God is not in a hurry to accomplish his purposes in the world or in your life. Now that’s the kind of sentence you might want to wrestle with a few days before you dismiss it. John Stott points out that the Apostle Paul, in Acts 19, knew his destination was Rome and the Lord Jesus confirmed this in Acts 23, as he stood beside Paul in the night. Given his druthers, Paul would have gone directly from Jerusalem to Rome but Jesus had a different path for him to take. Jesus is less concerned with the shortest distance between two points than with the quality of the person who arrives at the next point. The path from Jerusalem to Rome was paved with beatings, false trials, a shipwreck, the bite of a poisonous snake and the chain of a prison guard.
What does this mean for us? First, it means God can be trusted to oversee and bring to fruition his own work. Doesn’t this kind of thinking breed contempt or laziness in believers? Just the opposite is true. Trusting in the unhurried God removes heroic pride from our hearts and creates a thankful spirit within us for being invited into kingdom work. When we take this perspective, we are reminded that the work of God is so much larger than our sphere of influence. He is continuously at work in every corner of the world, in the lives of people we will never know, bringing his salvation and restoration to bear.
Second, it means we are free to see our present life situation as the kingdom work God has called us to in the moment. When I first went off to Bible college I just wanted to get “a piece of paper,” a diploma, so I could get out and get into ministry. Over time, through God’s grinding wheels of grace, I came to see that school work and tests were God’s kingdom work for me. Sometimes in church, someone will say to me that they work their job so they can afford to go overseas on short-term mission trips to serve the Lord. The secret they are missing is that the mundaneness of their daily work is itself the ministry of God. This mentality gives our life and work value and purpose in the moment. Where you are now is not a spring board for future service, but a field to be tilled for God now.
Third, it means that the chances are good that you’ve not missed out on what God is doing. If you’re pursuing the Lord with all your heart, don’t be discouraged if you’ve not made it to Rome yet. Every day, every circumstance, every interaction with others is a piece in the mosaic God is making with your life. You may be feeling that you have wasted so much of your life before following Christ. My friend, I submit to you that God can redeem your wasted time in ways you could not even imagine. Let Christ be the discerner between what is wasted and what is valuable. He has a way of taking the good and bad which are the facts of life, and turning them into trophies of His grace through surrendered lives.
I believe it was Jim Elliot who said, “wherever you are, be all there.” Learn to live for him now and rest in the truth that he is working all things for his glory and your good. You’re not going to rush God, so be faithful to him and you will find in time He will accomplish his purposes in the world and in your life.