I can vividly recall my childhood days of traveling to Disney World in Orlando. My brothers and I could hardly sleep the night before. We would awake the next morning with an excitement we could barely contain for we knew that in just a few hours we would be in Disney, that children’s fantasy land of cartoon adventures and discovery.
On the way there, about every 15 minutes or so, I would ask the age-old question that every impatient child asks, “Are we there yet?”
My dad’s stoic and patient response was, of course, “Not yet, but soon.”
Such childhood adventures have taught me that staying the course with patience and perseverance can lead us to cool places like Disney World. Spiritually speaking, perseverance and resolve can also lead us to other great places as well, such as into a more intimate relationship with God.
But along the way, God will often allow us to experience some things that challenge our faith.
One way our faith in God is challenged is when our circumstances do not appear to be changing despite our best efforts and most fervent prayers to the contrary.
In some cases, things can even appear to get worse! The unemployment rate in the U.S., for example, is the highest it has been in recent memory. Many find themselves searching for employment of any kind, hoping beyond hope, it seems, that a job offer will materialize. After mailing out 100 resumes and knocking on as many doors, no offer appears in sight. Is God hearing the desperate prayers of His saints during such seasons?
Another way our faith is challenged is when answers to prayer are delayed or answered altogether differently from what we expected. To be frank, this has been one of the most poignant struggles I have faced as an almost life-long believer. I strongly suspect, and in some cases I know for a fact that even other stronger believers than I would agree with me here.
God’s delay in answering our prayers can at times be truly perplexing and even mysterious. And, despite trite platitudes to the contrary, saints with a far greater weight of glory than I will ever have, have themselves wrestled with the providence of God’s timing.
David, for example, asked where God was as he was forced to flee to from the murderous hand of King Saul for well over 10 years (see Psalm 13).
Of all the subjects people wrestle with, the existence of pain and suffering sits at the very top of their list. But perseverance, obedience and the resolve to trust in God’s promises are also key ingredients to a life of faith, joy and peace with God.
Indeed, such towering biblical figures as Job, David and Daniel attest to the fact that even the most saintly suffer. Even Jesus, God the Son, was not exempt from feeling the sting of such times.
But the suffering of Christ, and the glories that followed in the wake of His suffering, reveal with the brilliance of the noonday sun that God is always up to something when suffering comes our way!
It is during the difficult times that we must stay the course. In so doing, God will draw us into a deeper relationship with Him and give us greater insights into who He is.
Our responses to these trials reveal our hearts.
One day, after one of Israel’s rebellious moments, the Lord challenged Moses with a rather odd proposition. God proposed to Moses that He, the Lord, would abandon Israel and raise up a new nation under Moses’ name, and, in effect, start over (Numbers 14:10–12).
Moses refused such an offer and answered that for the Lord to do so would ruin His reputation among the heathen nations as the God who saved Israel (vs. 13–19).
Of course, this was exactly the response God was looking for.
Moses’ decision to persevere and honor God’s plans was revealed in his decision to humble himself and intercede for Israel. This is what God was really after.
Discovering for ourselves the degree to which we are trusting in God can bring joy or conviction. We experience joy when we realize we are truly committed to Him. Conviction comes our way when we discover an area of our heart that is not truly surrendered to Him.
Also, we learn that God is always good even when our circumstances do not appear to be. Make no mistake about it – we do experience very real and trying times. The Bible explicitly acknowledges this (Job 1–2, James 1:2).
But the Bible also records the fact that God is good, gracious and compassionate (Psalm 145:8–9). It is critical to remember that while God will not grant our every whim, He wants to bless us with good things. But is our decision to trust Him for these things that strengthens our faith in Him.
Finally, perseverance and faith are the ways in which God’s glory is revealed in the strongest light.
In my own life, I have had (and still have!) prayers which I have put before God for more than 20 years. Those older and wiser in their faith have persevered in prayer far longer than I, even. But in these times of waiting and trusting, I have truly been brought more and more to the end of trusting in my own resources and into a greater depth of dependence upon Him. I have no doubts whatsoever that when God desires to answer some of my longest-lasting and heart-felt desires, it is He, certainly not I, who will be glorified!
Staying the course and remaining in a trustful dependence on God are key parts of drawing closer to God and discovering who He is. Trust is also the path to seeing His glory revealed in and around us. In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we are exhorted to continue to have faith in the Lord despite our circumstance. Choosing to do so has been, and always will be, the wisest and most peaceful decision we can make!
Allen can be reached at [email protected]