Hope: The Fuel of Persistence
God’s people are no strangers to waiting on something. Consider the following examples. There are many more where these came from.
It took Noah between 55-75 years to build the ark. What amount of questions and ridicule did he endure from others in the process? He focused on doing all that God commanded.
Moses led God’s people (after being slaves for hundreds of years) for 40 years out into the wilderness on a journey that should have only taken days. He dealt with division/disagreement setbacks and complaints the entire time. The vast majority of the people on the journey failed to see the Promised Land. But, God was faithful.
Daniel endured a night with man-eaters and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked out of the furnace without a trace of fire or smoke upon them. Their God was with them.
David was anointed as king over Israel as a boy, but had to endure a murderous and jealous Saul. Over 20 years later, after running for his life for years, he was finally made king. God’s timing, though sometimes confusing, is still perfect. It is just too big for you and me.
What are You Waiting For?
Have you ever had to wait for something? Perhaps it is something so great that you can barely stand the wait. Perhaps it is something really difficult and taxing and you don’t know if you can keep going. It’s hard to wait on something. Especially if it is not particularly comfortable in life’s waiting rooms. I do not claim to have this whole thing figured out, but I think great things often do take time. One of the greatest things is the Church! As a church planter, I know firsthand that building the church is an uphill battle with more than its fair share of set-backs and hurtles. However, I have also learned that it can be extremely rewarding, especially when I learn to see it from God’s perspective. Roman’s 15:13 hints at what I am describing. It says, “May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him.”
The Journey of Knowing God
I think we get a little hung up on the destination when God is busy trying to get through to us on the journey. He wants to grow us and be known by us. He wants to build a relationship with us. What if God was using the ark to teach Noah of His sovereignty and provision? I am sure Noah just wanted to be finished with it. God may have wanted one more plank and hammer stroke with Noah to teach him the treasure of knowing God. Think on this, God could’ve just snapped his fingers and wiped out everyone besides Noah and his family in an instant. Instead, he chose a long process that would allow this created man and his family to know their creator in a deeper manner. Imagine their trust in God as the last animals showed up, the great doors sealed and the first sound of thunder echoed in their ears.
How about Moses? As Moses was trying to lead God’s people across the wilderness I am sure he learned how to be more patient and graceful with the people he led. He got a glimpse of what God has to deal with. God doesn’t want us to just arrive at the “promised lands” in our lives, he wants us to grow into the likeness of his Son in the process. Every hammer stroke, every act of obedience hones us. Joseph, Daniel, David, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and many more all learned first-hand that God can be trusted with really big and scary stuff. They grew into mighty men of God and God used some terrible circumstances to accomplish mighty things in them and through them. God has a track record of allowing us to go through more than we can handle so that we will reach out and seek him. I am learning to ask, “God, what can I learn in this?” instead of asking, “When will this be over?”
Sorrow May Last for the Night…
Take another look at the list above. What is taking longer than you originally thought? What has you discouraged today? What seems to hurt more than you can bear? I know it is often very hard, but trust God and celebrate Him today. Sometimes you will need to beat on God’s chest and cry out, “Why God…Why?” That’s ok. He knows we are only human (dust) and has a father’s compassion for us in our weakness (Psalm 103:13-14). Read the Psalms and you’ll see David routinely call God into question. God is no stranger to that and what’s more, He can empathize. Recall the words of Christ in the garden “take this cup from me” (Luke 22) and on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Psalm 22). He knows obedience in the shadow of doubt. He knows suffering and sacrifice. God sees your persistence and rewards your trust. Though David would question God, he would not linger in despair. He always circled back to remember God’s power and love. He would express pain and doubt, yes, but then he would recall the faithfulness of God and rest in it. My prayer is that you would do the same and that it would give you strength to soldier on.
Joy Comes in the Morning
Be humble enough to trust and obey. When life beats you to the ground, lift your hands to Him and He will lift you up and dust you off. Do this often enough and you will know God. The familiar grasp of His hands will become your treasure, for they know the way forward and they are imbued with hope. Do not quit. Do not give in to despair. For one day, all the world’s suffering will be rolled up as a scroll. Struggles, fears and doubts will cease. Sin, anguish, sickness and even death itself will be no more. The dawn of the new world will burst through. His victorious light will shine with brilliance, as darkness is destroyed once and for all. And now the best part – at the center of it all you will see your Savior and King. See Him that way even now and “May the God hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Keep building arks, keep leading God’s people and trust God to do what only He can. If we do, soon enough our stories will add to the list above.