by pastorjuhl ~ January 28th, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit
Psalm 107 says, He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Our problem with that verse is that God’s time and our time are not the same. If there is something that is difficult for us in times of tribulation, it is when we seek help and can’t find it. There are times when help is absent just longer than we want it. These are the times when true faith shows itself. True faith waits patiently for the Lord’s time.
We are impatient with God. We murmur and blaspheme Him when He’s tardy with help…or never seems to show up with help. This doesn’t mean that we should never ask the Lord to hurry up. Daniel once prayed to God, O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. What is not true faith is when we put time constraints on God or, worse yet, stop asking for His help. Patient endurance is a characteristic of true faith in Jesus Christ. He lets us sweat it for a while in order that we rejoice in His merciful goodness when He answers prayer. The delay of divine help is an exercise of faith in Christ.
Our Lord’s first miracle at the wedding in Cana gives clear evidence for divine delayed gratification. The lack of wine at the wedding is a picture of all of our distresses, all our days of suffering, the tests and temptations that come over us. Our Lord’s answer to all these ills is My hour has not yet come.
Perhaps the first thing we think when our Lord delays help is that He will not help or that He could not help. Maybe we think that His loving hand that always remains open to us has now closed into a fist. Worse yet, perhaps His love for us has cooled.
Not so. Consider how Jesus deals with His mother. We’ve been taught, and rightly so, that it is improper to talk back to your mother. Jesus seems to talk back to Mary when He tells her, Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come. Jesus is putting her faith to the test here. Jesus wants to see whether she believes that her Son is also God and Lord. Is Mary willing to put aside her motherly privilege and take instruction from her Son? The answer is yes.
Are you willing to take instruction from Jesus when He delays His help? In happy days, being a good Christian seems easy. After all, we have a faith that can move mountains even if faith is as small as a mustard seed. Jesus Himself says so. Then God puts a cross on us. When we beg for help, Jesus suddenly seems to be deaf. When we bear our crosses and ask Jesus for help, then the rubber hits the road, so to speak, when it comes to patient waiting. This is what separates heroes of the faith from fair-weather Christians.
Mary casts off all signs of being a fair-weather believer in her Son. She tells the servants, Do whatever He tells you. She knows He will help, but only in His hour and not her hour. What seems to be a setback for Mary actually helps her to realize her unworthiness. The same thing happens to us when help is delayed. We seem only to ask God for something when we need it. When we ask, and what we ask for doesn’t appear right away, we perhaps notice that God owes us nothing. Nevertheless we ask, for Jesus wants us to ask. He tells His disciples in Luke chapter 11, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
The most striking proof of strengthened faith in divine delay is the fact that His disciples believed in Him after Jesus changed water into wine. Before this moment they believed, but their faith was a smoldering wick. Now that they saw that He desires to help, but only in His time, their faith is strong. So it is today with us. Our faith in Jesus wanes when it seems that He won’t help. But when that help comes, even when that help is not exactly what we asked, what joy we have in believing!
Notice again what Mary tells Jesus: They have no wine. She makes her request, but she doesn’t dictate anything to Him. Mary gives her Son a free hand. We also give the Lord a free hand. We make our requests known to Him, but we let the way, time, and hour of His help to His discretion. We are unafraid to ask for what we desire because we believe Jesus hears us and will answer us. King David says in Psalm 27, You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Even when Jesus does not answer right away, we wait with patience for His answer. He promises to hear. He promises to help, even when crosses burden us with suffering and pain.
Consider Mary again when Jesus seems to sass her. She doesn’t slap Him. She doesn’t reprimand Him in front of the wedding guests. She doesn’t grumble when Jesus tells her to wait. She embodies Solomon’s proverb: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. All of us have seen this play out in our lives. We have our own hopes that we lay before the Lord in prayer. We would like to see those hopes come true soon. But nothing happens, at least the way we see it. When our desires are fulfilled, we give thanks to God for His never-ending mercy. We also believe that we can return to Him in prayer at any time to ask again.
The prophet Isaiah says, In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. When divine delay occurs, do not despair. Listen again to King David in Psalm 27: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Simeon waited for the Lord many years, and His patience was rewarded as God kept His promise to Simeon. He would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ.
At Cana it happened with the miracle of water into wine. At Golgotha it happened with the shedding of blood. At Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb it happened with Christ bursting from His three-day prison. In bread and wine and Word we eat the modern-day miracle of Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. In water and Word we are united to Christ’s death and life while our sins are washed clean. Faith is gloriously crowned on those who wait for His response to our prayers. While we wait for His next appearance, we cling to the words of Psalm 66: Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit