Patience

God’s Clock and Man’s Clock

When thinking about measuring time there are at least Two Clocks to consider: God’s Clock and Man’s Clock. God’s timing isn’t our timing. God’s Clock isn’t Man’s Clock. God’s timing is perfect.

There’s a chapter on waiting for God’s answer to prayer in James and Joel Beeke’s little book Developing a Healthy Prayer Life. The authors offer biblical examples of prayers and promises which took many years to come to pass: Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was 100 years old and David had years of fleeing from Saul until he became king etc. God answers prayer in His own way, and fulfills promises in His perfect timing.

One of the biblical illustrations the authors use regarding God’s timing is Habakkuk 2:3.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay. (Hab 2:3)

Is there a contradiction here? No! The authors point out that the verse is referring to Two Different Clocks. One clock is from our perspective, while the other is how God uses time. The NET Bible translation perhaps makes this a little clearer:

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It Should Be Fall

It should be fall.

Oh, I know it may be a little early to say that—in this first week of August—but I have always loved fall, so every year I try to rush ahead. It is my favorite season of the year.

Where I live, in Wisconsin, fall weather generally provides the greatest comfort. Normally by the start of September the sweltering heat has largely subsided, and there is almost never an early season snowstorm.

People should be getting back into the regular routines of life right now. For many, that means that school should be starting again.

From kindergarten through seminary, and adding in my teaching experience, I have been part of 28 fall semesters to date. I started out loving school, then learned to hate it at times, but definitely ended by learning to love it again. As a kid, a new school year meant new school clothes, new notebooks—even a new lunchbox.

When I was in college and seminary, especially, I remember the enthusiasm I had for the new books, and even my excitement at reading through a new syllabus. Going to the first day of a new class in seminary was sort of the adult version of sitting down to open a big Christmas gift.

But fall also means other things to us in our spare time—like football. From high school, through college, and adding in my coaching experience, I have been part of 14 football seasons.

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Why We Should Wait!

Are there any among the idols of the nations that can cause rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are You not He, O LORD our God?
Therefore we will wait for You,
Since You have made all these. (Jeremiah 14:22)

We’ve all heard versions of the prayer that goes, “Lord, help me to be patient, and please hurry up about it.”  In my life the lesson on being patient has been probably the hardest one to learn.  In fact, I must confess that I have not learned the lesson very well, and have constantly to relearn it.  If I were to put my finger on the problem it would have to land on the truths brought out in the verse above.

Jeremiah knew a lot about having to wait.  During his ministry he had to preach for God to a people who had set themselves against the truth.  His words often seemed to bounce off the surface of the ears of his listeners.  Moreover, he had to contend with false prophets who would tell the eager hearers what they wanted to hear; the bad times were coming to an end; the Babylonians would be beaten back; God would come to the rescue of Israel.  These were not the messages that Jeremiah was given to proclaim.

Given that Jeremiah had an unpopular message to preach, he had to be a man of patience to continue, day in, day out, to be a herald of, this verse gets to the heart of why we can wait on the Lord, giving over to Him our propensity to rush things or to see matters change overnight. 

The prophet poses two questions about the way the world works. 

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Mark Twain never wrote, and almost certainly never said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” But, Twaininess aside, there’s an underlying truth. When confronted with a severely negative turn of events, it’s human nature to reject it. “No way! … this is not happening!”

It’s just as natural to scale it down to a size we feel better equipped to handle, “That’s not what’s happening. This is what’s happening…” followed by a simplified, more understandable, less frightening version of things.

But a Christian is called to think differently about everything, including calamities and disasters. He is to “speak truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2) as well as “with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). In the case of disasters, this means facing the full reality of a mess out of our control, recognizing that what is, is.

This honesty has consequences. Because “the prudent sees danger and hides himself” (Prov. 22:3), facing a time of suffering with eyes wide open and lights on allows us to act wisely in response. “The simple go on and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3b).

Because the times seem to call for it, I’ve been shoring up my practical theology of suffering by pondering seven certainties. These are the final three.

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering, Part 2

We humans have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. When too much change is happening too fast, the temptations to choose certainty over truth and comfort over honest struggle are greatly intensified.

We want it all to make sense. We want it to be simple. We want someone or some group to be clearly to blame—maybe because that’s easier than seeing the difficulty as a mess too complex to understand. A villain provides certainty and feels like a measure of control.

It’s a very human thing to do, but it’s not a very Christian thing to do. We’re called to prize truth and face it, even when the truth to be faced is, “I don’t how this happened or what’s coming next … and it could be really bad.”

The Christian way is to face disaster with all it’s complexities and uncertainties, but—in our hearts and minds—anchor it all to rock-solid, unchanging, big-picture realities. Because these realities are revealed to us by God in Scripture, we properly call this anchoring faith.

In part 1, we pondered two of seven certainties regarding suffering: our suffering is never meaningless and our suffering is never solitary. These certainties, and others, are pillars in our theology of suffering. Here we consider two more.

3. Our suffering is never payback.

“So much is going wrong in my life! Is God punishing me?”

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering

If you’ve been reading the economic news, you’ve been seeing the same things I have. Much of the forecasting is dire, and the numbers right now are beyond disturbing.1  There’s a wide range of predictions, and even the best-case scenarios aren’t fun to think about.

Like many of you, I’m more afraid of poverty than I am of COVID-19. This could be temporary. Nobody close to me has developed the disease. People close to me have lost their jobs.

This fear doesn’t make me less supportive of government rules aimed at slowing the disease, though. I don’t believe there ever was a non-catastrophic path through this. It was going to be a disaster, no matter what, and better decisions here and there would only have made it a slightly smaller disaster.2

So we have entered a time of suffering, and it might get a lot worse before it gets better. What that means for me is that I need to stir myself up by way of reminder (2 Pet. 1:13, 3:1). Maybe some of you will find these meditations helpful too.

Uncertainties and certainties

The platitude says fear of the unknown is the worst fear. I’m not so sure. Some things I fear only because they are known. I’ve experienced them before and dread going there again. Being unemployed is one of them.

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“As congregations, we grow in godliness not by hearing one sermon but by hearing a thousand.”

"We need to believe that God really does work and that he really does work over time. Too often we overestimate the growth we can gain in a week, but underestimate the growth we can gain in a year." - Challies

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