“God’s delays are not God’s denials,” affirmed the 19th-century British minister George Müller.
Müller was a man of faith who believed in Divine providence, the efficacy of prayer, and the promises of God. “Too many Christians today,” opined Tony Abram, want ‘Fast Food’ answers. We are not willing to wait on the Lord God’s timetable. It is not always what we want but His timetable is the best for us.”
There are no better Bible examples of patiently waiting and faithfully believing in God’s promises than the heroes and heroines of Hebrews 11.
Noah preached for 120 years before the flood engulfed the earth and he and his family were saved in the ark. Abraham waited 25 years for the birth of a son in his old age. Plus the promises of a great nation and a land for his people would not be fulfilled for over 400 years. And the spiritual promise of a Messiah would not bless the world for some 1900 years.
Tucked away in this chapter are these statements of faith.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. (Heb. 11:20-22).
Think about the challenges, problems, and adversity these men faced. Their lives were filled with suspicion, intrigue, deception, duplicity, estrangement, and envy. They experienced mental anguish, emotional pain, and physical suffering. Today we would label these families as dysfunctional.
Yet, they persisted and pursued God’s calling because they were people of faith. It’s a good lesson for us to learn today. Often our personal problems and family disputes become an excuse to quit, instead of a reason to press on toward the prize of God’s calling.
The greatest of God’s greats were imperfect people. At times they made mistakes. Exercised poor judgment. Became involved in conflicts. And entangled in sinful choices. Yet, they never quit.
“By faith,” are the two keywords that set them apart, kept them going, and ultimately led them closer to God and His blessings. The same foundation of faith will steady us through trying and troubling times as well.
Furthermore, these three are linked together not only for their faith but in each case they are all near death. None were able to see the fulfillment of the Promised Land and the great nation God promised to Abraham. Yet, they died, not in discouragement, disappointment, or despair, but in hope.
In fact, Joseph’s bold prediction and request is an amazing display of faith in the future and the hope of God’s unseen promise. “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Gen. 50:24). When Israel left Egypt generations later, Moses took Joseph’s coffin (Ex 13:19). They carried it throughout the wilderness wanderings for 40 years. And after they entered Canaan, Joseph’s bones were buried in The Promised Land (Josh. 24:29).
In a similar way, we journey through this life, walking by faith, trusting in God’s providence, looking with an eye of faith toward a heavenly home that He’s promised. But our Canaan will not be realized until we cross the river of death. For the Christian, death is not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s the realization of faith being rewarded and hope becoming sight.
One final thought. No one person is indispensable. Hebrews 11 reminds us that these heroes of faith, like David, could only “serve God’s purpose in (their) generation.” Even Joseph, as influential and important as he was to God’s plan, died. He passed the torch on to others and left a legacy that visually and verbally shouted, “God will surely visit you.”
I grew up admiring and being influenced by so many of the prominent preachers of the 20th century. Aude McKee. Robert Jackson. James P. Miller. A. C. Grider. Franklin Puckett. John Clark. Rufus Clifford, Sr. Clinton Hamilton. Homer Hailey. Roy Cogdill. Bill Cavender. Yater Tant. Harry Pickup, Sr. Harry Pickup, Jr. And James R. Cope. They’ve all died. They’ve gone to their reward. And “their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
My generation is now in their 70’s. Only the Lord knows how many more years we have left. Younger preachers and pastors are coming on the scene. The message and ministry of the Gospel continues. And the future work, success, and progress of the Kingdom is not dependant on any one person.
May we all press on. With faith. Hope. Patience. And confident assurance that God will reward us in His time.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman