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When We Don’t Receive the Things Promised

When you pray, do you ever find yourself thinking, “Can God really break through this situation? I know He’s all-powerful, but this one seems pretty big.” Maybe you’ve been praying for a long time and still aren’t seeing the results you’re hoping for. You want to believe that God is in control of this situation, but His healing, deliverance, or redemption seems like it might be coming too late.

I’m reminded of a story a friend told me. This friend is a local pastor in here in Johannesburg. His grandfather came to South Africa from India in the 1950s as an indentured servant to work in the sugar cane fields. He worked alongside many other Indians, all of them professing Hindus.

After a few years of working, a Christian missionary from India came to this community of workers. He would walk down from the mountain each day, praying for the people he was going to interact with, asking God to bring them to Him. The missionary became involved in their lives and got to know them well, sharing the Gospel day after day, explaining that Jesus loved them and sacrificed Himself in order to save them.

As long as this missionary lived, he never saw one member of this community come to Christ.

That seems like a pretty disheartening story, doesn’t it? This is a reality for many missionaries, who strive for years reach the lost with the Gospel and never see the fruit of their labor. It’s true for those aren’t missionaries as well, telling our families, friends, and co-workers about the love of Jesus with seemingly no impact. So why do we keep doing it? Why do we continue to witness when we’re constantly met with rejection?

Because God’s timing is perfect.

Hebrews 11:13-16 says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Some years after this missionary died, his son came to the same community and to continue the Kingdom work his father had started. His experience, however, was very different. Very quickly, a number of people came to know Christ. One of those people was my friend’s grandfather. He had twelve children, who also trusted Christ. Then they had children, who also trusted Christ. Today, my friend is a pastor, spreading the love of Jesus and leading Christians in their pursuit of God. All of this is a direct result of a man who never saw a single soul converted in his lifetime.

Surely, that missionary often felt frustrated and disappointed. He probably spent many nights asking God, “Where are you? You called me here, and I answered. I’m preaching Your Word. I’m doing my part. So why haven’t You shown up?”

But this missionary knew he was a citizen of another country. He was a transient in this world. Though his life was surely frustrating and even lonely at times, he could rest in the fact that God doesn’t ask for success. He asks for our faithfulness. And because of this man’s faithfulness, countless people are walking with Jesus today.

The world offers us quick fixes and easy solutions. God works on His own timeline, on a perfect, Heavenly timeline. We have start thinking with an eternal mindset, not a temporal one. As we’re struggling with various issues in our lives—with family, work, health, etc.—we probably have an idea of what success in these situations would look like. We have our desired outcome that we’re praying for. These prayers aren’t necessarily wrong, but they are limited by our small viewpoint. Instead, let’s learn to pray expectantly—not expecting what we want on our earthly terms, but expecting God to move according to His perfect timing in ways bigger than we can imagine. His ways might even too big for us to understand until we reach eternity.

By Lee Helling
Walk Thru the Bible’s Director of International

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