James 1:2-11 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
We have been talking about waiting; the difficult waiting. The waiting where we try to connect with God but our prayers feel like they hit the ceiling and bounce straight back to us. We all face dark times in our lives, and maybe it is current for you today. We started by understanding that it is these times that can produce the greatest spiritual growth in our lives. These times are like the refiner’s fire – it burns hot but it brings the dregs and impurities to the surface so they can be dealt with. It’s not automatic, it takes work; but there is a blessedness in tough times we will find nowhere else.
We then looked at three words and how they relate to this time of waiting. Hope, Faith and Grace are all key words and should be part of our daily conversations. Today we conclude this series talking about God’s timing, trying to have a better perspective on what God is doing in and through these times.
God’s Perspective: History
The first thing we need to understand as we consider God’s timing when it comes to problem is perspective. The foundation of our understanding of God is that He is eternal. From before Creation to long after history is closed, He is. Not only is He outside of time, but He has been in time from the beginning, directing His plan of restoration of His creation to Himself. At the beginning of history God created. In that creation God made man in His image. In that image he gave man the ability to choose. With that choice, man sinned and a gulf was created between man and God. Even then God knew and had a plan to bring them back together. So, as you look through the annals of history you see God at work. You see man multiplying on the earth and constantly turning from God. You see Noah being used to save the world from destruction. And then, at the right moment you see Abraham picked out of all the inhabitants of the earth and chosen to be the start of a new nation. You see promises and covenants. In fact, what you don’t see is God’s absence. You see Him quiet at times, you see periods of what may be timed slowness, but God is active throughout history.
God raises a nation to reveal Himself to the world, and through the ultimate revelation of His Son through the incarnation within that nation at just the right time. Then we see God working in and through the people of the early church. As you read through the end of the New Testament you are also reminded that God never stops being actively involved in His creation. The whole of history is moving along God’s timing. We are not privy to all the why’s and why not’s, but we do know that God is Sovereign and in control. Nothing takes Him by surprise, for He is outside of time and can see any situation from both sides of time, before and after. Christ was born at the height of the Roman Empire, which allowed the Gospel to be spread quickly around the world. Even now God is waiting for the 2nd coming, giving everyone a chance to repent and come to Him. In his 2nd epistle in chapter 3, Peter says God is not slow concerning that promise; that it is in His timing. How many years was it from the fall in the Garden of Eden to the resurrection of Jesus, the solution of that fall? Jesus has taken over 2,000 years so far to come back and He is still not here. When you look at history we talk of God moving in the hundreds and thousands of years. Our 70 or 80 or 100 years here on earth are but a blink in time when it comes to the time before us and what follows. God can make even that small blink have lasting effects. If you lead even one person to Christ in your whole lifetime, consider that you have changed eternity for that soul. That is remarkable. By faithfully doing the small things day in day out, month in month out, year in year out, you are involved in the eternities of countless people God brings you in contact with. It is a remarkable thing to be used by the God of History.
God’s Plan: Nations
God’s plans and perspectives are not just some broad movements over millennia, though, they involve the creation of nations, and using nations to do His work. Israel He built from scratch, and exists to this day. The Bible shows that Israel was to represent and reveal God to the world around them. Through their laws they would reveal God’s character, His holiness and His love. The Old Testament tracks the nation of Israel from its birth, to its deliverance and rebelliousness, to its acceptance of dedication to God alone. Not only Israel, either. We see many nations involved, and continue to see God at work in nations. In Latin America we see some large scale movements of God. A few hundred years ago there was the Great Awakening that went through Britain and the US and Canada. In 1972 we saw God start a revival here in Saskatoon that reached around the globe.
The Bible says that God raises up leaders and lays them low. God is Sovereign and we see it throughout history as He interacts with nations. When it comes to His timing we also note that it took hundreds of years for Him to deliver Israel out of Egypt. Generations were born and died in slavery all the while crying out to God for deliverance. So many generations made that cry, but at the right time God touched a man and used him to deliver. Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, another 40 in exile, and then when he was 80 years old, he led the children out of Egypt, and then eventually through 40 years of wandering in the desert.
David wanted to build a temple for God. He collected gold and had the plans drawn up, and made some of the instruments and stuff needed, but he never saw the temple because that was for his son Solomon to do. Go back to Joseph, who was cast into a pit and then sold into slavery. After working in Potiphar’s house for awhile he was falsely accused and then jailed. For two years he languished in jail, and then spent another 7 years preparing for famine. Finally, after all that and then several years of famine, God used him to bring his family to Egypt so they could survive the famine.
Again and again we see God’s timing, and it seems so slow but consider that God is still in the business of bringing people to Himself. So we see God moving in history, we see His redemptive story in and through nations. What is God’s timing about? What is He trying to accomplish?
God’s Perfection: Holiness
God’s plan for us, all of us, all humans, is to become Christ-like in our attitudes, our words, and our actions. We are to reflect Jesus in our lives. We are to reflect the character of God in our lives. That is holiness, and why we are called to be holy. When we consider God’s timing and how sometimes He seems quiet or far away, consider that He didn’t place us on earth to be rich or poor, to be smart or not so smart, to be surrounded by family or utterly alone. God placed us on earth to be a reflection of Himself. So when we go through a rough time financially, we are reminded that as difficult as it may be to go through the experience, the question that should be at the top of the list is not how can I get more money, but how can I reflect the character of Jesus in this circumstance. Yes, you pray for deliverance, you work hard to do what you can to get out of that circumstance, but you do that with a sense of integrity and faith, knowing that God is aware and near. The God who has been working throughout all of history; the God who raises and lowers kings; He is the same God that has put His Holy Spirit in you as a seal of His promise of salvation, and is helping and guiding you to be all you can be. He is the God of grace that died on the cross that you might live. He is the God of love, modeling a selfless love called Agape throughout history, that we might in turn reflect that same love to those around us.
What is your right as a person? Is health? No, we are not guaranteed health. Is wealth? No, we are not guaranteed money. Friends? No! Then what? We are guaranteed eternal life that started the day we accepted Jesus into our hearts. We are guaranteed the presence of God in our hearts and lives regardless of circumstance. We are guaranteed to never be pushed beyond what we are able to bear. We are guaranteed to be loved by God.
We live in a fallen world. Sometimes rough times are a chastisement from the Lord for wandering away from Him and pursuing our own selfish ends. Sometimes we are just caught up in the fallenness and sin of this world, and the consequences there of. Whatever the reason, we need to affirm that through it all, God is making us more like Himself. There is a fig that grows in Israel that needs help to ripen. At a certain time in the growing process the farmer goes out with a little instrument that looks like a spoon, and he gently taps the fruit, bruising it. In so doing, it causes the fruit to become sweet and lose its bitterness. If it is not done, the fruit is not easily edible for it would be quite bitter. Let the rough times in your life be the bruising of God.
As we close, listen to this passage from 2 Peter 1:1-11 “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”