Why Sometimes Christians Should Hurry Up And Wait
Posted by Job on December 27, 2009
Matthew 10:22 – And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 – I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Sometimes we Christians, especially in the west, get caught up into the modern worldly mindset. We have to rush, rush, rush. There are tasks at hand, problems to be solved, lands to be conquered and it needs to be done NOW. And yes, it needs results that are measurable to the human eye, and in a big way. The idea of planting a seed and letting it grow and produce one tree that will bear fruit (a process that takes 20 years) whose seeds will produce 100 more trees (a process that takes 20 more years) is lost on people. Yet, that is often the way that God chooses to work.
Case in point: a young missionary couple assigned to evangelize the Maasai people of Kenya in the 1920s. The cultural barriers were huge and the progress was very slow. Just when it appeared that this couple was on the verge of making a breakthrough, two things happened. First, the missionary couple made the mistake of opposing a local practice that is abhorrent to westerners but is not forbidden in the Bible and was very important to the local rulers who held almost total influence over the tribe, which gave the rulers the excuse that they needed to reject the missionaries and continue in their prior religion. Even worse, the colonial government forcibly relocated the Maasai off their land, and the Maasai considered the missionaries – and their new religion – to be part of the same evil forces that was bringing misfortune on them. So, after decades of hard work with this tribe, the missionaries wound up with few converts. Other missionaries had warned this couple that the Maasai were a lost cause, that others had come before them and had similarly poor results and not to even try, and it appeared that their warnings were true. Right? Wrong.
It so happened that even as the vast majority of the Maasai rejected the missionaries, a young boy who was allowed to learn English from the missionaries’ wife (the Maasai greatly valued the importance of education) believed the gospel of Jesus Christ and ultimately left to receive a university education. He returned to the tribe and was given the responsibility of advocating that the tribe’s children receive the educational opportunities that the tribal leaders so valued, and thereby earned the trust and favor of the tribal leaders that for decades had worked against the evangelization of their tribe. This fellow’s trust and favor with the tribal leaders increased still more when A. he became a lower tribal leader himself and B. his successful response and handling of a famine saved many of his people from starving to death (an incident that somewhat reminds one of Joseph in Egypt).
These events allowed the very same young boy, John Mpaayei, who believed the gospel of Jesus Christ that was preached to him by the wife of a missionary couple whose efforts were regarded to be failures to lead a very successful evangelism effort among his tribe which resulted in Christian churches and schools being founded in many tribal villages and the conversion of many of the very influential village elders, and this Mpaayei himself becoming a prominent pastor. So clearly the efforts of the missionaries John and Florence Stauffacher did not fail, even if they did not themselves live to see most of the growth in Christianity among the Maasai (as John died in 1944 and his wife in 1959).
Examples like these are many. Yet we so often reject them and along with it everything the Bible says about perseverance, patience, long-suffering, wisdom, knowledge, self-control and the faith that ties it all together (and please note that several of those are fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit of Christ) in order to justify our own senses of urgency and our own needs to see our labors verified with big, impressive looking and easily verifiable results. And yes, we contrive or use doctrines and methods to justify this un-Biblical thinking. Consider, for instance, the premillennial dispensational rapture associated doctrines that world evangelism must be done NOW because the return of Jesus Christ was IMMINENT and thus the rapture could happen at any time. Or the original goal of William Seymour, founder of the Azusa Street revival that created the modern Pentecostal movement, which was to use tongues to unify the church NOW to fulfill the Great Commission NOW so that the return of Jesus Christ would happen DURING WILLIAM SEYMOUR’S LIFETIME.
It also explains the continual “crisis mode” urgency of so many Christians, on the religious right and left. Roe v. Wade must be overturned NOW and the homosexual agenda must be defeated NOW or God will smite our nation with diseases, floods, hurricanes, wars and economic collapse! The fact that it took 300 years for Christianity to defeat the Roman Empire? And what of the over 1000 years for various Protestant movements to overcome the darkness of Catholicism? While Catholics would certainly desire to have you believe that the whole thing started with Luther nailing his theses on the door, which makes the Reformation much easier to discredit, the truth is that Luther was only a part of a long line of Bible-believing dissenters, a fact which Luther himself freely and gladly stated. Yet plenty of others had attempted the same only to have their efforts frustrated, hindered and even crushed by the Catholic church-states. So where were their “measurable results” that every church-growth expert insists must occur in order for a ministry to justify and demonstrate that it is Godly and led by God-appointed leaders that are “doing things right?”
So many of us have conformed our ways of thinking to that of government leaders who must show speedy results or be toppled, or corporations who must do the same or go bankrupt. And it goes faster and faster. In times past, a king or emperor would likely be given a lifetime, or perhaps three lifetimes through his successors, before the people would become agitated enough to overthrow his ruling dynasty. But now, thanks to democracy, a president or prime minister only gets 4 years before he is thrown out of office! And in the time before full bore modern technology-driven capitalism, a company could take years, even decades, before its products or strategies came to fruition, i.e. before a new line of merchandise or a new group of retail stores were expected to become profitable. Now, two or three bad quarterly earnings reports sends stock prices tumbling and causes people to get fired and new projects that could preserve and create jobs and wealth in the future to be canceled. So, not only are so many Christians abandoning a Biblical model that demands patience and faith for an earthly model that is temporal, but even the earthly model is becoming more time-driven, results-oriented, and instant gratification-centered.
The truth is that this model is not only earthly, but it is also SATANIC. Revelation 12:12 – Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. So obviously the devil is in a hurry to put his plans into place and see them take effect because he is a defeated foe and knows it. He knows that he only has a short time, so he is under pressure to pack as much evil works into that short time as he can.
Christians, meanwhile, are not under any pressure at all. We have not been defeated. We are also not locked into some precarious pitched battle of good versus evil where at every step the outcome is at stake, and time is of the essence if God is to prevail. While virtually all Christians give mental assent to the former fact, that we have not been defeated, we still carry on as if the latter fact – that the outcome is still in doubt and our own crafty speedy efforts are needed to save the day – is the situation. We act this way because – especially in the west – we perceive that this is the way that the world works. However, the world does not work the same way as does God’s kingdom, which is eternal. Also, even the way that we perceive the world to work is wrong, because God is the ruler of the earth. God controls history, and things happen according to His divine providence and plan. So even in our human affairs, we are not to take the worldly view, which is Satanic and a deception, but take the Godly view, which is the eternal one.
So Christians are not defeated, but victorious in Jesus Christ. Our time is not short, but instead time – indeed eternity – is on our side. So what is the hurry? What is the stress? Why the impatience? Why the expectations based on human standards? Why the need to evaluate ourselves and produce results based on human standards? If the victory is already won, why do we not act as victors confident in that fact, instead of sailors in the midst of a war scurrying and scrambling to patch the holes in the flagship that came as the result of enemy cannon and torpedo fire, knowing that if the flagship continues to take on water and sink that all is lost?
Why do we act as if we are defeated, or as if the fate is unknown and has not yet been secured, which means that defeat is still a possible outcome? Why do we call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ if we are going to have Satan’s mindset and use Satan’s methods? Even if we use artful systematic theological systems to “Christianize” it and come up with elegant, right-sounding doctrines, the mindset and methods are still SATANIC. So instead of doing things the worldly way to achieve results that appear right in our own eyes, why not take the time, be patient and do things God’s way?
For instance, say that you have been called to be a a pastor or bishop. If that is your calling, then it is your calling. It is immutable, unchanging and will not fail. So if it takes you until the age of 70 to actually meet the requirements of a pastor, to actually become above reproach, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, a good teacher, gentle, nonviolent, not a lover of money or wine, non-argumentative, holy, disciplined, not a recent convert, and thought of well by the church and outsiders and from that point are able to give “only” 15 years of pastoral service before God calls you home at the age of 85, what’s the problem? If you are on God’s time and not man’s time, is not 15 years of Godly, effectual service far better than 50 years of chaotic, inconsistent, flesh-driven service that is marked by scandal? And even if you received your call at the age of 15, what better do you have to spend your time doing for the next 45 years of your life than waiting until you can actually attain 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 until you step into a pulpit? After all, a common term for pastor in the New Testament is “elder”, or in a more common vernacular “male of old or advanced age that is respected for wisdom and character”, so it can be presumed that most men are going to need decades to qualify for the office of pastor. Yet we are taking 21 year old Bible college and seminary graduates and putting them out into the field, something that is not even accepted even in certain secular professions like medicine, architecture or university professor.
It is only in the eyes of man that waiting 45 years in order to be God’s best for 15 years is inferior and despised in favor of stepping forward now and being your best for 45 years only to retire at age 70. The former is an Abel offering of faith. The latter is a Cain offering of the flesh. We know from the Bible that the world loves the Cain offering and hates and persecutes the Abel offering, but God only has respect for the Abel offering and rejects the Cain offering.
Yet so much of contemporary Christianity asserts the Cain offering as to be the right one. Like the Pharisees condemned by Jesus Christ in John 8:15, they are content to evaluate and manage things according to the flesh, or by human standards. Not because they are wicked, evil or have wrong intentions, but rather because it is simply more natural to do so. It is, for lack of a better word, easier. It is precisely because of our zeal to be righteous and to perform good works that the natural path seems to be the best, because the natural path seems less risky, more sure, more proven. Doing God’s work is so important to us that we really want to succeed, get it right, avoid mistakes, avoid failure, avoid results that challenge the faith of ourselves and those who follow us as we follow Christ that taking the action that appears to be the best way TO US seems to be the right thing, so we convince ourselves that it is the right thing.
But it is not about us. It is about God. When we lose sight of that, we become as Moses who in his frustration sought results by striking the rock – his way – rather than speaking to it – God’s way. (And this was after Moses had earlier killed an Egyptian, thinking that he could lead the Israelites by his own power.) And Moses was a righteous man! Or we become as David, who out of his concern for defending Israel, ordered a census to evaluate his military might in order to compare it to Israel’s enemies. It was a logical, sensible human action. But it was not God’s way. And David was a righteous man! Or we become as Peter, who in an attempt to preserve his standing among the Jewish Christians withdrew from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Now Peter was the generally acknowledged leader of the Jewish arm of the Christian church, and his actions may have been the logical, sensible one of a man trying to avoid dissension, resist challenges to his authority, keep the fragile Jewish church from splintering into factions, and do what was necessary to continue to be able to evangelize other Jews. (Keep in mind: these were not minor issues, as Paul circumcised Timothy, took a Nazirite vow, and raised an offering for the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians, and went to the temple for precisely these considerations!) So, Peter was engaging in good church politics according to good HUMAN sense. And Peter was a righteous man!
In life’s circumstances, we cannot rely on our understanding. We must rely on God, and that means submitting to the fact that God is sovereign who controls history. Things are not going to happen the way that we want them to at the time that we believe that they should for our own comprehension, but rather according to God’s design at God’s time and to God’s glory. So if the key to obedience and true faithful maturity is patience, then patient we must be. God equips us with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit required to endure until the end and to serve God His way and at His time, so why don’t we use them? Why do we listen to doctrines or follow practices that tell us otherwise?
Of course, there are times when the Bible tells us to move with haste, especially in areas that deal with heeding the gospel of Jesus Christ and repenting of sin. But the general principle remains that we are to do things on God’s time and not try to push things according to our own, because we move not by sight but rather by faith, which according to Hebrews 11:1 is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Therefore, by 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
So be steadfast, patient and faithful until our Lord Jesus Christ comes!