Is there a biblical pattern to promises and their fulfillment in the life of a Christian?
Abraham is given a promise of fathering a great nation. More than 50 years pass before he has a child. He is 100 before the promise is fulfilled.
As a young man Joseph has a dream from God of ruling his family. The next thing that happens is he is sold into slavery and ends up in prison alone and forgotten. Years go by before the promise is fulfilled.
Moses is the promised deliverer of Israel. He spends 40 years in the desert alone before his ministry starts. He is 80 when it starts. Israel is promised a homeland. They start out to cross the desert to the promised land. It is a trip of maybe a week or two max. They spend 40 years wandering in the desert before they receive the promised land.
Jesus waits until he is 30 years old before He starts His ministry. He receives a supernatural affirmation of His father’s love at His baptism and then immediately is led into the desert for a 40 day fast ending with warfare with Satan.
After Jesus is resurrected, He is with his disciples 40 days before He ascends to heaven. They have to wait 7 days for the coming of the Holy Spirit. 40 is the number in the Bible for testing and preparation and 7 is the number of perfection. They had to wait until God’s perfect fullness of time had passed before receiving the promised Holy Spirit.
There is a pattern here- what is it?
Between the promise and the fulfillment comes the desert. This is the way it always has been and the way it is today. Why?
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2
Painful as it is there is a connection between the production of Jesus’ Character in us and enduring suffering during a period of waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. The Greek word here translates as “perseverance”, “steadfastness”, “patient endurance”, and it means “the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances”.
The simple fact is that in order to receive the fulfillment of the promises God has made to us we need to persevere in believing those promises and continue in doing those things which he has called us to do “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Gal.6:9
Paul has to tell us this because it is in our nature to give up. The problem is we are stuck in time. God gives us a promise and our present circumstances, our present moment, denies the promise because it hasn’t happened yet.
We then experience the “test of time”. We start to believe, “It hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not going to happen”. This is the lie of the enemy which he uses to dismantle our faith. It is his principle weapon – delay. Now, here is God’s truth that we must take hold of; it hasn’t happened yet because God has something for us that is more important than the fulfillment of the promise. And that something is the production of Jesus’ character in us. Why does that matter so much? Because every gift of God to us is opposed by our enemy and we must fight the good fight of faith to receive it. We are in a war of faith vs. unbelief.
We need the perseverance of Jesus to endure the delay.
I think most of us know this by virtue of our experience with doubt. The question is; what can we do about it? How can we survive the delay? How can we wait well? Part 2 is coming.
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