When God Dismisses Our Deadlines
When God Dismisses Our Deadlines
October 1, 2006
Genesis 21 Isaac is finally born to Abraham.
The Value of Time apart -Jesus took time apart frequently
Illus. time at Myrtle Beach
Things constantly pressuring us for their attention
Kids schedules, Work, our American sense of “work ethic”
“stop and smell the roses” always found that statement a bit annoying…
Perhaps when you try to pray you find your mind wandering and it is a constant frustration to you. Our minds wander easily…
John Ortberg – “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.”
I have titled today’s message “When God dismisses our Deadlines.” In our culture our lives are continuing to speed up and continuing to spiral out of our control. You ever notice that we are never “at” someplace, but always “on the way” to somewhere else?
How you doing? Good, we hope to be moving soon”
What are you doing? Going to be leaving for the store soon.
Some people stop and realize that life steaming ahead at full speed and you are not even sure if you like the direction you are pressing towards… But you can’t stop right? There are responsibilities, bills to pay, mouths to feed. Life is rolling on and it demands your attention. If you have children you know exactly what I am talking about. Everything is hurried, everything is rushed, and there just isn’t enough time in the day!
Time magazine noted that back in the 1960’s, expert testimony was given to a subcommittee of the Senate on time management. The essence of it was that because of advances in technology, within twenty years or so people would have to radically cut back on how many hours a week they worked, or how many weeks a year they worked, or else they would have to start retiring sooner, The great challenge, they said, was what people would do with all their free time.
But the opposite is true. We are constantly hurrying in everything. We pick our restaurants many times based on how fast they can get us our food, not necessarily on whether or not it is actually good. How many of us would go to a restaurant that promises to take a really long time from the time you order until the time you get your food?
Many of us suffer from “hurry sickness.” Dr. Meyer Friedman of the Friedman Medical Institute, a noted cardiologist and researcher, defined hurry sickness as “above all a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time, frequently in the face of opposition, real or imagined, form other persons.”
We look at someone who is hurrying and think “oh they must be running late.” Oftentimes they like us are not truly running late, but are just suffering from hurry sickness. In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted John Ortberg says “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule, Hurry is a disordered heart.”
You ever find yourself chafing whenever you have to wait? At a stoplight, if there are two lanes and each contains a car…we start calculating based on year, make, and model of each car, trying to guess which is going to pull away the fastest.
At a grocery store, we scan the check out lanes counting how many people are in each lane, taking into account how many “items” they have. If someone has it real bad after picking their line they will keep track of their alternate choice to see if they really chose the best line. If the person who would have been you is still standing in line while you leave, you walk outside with a sense of victory! If the other person makes it out first you start kicking yourself! “I should have noticed this person in front of me had clearance items! They always need a price check!!”
Illustration: Saw a great movie recently…Click! It is a wonderful parable on our times. (not saying it is a Christian movie…) Guy trying to get ahead, wants to just skip over the parts of his life that are difficult or where he has to wait and grind through just like always. Finds this remote and fast forwards. While he is fast forwarding he is on “auto-play” where he is disengaged, distant and only gives brief answers.
You know living your life by schedules hurrying from one moment to the next is empty. It takes no effort to be ruled by schedules, and it certainly isn’t fulfilling. But those that stop and say “I refuse to be defined by this!” and make a concerted effort to not just add God to their schedules here and there, but actually submit their whole selves to God will find the peace they are lacking.
Today I want to talk about how this sense of hurry or hurry sickness can become an area of bondage in our lives and keep us from God’s best. We are going to be looking at the story of Abraham this morning in Genesis chapters 15-21.
I. Never too late
Genesis 12:1 (NIV) The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 15. Abram is told by God that he will have a son and that this son will be a seed through which God will bless the nations. Abram is now 75 years old.
Ever feel like you are starting late. Like everyone else is ahead of you? Or perhaps you feel like you’ve made too many mistakes.
You wake up one day and feel like so much time has been wasted. You realize that the things that truly have value in life and in the Kingdom of God have not been valued by you.
You know as long as there is breath, it is never too late to become a better father.
It is never too late offer up your life in service to the King.
It is never too late to take the brokenness of your life and hand it to the Savior.
Dealing with the “not yet’s” of God:
Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV) “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”
In Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” It is a wonderful promise, but I can’t tell you how many times I have disagreed with this verse in my heart! If you have ever had a sick one that you are praying for and they are suffering, you know what I am talking about. Or perhaps you are without a job and have been praying and asking God to come through for you, but it seems like you are blocked at every turn.
Why does God make us wait sometimes? Perhaps you are in the same situation as Sarai and Abram here. You have been hoping and praying for a child for years with no results. How the waiting and the silence can tear at you! You begin to question: “Maybe there’s something wrong with me?” “Maybe I wouldn’t make a good parent?” “Why won’t God speak to me and tell me what to do!?”
In this passage we see their actions after 10 years of waiting. 10 years! How they must have wrestled and gone back and forth between faith, and questioning, “Hurry up, God! My life is ticking away here!” Abram’s faith wasn’t perfect, we see that in his actions while traveling and deceiving the rulers by calling Sarai his sister and not trusting God to handle it. So there is certainly room for doubt in here. Doubt and faith go hand in hand. Faith is belief in spite of the doubts that gnaw at you.
If you have been a follower of Christ for any length of time you will have encountered many times where you were confronted with the choice: Do I trust God for this or will I rip the reins of my life out of His hands and take control?
The greater the promise, the greater the stakes, the stronger the temptation to take control. Here in this passage we see Sarai and Abram abandoning the wait. They probably used arguments like “After all God wants us to take some action.” “Perhaps God is waiting for us to make the first move.” “Everyone else does it.”
This practice was common in the ancient world. If a woman was unable to have a child to produce an heir.
When God is telling us to wait, it is usually through silence.
It is something that He has already spoken to us, but then time begins to pass. Too much time in our opinion and things keep happening around us while it feels like we are standing still; so we want God to speak to us again regarding our hope. But the Lord wants us to hold on and to trust. It’s not like God withdraws from us, He simply is focused on other things within us, but all we can see is the unfulfilled promise.
The central issue here is trust. As you follow the Lord will you trust Him to be faithful to His promises to you? Even if God completely ignores your timetables and arguments…just dismisses all your deadlines, will you cling to His word and still follow?
Later on in Genesis 17 God’s covenant with Abram signified by the name change to Abraham Imagine having to walk around with a newly given name of Abraham at the age of 99 years old. Already he had the name of Abram which meant exalted father, but this could be spun into meaning a father figure, person of influence, etc. Ancient rulers were often referred to with some sort of parental designation. But now…there is no getting around it, especially because it is a new thing. After having waited 24 years now for the fulfillment of God’s promise, he has to walk around with this new label. Every time you met someone you knew and they called to you, you would have to correct them and say that “no, no I am called the father of many” How embarrassing. “Is this guy going senile??”
If you are going to be Spirit-led and walk by faith you are going to have to look a little ridiculous at times.
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV) We live by faith, not by sight.
The Bible calls us a peculiar people, we live according to the Kingdom of God not the ways of this world. When we hang onto a promise of God and indeed order our very lives around that promise, we run the risk of looking a little weird!
Illus. My story: stepped out in faith. Temporary visit with the parents while stuff in storage. A few weeks turned into a few months and so on. Providing for my family? Has God abandoned me? Dad – “These are the most productive years of your life…” STRESS!!!
My frustrations: Game going on w/o me. Have to provide for my family. Stepped out in faith and it feels like He has failed me. “He’s LATE!”
You ever feel like God is late? Feel like God is just ignoring your pain? “Why won’t He heal my child?” “Why can’t I find a job?” “Why can’t I find someone to spend my life with?”
In John 11 is a great example of the Lord being late according to people’s expectations, but in fact He was right on time.
John 11:1-15 (NIV) Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus delaying at the news of Lazarus. Was He late? No, it was for a greater purpose. He wasn’t just healed, but a greater miracle was performed.
Our Ishmaels vs. God’s Isaacs
But it is hard to wait. Sometimes it is grueling to wait on the Lord. Everything within us is screaming to take control.
The Result of Hurry: Abraham’s Ishmael. Promise given to Abraham at age 75. At age 85 they decide to take things into their own hands.
Not until age 100 after 25 years of waiting and it being long past human’s timetable did the Lord come through. Not until every reasonable deadline had passed and then some… And I believe not until they had given up hope of ever being able to make it happen apart from God. They were probably brought to the point of saying “God I believe you spoke to me. I believe you are true, but I cannot continue to hold this before you any more. It is too painful and distracting, so I let go of it and place it in your hands. If this is going to happen, it’s all you!”
Ishmael was born. Becomes a symbol of the works of the flesh throughout the Bible. A constant thorn to the children of the covenant promise.
Even after that when God is renewing His promise to Abram telling him that his wife is going to have a son, Abraham is hesistant…
Tired of holding on, Tired of waiting. Don’t want to continue with this road. My hopes have been raised and crushed too many times.
Gen 17:18, “Oh, that Ishmael could live under your blessing!” We want God to bless our products, our efforts, our timetable. “Isn’t this good enough?!” “Can’t this work instead?”
No where do we do this more than in matters of the heart.
90% of the will of God is timing. You can do the right thing at the wrong time and have it explode in your face and become an Ishmael in your life.
Illus. – Was talking with someone recently that is very close to me (Christian) In a bad place. Lost family, addicted. Rushing to move on. 2 broken people embracing each other thinking that they can mend together, but are doing everything wrong. Tones of spirituality, while they build their relationship on everything but Him. You know this story don’t you. Don’t want to wait on God. Want to put everything behind you and move forward, even though there is healing that needs to happen.
If you are always in a hurry you will miss God. You will miss His voice, you will miss His plan, and you will never grow.
If you are in a hurry to get out of the season that God has placed you in, you will wind up staying there much longer than you had to.
(start steering it toward the church here)
The Seasons of God
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (The Message) There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
There are seasons for a reason that God might teach us. There will be seasons of harvest and seasons of drought (winter?) teaches: God is the one in control,
Carpe Diem (but not seize the day to hurry up and do more)
All of us have things in our lives that we wish would “hurry up!” We get frustrated because we know that God could just ‘zap’ our situation from Heaven and change it in an instance if He wanted to…so we spend a lot of time in prayer trying to convince Him to do just that.
Perhaps you have a boss in your workplace that treats you unjustly and you feel trapped… “God just get him!”
We have great reasons and arguments for God to come through now. “It’s for you” “How can this person not being saved possibly be a good thing?” “Lord open the door, people are going to Hell and I can reach them”
Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT) But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.
Or as another version puts it “the vision is yet for an appointed time.” The first time I came across that verse was in a meeting where I had lots of hopes and dreams that I had before the Lord. It was the last thing I wanted to hear. “I don’t want “an appointed time” I want NOW.”
Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a season and a time for everything, but if it were up to us... We would make the seasons go quicker if we could. In winter we want spring, in summer we want fall…
At the time of the decision which led to Ishmael, Abram was in a much different and much lengthier season than when he first started following the Lord. It was exciting at first! “Get up and leave your land and go to where I will show you…” wow! An adventure! Having to deal with traveling through Egypt where God had blessed him…on the move. Now there was ten years of just waiting. He was in a season of “stop.” A season of wait. The promise given. “Go here, go there. Now sit back, be blessed, do nothing. The promise is on the way.” And then silence…for a long time.
If you ever find yourself in God’s waiting room, pacing around and waiting – for an answer, a change, a breakthrough, a miracle – you need to stop and remember something: God knows best. More than that, he’s never late, never in a hurry, and always right on time. When there’s a delay in your life, the best thing you can do is simply trust him to do what’s best.
I wonder how Abram’s people were reacting. It’s fun to be on an adventure, some might grumble about the conditions here and there, but most enjoy it. You know how we treat our leaders in this country…everything that happens is their fault. I wonder how they were reacting to this lengthy season. Where was the promised heir? Why are we just sitting here? “Did he really here from God?”
Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” told about the evolution of Saddleback where he pastors…
“When I started Saddleback Church, I had no idea that it would take 13 years of delays before we would get land and it would take nearly 15 years before we would build our first building. This church was running more than 10,000 in attendance before we built our first church building. No church in America has ever gone that long or grown that big without a building. God had his delays in mind from the start.
At the very first service I stood up and said, “Someday we’re going to buy at least 50 acres of land. But we’re not going to do it for the first five years because we’re going to put all our money into people and programs.” I’ve always been more interested in building people than building buildings. So for the first 15 years we used 79 different buildings. We’d outgrow one, we’d move into another.
But on the fifth anniversary of the church I said, “It’s time to start looking for land.” So I gathered a team and sent them to look for possibilities
A week later they came back. They’d found one of the last remaining pieces of property in the Saddleback Valley. It was 72 acres of cow pasture – for $7.2 million. They said, “You want to go after it?” I said, “Of course!” You never say no just because something’s impossible.
We put $10,000 down on a $7 million piece of property. We didn’t have a lot of brains, but we had a lot of faith. Over the next year, we got the zoning changed, the use permit, the water rights, we got them to allow a church to be built on it. But we couldn’t find anybody to loan us money to buy it and build it. Finally, after about a year and a half the owners came to me and said, “We want you to start putting up $20,000 a month, non refundable, to keep the escrow open.” I said, “I can’t do that. I can’t gamble our people’s offerings. We’ll have to drop out of escrow and when we get the financing we’ll come back and buy it.” We dropped out of escrow and the next day that property was bought by a shopping center. We lost a year and a half of time and $100,000. I was down!
It took us a year to find the next piece of property out here in the canyon. It was 300 acres, and 200 of it went straight up the mountain – it was totally unusable. We went to the owner and said, “We’ll buy the front hundred acres for $6 million.” He said, “If you do that I’ll give you the back 200 for free just as a tax write-off.”
We went back to the folks and said, “We need to raise money now to buy the land.” We did a financial sacrificial giving campaign called “Possess Our Land.” During a 60-day period of prayer, fasting, and serving, our people planned for a big offering. And on that day we got half a million dollars cash given in a single offering – which was incredible for a little church – and commitments for $2.5 million more to be given over the next three years.
Some people took on second jobs to give more. Some canceled vacations. People gave their pensions and retirement plans. People gave their diamond wedding rings. Some sold their homes and bought smaller homes and gave the equity. I know people who sold their television set to be able to give. Our staff gave their life savings.
So we had half a million in cash and $2.5 million in commitments. I went back to the owner the next day and said, “We’re ready to close!” He said, “I’ve changed my mind. I'm raising the price to $8 million.” My heart sank. I looked to God and said, “What am I supposed to tell the people next Sunday? They’ve worked, prayed, sacrificed, and given all they’ve got.” I said, “God, You’ve got a problem. It’s not my problem because it’s not my church. You keep bringing all these people in so what are you going to do with them?”
Two days later, a third piece of property came up for sale out in the canyon – 113 acres offered at three and a half million dollars. The same amount of land for half the price. That was the cheapest piece of land I’d ever seen in Orange County. Seven developers bid on it and four offered cash. I went to the owner of the property and asked, “What would it take to sell to the church? We don’t have all cash.” He said, “If you can close the deal by the end of the year then I’ll sell to the church.”
He said that in October. I went back to the people and asked, “We’ve either got to raise more money in the next 60 days or we lose this piece of property. What do you want to do?”
The people said, “Let’s go for it!” and in the last 60 days of 1987 the people of Saddleback church gave an additional $1.2 million. And we closed the deal.
Why does God do that stuff? Why does He call an old man out of his settled, comfortable life to move and believe for great things? Why does He make us sit while our timetable parades by us and proceeds on without us?
Because He calls us to live by faith. This life is just training for eternity. None of the things we value so much will matter in a million years. What will matter is how we responded to God’s calling and commands.
If I may, I feel like I have some small investment here for my five years of service, I would like to offer some advice if you will allow it.
While you are waiting for the new pastor to come, do some self-examination, be introspective together before God. Allow Him to show you areas where there may need to be some repentance before the rush to move forward. Reconciliation. Your future can be greatly impacted in a positive way by how you handle this time. Don’t wait for the new leader to come in before you go before God. In fact I am sure that he will appreciate it. Don’t just go through the motions, waiting for what’s coming…
C.S. Lewis “It is so much easier to pray…than to go and see Him.” Easy to throw words up into the Heavens, but taking time out to actually seek Him is different.
Speaking of seasons, today is actually the ending of a period known as Teshuvah in Jewish tradition leading to the holiest day of Yom Kippur or “Day of Atonement.” It is traditionally a time of introspection and repentance, with the expectation that God is getting ready to decree His blessings for the new year.
Teshuvah is about repentance before God; and with people who have been wronged. Yom Kippur is the one time a year where the high priest would enter into the holy of holies and intercede for the people.
I believe that I have a word of wisdom for you today from the Lord. And again I say this with all affection, but Repentance is needed. Don’t focus on who did what, but like the prayers of Daniel and Nehemiah take ownership of any wrongs committed within this body and go before God and repent. Make yourselves ready as a people, as a unified body to move forward.
Trouble connecting with God – pray