only conclude as David did in 1Samual 17:46-47, “This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.”