222 – Thinking in Bible Time
|Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Solomon, David, Nehemiah, Job, Peter, Paul. What do a bunch of famous men with long beards and longer robes riding around on camels have to say to men today? In How God Makes Men I want to show you how incredibly relevant their stories are to your story. As you will see, the principles revealed in their epic stories are timeless. As an example, let me share with you the powerful principle of Bible time in this excerpt from Chapter 1 of my new book, How God Makes Men (Multnomah, 2013).
The Twenty-Five Year Wait
God’s plan for our lives is revealed in stages, as Abraham discovered. God sent him to the land of Canaan, but then a famine forced him to move to Egypt. Later, when he returned, he established a large free-range herding operation. Once again, he was enjoying a comfortable existence–one of the leading men of the area. Still, something was spoiling the satisfaction of the life he was living. And frankly it seemed to fly in the face of a promise God had given him-the promise that God would make him into a great nation. How could that be, when he and Sarah were childless?
So one night God took Abraham outside and told him to look up at the heavens and count the stars. I’m sure it was a clear night, like a special night our family experienced on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped our car, shut off the motor, got out, and looked up into a sky bulging with stars that dangled so close we felt as though we could reach out and pick one, like an apple or an orange.
As Abraham was drinking in the spectacle of an uncountable number of stars, God said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5).
God tested the faith of Abraham: Will you trust God to do what seems impossible? After all, how could he father offspring? He was well over seventy-five years old, and his wife was barren. They had been trying to have a child for many, many years. What reason was there to believe that they would have a child now?
Abraham had to decide. To believe this crazy promise God gave him about the stars and his offspring. Or not.
We know what Abraham did. Verse 6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” That single moment is why the New Testament repeatedly calls Abraham the father of our faith. He believed God in the face of unbelievable circumstances.
But the test wasn’t over. A decade after the promise made to him that star-studded night, Abraham still didn’t have a son!
That’s when Abraham once again revealed his flawed humanity. His wife coaxed him into sleeping with their housekeeper, Hagar, who got pregnant and had a son, Ishmael. For years Hagar taunted Sarah because she had a child and Sarah didn’t. When Sarah couldn’t take it anymore, she demanded that her husband banish Ishmael and Hagar. And he did. He put them out.
Now fast-forward to Abraham at ninety-nine years of age. It was now twenty-four years since he had left his homeland, and yet he still had no heir. But again God reaffirmed the promise that he would have a son with Sarah (see Genesis 17:1-16). Abraham’s first reaction? He laughed. The Bible tells us exactly what he was thinking: “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (verse 17).
Put that way, it does seem laughable. But even though twenty-four years had passed since the promise was made, Abraham continued to believe in the face of unbelievable circumstances. He passed the second test and was rewarded with a son, Isaac, just as God had promised.
As Hebrews 11:11 tells us, “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.”
A long test is obviously more difficult to pass than a short test. It’s one thing to have faith in God if He delivers on His promise quickly. But as the years roll by, it’s human nature to assume, I guess I heard wrong.
Most men I know can point to something they believed God was calling them to–something He promised, something they believed they were led to pursue. For some, it’s to get married and have or adopt children. For others, it’s to go to college or start their own businesses or change careers. Still others sense God calling them to move to another city or go into ministry.
But now it’s five, ten, fifteen, or more years later and they’re still waiting. They’ve begun to doubt. They think, Maybe I didn’t hear from God after all. Maybe I just imagined it. Or maybe I’ve let God down and He’s changed His mind about giving me this thing. There’s a blockage somewhere. It’s just not happening. Or so it seems. What’s going on?
Here’s the advice I give them: start thinking in Bible Time.
Thinking in Bible Time
God has an altogether different way of looking at time than we do. As Peter said, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). In “earth time” Jesus died two thousand years ago. But in Bible Time it was only the day before yesterday.
Bible Time is elastic. At our Bible study I asked a couple of men to measure the length of a bungee cord. It was two feet. Then I asked them to stretch it as far as they could and remeasure. This time it was five feet. So which was it: two feet or five feet? It was both. What may seem like an eternity to us can be like the blink of an eye to God.
Though Abraham no doubt felt as if twenty-five years was a long time, it wasn’t much in Bible Time. From the time God promised a new country to Abraham, it took nearly 500 earth years for that promise to be fulfilled–430 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years through the wilderness. But in Bible Time, God fulfilled His promise by noon!
Suppose you and I meet for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. I ask you, “What do you want more than anything else in the world that is righteous, pure, noble, and honors God?” Let’s say you share your dream and calling to become a godly man, husband, and father.
Now imagine I hold the power to make that happen. Suppose I say, “I love and care about you so much that I promise to make your dream come true.” If I could give you the thing you want most in life, would you be willing to wait until noon? How about for an hour? How about ten minutes? In Bible Time, ten minutes could be ten years. Thinking in Bible Time will give you an eternal perspective and help you manage expectations. Also, when you think in Bible Time, verses like this one make more sense: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Bible Time has many practical applications. I meet men all the time who are so impatient for change that they are making huge decisions–to close a business, to cut off a child, to divorce a wife, to bail out on a home mortgage–because they are impatient. They are not willing to wait on God. They don’t have a concept of Bible Time.
How about you? Whatever God has called you to start, pull an Abraham. Reset your clock and don’t give up. God is testing you. He might test you for decades. Will you trust God to do what seems impossible? Whatever is not happening that you believed God was going to do, here’s my advice: Give it a few more years. Give God a chance to bring glory to Himself by fulfilling your longing.
Once you embrace Bible Time as the norm, it takes off a lot of pressure. It’s the kingdom perspective on time that will not only help keep your faith intact but help release the power of God in every direction and detail of your life. Cru founder Bill Bright loved to say, “Faith is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the bigger it grows.” That’s a good thing, because Abraham would need it. God would soon put him to the ultimate test of faith.
Read the rest of the story of how God made Abraham in a complimentary sample chapter from Pat’s newest book, How God Makes Men, at patrickmorley.com.