Dear all at IPC,
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you will know what it is to experience frustration at the slowness of God’s ways.
In the area of our character maybe changes that we long to see, are a long time coming. Repenting and asking for deliverance from sin again and again, often the same sin. We can often feel that it is dealt with, finally we are rid of it, only for the same sin to pop up unexpectedly in another place it can all be hugely discouraging. Maybe there is an area of godliness that you have long desired to grow in and the progress has been slow going.
When it comes to church ministry, the work in the UK at the moment is slow and has been for a long time. I’ve been praying for certain things in our church for 17 years and the Lord has still not answered them or at least not answered them in the way that I hoped he would. There have been so many encouragements along the way, the Lord has been so gracious but it is slow going, often hard. I’m sure many of you have experienced that in your service in the church.
I remember an older brother from America coming to the UK who had known great success in planting churches in the States, he said to me he had 18 months of ministry left and in that time he hoped to see a church planted in the UK before he retired. He came, he delivered tens of thousands of leaflets and knocked on thousands of doors, much sowing but went home very disappointed, at that time there was only a very small work he left behind. In the kindness of God 15 years later, the church that our American brother began is still there.
Why do God’s ways seem slow? This isn’t unique to us in the UK we see it throughout Scripture, think of Abraham, promised a child and yet he is made to wait. Joseph in that prison cell wrongly convicted waiting for God to act. I can imagine for Mary waiting during her pregnancy for the birth of her son Jesus. Our Lord himself patiently labouring in obscurity for 30 years before his ministry began.
The Apostle Paul pleads with God to remove his thorn in the flesh (whatever that is) 3 times and he discovers that God’s grace is sufficient for him, Paul is left with a life of waiting. The path of godliness and usefulness is the path of slow going, faith filled expectant plodding. The Apostle Paul when he speaks to Timothy and gives him his charge in 2 Timothy 4– “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” What strikes us there is how undramatic it all is, Paul is saying to Timothy keep on going, don’t drift, don’t give up, keep these priorities.
I want to encourage us as a church to slow going, faith filled expectant plodding. There will be a harvest God promises that. In the work of parenting it is the consistent pattern of godliness that will see fruit, for those who’ve been praying for years for their children, don’t give up. The Lord works slowly.
For some of us it will have been a prayer that our situation will change, that the Lord would bring someone into our life or that our work situation would dramatically improve. For many it will be a fight against a temptation that rears its head again and again and that ongoing work of putting sin to death which slowly strengthens our faith.
In church life and in our spiritual lives, there are no quick fixes and there are no silver bullets, however there is the Triune God – The Father who loves us and cares for us and is intimately concerned with us. The Son of God who lavishes his grace upon us and gave himself for us and prays for us even now. The Holy Spirit who has been sent by the Father and the Son who has been given to us to enlighten us, strengthen us, comfort us, He will never leave us, never forsake us. Don’t be seduced, use the means that God has given. God has graciously given us the means for us to grow, they are His tools that He has given so that His work will be accomplished – The Preaching of God’s Word, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Prayer – Access to Him. None of which seem dramatic, in fact they seem weak and even foolish in the world’s eyes and yet this is how the work of God gets done.
The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:29
The path of godliness and usefulness is the path of slow going, faith filled expectant plodding. Keep going brothers and sisters,