Several times in college some friends and I went to explore a nearby train tunnel that was carved through a hill and was a little over a mile long. You have never experienced total darkness until you are half a mile back in a train tunnel and you drop your flashlight into the knee-deep water you are wading through! In times like those the sight of the bit of light poking through the exit of the tunnel in the distance means a whole lot! Not only does it give you hope, but it provides a sense of direction and the ability to persevere just a little longer.
Does your prayer life ever feel like that dark train tunnel? How welcome would just a little light at the end be?
I know some people who have been praying over the same circumstances for extended periods of time. How do they persevere? What about when you have prayed and prayed and just don’t see an answer or end in sight? What do we do? As I pondered this I came up with some thoughts to keep in mind. Let’s think together!
His timing is not ours.
Have you ever felt like something you were believing for and expecting God to do was taking longer than you had hoped for? I don’t think I’m alone for having, at one time or another, thought, “God… this seems like it is taking an awfully long time” or, “Hello? Did you hear me up there?
You know, I used to beat myself up for having those thoughts. Almost punishing myself for “doubting God” or questioning His plan. But… in reality the big question isn’t what you might say, question, or think, but it comes down to “what do you DO when something you are believing for, or expecting, takes longer than you had imagined or planned for?”
In Exodus 32 we get a clear picture from Aaron and the Israelites of what NOT to do in this situation. It says in verse 1,
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
The Israelites freaked out when Moses didn’t immediately return from the mountain that God had commanded him onto, as if the God who brought them out of Egypt wasn’t strong or good enough to see them through the end and accomplish His purposes! Obviously it wasn’t enough for the Israelites to see and experience the parting of the Red Sea and the miraculous provision of food along their journey, because when they were not experiencing the immediate provision of God, and their leader Moses had gone temporarily absent, they decided to go around God and settle for a counterfeit.
It seems ridiculous now… but how are we like the Israelites in this story out of Exodus?
I wonder how long we are willing to wait on God? Are we willing to trust him in every step of our journey, through the mountaintops and valleys, or are we like the Israelites seeking the instant provision of God in our every need and circumstance? How has God proven Himself faithful to you? What provisions has He provided?
Psalm 37:7 says,
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
This is not just a good verse to burn into a fancy little board and place on your mantle. It’s not just a catchy phrase or motto to stick on your wall with those fancy interior designer letters. This verse is great advice from David that we can apply to our real life circumstances and everyday prayers! Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him! Don’t go after a counterfeit and miss God’s plan and purpose for your life.
Maybe you’re believing for your lost friends and family to encounter Jesus in a life changing way. You know what I would tell you? Keep praying for them, don’t give up, trust God and… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
Maybe there is a job or specific destination that you are believing God for… well trust in His perfect plan and purpose for your life and… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
Maybe you’re stuck in a rut and you just can’t seem to achieve breakthrough… well just keep pushing and persevering and above all… be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
Just like the Israelites, it’s amazing how we want the “now solution” or the “quick fix” and are happy to settle for a counterfeit and even talk ourselves into believing the counterfeit is God’s will for our lives. As far as my life goes… I don’t want to “settle” for the “second best,” because that means that I am missing out! I’ve been walking with the Lord for what seems to be a long time now, and sometimes along the way I have felt like God’s will for my life was on hold, but now I look back and see that God’s “not now’s” were developing maturity and character in me that helped position me and ready me for what I’m doing now. God’s plan, and my waiting for it, has far exceeded what I could have dreamt up in my wildest hopes or dreams.
Don’t settle for second best… God’s timing is greater than yours.
“Are we there yet?”
That question plagues the backseat of every summer vacation vehicle in the world! Many of us grow up with a distinct memory of our parents demanding that we stop annoying them, stop pestering them, and stop going on and on about whatever it was that was stuck in our childlike heads. Even now I take a particular type of joy from pestering my wife to see how far I can get before she snaps. It’s like a game of how annoying we can be before the victim reaches a state of annoyance that they just can’t take anymore.
Sometimes I feel like my repeated prayers might annoy God. I can’t be alone here! Do you ask, beg, and plead for the same breakthroughs, provisions, and signs repeatedly? Well… here is a newsflash.
God’s not annoyed when we are persistent with Him.
In fact, persistence is a good thing and it is something many of us aren’t driven enough to do. Sometimes it’s just easier to give up. I recently read a story about a South Korean woman named Cha Sa-soon who lived alone in the tiny mountain village of Sinchon in South Korea. From an early age she wanted to learn to drive, but didn’t begin the process of trying to get a license until she was in her 60’s. Needless to say she was behind the eight ball and the road was going to be difficult… no pun intended. Cha failed the written portion of the drivers test 949 times; the concept of many of the questions was confusing to her, being an elderly woman living in a remote village. Finally, on the 950th attempt she got a passing grade and moved on to the actual driver’s test, which she only failed 4 times before getting passing marks. By this time all of South Korea knew of her persistence and she became a national hero. Upon her passing the exam she was awarded a Kia Soul and even appeared in a Kia commercial!
Persistence is key in both earthly and heavenly things!
Jesus tells a story about a widow lacking justice in her circumstances and illustrated how persistent she was in her faith in Luke 18:8, it says,
I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?
Is your faith persistent? Do you keep asking God for His help in every situation? Or have you somehow just traded persistent faith for contentment?
Short Cuts are often Dead Ends.
The back roads of Kentucky are beautiful places to drive and just take in the green grass and rolling hills. What the back roads of Kentucky aren’t good for is… getting anywhere fast! Have you ever taken a short cut or back road in order to save time only to realize later that it’s a dead end?
By attempting a shortcut you have taken longer than you would have by just staying the course!
Anyone who has played Mario Kart understands the inherent risk that comes along with a shortcut. On one of my least favorite levels, Koopa Troopa Beach, there are several opportunities to use a boost and hit a ramp that takes you through a tunnel carved in the side of the mountain instead of having to drive around it. This shortcut has the potential to save TONS of time… but it comes with the high risk of disappointment and, if you are like me, intense rage when you miss the hole of the tunnel and smack into the mountain face immediately going from first place to last!
In Luke we see a story where Jesus was tempted by Satan to take a shortcut. Luke 4:5-8 says,
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Jesus was tempted to take a short cut here by Satan. In this story Satan said he had the authority of all the kingdoms and he could give it to Jesus in an instant. But this was a dead end and an empty short cut and Jesus knew it!
The Son of God didn’t want the “cheap” option. He didn’t want to settle for a counterfeit by taking the easy way. Jesus was not about to circumnavigate the process of time that He set up for us all in the first place. Jesus waited for His time and didn’t rush it. Jesus was not even willing to take a short cut from pain and suffering. Instead He endured the cross and encourages us to pick up ours and keep walking. Jesus was raised at the proper time and given the name above every name!
Psalm 31:15 says,
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Our time is in God’s hands!
Our moments, our seasons, our durations are all in the strength of God’s capability to hold all things together, so be careful of short cuts & dead ends!
In 1968 on Yosemite’s El Capitan rock formation Jim Madsen, a veteran and skilled climber, rappelled from the top of the cliff face to rescue some stranded friends. In his haste to reach them, he apparently neglected to check his rope, which just happened to not be knotted at the end. In his hurry to take a shorter route he rappelled right off the end of his own rope falling 2500 feet to his death. He did not take the time to establish a belay, which would have prevented his fall.
Taking shortcuts can lead to trouble. Cutting corners can kill you.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
We face decisions everyday. In our day we are tempted to make our decisions, to choose our path, based on our own understanding and neglecting the advice of God. How often do we fail to involve or include God? When we do this, we take spiritual shortcuts, and they can lead to dead ends.
Ask yourself… where are you being tempted to take a short cut? What decision are you making? What situation are you facing where you might just cut a corner that could be deadly?
Maybe it’s a career decision? A relationship? A living situation that you know isn’t right? A financial decision or purchase?
If you are making these kinds of decisions without leaning on God, you are liable to take a shortcut that leads to a dead end. Sometimes we just have to know when to turn around. If you find yourself on a dead-end, instead of stubbornly pushing on, you only have to turn around and ask God for directions.
Choose to Rejoice.
Philippians 4:4 says,
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
I’ll be honest… sometimes this verse seems like a joke. When things just aren’t going the way you’ve planned, when the odds are stacked against you, when all your “allies” have fled. How are we supposed to rejoice in that?
Every time I get the opportunity to stand before people and worship I get pumped up! I still can’t fully comprehend that I get to do that everyday and make a living doing so! But… sometimes things just don’t seem to go right. It never fails that whenever we are preparing for a big event anything and everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It always seems like a whole lot of circumstances are working against you… against what God is wanting to do. Now, I know the devil is not too happy about the church gathering and people’s lives being positively changed. And we can get all worked up about what he is trying to do, but I have discovered that the best thing to do is to focus on what God can and is doing; He’s never caught by surprise. He always has a plan and His promise for us is this:
Jeremiah 29:11 says,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Sometimes we can’t choose the circumstances… but one thing we can do however is choose our attitude and our response to the things that work against us.
We have the choice to stay in faith and make sure that we put our trust in a BIG God who has it all under control. In fact, that God makes a promise in Romans 8:28 that He takes very seriously. That promise says,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
So, choose to rejoice!
There is a lot about our society that creates circumstantial Christianity. Our beliefs and values get influenced and adjusted depending on how we experience the situations around us. Sometimes we act as if God is good only when good things happen to us. But the reality is sometimes things we don’t like happen, sometimes things just don’t work out, sometimes we don’t get to understand. But… He is still Lord regardless of how the situation pans out… we must worship Him for who He is before we worship Him for what He does.
2 Samuel 22:4 says,
I called to the lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.
In this passage Samuel is saying the Lord is worthy of praise regardless of the outcome! Notice that the praise was not dependent on the outcome, which is why the praising is attached to His name and not to the circumstance.
If we only wait for circumstances to go our way before praising our God, we will be in danger of living by sight and not by faith. Don’t attach praise to the situation.
Keep on praying. Live by faith. Take the route before you and trust the navigator… the light is coming.