Many of you know that my last IT consulting contract ended almost three months ago. Since then, Marion, Bethany and I have been living on reserves, and I have been waiting on the Lord for new work.
There have been several “near misses” in this process. There were a couple of contracts that I could have had, but turned down. Others, however, seemed attractive to me. I was confident that I could have done the work, and I wanted to win the bid, but it went to someone else. Since no circumstance in my life is outside of God’s control, and I have been actively and intentionally submitting this whole process to Him, I can only assume that the delay is part of God’s provision.
Let me be clear. My family and I have been in no real financial distress during this time. The wrestle for me has not been about managing finances, but about trusting God’s promises and fully co-operating with His purposes. A little over a year ago I received a major prophetic word while visiting International House of Prayer. Part of the word was that I would be like Joseph, a financial storehouse for others. So, my rational mind tells me that it is not helping me achieve this goal to see my reserves get eaten away by a three-month hiatus in work. But sometimes God allows us to go through a season where our circumstances seem to contradict the word we have been given. This is not a bad thing. In fact, waiting for God’s promise is a necessary process. It’s part of how God builds faith. He is the one who will fulfil the word, and He will do it in His way. My part is to be a man of faith, to act on the word I have been given.
There are preachers and teachers who would like you to believe that faith means expecting all your hopes to be fulfilled in this life, in this age, without any delay. That may be what our human nature would like to believe, and it may be how Hollywood celebrities like to live their lives, but it’s not what the Bible teaches and it’s not true to the experience of God’s people, past or present.
Yes, it is true that when Jesus healed people, he didn’t make them wait. He healed them on the spot, no delay. But it’s also true that Jesus himself had to wait for his most important desires to be fulfilled (see Luke 12:49 for one example of this). He knows what it is like to long for something that is coming, but is not here yet. Jesus longs for his wedding day – the great day when he returns to claim the earth as His own, wed his Bride, banish evil and establish his throne openly. But he is waiting for the Day appointed by his Father (Matthew 24:36).
The other day I saw a video clip produced by Voice of the Martyrs in Nigeria. That beautiful, fertile, potentially prosperous yet troubled land is increasingly being plagued by the scourge of militant Islam. Boko Haram, a jihadist group that has already killed hundreds of Christians in the northern part of Nigeria, is now threatening to start attacking the mostly-Christian south as well, using methods such as food poisoning. Their declared goal is to turn Nigeria into an Islamist state by killing all the Christians in Nigeria who refuse to convert to Islam (there are over 80 million Christians in Nigeria, about half the population of the country).
The video clip showed numerous heart-wrenching examples of the suffering of Christians in the areas where Boko Haram’s campaign of terror has already been unleashed. But it also showed signs of hope. VOM has been standing with the church in Nigeria, providing help to displaced persons and the families of martyrs so that they can rebuild their lives. I was struck by the determination of Christian leaders in Nigeria not to give in to intimidation. One of the leaders interviewed on the video clip declared that the reason for the campaign of terror is that Christianity has been growing through evangelism in the mostly-Muslim north, and Muslim leaders are afraid of losing control, so they resort to fear tactics.
Why does God allow such things? Because the Day of the Lord is not yet here. In the meantime, we have an opportunity to testify to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and invite people to put their hope in Him. For those with eyes to see, there are signs of the Kingdom everywhere – but there is also great suffering in many places. This is nothing new or strange; in fact Jesus predicted it. The battle between darkness and light will not be resolved until Jesus returns.
In the meantime, in both easy and difficult times, we live in hope. God is calling us to be a pure bride, free of mixed motives, with our eyes fixed on our bridegroom who is surely coming. If we are in a season of peace and prosperity, we thank God for it, and seek to use it for His glory (a real challenge in a culture that constantly tempts us with immediate self-gratification in myriad guises). If we are in a season of adversity, we place our hope in Him and seek the grace to remain faithful. David advises us not to fret in such times, for “better is the little that the righteous has, than the abundance of many wicked” (Psalm 37:16). Even in adversity, like Elijah with the ravens, God’s people can expect provision as they exercise intentional faith. At all times, we place our hope in the One who is coming to make all things new.
Would I prefer to prosper while I wait? Of course – who wouldn’t? But there are seasons of plenty and seasons of adversity, and in both, God is faithful. I believe that God will bring to fruition the word I was given about being a storehouse. I want that with all my heart, because I believe it’s part of God’s destiny and purpose for me. But I also realize that the waiting is part of God’s preparation. He wants my hope, my security and my desires to be fixed on Him, not on specific outcomes that I (fool that I am) imagine I can control.
Why do we wait? Because we serve a God of hope – a God of resurrection – a God who is bigger than we are, and who will fulfil His promises in His way and in His time. We serve a God who is faithful when we have plenty, who is faithful when we suffer loss, who is faithful even when His people are being murdered for their faith. At all times He is good.
I’m glad I’m not in control. I wouldn’t have it any other way.