Few promises of God are fulfilled instantaneously. The Bible is full of the stories of people who set out into the unknown at God’s command, trusting in His promises. All testify to the faithfulness of God, His trustworthiness and unfailing goodness. Yet, few got the timings of God’s promises exactly right. Abraham reached his hundredth year, and wondered, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17 NIV).
Remember Paul writing this: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11 ESV). While these words about the Lord’s return might truthfully be spoken at any given time, it is clear that Paul hoped to see it happen in his own lifetime. He went to his grave unshaken in this confidence; so, we see how difficult it is to guess God’s timing in this matter. As Jesus said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV). We have been given signs to look for, but too often we see the beginning of birth pangs and conclude that the baby is almost out. There is nothing wrong with expecting the Lord to return soon, as long as we don’t go about stating the date and hour, for this will only cause the world to laugh at our naiveté. Peter hinted that the generation that stops believing in His return and scoffs at the notion of it will, to their great horror, be the one to be overtaken by it (2 Peter 3).
It could be that God, in delaying the answers to our many urgent prayers, is teaching us how to wait and prepare for Christ’s coming. Christians in every generation are, therefore, to remain watchful, expectant, active and prepared like a woman waiting for her child o be born. As we are forced almost against our will to wait, we must keep our faith from being extinguished and be ready for the answer to come at any moment. Although the nature of the preparation sometimes depends on the expected outcome, the Bible teaches us how to go through this waiting period.
Even if the waiting takes years, we must keep remembering His promises, and confess our confidence in God’s faithfulness. True, we may be wrong about the specifics concerning the promise, the length of our wait and God’s methods, and we often underestimate the trials and struggles we will have to endure on the way. Yet, we can be certain of this fact – He remains faithful. In those dark periods of ‘unknowing’, we might safely cling to Him remembering that He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10 ESV). In the final analysis, even if we have been wrong about everything, God remains faithful to us and depending on Him is always the right thing to do. “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25 ESV). He is good and therefore will bring out something wonderful in the end. “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame…” (Psalm 25:3 ESV). The waiting itself is pleasing to God, and as we walk through the valley of weeping, we will turn it into a place of springs (Psalm 84:6).
So, we must fight the fear and discouragement that seek to come in and hinder our progress. Some of us are more prone to worry than others, and it is necessary to fight against it. Even, if we temporarily fall into a state of despondency, as soon as we come to our senses, we should call on God. I often find myself praying to be kept in the faith, and free of fear. We must never, ever give up hope. For promises come to fruition according to heaven’s timetable and the seeming delays are simply things being kept aside for us to be delivered in the ‘fullness of time’. The fruit needs time to ripen, and there is no use plucking it while it is still green. We have, in effect, made a fixed deposit in the bank of faith, and we must wait until maturation period is complete, knowing that longer the wait, greater will be the final returns.
At the core of Christian character is patience, and God is teaching us to be patient. From heaven’s perspective, if all our prayers were instantly fulfilled, we would never learn humility or trust. Rather, we might grow proud, imagining ourselves as being worthy of heavenly rewards. Waiting, on the other hand, can be humbling. We begin to understand the depth of our unbelief and other failings. People around us see that we are depending wholly on God to bring us through, and many will see us as being foolish, and some openly ridicule us. Like Job’s friends, people might charge us with wrongdoing in the belief that they are defending God’s honour. Like Job, we are called to pray for such friends, and wish them well.
It is necessary to acknowledge that, in some cases we might never live to see the answer to our prayers, yet they will come to pass beyond our earthly lifetimes. There is great glory in the fulfilment of such promises: “Rather, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”’ (1 Corinthians 2:9 BSB). Could Abraham ever have imagined how great his descendants would be, and that the Messiah would be his Seed? Consider all the prophets, saints and apostles who came from his bloodline. Indeed, all saints are reckoned as Abraham’s seed for he is the father of those who believe. Such a great legacy, yet Abraham spent his life as a nomad, and lived just long enough to see Isaac. None of God’s good promises to us will fail or fall to the ground, all will be fulfilled – many in our own lifetimes and some beyond.
An important aspect of our fight is keeping ourselves in the joy that we have in Christ. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 ESV). Joy is our rightful inheritance as Christians, but so many of us have forgotten about the power of joy. Before He was crucified, Jesus prayed that we might have ‘full measure of His joy in us’ (John 17:13), and without joy, we will struggle to hold our ground. Remember, how joyful we were when we first received the promise. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), but hope deferred makes hearts grow sick (Proverbs 13:12). Therefore, we must once more take our stand, and regain the ‘joyfulness’ we once had, for here there is victory.
In conclusion, the rewards of waiting for answers to our prayers as God tarries are many – some of these will be ours to enjoy on earth, and others in eternity. Here, we learn to fight the good fight, develop patience and humility which are central to Christian character formation. As we regain the joy that the enemy tries to steal from us in this fight, we know that victory is at hand.
Father, grant us patience, confidence and courage as we await the fulfilment of Your wonderful promises to us. Help us to serve You in humility, and never give in to fear or despair. Fill our hearts with peace and joy. In Jesus’ name.