Godly patience is a character quality that sustains us—patience is a virtue. However, many of us grow impatient when waiting upon God for a promise to be fulfilled. In the delay, we can become discouraged if the season is long.
In the book of Proverbs, we read, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12).
Only hope anchored firmly in God and His promises can avoid discouragement during seasons of delay.
I want to share with you a story that illustrates that though God’s promises are delayed, we can fully trust Him for their fulfillment. The story also implies that we should not try and fulfill God’s promises in our own effort and strength. And finally, the story demonstrates that during our moments of greatest need, God sees and cares deeply about our situations and future.
The story I’m writing about is found in Genesis 16, with Abram, Sarai, Hagar and Ishmael:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go into my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So, he went into Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.
Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”
So, Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.
Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”
The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” And the Angel of the Lord said to her:
“Behold, you are with child,
And you shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the Lord has heard your affliction.
He shall be a wild man;
His hand shall be against every man,
And every man’s hand against him.
And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.”
Ten years earlier, Abram believed God for a son. Now, he is 85 and Sarai 75. Their faith and hope weaken in God’s promise for a son and to have many descendants. Here is a little more background before unpacking our Genesis 16 story.
God spoke to Abram in Genesis 12 and told him to leave his country, his family and his father’s house to go to a land God would show him.
God promised to make from Abram a great nation, and all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. Years went by, and Abram and Sarai still found themselves childless.
How would all the families of the earth be blessed? Through the seed, or spiritual offspring of Abram, Paul wrote, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Paul elaborates in Gal. 3:15-18 that the promise was not to all the descendants of Abraham, but the promise was fulfilled in Christ and to those who are united with Jesus through faith.
Abram means exalted father. God would later rename Abram to Abraham, meaning father of a multitude.
In Genesis 15, God reaffirms His promises to Abram, and establishes what is known as the Abrahamic covenant with him (the Abrahamic Covenant is the OT model for the New Covenant in Jesus Christ). Abram believed God and His promise of a son and descendants, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Gen. 15:6, NLT).
Paul quotes this in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23. It is the basis for the NT teaching that God’s way has always been by faith, as we obediently trust His word, which causes right living.
However, 10 years elapse, and no child is born.
Abram and Sarai, weakened in faith, devise a scheme (Gen. 16:2-4), which Paul describes as of the flesh: “But he who was of the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but he of the free woman through the promise” (Gal. 4:23).
All of God’s promises are yes and amen, if we have the faith and patience to wait upon them. The struggle for most of us is delay.
Delay can occur for many reasons.
Sometimes it’s our own unbelief and we find ourselves wandering aimlessly around another mountain instead of possessing what God has promised and given. Delay can also occur because of an unrenewed mind or strongholds in the mind.
Another reason for delay is rebellion against God, His word and promises. Jesus said clearly, “If you love Me, keep my commands!”
But, as in this case with Abram and Sarai, there is also God’s delay. When God causes the delay, faith and patience are needed to inherit His promises (Heb. 6:12).
God allows tension between His promises and their fulfillment. Quite often, God’s promises and prophecies over our lives have delay—sometimes years. It would be another 14 years before Abram and Sarai would have their own child, Isaac, the son of promise (see Gen. 17-18).
But like Abram and Sarah, when divine delay occurs, many of us try to bring about prophetic promise in the flesh! There is a timing that only God can orchestrate. Like a symphony conductor, God knows exactly when every instrument, and every piece of the music, must be played in your life.
“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Gen. 18:14).
When God’s delay occurs, continue in the Spirit patiently, waiting upon the Lord to bring to pass the promise. “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
I’ve had a season or two in my life where frustration gripped me. Tension occurred between the prophecy and fulfillment of what was promised. Sadly, like Abram and Sarai, decisions were made not of the Spirit or in God’s timing. Result: more pain, heartache and frustration. God is God—we are not! He only knows the timing of your life—trust Him.
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SOURCE: Charisma News