God’s Spectacular Timing
By Cabe Pillette
Disciple making takes time if you want real, lasting spiritual fruit. Otherwise, Paul would have called it “a walk in the park,” not “labor” (1 Corinthians 15:58). That labor involves persecution, perseverance, patience, prayer, and pitfalls, and reigning above all that is God’s kind providence. To see something eternal, our labor and His providential timing must be at work. The outcome is spectacular—but slow (Mark 4:30–32).
A chronological mistake
God’s Word describes in its pages the spectacular growth of His spiritual kingdom. Those of us who are curious about how it works will read and re-read its pages, wondering if our labor and results compare at all to that inspired record. In so doing, we may make the unhappy mistake of letting compressed history discourage us.
By compressed history, I mean, for example, that the story of Daniel covers about 70 years of his labor for the Lord, but we can read it all in about 25 minutes. That is when we may make the unfortunate mistake of crying out to God that our ministry lacks power and extraordinary events. One divine response to our cries is, Pay attention to chronology.
Daniel’s ministry lasted about 70 years (605–535 BC). During that time, he enjoyed God’s spectacular intervention five times. If you divide 70 years by 5, you get an average of 15 years of nothing apparently spectacular between each great event.
After decompressing Daniel’s history this way, we must not be bullied into thinking that if God has not done anything spectacular in our ministry in the last 15 years, something is wrong with us. That would be a chronological mistake. And that is not the only lesson about God’s spectacular timing we learn from Daniel.
A critical method
Daniel was the least among the heroes of the Bible. He is not described as someone of physical strength nor of great charisma, nor is he described as a warrior like Joshua or King David.
Daniel, in fact, did nothing exceptional—except, apparently, pray (Daniel 2:18; 6:10; 9:3–19; 10:12). The critical method for seeing God’s spectacular intervention is the prayer of His saints. That is our only true recourse. As Daniel’s three friends well knew, God can answer any prayer; God will answer and intervene; and if He doesn’t answer as we had hoped, He has a much better plan than our weak prayers can imagine (Daniel 3:17–18).
The power of real change is not found in us, His saints; it is found in God, and we access it through our constant, patient, trusting prayers. Those prayers not only invoke God to intervene but also instill in us a holy patience in His timing. What appears to us as God’s disinterest in our labor and strained prayers is merely a human frustration with God’s spectacular timing.
A constant march
We labor tirelessly for the salvation of humans, and we wait on God to draw them (Mark 6:30–31; John 6:44). Then, we labor painfully for their sanctification, and we rely on the Spirit to convict them (Galatians 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The weight of their growth lies heavy on us, but we realize it is God’s power and timing that we must wait for and enjoy (2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 2:13). We invest in faithful believers, but we cannot inspire in them a spiritual desire to grow or serve or lead—that is for God and God alone (2 Timothy 2:2).
We are in a constant and arduous march that relies fully on the power and spectacular timing of God Himself. As it turns out, true discipleship is a long-term investment. To that end, Paul says not to grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). God’s timing is just right. It is spectacular, in fact. Wait for it, and pray for it.
Remember, allowing yourself to be cowed by the sound of success and great reports of God’s intervention elsewhere is often a mistake of chronology. So we humbly do what He has called us to do, and we circumscribe it with persistent prayer. That is when real things happen. We are in a long march, and your labor is not in vain. God’s spectacular timing is worth your patience.
Cabe Pillette serves in Mexico
Originally published in Missions magazine, September/October 2023. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.