The Divine Ministry of Delay (continued)
You will readily understand that these words of his are of infinitely wider application than to the Israel of that day. I believe that they are apposite to the case of every one of us here today who is perplexed because, for instance, the expected deliverance from sin in his own life does not come as he thought it would. Or the petition he offers for some good of which he conceives himself to be in great need is not granted. Or the loved one for whom he prays is not immediately converted; and though he goes on praying he has almost lost heart about it. Or the revival in his work, for which he has conscientiously wrought to the very last ounce of his strength, does not seem to be even on the horizon. We want to know why this delay, and what the spiritual good of having quietly to wait and hope so long.
I am very sure that when the last word of human experience about prayer has been said, we are still in the presence of the greatest of all mysteries. The man who thinks he knows so much about prayer, that he can frame a philosophy of prayer, really confesses that he knows little indeed. How prayer liberates spiritual forces, who knows? Why God has ordained that men should wait upon Him, uniting their wills with His in order to exert the saving power of His grace both in their life and through them in the lives of others - who can say? With regard to this greatest of all subjects, there is really nothing further to be said than that which Paul said about all knowledge of God - "We know in part, and we prophesy in part." But, thank God, we do know! What we know we know with a certainty which nothing can shake. But we only know in part. Therefore they are mere suggestions that I venture to offer you today, suggestions which have come with some degree of light and encouragement to my own heart in regard to this assertion - that it is good for a man to wait and hope for the salvation of God.
It is almost unnecessary to say that there is no thought in this word of any man having to wait until God is willing to bestow upon him the primary gifts of pardon and peace and forgiveness, the salvation which is His free gift in Jesus Christ. The sinner who cries for pardon, the lonely who seek the fellowship of love, are never kept waiting for the fulfillment of their desires. The prodigal is welcomed before he utters his prepared confession. The sinking man who cries "Lord, save me," is at once conscious of being grasped by the Hand of power. The Evangel of Christ bears the ageless superscription that "now is the day of salvation." In this respect, indeed, it is never God who keeps men waiting, but men who keep Him waiting. But, in regard to that aspect of His mercy which is concerned with the strain of our present discipline, with the anxiety of future uncertainty, with the relief of immediate discomfort, with the weariness of unremoved burdens - it is in that realm of life that we want to know why God delays. Nor is it unnatural that we should be impatient.
For instance, here is a good man who reads that "All things work together for good to them that love God," but who sees nothing in his life today but chaos. His affairs have been completely ruined. His home has been invaded by sorrow and disappointment, until the nerves of all are on edge, and no one knows with certainty what an hour is going to bring forth of fresh calamity. That man has rested upon that Divine Word with implicit confidence in its truth, but the delay in realizing its fulfillment has almost staggered his faith. Is it to be wondered at that he should be asking today what it all means?
There is a young man yonder, and there has been illumined to his soul's vision this word: "In all things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." And yet he has been defeated ever since he this meditation, and this morning his face is toward the ground, and not toward the Lord. He says, "What does it mean? I have rested my whole weight, as I believe, upon this promise of God, and my Lord delays His coming in power to me. What does it mean?"
There is a busy worker who has come from some far-off missionary field, in which for the last ten years he has been pouring out his life, seeking to live the life of a citizen of the Kingdom of God, resting upon that word - My word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please? (Isaiah 55:11). And he confesses today that he has seen it accomplish hardly anything. What does it mean?
(continued with # 37)