The virtue of patience; the deferral of hope…

This is a very exciting time for me musically. After believing that it would never happen, I finally have my own chamber choir to work with on sacred Protestant European music! They seem to be a lovely bunch of guys, and this is a major step forward in my own ministry vision that incorporates music ministry as part of my own contribution to the missio Dei.

I am mentioning this here in cyberspace because if there was ever an example of something in my musical oeuvre which I have desperately wanted but then quietly out onto the altar of sacrifice, only for events to transpire which raised my hopes that this might be what God wanted – only for those hopes to be dashed – which then meant the altar of sacrifice all over again – only for different events to transpire which then raised my hopes once more……

You get the picture.

In Proverbs 13, we read:

12Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

We Christians are just way too good at whipping out the party-trays of platitudinal statements that are supposed to a) edifiy those who don’t know God, the Bible or much else about Christianity in general; b) remind the Christians of who and what they are supposed to be. The statement ‘patience is a virtue’ would be an example of a truism – as a statement its ‘truth’ is beyond dispute, but there are times when it is used so inappropriately that real spiritual damage is done to others. Matthew 12:36 has a stern warning for those who use ‘idle’ words and I have absolutely no doubt that there will be some very shocked Christians at judgment who will discover that God’s definition of ‘idle words’ is rather different to their own…

What is the difference between a project that takes seventeen minutes and one that takes seventeen years? I can receive a strong impulse to make a pastoral telephone call to a person, who picks up immediately and tells me that they have a huge problem that only God can fix. We can talk. We can pray. I can do my best to encourage. That could be done and dusted in seventeen minutes!

But for those of us who are aware and who have benefitted from the UCB Word for Today devotionals – the guy who laid the foundation for the entire United Christian Broadcasters International network – he had to wait and pray and hold on for SEVENTEEN YEARS before he finally achieved the first phase of his dream – a Christian radio station on the air in New Zealand!

Please – don’t even think about saying anything for at least another 15/20 seconds. Just stop and take that in. David had to wait between 12 and 16 years (depending on which commentary you read) from his anointing to his first coronation (yes, there were two, go check it out if this is news to you!). Joseph endured a period of slavery and imprisonment that lasted 13 years. That was bad enough. But Dick Berry had to wait 17 years to get that first license.

And do you know what is worse? Dick Berry died at the age of 44. Never even got to see what UCB has become today. No grand old age for him!

Today, I am going to metaphorically bang my fist on the lectern and say that I am tired of the loose way in which some people are encouraged to pursue dreams which God has never had any intention of bringing to fruition – but because people saw talents and giftings in certain areas of a person’s life, they presumed that God wanted the person/s in question to do what made sense to human eyes. Isaiah 55:8,9 would be a good proof text right about now. [And you don’t even have to get up from the computer to find a Bible (much as I would suggest that) – just hit Bible Gateway in your search engine and read.]

A PhD in rocket science is not required to know where I’m going next – the reverse of the above. Which is equally true by definition. Some people are actively discouraged from pursuing dreams which God HAS totally ordained – but because His timetable has not worked on a scale that (utterly finite and supremely limited) human beings can comprehend, they are told to give up their dreams and pursue something else.

This means that the majority of Christian believers have no idea what it really means to seek God in order to know His will for their life. And this gets even deeper. A.W. Tozer makes the best case I have ever seen by any devotional writer for the position that reason itself was not ever given to us as the actual means to actually know God. Reason facilitates greater knowledge and understanding ABOUT God, but in and of itself it is not the way that a person knows God as a person.

I know that some people will read that last paragraph and go…”duh.”

Here’s my response. If  had a penny for every time I heard a Christian claim to understand something, and then three questions later have the same person be staring blankly at me on the very same thing they claimed to have understood, I would be quite rich. You can think you know something, but then when your life circumstances press out out of your regular cycle of comfortable existence, the truth about your understanding will then emerge. As a Seventh-Day Adventist I am surrounded by folk who think that their semi-cognitive grasp of an idea has equated to an actual understanding. This only changes when adversity strikes and they find themselves forced to pray an brand of prayer that hitherto has been utterly unnecessary – and that is a sting in the tail, because that type of serious bottom-of-the-heart cry unto God has ALWAYS been necessary – they just never knew it. They understood the words that say that God cannot be known by reason alone – but that understanding then stays locked in the cerebral and never gets to the truly emotive. Let’s avoid any confusion here and add that this is also true in other denominations as well. I have this on outstanding authority.

And worship transcends the cerebral, or the cognitive! But this issue is so big it needs a whole series of posts to even BEGIN to unpack what happens in worship. Hmm, there’s an idea…

Let me speak for myself and say that it wass only in going through a situation of trying to negotiate my own ministry vocation and how God wants this to be manifested that I was finally able to truly connect my heart to the fact that God does not care for our powers of reason the same way that we do. My head was there a LONG time ago. My heart was not.

And it could not be. I have had to re-think pretty much everything I have been taught on this matter to finally be led by God to a point of acceptance that the human mind is limited. We are created beings. We  have God’s imprint, but not His essence. That is why E.M. Bounds could say, “The Church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better [people].” The peace that “is not as the world gives” is the same “peace that passes all understanding!”

In having to seriously question the role of music in my ministry, and juggle the wildly opposing views of many people regarding their versions of what God wanted for my life (all of which could not possibly be true), I had to go to higher ground in my walk with God. This has meant that I have had to leave some people behind.

It has always been this way. It will always be that way. This post has about 1300 words now and I am not even close to expressing how my desire to serve God in the medium of classical music to a much greater spiritual standard than almost everything that I have seen has nearly wrecked my life. And I don’t even know how long this will be for. It may only be a few months. Who knows?

GOD KNOWS.

Hope deferred in this one area has made my heart sicker than many other things. But in the process of going through that, I am now exponentially closer to God.

For the first time ever, I know in my heart as well as my head what Habbakuk 2:2,3 is saying. But it also means that I will never be able to take the words of any human being in the same way that I did before. In the matter of my ministry vocation, I take instructions from One and One Only. This does not mean that I am not eager to learn what I can from whom I can. But the practical outworking of my ministry is in the hands of the Infinite One.

This is more than mere ‘patience.’ Even a secular person can be patient. Many are more patient than too many Christians!

This is ‘waiting on God’ – the God who saves us by Hope (Romans 8:24), even when that hope is deferred. If you have a dream on your heart that every evidence your rational mind can find points to the fact that only God could have put that dream there, but all doors close, DO NOT go looking for advice from ANY human being.

Shut yourself up in a very quiet place, switch off your devices and open your heart to God. Make good and sure that you are willing to do His will, whatever it costs you – and if you discover in your heart of hearts that you are not ready to pay any price to do what God asks of you, you will be in the right place to talk God about that fact.

Of course, you might even find that you have to confess that you don’t know how to pray…

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