“O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.” (Isaiah 40:27–28, NLT)
Throughout the Bible, the people of God have met with resistance, struggle and attack in order to carve out a portion for God’s inheritance. Abraham was rebuffed time and again for the wells he possessed. The nation of Israel was in captivity for 400 years before their miraculous release by God through Moses.
Kings Saul and David fought for every inch of land the people of God possessed. Nehemiah was attacked from without and discouraged from within by enemy collaborators until the very last stone was in place on Jerusalem’s wall. The disciples were rejected, beaten and eventually killed, with the exception of John, for their expansion of the Good News of Jesus Christ. What would make us think our great work of reaching our world in our generation would take any less personal sacrifice?
Understanding how God operates changes our expectations. And herein lies the problem in our souls. Modern Americans are “instant” people. We like our food served within minutes of our order. We want our Internet service to respond immediately. We even expect God to answer us instantly, even though we may have been away from Him for years!
Expectations are the viruses of life. God wants us to understand exactly how He operates. After three decades in ministry I have come to comprehend the following about the God whom I serve.
- God sees our troubles. All too often, as seen repeatedly in the Psalms, we feel that because we have prayed and God hasn’t answered that He hasn’t paid attention to our plight. In His message sent through our Isaiah passage, He confirms He knows what is happening to us and about us!
- God hears our prayers. Since nothing has changed, except perhaps to get worse, we often conclude God hasn’t heard our prayers. Perhaps He has turned a deaf ear to us! King Hezekiah’s situation is very instructive to us in this matter. We learn from the great king that at times, God turns away from us to see what is really in our hearts.
However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. 2 Chronicles 32:31 (NKJV, Emphasis added)
God allows us to display our faith and wisdom at certain times without His presence and help. Surely we can see our true nature during times of trouble more than at any other time. Yet, be assured God is listening to our prayers, for He hears every cry from every child of His!
- God is able to solve our problems. There is often doubt that God can or wants to solve our problems when things are going poorly. It is in these times that we often neglect to remember God’s Word:
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
- God is operating on His timetable. Here is the point. God is working out His will in His plan. Often, when things are going wrong for God’s people, they are suffering for the sins of the past. They are reaping the harvest of sins done years ago, perhaps by others who came before us! David had to endure the consequences of a three-year famine as a result of his predecessor’s failures. (2 Samuel 21:1) In ministry, we too, often suffer for previous failures.
Whatever the cause for our present difficulties, God still answers prayer on His timetable. Be assured He has a plan. If we will submit to this plan, God will bless us abundantly in His good time!
If you enjoyed today’s leadership post, you can read the rest of it in Dr. Smith’s book, Gathering Missional Leaders: Creating a Biblical Environment for Exponential Leadership Development. You can purchase the book by following this link.