I just read this in Hugh Halter’s book, Flesh, and found it encouraging.
It is crazy to watch Jesus work the clock. Often He would heal someone and then say, “Don’t go tell anyone.” … Jesus knew how circumstances link together in a chain of responses, and He was a master at doing only what he saw His Father doing. Timing when truth comes out is as important as the truth itself.
There is an appointed time for you to speak as well. Moments happen when God is clearly leading you to speak up about Him, ask a great question, or perhaps grab someone by the hand and say, “I really want to bring something up that has been on my heart about you.” …
In John 17, as Jesus was praying to the Father about His three years of formal ministry, He said this: “I have … finish[ed] the work you gave me to do” (v.4).
A couple of questions are in order. Had Jesus healed everyone at this point? No. Had Jesus taught everyone, fed everyone, and helped everyone? Of course not. Had he prepared the disciples to know exactly what to do upon His departure? Not even close. Yet Jesus knew that He had finished what God asked Him to do.
Here is what goes through my head:
- I rarely feel like I’m doing enough.
- I almost always feel that I could do more.
- I’m failing in the opportunities that God brings my way.
- I tend toward cynicism and apathy because I don’t’ think my little efforts will do much for the kingdom anyway.
But the more I study Jesus and see Him letting God dictate who, where, how, how long, how much, and how often, I find some peace in knowing that God has always showed up before me, that He will be there after I’m gone, and that He loves these people infinitely more than I and will continue to pursue them after my life has rubbed against theirs.
… God knows the appointed times for you, too. He knows when it will be time to let you lead, when to uncork you, and when you are ready to cover others. But don’t miss the beauty of Jesus’s life. He had thirty years of submerged incarnation before His three years of emerged ministry.
This speaks to two things: God’s timing in myself, and His timing in others. For myself, I’m like Hugh, often (maybe even always) feeling like I haven’t done enough and feeling like I’m failing. If I had been Jesus, I’m pretty sure I would have been in the garden telling Jesus I had not finished all He had given me to do. I would have been worried about how unprepared the disciples were. I would have been feeling that there were more people to heal and more to teach… How encouraging that God was able to complete what Jesus had started, and He is able to complete what I have started (or, more accurately, what He has started through me). Because God always finishes what He starts.
As for God’s timing in others, I’m reminded of the Israelites. Their journey to the Promised Land should have only taken 40 days. It took 40 years, but God still got them there. I was working with a young girl recently who was getting frustrated and about to make some bad decisions. She expected me to react with some alarm, warning her not to make this mistake she was contemplating. But I wasn’t alarmed. Instead, I promised her that God would finish what He had so obviously started in her and that He would bring about the things He had spoken to her. The only question she had to answer was whether it was going to take 40 days or 40 years—and that was entirely dependent on her. Was she going to press in to Jesus and learn during her time in the wilderness so that she could move on to the Promised Land quickly? Or was she going to be bitter and frustrated at her time in the wilderness and rebel and find herself swirling around in circles for years to come? Either way, she was going to get there. I wasn’t concerned. She wasn’t going to thwart God, she wasn’t going to cause Him to be a liar… He would do what He promised. So, if she had to go and make this bad decision, then I told her to go ahead and rebel—God would use that too to His glory and for her good in some crazy way. But that would be the long and more painful route. Alternatively, she could humble herself before the Lord and quit being so angry and rebellious. She could trust God and see what He would do.
I could say all of this because I have been learning, as Hugh writes, “I find some peace in knowing that God has always showed up before me, that He will be there after I’m gone, and that He loves these people infinitely more than I and will continue to pursue them after my life has rubbed against theirs.” I don’t have to control her behavior. I don’t have to worry about the bad decisions she might make. Why? Because God can and will work all things to the good of His name and His glory. Because God loves her more than I do. Because God will continue to pursue her long after we have lost touch. Because it (her life, the world, etc.) doesn’t all rest on me. It rests on HIM!
God may use me to help her, to encourage her not to take the long and hard road, and surely that is better, but if she chooses to do things the hard way, that’s OK, too. He can work with that. Everything doesn’t have to happen right now. Remember, Jesus didn’t panic that the disciples weren’t ready. He knew that God and the Holy Spirit would continue to work in them long after He was gone. When God is in the picture, we don’t have to worry about unfinished business. We may only be on the project for a little while, but He is the project manager, and He will see it through. Every. Time.
Halter, H. (2014). Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, Learning to be Human Like Jesus. Colorado Springs: David C Cook. p 109-110.