Recently when I prayed for a lady in Scotland, she told me that she had endured shoulder and neck pain for 40 years since she was a small child. Through tears and laughter she told me, ‘The pain has completely gone!’ Wonderful!
‘Your faith has made you whole’ is an amazing statement. One minute suffering pain, the next minute completely free. Faith to receive now is exciting and impressive stuff.
Faith and patience
Here’s a strange combination; ‘faith and patience’. Two words we don’t necessarily expect to find together. Maybe we think that when faith arrives, patience is no longer required. We have to have patience to put up with something unwanted. When faith comes, surely that’s the cue for patience to leave. It’s no longer needed. Faith has solved the problem.
A lady in Oregon, with a similar mixture of tears and laughter, told me that, having been prayed for the previous evening, she was able to put her own socks on that morning for the first time for 23 years. Intense spinal pain had prevented her from touching her toes for nearly a quarter of a century. Now the pain had gone. She was completely free. Surely this is the kind of faith we are interested in – faith that gets the problem solved now, immediately.
To our surprise, the book of Hebrews tells us to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12). Faith, it seems, does not operate only in the realm of the immediate, the here and now. In fact the faith that the Bible often highlights and celebrates is the faith that has to wait, yet keep believing.
Hebrews 11 tells us that by faith the walls of Jericho fell down! Amen! Bring it on! That’s the faith I am looking for! Let’s have some shouting followed by immediate wall demolition.
The fact is that the Israelites first had to patiently encircle the city for seven days in silence, and Caleb was one of the marching army. He and Joshua had waited 40 years for the fulfilment of the promises that God made them about inheriting the land. Still want to join the ‘Joshua generation?’
Faith and patience are not enemies; they are good companions. Often they are called upon to keep one another company.
Abraham, arguably the greatest Biblical hero of faith, demonstrated amazing patience, waiting many years for his promised son. Our problem so often is that if we don’t see immediate results we give up. We tend not so much to resemble the ‘Joshua generation’ as the ‘give up’ generation. We, particularly in the West, have been trained to expect the immediate. Press button! Turn switch! Add water! Door opens automatically! We hate waiting. We will swap queues at the supermarket checkout or airport passport control. ‘What’s wrong with this computer? It’s so slow.’ What we mean is that it took a few seconds longer than we expected. ‘Faith and patience?’ Forget it!
A man just like us
Elijah, we are told, was a man just like us (James 5:17) and he prayed. In all honesty he doesn’t exactly look like a man ‘just like us’. He prayed for rain and the sky stayed blue. So he prayed again. Not a cloud to be seen. So he prayed again. Sunglasses still required. More prayer. ‘Have another look.’ Come on Elijah. Forget it. You’ve tried. Time to call it a day. Pack it up.
[To be continued]