The writer to the Hebrews warns us of a great danger in the Christian life, namely that if we don’t enjoy immediate results, we tend to throw in the towel. Or, if we don’t completely abandon the cause, we at least begin to drag our feet, lose our joy and simply go through the motions with no genuine expectation.
Our Christianity becomes routine, dull and fruitless. To use his phrase, we get ‘sluggish’ (Heb. 6:12 NASB). Not an attractive alternative to the dynamic and enduring faith of our Bible heroes.
The challenge is to make sure that faith remains faith even when we experience delay. We must not slip the car into neutral and begin to coast. We must keep the gear of faith fully engaged, especially when we encounter unexpected curves in the road.
When we first received the promise we expected that the road would be straight, the way would be direct. Joseph was promised that his brothers and even his parents would bow down to him. He was already his father’s favourite. His special coat already distinguished him from the others, so he guessed the bowing down part would soon follow.
No! There was a long, winding road before the promise was fulfilled. He encountered not only delay but what looked like setbacks of devastating proportions.
Rather than bow down to him, his brothers sold him as a slave to some foreign nomads. Cruel lies and false accusations resulted in his imprisonment far from home. Surely time to ditch the dream. What makes Joseph such an exemplary character is that he kept believing God. His dream did not fade. His vision remained sharp. He never abandoned his confidence in what God had told him.
Tell me your dream!
I can imagine how I would have reacted if a fellow prisoner had told me that now he had had a dream. If I was Joseph, I would have said, ‘Forget it! I also had a dream. Look where it got me!’ Instead of cynicism, Joseph displayed excitement and eager anticipation. ‘Tell me your dream,’ he urged his incarcerated companion. A dream was still to be believed. A promise could still be trusted, even when circumstances could not look worse.
‘do not throw away your confidence,’ the Bible tells us. ‘You have need of patience so that after you have done the will of God you might receive the promise’ (Heb. 9:36). There it is again. Faith and patience!
[To be continued]