The Divine Ministry of Delay (continued)
Before I pass on to the third and last suggestion I have to make, may I say that surely we get an illustration of all this in the burden of prayer which is increasingly descending upon us for our nation. There are not a few of us who are perplexed that God has not already intervened to stay this terrible conflict. We look out from this place of quiet rest, and see across the Channel the sons of God being butchered upon the fields of France and Belgium; and we cry to God to give victory to the cause which is inherently right, and about which we have no shame. Yet He does not do so. After a whole year, and despite the sacrifice of thousands of precious lives, the battle-line is drawn substantially as it was at first. Why does God not put forth His power through our forces, and by scattering the nations that delight in war bring this unspeakable strife to an end? Why have we no answer back from Heaven that our cry is heard? Why does He delay His coming when by one word He could end the whole conflict?
Ah! it is not that God cannot, nor that He will not; but that an immediate victory for our land might only mean a revival, in the basest form, of our national sins. As a nation we are far from being morally ready for victory, for there are few signs in our common life that we have learned and taken to heart the lessons of this chastisement. That is why God is keeping our nation waiting. We have to be brought infinitely lower yet. We have to learn yet what the law of God stands for. We have to learn yet what the hideousness of sin in a man or nation means. We have to learn that sin brings pain and bloodshedding to man, as it brought pain and bloodshedding to God. Then when the nation is morally prepared and renewed I believe that victory will not be delayed by an hour. But it will not come one hour sooner. Hence the necessity of our quietly waiting for the salvation of God. Though remember, in the last analysis, it is not He Who delays the answer to our prayer for victory. It is we who delay Him.
The third thing I want to say is this. Faith can only be trained by being tested. As a man's muscles are only hardened by exercise, so his faith only becomes strong and ultimately invincible by being subjected to the discipline of strain. For until it accepts the will of God, not under compulsion, nor because there is no alternative, but by free choice and glad surrender, faith is lacking in essential quality. But when we are unmoved by the fact that we are kept waiting, calmly conscious that God's glory is intimately bound up with our lives and prayers, and content that if He can afford to wait, so too can we, one of life's greatest lessons has been learned. For faith reaches its triumph only when its exercise ceases to be a deliberate activity and becomes an instinctive attitude.
Sometimes we learn this by our own impetuous efforts to hurry God. There are two conspicuous examples of this. Do you remember Moses and his undisciplined effort at the deliverance of his people? How disastrously it ended for him! God had to take him into the schoolhouse of the desert and keep him there for many a weary year. By his impetuosity he had embarrassed God; and so, too, do may of us. Do you remember Abraham with a wonderful promise to support him, with a vision so great that it staggered him, attempting to expedite God's purpose? You know the dark story of Hagar and Ishmael, and all that it afterward led to. Sometimes God likewise delays the promises of His faithfulness in order that we too may learn the utter futility of our every effort, and all the sweat of our souls, apart from Him. For remember that the faith of God must be vindicated in us before it can be verified through us, and before we can be His effective messengers to the world.
(continued with # 40)