The story is told of a child who fell from an ocean liner in port. The mother screamed for help, and a man quickly responded. He held the woman back, watching her son struggle in the water. And then, at the last minute, he dove in and rescued the child. The distraught mother couldn’t say thank you. All she could say was this: “Why didn’t you save him sooner? He almost drowned!” The man responded, “Ma’am, if I had tried to save him sooner, he would have drowned both of us. I had to wait until he stopped struggling. Otherwise he would have pulled me under.”
The spiritual application is apt. God tells Israel to “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” And Psalm 37 details several commands related to faith: Trust, commit, delight and rest. Oftentimes we try to help God do the work, only to find that we’re in the way. The key is that we most likely need to get out of the way. And when God has His way in us, we somehow do His work in the world – beyond our natural strength. We aren’t fighting Him, and then miracles happen. One theologian puts it this way:
I once thought that after I prayed that it was my duty to do everything that I could do to bring the answer to pass. He taught me a better way, and showed that my self-effort always hindered His working, and that when I prayed and definitely believed Him for anything, He wanted me to wait in the spirit of praise, and only do what He bade me. It seems so unsafe to just sit still, and do nothing but trust the Lord; and the temptation to take the battle into our own hands is often tremendous.
We all know how impossible it is to rescue a drowning man who tries to help his rescuer, and it is equally impossible for the Lord to fight our battles for us when we insist upon trying to fight them ourselves. It is not that He will not, but He cannot. Our interference hinders His working.
Connected to this is the reality that faith gives God time to work.
GIVE GOD TIME TO WORK
God’s timing is impeccable. We may think He’s diving in too late, when drowning is imminent. Or we may say with Mary and Martha, “Lord, you’re days late!” “Why didn’t you come sooner? If you had come sooner, our brother would still be alive!”
Well, God never does anything by half. And He never misses time, even by a millisecond. If He sends Christ “in the fullness of time,” then we have to trust that time-fullness. In human wisdom, it might seem as if the world is already wrecked. Salvation is too late. But in God’s timetable, it’s perfect.
My Dad used to say, “God’s watch keeps perfect time.” Indeed, it does! A theologian comments:
Spiritual forces cannot work while earthly forces are active.
It takes God time to answer prayer. We often fail to give God a chance in this respect. It takes time for God to paint a rose. It takes time for God to grow an oak. It takes time for God to make bread from wheat fields. He takes the earth. He pulverizes. He softens. He enriches. He wets with showers and dews. He warms with life. He gives the blade, the stock, the amber grain, and then at last the bread for the hungry.
All this takes time. Therefore we sow, and till, and wait, and trust, until all God’s purpose has been wrought out. We give God a chance in this matter of time. We need to learn this same lesson in our prayer life. It takes God time to answer prayer.
So, we give God time. Maybe He’s making an oak out of us, when we wanted an overnight flower. Maybe He’s making a nation Israel, waiting for four hundred years, when we’d rather be one of the tribes in the land now. In all cases, God’s way is the best way. An oak feeds generations with quality food, lending beauty and health to life beyond human ken. And Israel endures when all other nations fall. Better to wait in God’s delay than to rush in outside His plan. Better to be a child in the desert than an outcast in the land.
So this means that we rest in His promise. We make His will our will, and dance in it…
FAITH AND REST IN THE PROMISE
One thing is so sure: God NEVER withholds an answer if the answer is best for us at that moment. God will not fulfill a promise until the fulfillment of that promise is a complete good in the life of the child (if the child is praying all in His will, delighting in Him). Sometimes it takes God time to prepare a heart for the answer, so that the answer does not hurt us or others.
Like this, we wait faithfully. And we rest in the promise. Charles Spurgeon says that the highest form of faith is to pray in the promise in the absence of answer, and then to thank Him even in denial – rejoicing in His will, wholesale, allowing holiness and kingdom usefulness to grow in us.
Does the Lord deny us our requests for a time? Let the promise for today encourage us to ask again. Has He denied us altogether? We will thank Him still, for it always was our desire that He should deny us if He judged a denial to be best.
As to some things, we ask very boldly. Our chief desires are for holiness, usefulness, likeness to Christ, preparedness for heaven. These are the desires of grace rather than of nature — the desires of the righteous man rather than of the mere man. God will not stint us in these things but will do for us exceeding abundantly. “Delight thy self also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” This day, my soul, ask largely.
And so we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done!” And then we pray boldly, waiting patiently and faithfully.
And this much is sure, based on His character: Good will come!