Garry spoke from Gen 41:1-13 this morning about results and faith. So often, we are known by our achievements; a salesperson is only as good as their last sale, a sportsperson only as good as their last event, for example. Many places of employment speak about setting SMART goals (specific, measured, agreed, realistic and timed.) There is much we can learn from the world about management and work, but ultimately, we see from God’s word that results cannot always be easily measured.
Joseph had displayed faith while in prison and interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker correctly, but in actual fact, he then remained in prison for another two years. When God moved, He moved swiftly and Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and landing a job he could never have imagined, but this did not happen instantaneously. In that intervening period of time, it must have been easy to think that he was not in the right place or had failed in some way, but this was not true. In the same way, Daniel had to wait to hear God’s answer to his prayers (see Daniel 10:1-5, 12-13). Sometimes, depending on when we look at our lives, we may see no positive results at all! William Carey, a famous missionary to India of whom Vishal Mangalwadi said, ‘he did more for the transformation of the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and 20th centuries than any other individual before or since’, arrived in the country in 1793 and did not see one person converted until 1800. In those intervening years, his son died from dysentery, he suffered from malaria and his wife suffered with delusions and was thought to be insane by some. It must have been a testing time for him and we can imagine that he frequently felt discouraged. Nonetheless, he continued to obey God and live by faith. This is the only way God wants us to live, but it can be difficult.
Faith is not just required at the start of the Christian journey; it is required every day of our lives (see Gal 3:1-5). We can come to church, read the Bible, pray, live a good life, work for God, and witness without faith – but it requires faith to come to church and meet with God; it requires faith to read the Bible and have God speak to us and then act on what He says. It needs faith to pray and see God move; it needs faith to live the good life which is impossible in our own strength. It needs faith to work for God and achieve great things; it needs faith to witness and make an impact. It needs faith to achieve eternal results – which we may not see on earth.
How do we know when God is speaking to us? God will often confirm what He is saying to us, but we often have to step out in faith without ‘knowing’ or ‘seeing’ all the results. He often encourages us (think of the words God spoke to Abraham in Gen 18:10, giving him some eventual insight into timescales as to the birth of a son), but we need to be prepared to hold on, to trust, to continue in faith despite what our eyes see. William Carey is known for saying, ‘expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.’ When we do this, we can leave the results to Him!