It flows. It shifts. It does not stop. It is the most valuable commodity any human has. We mark it in the ticking of the seconds on our clocks, in the transition of the sun across the skies, in the series of cycles of light and dark, in the waxing and waning of the moon, in the turning of the seasons, and with the brilliant explosion of fireworks at midnight on every New Year’s Day.
Time: it passes; and we fear it. We fear not getting things done in time. We fear how it changes us. We fear that it is stealing something from us. We don’t want it to pass before we receive our desires. Time is the enemy because it prevents us from achieving our desires now. Thus, we are ever encouraged to make our goals reachable in as little time as possible and to press on towards them. We are encouraged to plan our days to the minute; to make ourselves more productive; to give our limited time to what we value. And because we don’t want to wait, we make sure we do things quickly. This is especially true in Christian discipleship: get those people matured in Christ so we look good because we got it done so quickly; or so they can take over and we can move on to the next thing.
However, the Christian life is not meant to progress quickly. Henry Cloud expressed the formula for the Christian life as follows: truth + grace + time. Truth and grace we get. Yeah, we need those. But time? No, we’re not willing to give it time. We want the results now. And thus, we’re always looking for the magic key or the silver bullet to make us grow, to overcome that sin or addiction, to get rid of that thorn in the flesh, to mature our disciples, to build our ministry.
But God takes his time. Look at the great men of Scripture: It took 25 years from the time God called Abraham to the time he held his promised son, Isaac, in his arms (cp. Ge. 12:4 and 21:5). It took another 60 years before Isaac held his babies: Esau and Jacob (Ge. 25:26). God dealt gently with Jacob for 70 years after appearing to him at Bethel
before Jacob finally surrendered (cp. Ge. 28:10-21 and 47:28). Joseph spent 13 years in bondage before he was ready to lead (cp. Ge. 37:2 and 41:46). With Moses it took 80 years (Ex. 7:7). It took David about 20 years from his anointing to his becoming king of all Israel (cp. 1Sa. 17:13-15 and 2Sa. 5:4). God bore with his people Israel for 860 years before he sent them into exile.
The plan of salvation took at least 4100 years
to come to fruition. Even Jesus Christ did not go into ministry the moment he was born, but waited at least 30 years
before revealing himself (Lk. 3:23). Paul did not begin his effective ministry until at least 10 years after his conversion (Gal. 1:18–2:2; cp. Ac. 11:25-26).
So why do we hurry? God isn’t in a hurry. If he takes his time, why can’t we? Is it our impatience? Is it that we want to escape the pain that growth and transformation takes? We need to give it time. Giving time is a part of giving grace; and grace is sufficient for us, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2Co. 12:9). Let us covenant to be patient this year, giving each element that God has in action the time he desires to take. Let us give people the space to grow. Let us give ourselves the time to change. Let us allow our children, or disciples, and our ministries to move at God’s pace; and let us trust him to bring it all to pass “in his time” (see Ecc. 3:1-14).