Often times when reading Scripture we can find ourselves wishing that things would happen for us as quickly as they happened to those that we read about. At least this is something that I can often find myself thinking about.
At the moment I have been reading through Acts for my New Testament reading and it's halfway through chapter 23 that God tells Paul that He is going to send him to testify in Rome. And within 2 minuets of reading he has already made his appeal to stand before Cesar. His right as a citizen of Rome.
I'm not sure about you, but I often wish that a promise and a clear path to that promise coming to pass only too the two to three minuets it takes to read from Acts 23:11 to Acts 25:11. It almost seems as if the people that we read about might have had an easier go of it. (That is if we forget all the times that Paul was beat half to death and even a possible gladiatorial bout.*) But we read and we so often wonder why it is that these people were able to get a promise and then see it come to pass so quickly. So many of us have things that we believe that God has called us to, or called us to pray for an yet the time between that promise or that first prayer can be counted in years easier than weeks. And when these things happen it's so easy to get discouraged and begin to doubt. The question that often pops up with me is 'Did I really hear God?' Or even 'Do I really hear God?' And for many of us, these questions are a lot closer and a lot more frequent than that promise was, and so as time passes what we ask ourselves begins to hold more weight than what God told us. And when this happens it's easy to get discouraged. Especially when we see a promise made and less than 1,500 later it all seems to be coming together for this hero of the faith.
But what we can so often forget is that just because it only takes us a few minuets to read what happened that doesn't mean that those we read of experienced it as quickly.
There are five simple words at the end of Acts 24 that are easily missed that show us this reality. "When two years had elapsed..."
Paul was placed in captivity somewhere between prison and house arrest for charges that the governor had said earlier he shouldn't even have been tried for. And yet hear he was. Day passes day. Week rolls into week. And two years pass by and all we are told is that time went on. No great stories or sermons. The Holy Spirit has nothing for St Luke to record. It was just normal day in, day out. More of the same.
And often it is in those times that we can begin to feel like we are somehow on the outside. I wonder if Paul felt the same. We know from Romans 7 that even when he was writing the bible he struggled often. In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul writes that there was a season where he 'despaired of life itself (v8).' I have to wonder is this came back in these two years. God had told him that he was to go to Rome. And yet here he sat with no answer, and seemingly no reassuring word, just waiting.
I don't know if reading this finds you in a season of waiting. Maybe you have wondered, as I have, if Jesus was telling the truth when He gave that parable about knocking a lot. Or maybe you have read verses that tell you that when you seek the Kingdom that God will give you the desire of your heart only to be left wondering why He hasn't yet. Or maybe yet, you have even begged God to just take that desire away because not having seems easier than waiting with what looks more and more like misplaced hope.
But wherever this finds you remember that though it took years, God took Paul to Rome. The closer we look at Scripture the more and more that we see that the narrative is one of the people of God waiting. Most of the story happens in the places that are not recored. Most of the years are those of waiting.
So, perhaps, when we find ourselves becoming discouraged as we wait for promises we need only remember that such a things makes us like all the people of whom we read. And in remembering such we can be reminded that God has always acted such. To build faith. And to remind us that no matter how nice our watch is, answers when He wants to and not when we want Him to. Which is something I had to remind myself of before even writing this moring.
*In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul writes, "What do I gain if I fought with beasts at Ephesus?" In this day and age Ephesus would have been one of the major metropolitan cities in the Western world. There possibly could have been a stray wild beast Paul fought off on his way home, but Ephesus also had a huge area where gladiators, slaves, and captives would often fight. I could be off as this is only a guess. But I think it is kinda interesting.