Recently, I had the opportunity to encourage the Brooklyn leaders of Young Life with this devotional...
For the prophetic leader and worker serving in the world today, ministry is often driven by a big, beautiful vision of what a redemptive future could or even should look. In the midst of the brokenness we see around us, there is a sense, a dream and a hope for the potential and the possible for your organization or your community.
And so with that we make plans, set goals, and this is all good, because without vision and plans the people perish. People need reminding that they are living for something bigger than themselves, Someone greater than what they can see or even imagine.
When life is hard, we need the reminder that we serve and trust and hope in a big God.
But as we get to work...
- The money is slow coming in
- The kids aren’t coming
- Doors aren’t opening
- Change is happening slowly
- People are questioning you
- Things are going as we planned
We have a vision for how things ought to be, what we want them to be, what we even believe that God wants them to be, but then reality hits.
So what do we do, when the reality clashes with the vision? What do we do with the dissonance between the dream and the real?
What do we do in the waiting?
Romans 5:3-5 can help us
And from these verses, two lessons to help us in the waiting...
In the waiting, God is working on me
From these verses we learn that through the troubles, we are being refined. Author Steve Miller wrote a book about the leadership of CH Spurgeon and the qualities that marked his leadership. One of these qualities was a passion for prayer and in the book, he quotes Spurgeon as saying,
What this teaches me, is that often God will give the big, powerful and beautiful vision but then He has to prepare me for the answer. I'm not yet ready for that heavy freight of blessing. I'm not ready for the answer yet. My character isn't ready for the fulfillment of the vision. I'm not ready for the new temptations that will come with the powerful provision. And so, God in the waiting is working on me.
So then, as you think about the vision you have for your kids, for your marriage, for your job, for your church, for your business, for your community, for your country, for your world, what might God be teaching you in the waiting? Maybe it's about hoping in Him more fully. Maybe He knows that if you got what you wanted now, you might actually trust and love Him less because the gift and the vision is more important that the Gift-giver and Vision-caster.
In the distance between the reality and the dream, God often is inviting us to wait and trust the work He's doing in me so He can more powerfully work through me.
But not only that, second we learn from our verses that in the waiting...
God is working on the plan
Not His plan because He knows what He's doing, but my plan.
I can have a plan, a timeline and what I think is a clear sense of how things will work, but God is regularly in the business of helping people like me understand that my hope is not in my plan, but in Him. In Romans 5, Paul is teaching that these lessons build on each other and while it isn't exactly incremental, [meaning we need to have one before we get the next], there is a sense of a sequence. The trouble then comes when I try to short-circuit or shortcut the plan, perhaps thinking I know better than God how things should go. But God is patient, patient with me in my impatience but also patient enough to work with my limitations. When things are going slowly, when things aren't "working out as I planned", I need to learn to slow down and ask, "Is my plan in line with His?" Am I reducing the plan to what I can achieve by myself and so missing the help and support of others? Am I so focused on the big vision that I'm missing the little blessings along the way? The waiting invites me to consider my steps and whether they fall in line with God's timeline. The reality is that God knows what He's doing and where He's taking me and peace comes when I learn to let Him lead me on His perfect path instead of looking for short cuts along the way.
So, again, what might God be teaching in the waiting as it relates to the plan? Am I impatient and trying to force the agenda, leading to frustration for everyone? Am I seeing the help around me as invitations from God or distractions?
As we think then about these lessons and how we learn to wait well in the distance between the dream and the real, let us lastly look at the examples from Scripture because a cloud of witnesses have gone before us to help us learn...
- Moses has to wait - He was given a vision of the deliverance of His people and yet wandered for 40 years, waiting. He then had to turn the keys of the vision over to another man and let a grander, far off vision of a better Promised Land [Hebrews 11:24-27], guide his steps in the waiting.
- Paul has to wait - Having been given a vision and even a visit to Heaven [2 Corinthians 12], he then had to wait 14 years to share that vision and then many more years before he could return to that beautiful place.
- Jesus has to wait - Jesus gave up enjoying perfect fellowship with His father to come to earth to save us and then wait 32+ years before He could return to the place of His greatest joy.
- God has to wait - From the moment Adam and Eve decided they knew better than Him, bringing death and destruction into the world, God has had to wait for the world and all that is in it, to return to it's original beautiful design.
But He is ok waiting [2 Peter 3:8-9] because of what He desires for us and the world.
And so, dream big, embrace the big, even outlandish, faith-fueled visions of a better future and then trust God's plan of working on us and our plans as we work and wait.