clock

[im]perfect Timing

I watched the sun come up this past Saturday morning. Somewhere around 3:30 or 4 a.m., I picked up the book I had been reading, Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala, and began reading at the top of chapter 7, “Faith Runs on a Different Clock.” I got four pages into this chapter and was really struck by the way that Pastor Cymbala told the story of the birth of John, as told in Luke 1. Basically, he was bringing the reader to focus on the truth that many times God works on a much different time table than we do and that our challenge as people of faith is to not throw away our confidence in the meantime, bearing in mind that it will be richly rewarded (Hebrews 10:35).

One particular line that stuck with me was:

“Many of our struggles about faith have to do with timing. We believe, at least in theory, that God will keep His promises—but when?”

He approached the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist in such a unique way that I soon found myself reaching for my Bible to read this account more indepth for myself. After reading the account detailed in Luke 1:1-23, I was immediately struck by several things.

First, in verse 6 we are told, “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.” So, we would assume that surely God honored their faithfulness by blessing them with a full and fruitful life. However, verse 7 says,

“They had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were both very old.”

For many generations, it had been prophesied that the messiah would be born of a woman, so every woman in the lineage of David had a hope and an expectation that her baby just might be “the one.” Being barren in those days meant that you were disqualified from even being a candidate. Barrenness carried with it disgrace, reproach and a deep sense of rejection and exclusion. So, before we go any further, when you put verses 6 and 7 side by side, you can’t help but see that in spite of the disappointment and disgrace that this couple experienced (Luke 1:25), they were still faithful, obedient and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. That’s saying a lot right there.

It’s not just that they were disappointed in general, but verse 7 tells us that “now they were both very old,” so they had been disappointed for a long time. We aren’t told exactly how old they were, but I believe the fact that the Bible makes it a point to say that they were “very old” is significant.  In fact, it is likely that they had grown so accustomed to their situation that they figured that it wasn’t going to change. But verse 8 says,

“One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple …”

Isn’t that something?

Disgraced but faithful
Disappointed but not distracted
Unfulfilled but undaunted

While Zechariah was serving on this day, “an angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar” (v. 11). “The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! You are to name him John'” (v. 13). This is incredible to me, especially in the context of what we read in verses 6-8, seeing that Zechariah was faithful to serve, with an unrealized hope and unfulfilled dream tucked away in his heart. He may have even forgotten about his prayer, but God didn’t.

When you look at the scope of the series of events that preceded and eventually led to the birth of Jesus Himself, we see that the delay in the answer to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer was not really even about them at all. It was all about God’s timing. It couldn’t have happened any earlier. It had to happen how it did and when it did, in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled and John to be the forerunner to Christ Himself (v. 17). The story is encouraging and redemptive on its own, but still pales in comparison to the small part it played in the larger story of the birth of Jesus and how the world would never be the same as a result.

Reading this story, I was forced to ask myself the hard question: “Can I still serve, be faithful and trust God even when I don’t get what I think I should have when I think I should have it?” Even harder, “Am I willing to accept the possibility that the time I am spending in wait might not even be about me?”

We are so spoiled today. When we don’t get the job, the car, the promotion, the house, the spouse or even the pair of shoes that we want, we have the audacity to lose hope and let our confidence that God is working on our behalf. This selfishness is magnified even more when we look at the time lines, unrealistic expectations and demands we put on our faith. When thinking of the things that we give value to and the relatively short time restraints we put on God “coming through” for us, we can quickly see how our attitude and impatience paint a vivid picture of a shallow faith that is often built around our entitlement and on having what we want when we want it.

How long have you been waiting?

Zechariah and Elizabeth waited a really long time, but they were still faithful and trusted in the Lord. I pray that I can develop that same kind of focus and tenacity to remain faithful, hopeful and trusting even in the face of an unrealized hope or desire.

God has not forgotten you, but faith runs on a different clock. Don’t lose heart, but in between the asking and the fulfillment, keep serving. Stay faithful. Be obedient. Unplug your clock and trust in the perfect timing of the Lord. Back up from your situation and begin to ask God for a view of the bigger picture and how the hope in your heart today fits into the greater story that will play out tomorrow.

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Grant Jenkins[im]perfect Timing
15 comments
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JennyRain
JennyRain

"Unplug your clock"

I have a mental clock I want God to work by I think... This is a great post!
My recent post Celebrating on the Right Side of the Jordan

Rodnesha Green
Rodnesha Green

"This selfishness is magnified even more when we look at the time lines, unrealistic expectations and demands we put on our faith. When thinking of the things that we give value to and the relatively short time restraints we put on God “coming through” for us, we can quickly see how our attitude and impatience paint a vivid picture of a shallow faith that is often built around our entitlement and on having what we want when we want it."

WOW!! Can u say, "CHALLENGE!"
That was seriously the paragraph to sum up the whole of this post and revelation. Wow... and this is an older blog?? Great insight... I'm going to have to mark this as a favorite

Tina Dee
Tina Dee

I loved this post, I think I need to print and hang it around the house.

Thank you for your words, I think they are just what God wanted me to hear and heed.

jason1scott
jason1scott

Great reminder- love the thoughts and how you put it here. Thanks so much.
My recent post I Hate Storage Units

allisonroberts
allisonroberts

Reminds me of the John Waller song, "While I'm Waiting". Your posts are always so timely. I am dealing with the "when Lord" issues in my life right now. Thank you for the reminder to remain faithful and steady even when I don't understand.

Mela Kamin
Mela Kamin

couldn't help but think of Pete's book Plan B, since I just finished it yesterday - especially about living in our Saturdays - maybe disillusioned and doubtful, thinking Sunday (the solution, the resurrected dream, the transformation) is right around the corner, but Sunday might not be the very next day in God's timing. Still, we have hope that He is faithful and we are called to be faithful, prayerful and choose joy, even in a season of Saturdays. John Waller has a great song called "While I'm Waiting" that really speaks to me.
"I will move ahead, bold and confident. Taking every step in obedience - While I'm waiting - I will serve You
While I'm waiting - I will worship - While I'm waiting - I will not faint - I'll be running the race - Even while I wait."
My recent post He Takes Me Back

Kyle Reed
Kyle Reed

Yup, needed this. Seems like I say that about all of your post :)

Its easy to play the victim card. "God hasn't opened any doors" "I am waiting for the right timing" "I deserve better" but often times is very hard to continue to be faithful and to remain trusting that God is working.
I know being without a "real" job for over a year now has been the toughest thing I have done. Never would I have expected to go this long and to be honest I feel pathetic and barren (to use the words of this post) like I am not producing. But seeing that God calls the faithful to be faithful is important.
My recent post A Letter To My Mom On Her Birthday

Morgan
Morgan

"He may have even forgotten about his prayer, but God didn’t"

This hit me HARD. In a flash every unmet expectation and prayer thrown God's way came crashing back at me. Where was that message when I'd orginally thought God had left me out on my own? Would it have necessarily changed how things in my life played out? Probably not. But oh how it would have helped to keep hope burning for so many years. (Fortunately, God's timing seems to have been dead on, because I couldn't possibly need Christ in my life more than now, and He's led me right where I need to be.)

Thank you for your wonderful insight and further breakdown of Justin's sermon yesterday!!!

Lindsey
Lindsey

For me, the issue is that I don't know that I often really know what the promises of God are to which He has said He will be faithful. I know that God is for me but He is even more about His glory. His promises are absolutely true but I've learned that despite what is in vogue in American Christianity, there is no promise in His Word that says I will have all of my earthly wishes. If He gave me those things in the here and now, would I really long for Heaven the way that I should?

I do love how God blesses Zechariah and Elizabeth with John at a time when it is likely that this dream has died for them. It shows me that even before Jesus came into this earth in human form, God was about resurrections. He certainly resurrected a dream for them and He can do the same for me. I wonder if He doesn't allow some dreams, that I have allowed to become idols and crowd out His rightful place in my heart, to die so that 1. He can have his rightful place on the throne of my heart and 2. He can prove His power over death in my life.

Thanks again for turning my thoughts toward Christ and His absolute faithfulness today!

basher
basher

As discussed, timing is only a part of what I'm trying to figure out now, but I am at least somewhat aware that my expectations are unrealistic and that being patient is something I have to do. I appreciate all you and everyone else is doing to put things in perspective for me, because when I'm not in constant contact with all you guys, it's very easy to get discouraged and reach for the easy way out.

Ani
Ani

Wow! So encouraging. You are amazing at this. Thanks for sharing.

kylajoyful
kylajoyful

This encouraged me today, after a challenging day yesterday. There are truths that I know and keep telling them to myself, but I still need to hear them and know that they really are true. Thanks for posting.

JasonWert
JasonWert

I agree with the majority of your post but this troubles me a bit: "our attitude and impatience paint a vivid picture of a shallow faith that is often built around our entitlement and on having what we want when we want it."

Edit: this is weeeeeeeeeeeeird. I had a big response here that for some reason didn't post. Basically, it said that my trouble came from a lot of people who've been under trials or have been waiting for years or decades and feel impatient might not have shallow faith 'cause they've hung onto God even when it appears He's done nothing for them. It was more deep and theological sounding than that but I don't have time to recreate it at the moment. :)

My recent post The Pete Wilson Challenge Day 10 -amp 11

Sweetie
Sweetie

Your words, whether in person, or here move me. I am so thankful God has put you in my path...and so pray that it will one day allow us to work together as well.

Michael
Michael

You have no idea how timely this post is. Which is odd, because it is dealing with how God's timing in perfect. Something I have been dealing with as of late.

Thanks Grant for being so open with your walk.

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