| The Discipline of Delay |
The Discipline of Delay - V.R. Edman
"For ye have need of patience" (Heb. 10:36).
We have been told that God's disappointments are His appointments, that God's delays are not His denials; but do we believe what we hear? Delay, with its apparent destruction of all hope, can be a deep discipline to the soul that would serve the Lord Jesus. We live in restless, impatient days. We have little time for preparation, and less for meditation or worship. We feel we must be active, energetic, enthusiastic, and humanly effective; and we cannot understand why inactivity, weakness, weariness, and seeming uselessness should become our lot. It all appears to be so futile and foolish, without plan or purpose.
The discipline of delay is written large in the life of God's people, as we could observe in Abraham's long waiting for the son of promise, in Joseph's years in Egypt as victim of cruel circumstances, in Moses' long obscurity in the desert, in Hanna's empty home and aching heart, even in the silent years spent by our Lord Jesus in the narrow streets of Nazareth. We trace that discipline in a few lives whose experience we can compare with our own, for our learning and encouragement.
David knew this discipline. As a lad, caring for his father's sheep, he was anointed of Samuel to be king over Israel; but thereafter stretched years of delay, on the stony hillsides of Bethlehem, in the cave of Adullam whither he had been driven by the insane and unnecessary envy of Saul, until he fled to the fierce Philistines, more friendly than his own people. There he could say truly, "I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel" (Ps. 31:11,12). The delay seemed to be interminable and intolerable, but was indispensable in preparing David for his long career as king of his people, to which office he had been appointed many years before. Delay never thwarts God's purpose; rather, it polishes His instrument.
Elijah endured the exercise of patience. Called to prophetic office in a day of moral and spiritual declension among his people, he announced the judgment of famine with all the vigor of pyrotechnic personality. At the moment when it seemed he was most needed by his people, he experienced an inexplicable, inscrutable delay, with "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith" (I Kings 17:3). Israel's famine for bread and the Word of God burned deeply into his soul; their lack of repentance grieved him; his
solitary position of obedience toward God and the solitude of his lonely post seemed overwhelming. Even the brook, with its friendly murmuring and its supply of needed water, dried up. The discipline was not yet complete, for there remained silent years in a humble home in Zarepath, among strangers and aliens. When God's hour came, however, the discipline of Cherith and Zarepath was distilled into intercession on Mount Carmel that brought heavenly fire upon the altar and rain upon the thirsty fields. Delay does not forget God's servants nor cause His faithfulness to fail; rather, it fortifies their souls and vindicates His name.
Paul came to know the patience of hindered purpose. Stopped at the gate of Damascus, penitent in the street called Straight, seeing under the touch of Ananias and filled with the Spirit, he was a chosen vessel to bear the gospel to great and small. "Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20). Then came the discipline of delay in the desert of Arabia, where he learned by revelation of God, not by precept of man, the glorious gospel of the grace of God. From Arabia he could go to Antioch and its world-wide missionary program, to Athens and its proud Areopagus, to Achaia and its wicked Corinth, to the arena of Ephesus, and if necessary, to Rome. The delay that instructs and prepares saves time, never loses it. From it one can walk with a step of assurance and a heart of flame.
Hudson Taylor knew the testing that tempers the steel of the soul. Invalided, home at twenty-nine after six years of intensive service in China, he settled with his little family in the east end of London. Outside interests lessened; friends began to forget; and five long hidden years were spent in the dreary street of a poor part of London, where the Taylors were "shut up to prayer and patience." From the record of those years it has been written, "Yet, without those hidden years, with all their growth and testing, how could the vision and enthusiasm of youth have been matured for the leadership that was to be?" Faith, faithfulness, devotion, self-sacrifice, unremitting labor, patient, perservering prayer became their portion and power, but more, there is "the deep, prolonged exercise of a soul that is following hard after God . . . the gradual strengthening here, of a man called to walk by faith not by sight; the unutterable confidence of a heart cleaving to God and God alone, which pleases Him as nothing else can." As the years of obscurity progressed, "prayer was the only way by which the burdened heart could obtain any relief"; and when the discipline was complete, there emerged the China Inland Mission, at first only a tiny root, but destined of God to fill the land of China with gospel fruit.
Have you come to the discipline of delay? Inactivity you have for activity, weakness for strength, silence for speaking, sickness for health, forgetfulness for friendship, obscurity for opportunity. Let the darkness of delay discipline your soul in the patience of the saints, in the promises of God, who will not suffer His faithfulness to fail, in the presence of the Saviour by His Spirit, in the provision of needed grace from nail-scarred Hands. In God's time and way there will be position for you as for David, prevailing prayer as for Elijah, and place of service as for Paul.Delay will strengthen and hasten your steps of true service.
In every life
There's a pause that is better than onward rush,
Better than hewing or mightiest doing;
'Tis the standing still at Sovereign will.
There's a hush that is better than ardent speech,
Better than sighing or wilderness crying;
'Tis the being still at Sovereign will.
The pause and the hush sing a double song
In unison low and for all time long.
O human soul, God's working plan
Goes on, nor needs the aid of man!
Stand still, and see!
Be still, and know!
My God, I thank Thee who hast made
The Earth so bright;
So full of splendour and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right!
I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us around,
That in the darkest spot of Earth
Some love is found.
I thank thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace,
Not known before.
I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls,
Though amply blest,
Can never find, although they seek,
A perfect rest
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus breast!
—Adelaide A. Procter.
| 2014/5/18 6:18||Profile|
| Re: The Discipline of... |
The Discipline of Disappointment - V.R. Edman
"I had no relief for my spirit" (II Cor. 2:13, R.V.)
Who has not experienced the depths of discouragement that come from the stinging defeat of eager expectations, the merciless blasting of high and happy hopes, the frustrations of fond dreams; in a word, from disappointment, dark, deep, dismal?
We had not planned the results in that way. We needed friends and helpers, whose word was true, whose cooperation was cheerful and constructive, and whose dependability was undoubted, but they failed us. We needed abundance of physical health to perform our tasks, and our strength was pitifully poor. We needed large resources to achieve a worthy goal, for the glory of God, and our resources were woefully inadequate. We needed encouragement and enthusiasm, and our only reward was caustic criticism or studied indifference. We believed human promises that proved to be puffs of wind; we experienced pain rather than gain. We were disappointed.
Had we been at fault our anguish of spirit would have been less excruciating, but we trusted others, we tried to conserve our resources, physical and material, we did our very best; only to be disappointed. For our effort and sacrifice we suffer disillusionment, despair and possible defeat. We turn to self-pity, that eats like an acid into the fabric of our hearts, and likewise defiles others. Why go on, why keep trying, why smile, why trust anybody? With air castles dissolved by disappointment, why not sulk in our tents and seek to heal our wounded spirit by disdain toward others?
Disillusionment, despair, defeat and degrading self-pity do not meet nor mend disappointment. Going onward does. An excellent example is found in the experience of the Apostle Paul as recorded in II Corinthians 2:12-14. He had anticipated meeting Titus at the old city of Troas (Troy), but Titus did not put in an appearance. There is no indication in the sacred record as to why he did not come, only that Paul was restless in spirit. How did he react to that disappointment? He kept right on going, thankful for the assurance that the Most High ''always leadeth us in triumph in Christ'' (vs. 14, A. S. V.)
Thankfulness helps. A thankful spirit remembers the many triumphs as well as the trials of our faith, the many promises in the Word as well as the many perils by the way. Paul was thankful under a wide variety of circumstances: thankful for food and shelter in the midst of a storm that threatened his life (Acts 27:35); thankful for faithful brethren in distant places (Rom. 1:8; I Cor. 1:4; Phil. 1:3; etc.), thankful above all else for the Lord Jesus Christ, God's unspeakable gift (II Cor. 9:15). Therefore, he could urge us to be thankful in all things (Col. 3:15; Eph. 5:20), especially in prayer (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2), as we make known our requests. A heart that is thankful to God for His many mercies is conditioned by a sweetness of God's spirit against the bitterness of human disappointment.
God's people have always found it to be so. David knew disappointment and discouragement too deep for further tears, but he ''encouraged himself in the Lord his God'' (I Sam. 30:6). He could say, ''Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life'' (Ps. 42:7,8). Habakkuk saw no outward prospect of prosperity, only utter desolation and disappointment, yet a thankful heart lifted him to high places of victory. ''Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places'' (Hab. 3:17-19). Paul could be thankful to God even though others had failed, and could walk on with Him. Try thankfulness
when tempted to despair.
Assurance helps. Paul was certain that although he had been disappointed, he could be led in triumph in Christ or, as one translation (Moffat) renders that statement: ''Wherever I go, thank God, he makes my life a constant pageant of triumph in Christ, diffusing the perfume of His knowledge everywhere by me.'' Out of wide experience and deep trials, he had been lifted above human considerations, for he had learned that ''all things work together for good to them that love God'' (Rom. 8:28). He could stand steadfast in his devotion to Christ even if he stood humanly alone, for he could say, ''All men forsook me. . . . Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me'' (II Tim. 4:16,17). He could endure weakness, infirmities, necessities, distresses, even take pleasure in them, for he had learned that when he was weak in himself, he could be strong in Christ, whose grace was sufficient for him (II Cor. 12:9,10). He could be satisfied with whatever provision his Master made for him, for he had learned in whatever state he found himself, therewith to be content. He could do all things through Christ, who strengthened him (Phil. 4:11-13).
Do we know the assurance of trust that takes the sting out of disappointment and turns it rather to ''His appointment''? Joseph could say, ''It was not you that sent me hither, but God'' (Gen. 45:8). The Most High had so sweetened Joseph's spirit that he named his sons Manasseh (''Forgetting'') and Ephraim (Fruitfulness''), for God made him to forget his disappointment and to be fruitful in the land of affliction (Gen. 41:51,52)
Paul had been disappointed in John Mark, but later learned that ''he is profitable to me for the ministry'' (II Tim. 4:11). The Lord Jesus was disappointed in Peter, but He prayed for him that he would turn again to be strength to the early Christians (Luke 22:31,32). What would happen if in faith and love we prayed for those who had disappointed us? Would not they turn to the Saviour, would not our hearts be sweetened, and would not life become ''a constant pageant of triumph in Christ''? Be assured of God's promise, as was Paul, who could say, ''the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel'' (Phil. 1:12). Try faith in God and in our fellows when we face disappointment.
Going on helps. Rather than sulk by life's roadside, Paul went to the next place of service. There were many that needed his ministry of love, to whom his life, by the indwelling Saviour, could be the unspeakably sweet fragrance of Christ. Herein lies the real discipline of disappointment and despair, to rise up to help others, and to find in that very attitude and act, that life is ''a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.'' Ezekiel could rise out of the sorrow caused by his wife's sudden death to bring the message of God to his people in the morrow (Ezek. 24:18). Out of bitter disillusionment Hosea could say, ''Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord'' (Hos. 6:3). Of the Lord Jesus, Isaiah prophesied, ''He shall not fail nor be discouraged'' (Isa. 42:4). Tidings came to Him about the tragic death of His cousin, John the Baptist. Of course, His tender heart was torn; but there was no opportunity for leisure or solitude, because the multitudes needed Him. Out of the wound in His heart He fed and healed the needy, and thereby that wound was healed (Mark 6:29-44). Going on with God always helps and heals.
The ''afterward'' helps. For every disappointment there is a delight, for every trial, a triumph; for every anguish, an ''afterward.'' The Scriptures say explicitly: ''Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby'' (Heb. 12:11). God's hard word is never His last word. The difficulty is not defeat. The failure of another is not necessarily a finality. The disappointment need not be disillusionment. The service of Titus did not cease because he did not arrive at Troas. Rather, it seems that Paul had even greater need of him in Macedonia than he had in Troas. The pathway of Christian service, which we tread with thankfulness to God, assurance of heart, and encouragement of spirit, may lead to even greater trials; but the latter bring with them greater triumphs. Paul was restless in Troas; in Macedonia he found that ''our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless, God, that comforteth those that are cast down, conforted us by the coming of Titus'' (II Cor. 7:5,6).
Afterward Titus came! It had seemed imperative to Paul that he come to Troas; but for some reason unknown to us, he did not arrive. He was a source of disappointment to Paul, that the latter might learn that life can be a constant pageant of triumph in Christ. With that lesson achieved he learned another, as did Solomon long before him: ''Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life'' (Prov. 13:12).
There is the discipline of disappointment that would destroy us, unless we cause it to lift us into a new sphere of usefulness and devotion. Turn from the pain, and find the gain of thankfulness and assurance that will make of your life ''a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.'' Out of heartache there will be healing for you and for others.
Love grows stronger when assailed;
Love conquers where all else has failed.
Love ever blesses those who curse;
Love gives the better for the worse.
Love unbinds others by its bonds;
Love pours forgiveness from its wounds.
He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life
The endless war, the useless strife—
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this—His way was right. - John Oxenham
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