Dave spoke this morning from Hebrews 10:22-23, reminding us that God keeps His promises. So often, we feel frustrated and even downcast because we feel that God has not yet fulfilled all His promises to us (as individuals and as a church.) Over the years, we have had many promises from God about God’s work flourishing in this area, about how God will pour out His Spirit on the Dearne Valley so that it is as if a dam had burst, that our building will not be big enough for the people God will send to us. Some of these promises have seen fulfilment, but many more have not yet, and we were reminded that delays between God giving a promise and fulfilling it are not uncommon in Scripture.
Abraham had to wait 25 years from God’s promise of a son to the birth of Isaac. Jacob and Moses spent many years waiting for God to do what He had promised them. Moses spent 40 years away from Egypt and then spent 40 years leading God’s people in the wilderness. That’s a long time! There was a long period between David being anointed as king and Saul dying. Many of the prophets did not see with their own eyes the Messiah they had prophesied about; both Simeon and Anna were very old when they witnessed Jesus’s arrival. This period of delay between receiving a promise and seeing its fulfilment can be very discouraging to us. So often, in the period when we are called to wait patiently for God, we try to take things into our own hands (Abraham sleeping with Hagar who gave him a son, Ishmael… but this was not the son of promise, and this action led to enmity between Hagar and Sarah and trouble all round, for example.)
If we insist on going our own way, we may well suffer. A lack of faith will always be troublesome to us: the Israelites lacked faith in the wilderness and many died there. If we wait patiently for God, however, we will see the fulfilment of His promises, as Joshua and Caleb did.
What should we do, then, about the promises God has given to us?
We should continue to pray with thanksgiving, focussing on who God is.
We should remind God of His promises, pleading with Him to fulfil these as Abraham pleaded with God over Sodom and as Moses pleaded with God not to blot out His people despite their sin.
We should confess our sins and the sins of the people of this land, repenting of these in humility. All around us we see immorality, violence, idolatry and a rejection of God. We need to pray as Daniel did (Dan 9:17-19). Daniel found God’s promises in His word and spent time calling out to God in desperation. Until we wrestle with God like he did, we will not receive the promises of God: God is looking for persistence and perseverance
We must remember that our relationship with God involves dialogue, and that means learning to listen to God as well as to speak to Him. Sin will stop God working in our lives (the defeat at Ai in Joshua 7 came about because of Achan’s sin). We need to spend time listening to God and doing what He says.