(A Second Look at The Discipline of Delay)
As I finished writing the last lines of my most recent post, The Discipline of Delay, I felt there was another area related to delay and the discipline it brings that I needed to write about.
Delays are not all created equal though we are not prone to fondness for any of them. The delays that tend to be the hardest involve those whom we love the most.
As a result, waiting on critical medical tests can be agonizing and waiting for someone to come out of surgery can stretch us to our natural limits. Waiting on someone to come home causes us to nearly stand on tiptoes, especially when they have been gone for some extended period of time.
Our hearts can be weighed down in grief when we must say goodbye to such a loved one on this earth when death parts us. Waiting to hear their voice, see their face, and be with them feels like a delay we cannot endure until Christ returns. Though we know they are with Him, our joy in their presence is deferred until we join them.
There is One who died and lives we also wait for. Perhaps awaiting His return is the ultimate delay.
Those who are called by His name have been anticipating and waiting on His return ever since He ascended into heaven after being raised from the dead. When someone has been gone for so long, it can be easy for some to wonder if He will ever return again or why it has not happened yet.
Scripture plainly tells us only the Father knows the day and hour of His return. If we look at the mess the world appears to be in from any angle or any place, it can be easy to wonder why He has not come yet.
It’s also true that over the hundreds and thousands of years His disciples around the world have been waiting, some have focused solely on the hope of His return and ceased anything else.
If I look at John 11 and the delay Jesus chose before coming to the aid of Lazarus and his sisters after Lazarus died, I gain a better perspective. The delay had purpose and meaning. John 11 points to how the delay allowed God to be glorified through the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. That sign (His last) appeared to be most significant for the Jews who had not yet believed, but it was also important to clarify to those already following Him that this was more than raising a physical body to life. This was demonstrating Jesus had the power and authority to give eternal life as well…something even more important than physical life. It meant He had conquered death, Satan’s tool to create fear and keep us bound.
Jesus delayed for a purpose in the story, but while He delayed He did not cease His work here on earth. He impacted others with the healing of the blind man from Jericho and had that incredible conversation with the little man who climbed the tree to get a better look at Jesus…Zachaeus.
So many things in 2018 seem to point to His return being nearer than ever. Even though we do not know the hour, a study of scripture heightens our anticipation as so many things appear to be lining up that He told us would happen. There are the natural disasters everywhere around the globe, turmoil in every corner of the world, unrest in the Middle East, and evidences of evil getting darker and darker in every sector. There is also the growing evidence of the apostasy of the church that writers such as Mark Hitchcock have written about.
The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-18 gives a clear picture of the dilemma we can face if we cease to consider that He will indeed return. These passages and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25: 1-13 instruct us in what the risks are if we either forget He is returning or that His return is and always has been imminent.
Over and over again scripture points to Christ’s return as “near” or “soon.” As I heard in a sermon this week, this is the edge we live on in our lives. How are we living? Do our lives reflect an awareness of what His Word has clearly said? Are we about His business?
Each of our callings is unique. He has strategically placed us in places, with people, in circumstances, and facing issues that are meant to glorify Him. He did that with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in John 11 and so many others from Genesis to Revelation. He also reminded His disciples not to fear.
Christ’s return may well be the ultimate delay in our lives, but let us not forget that His return is imminent!