Hurry up and wait
Hurry up and wait. That was the first lesson I learned when I joined the Marines the summer I graduated from high school. Drill instructors would scream in our faces and make us run everywhere those first few days of boot camp when we were having uniforms issued, getting physicals, and being processed in. We double-timed it everywhere we went. The crazy thing is as soon as we got to our destination sweaty and of of breath, we sat and waited for hours on bleachers while waiting for that glorious moment when your name was called. Then it was off, double-time, to go stand in another line somewhere else. We were in a giant government waiting room.
This is what it feels like in your life when you first hear God’s call to be a missionary. Time stands still. You know that you know that you know you heard the Holy Spirit speak to you deep in your mind and heart. People you respect – friends and leaders in ministry – have confirmed that this is God’s call and have affirmed you as a person gifted to go, but nothing seems to be happening to move you forward in the process. There was momentum at first, but now… nothing. In fact, you’re pretty sure that either God has forgotten about you or you (and everybody else) are just wrong about the call you thought you heard.
Whatever the case, God doesn’t seem to be delivering on His part of the bargain.
Father Abraham Waits on a Promise
Abraham was old by anyone’s standards (especially his wife’s!). He was old and childless. It wasn’t until Abraham’s later years that God used him most (and now you’re thinking I hope I’m not old before God comes through for me). It seems that ever since God first spoke to Abraham to move to another country, he was in God’s waiting room. And, as if to make it more difficult to believe in Him, the Lord promises Abraham that Sarah is going to have a son! She laughs at that! Abraham had to endure years of waiting before he started to see with his own eyes God’s promises come true.
The Bible calls Abraham a hero of the faith (Hebrews 11). While God loves to use young people for his work, he doesn’t need you to be young. God wants to give us all the time necessary to prepare us for the call. He’s not anxious at all.
On the other hand, Faith Hall-of-famer Father Abraham took matters into his own hands – more than once! Who can blame him? He was an old and tired of waiting!
Here’s something you can be sure of: He does this with everyone he uses. God puts everyone through the time test. Even His own Son.
A Time of Preparation for Jesus
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” —Luke 2:52
This is how Luke concludes the narrative about twelve year old Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem while his mother frantically worried. This is the backstory before the story of Jesus ministry was officially launched. This is what God is doing with you, too. He’s preparing you by walking with you through the time test. He wants you to increase in wisdom, stature, and favor. This takes time.
A Time for Refining
It’s in the process of time that God refines your life. You might think nothing is going on – you might even be bored – so be ready. This what makes reading about Bible heroes so interesting. When nothing seems to be happening is happening is when God makes things start. “Discipleship always involves the unexpected,” says New Testament scholar Tom Wright. God brings you His plan and a role to play in His story. He’s going to do what it takes to train you.
This is where you start to desire God to lead and present you with opportunity rather than you making your own. If you make things happen, you’ll have to maintain them. When God makes the opportunity, you’re working with the strongest, smartest, most resourceful partner you could ever hope for. Let Him finish His work in you no matter how long it takes. You’ve got time.