Saturday, October 18, 2014

Instant Gratification Sold Separately

Here is another insight from The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders, from the Moody Classics series.

Sanders writes, "...our divine Lord spent six times as long working at the carpenter's bench as He did in His world-shaking ministry" (p. 69, emphasis mine). 

I have noticed that being in the "formal ministry" (associated with pastoral work in an organized church, which I did for about a decade) is not much different from working in another business setting in our society in one particular way. Instant success, or impact, is desired just as much. It is tempting to want to see a great move of God (people saved, numerical growth, a new ministry launched, etc.) after just a couple prayers or attending "that one conference."

If God is almighty and can work so powerfully, so quickly, then why wait? Why does He put us through the "trial" of preparing for so long? 

If there was one time when we would think God would speed up the process, then it would be when Jesus was on earth getting ready for His public ministry. The work of a carpenter was important and respected in those days, but couldn't God have fast-forwarded to the "Messiah miracles" part of the show?

This lesson is yet another, perhaps the most vivid, reminder that God is not on our timetable. If it was important for the Christ to put in His hours as a carpenter and to go through the process as a Rabbi, then we should expect no less.

It turns out that in God's way of doing things, the time of preparing us spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially is of major significance. Just as college or job training is necessary for certain vocations, spiritual preparation is equally necessary for disciple making and ministry. (This is not to be confused with building a case for seminary. While study may indeed be part of the preparation process, to automatically equate God's preparation in a person's life with man-made training systems misses the point, and has very little scriptural support.)

Moreover, the preparation is usually some form of "wilderness wandering" that involves testing and character building. God takes the time to rid us of ourselves until we are to the point of dependence upon His Spirit. In fact, I have thought that I was ready only to find times when God causes me to return to that uncomfortable prep work again. The wilderness may not be fun, but it is an essential prerequisite before entering a "promised land."

Sanders sums it up in one simple sentence: "Preparatory years are important years."
Well, I guess so!

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