God’s Perfect Timing

by | Oct 20, 2010 | SpiritLed Living

What we need most is the ability to discern the will of God every day, in every situation.

Whether
it’s in business, politics, sports or stand-up comedy, experts tell us
that timing means everything. Prayer, too, can be a matter of timing.

Failure
to understand God’s timing regarding a matter we are praying about can
lead to spiritual disappointment and missed opportunities.

For any given prayer or undertaking in our lives, we need to discern whether the Lord is saying one of these four things:

* Never
* Always
* At certain times
* Not now.

The
Bible declares that from before the creation of the world, God intended
us to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom. 8:29, NIV). And
anyone who studies the life of Jesus can’t help but be impressed with
His unruffled peace and perfect spiritual poise.

No matter the
situation, the Lord knew what to say and when to say it. Whether He was
healing the sick, walking the dusty roads of Judea, or preaching and
praying, Jesus always did the right thing with perfect timing.

This
keen understanding of divine imperatives and precise spiritual timing
is at the heart of what it means to be mature in Christ. Some things
must never be done, while others must always be observed.

At
certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take; at
other times even good things are inappropriate because the Lord is
saying “not now.” An inability to understand and obey these principles
is a mark of spiritual immaturity and carnality.

When we fail to
believe that God is serious when He says “never,” we suffer the hurtful
consequences of our disobedience. The same is true when we respond
halfheartedly to an “always” command.

But when God responds by
saying “at certain times,” it can be difficult to know what precisely to
do, especially when the decision has no obvious moral quality to it.
Just as challenging is the ability to hear God’s “not now” response,
bidding us to cease an otherwise proper course of action.

GOD’S IMPERATIVES

A most dramatic moment in Old Testament history well illustrates these
principles. The Israelites had just left Egypt after the Lord had
delivered 10 plagues on their enemy.

Following the desert road
that led to the Red Sea, they had camped at its edge. But Pharaoh, who
had let them go with great reluctance, changed his mind once again,
pursuing them into the desert with a host of chariots and soldiers.

As
Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the
Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the
Lord (see Ex. 14:10-16). This was the first spiritual test God’s people
faced after their emancipation.

As Pharaoh’s army drew near, the
Israelites panicked, blaming Moses for delivering them in the first
place. In their moment of crisis, they couldn’t muster an ounce of faith
in the God who had already proven His love and faithfulness.

It
was in this setting that they heard one of the Lord’s most important
“never” words, a word that applies to us today. It came through Moses,
who boldly declared, “Do not be afraid” (Ex. 14:13).

Whether it’s
the Israelites at the Red Sea or you and I at the beginning of the 21st
century, fear and timidity are never God’s will for His people. To be
controlled by fear means the death of faith. “Without faith it is
impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6).

It doesn’t matter how many
chariots pursued the Israelites then or how many terrorist cells plot
mayhem today. Fear is never an option for the children of the living
God.

When we ignore God’s word, “Do not be afraid,” we sadden the
Spirit of God and forfeit the blessings He intends for us. In fact,
fear is far worse than diseases such as cancer or AIDS because they only
attack the body while fear assaults the soul.

In times of doubt
and anxiety, Christians must distinguish themselves by their faith and
fearlessness. You may protest when looking at ominous headlines and
wonder, How can we not be afraid?

Instead of letting the news control your emotions, read what the Bible declares:

“God
is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore
we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into
the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains
quake with their surging” (Ps. 46:1-3).

We should begin every day
by reminding ourselves of this “never” word from God. We will not fear,
no matter how bad the news or how dire the world may seem, since God is
still in control.

To live in fear is as much a disobedience to
God as stealing or lying. The same God who said not to covet also
declared that we are never to fear.

God can not only protect us
from danger but also rescue us from the nagging fear of what might
happen to us. That kind of anxiety creates spiritual chaos in us,
robbing us of joy and peace.

Break through into a new confidence
in God that dethrones fear and keeps it from ruling our lives. As we
walk by faith and not by sight, we can rest in the words of Jesus,
“‘Don’t be afraid; just believe'” (Mark 5:36).

FOLLOWING DIVINE DIRECTIONS

While making it clear that we must never be afraid, Moses conveyed
another of God’s imperatives to the people: “‘Stand firm and you will
see the deliverance [of] the Lord'” (Ex. 14:13).

God’s people
must always stand firm in faith no matter what happens around them. The
basic truth of salvation is that “‘the righteous will live by faith'”
(Gal. 3:11).

This same faith should characterize our daily life
in Christ. Faith brings stability in times of uncertainty while unbelief
causes vacillation.

Always walk by faith in the Lord and be
courageous in God. “Trying harder” to do the right thing is not what’s
needed. Instead, we must have faith in what God can and will do for us.

When
the Israelites were pinned between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, God
said to stand firm in faith (see Ex. 14:13). Pharaoh’s chariots came
thundering down on a people who had absolutely no military experience,
yet God said to trust Him to handle the situation.

This “always”
word from God was written for our instruction and encouragement today as
we face a post-9/11 world filled with nuclear and biological terror. We
must stand firm, be strong in the Lord, and face the future with
courage.

Consider the alternative: “‘If you do not stand firm in
your faith, you will not stand at all'” (Is. 7:9). If your trust in God
falters, you are flirting with disaster.

No matter what or who
threatens us, we must seek the face of God and look to Him in faith.
Don’t lose your confidence when others who once clung to Christ fall
away. If we shrink back in unbelief, God will not be pleased with us
(see Heb. 10:38).

Backed up against the sea with the enemy
pursuing, Moses gave an unusual command: “‘The Lord will fight for you;
you need only to be still'” (Ex. 14:14). That day, God’s people had to
let Him do the work while quietly observing His hand of power.

When
it comes to being led by the Lord, there are no simple formulas that
apply to every situation. We need to learn to follow God’s leading day
by day.

When Moses directed the Israelites to stand still and
observe the power of God, he was not laying down a principle to be
obeyed in all situations. In fact, in the centuries that followed, it
was the armies of Israel that God used to overcome the enemies who
threatened His people.

In the same way that God instructed Moses
to direct the people to stand still, the Spirit of God is able to lead
us in every new situation we face. Such cases do not call for simple
commands but subtler directions that only the Spirit can impart (see
Acts 16:6-10).

Without being Spirit-led, we cannot possibly live
victoriously for Christ. Breakthrough timing is all about knowing the
exact will of God at a given moment.

God has sent the Holy Spirit
to guide our steps in the paths He has marked out for us. We are not
talking about resolving moral questions, but about making important
decisions at life’s crossroads.

GOD WILL UNFOLD HIS PLAN

In the case of the Israelites, each new battle meant discovering what
God’s strategy for them might be. The Lord’s direction for them at the
Red Sea was His plan for victory at that particular time; the battle for
Jericho would yield a different military strategy.

It is the same for us today. God the Holy Spirit will show us the best path to follow if we are willing to be led by Him.

Nothing
produces spiritual results like being led by the Spirit. Sometimes even
the best of activities must come to a halt at the command of God so a
critical deed can be accomplished.

Prayer is precious to the
Lord. But in Exodus 14, God directed Moses to stop praying (see vv.
15-18). God wanted Moses to do something better—to act in faith so that
God could deliver his people from Pharaoh’s army.

A man I know,
George, was almost murdered 40 years ago on a rooftop in the Bronx.
Strung out on drugs and desperate for more, George had stolen heroin
from a drug dealer. When the enraged dealer, Crazy Joe, and his sidekick
caught up with him, George didn’t beg for his life. He said, “Do what
you have to do—just let me get high.”

Crazy Joe’s accomplice
argued that George’s life wasn’t worth taking, since he was nothing but a
dirty drug addict. Amazingly, the irate drug dealer let George go.

George’s
brush with death was the experience that finally got the message
through his head. Soon after, he turned away from a life of drug abuse
and entered a Christian rehab program, where he learned to live
victoriously through faith in God.

The change was remarkable. After completing the program, George served on staff for a year and then attended Bible school.

George
married and settled down to work at a detention center run by the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His clients were 8- to 15-year-old boys.

George
felt the Lord calling him to help hurting people, just as he had been
helped in his time of despair. But no matter how hard he prayed and
worked, he made little progress with the kids. The program seemed a
complete failure.

Things got worse before they got better. Still,
George kept praying for direction. His efforts met with only
disillusionment and disappointment.

George had gone into social
services to help people, but he felt he wasn’t making a difference. Had
he mistaken God’s call on his life, missed some sign from heaven that
would have directed his steps another way?

He didn’t realize it
at the time, but his fervent prayers for direction had been answered
with a “not now” word from God. Everything that had happened in George’s
life was preparation for what he would be doing in the future.

God was about to act. He began by placing a desire in George’s wife’s heart that soon caught fire in his heart as well.

George
Rosado, a former junkie, had married Grace, a pastor’s daughter, who
years before had received a burden from the Lord to see desperate
women’s lives restored by the gospel. Together they established New
Life, a ministry that has been helping hundreds of hurting women in New
England and elsewhere for more than 25 years.

Whenever we pray,
it’s vital to distinguish among these four different directives from the
Lord. Understanding God’s imperatives and His timing can help us avoid
painful pitfalls and guide us into His perfect will.

There are
more wonderful things to come that we can’t even imagine. Beautiful,
perfectly timed, life-changing breakthroughs are what God is all about.


Jim Cymbala
has been the senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle for decades. He
is an award-winning author of several books, including Fresh Wind, Fresh
Fire (Zondervan). He lives in New York City with his wife, Carol, who
directs the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

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