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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Five Benefits of Asking God to Hurry

by Steve Fuller

Five Benefits of Asking God to Hurry

There’s something I’ve been praying about. 
The church where I serve as pastor needs a part-time worship leader. 
Our present leader has served us well, but his schedule is changing and he plans to step down. 
So, of course, I’ve been networking, calling, posting on church employment sites — and praying.

So far, God has not provided — and the problem is that I need him to provide soon. 
I can hear the clock ticking. The deadline is approaching. 
What are we going to do without a worship leader? 
Yes, I’m starting to worry.

So How Should I Pray?

I could just keep praying, “Father, please provide us with a new worship leader” — and leave it at that. 
But the Bible shows us more. 
You’ll notice that the psalmists often ask God to hurry.

This is all throughout the Psalms:
But you, O Lᴏʀᴅ, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! (Psalm 22:19) 
Make haste to help me, O Lᴏʀᴅ, my salvation! (Psalm 38:22) 
Be pleased, O Lᴏʀᴅ, to deliver me! O Lᴏʀᴅ, make haste to help me! (Psalm 40:13) 
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! (Psalm 40:17) 
Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O Lᴏʀᴅ, make haste to help me! (Psalm 70:1) 
But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lᴏʀᴅ, do not delay! (Psalm 70:5) 
O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! (Psalm 71:12) 
O Lᴏʀᴅ, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! (Psalm 141:1)

This makes me wonder: why don’t I pray like that?

So I’ve started it. 
Following the example of psalmists, I’ve been asking God to hurry. 
And I’m discovering at least five benefits.

1. It reminds us that God is sovereign over timing.

It’s easy to think the reason our church doesn’t yet have the new worship leader is because there are not many worship leaders available, or because the position is only part-time, or because this is a bad time of year to be looking, and so forth. 
But when I pray, “Father, quickly provide us with a worship leader; don’t delay in helping us” — it reminds me that God can provide for us quickly. 
He can overcome all of our problems. 
He will answer our prayers and provide for us exactly when we need him.

Like David said, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15).

2. It helps us see the goodness of God’s timing.

When I ask God to hurry, and realize that God is perfectly good, I see that timing is part of his perfect goodness. 
This is crucial because we can easily grumble about God’s timing. 
But like David said, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works” (Psalm 145:17).

All his works — including their timing. 
So every day of delay is part of that goodness. 
It is a gift of another day to pray, to depend on him, to seek him.

When we see that delays are part of his loving plan, it helps us humble ourselves before him, and trust him.

3. It helps prayer be honest.

If we long for God to provide something quickly, but we don’t express that longing when we pray, then we’re not being honest. 
We are holding part of our hearts away from him. 
We’re not entrusting that desire to him. 
And that can grow into frustration and bitterness. 
That’s one reason God wants us to pour out our souls before him (1 Samuel 1:15). 
I have found that the more I open my heart to him, expressing my longing that he act quickly, the more I experience his comfort and heart-satisfying presence.

4. It helps me pray earnestly.

Jesus said it is good to be earnest in prayer: “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence [persistence, earnestness] he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:8).

When we ask God to work we usually feel some earnestness. 
But when we add, “please do this quickly; please hurry” — the earnestness grows. 
Maybe it’s because when we express our longing for haste, we end up feeling it even more. 
But whatever the reason, when we ask God to hurry, our prayers will become more fervent.

5. It stirs God to answer more quickly.

There’s mystery here. James says, “we have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). 
So there are times when the reason we do not receive something is because we did not ask God for it. 
Which means that, generally speaking, if we humbly ask God to hurry, God will hurry more than if we had not asked.

So, when we long for God to hurry, let us be like the psalmists. 
Let us humbly and earnestly ask God to hurry — for his glory and our good.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses in 2014

In 2014, I encourage you to identify and exploit your weaknesses for the glory of Christ. 
I would like to give you an illustration from my own life, but first let me clarify what I mean.

Since 2007, millions of people have read books and taken inventories designed to find our strengths. 
These are useful for positioning people in places of maximum effectiveness.

God’s Work in Our Weaknesses
But I am calling you to give attention and effort in finding your weaknesses and maximizing their God-given purpose. 
The Bible tells us what that purpose is in 2 Corinthians 12:8–10. 
Paul had been given a “thorn in the flesh” which was one instance of a “weakness.” 
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul mentions four purposes for his weaknesses.
  1. “To keep me from becoming conceited” (verse 7).
  2. “Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9).
  3. “So that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9).
  4. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 10).

Paul’s Humility and Christ’s Power
Even though this weakness of the thorn is called “a messenger of Satan,” the purposes are clearly not Satan’s. 
Satan does not want Christ’s power to be made perfect! 
God does. 
So God is overruling Satan’s design with his own. 
In other words, wherever the Christian’s weaknesses come from, they have a God-given purpose. 
They are not fortuitous.

We can sum up the purpose of Paul’s weakness like this: securing Paul’s humility and showing Christ’s power. 
That’s why God made sure Paul had weaknesses — to keep him “from becoming conceited” and to give him a more obvious experience of the power of Christ resting on him.

One Goal for 2014

What is your goal in 2014? 
I hope it is to be humble and to magnify the power of Christ. 
If it is, then one key strategy is to identify and exploit your weaknesses.

What does this mean? 
Negatively, it means that we stop complaining (to God and to people) about the things we are constitutionally not good at. 
And, positively, it means that we look for ways to turn our weaknesses into a Christ-exalting experience.

When I say “constitutionally not good at,” I mean that we have done our best to overcome the weakness, but we can’t. 
God has ordained that, through genetics or life-experience, we are limited, broken, weak. 
Paul asked that God would take his weakness away (verse 8), but God said no. 
Which means that sooner or later, we should stop praying against the weakness and accept it as God’s design for our humility and the glory of Christ.

What This Meant for Me

I’ll use myself as a simple example. 
I read slowly — about as fast as I speak. 
Many people read five or ten times faster than I do. 
I tried for years to overcome this weakness, with special classes and books and techniques. 
After about two decades of bemoaning this weakness (from age 17 to 37 or so), I saw there would be no change. 
This is one reason I left college teaching and the academic life. 
I knew I could never be what scholars ought to be: widely read.

What did it mean for me to identify and exploit this weakness? 
It meant first that I accept this as God’s design for my life. 
I will never read fast. 
It meant I stop complaining about it. 
It meant that I take my love for reading and do with it what I can for the glory of Christ. 
If I can only read slowly, I will do all I can to read deeply. 
I will exploit slowness. 
I will ask Jesus to show me more in reading little than many see in reading much. I will ask Jesus to magnify his power in making my slowness more fruitful than speed.
In realizing I cannot read many books, I will pour my limited scope into reading one book better than any other — the Bible. 
If I must read fewer of many books, then I will read more carefully the greatest book.

Exploit Your Weaknesses

Now after all these years, I say with Paul, “I boast all the more gladly in this weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9). 
Christ has been faithful to fulfill his purpose. 
He has magnified himself in this weakness.

If I had angrily resented God all these years that he did not let me be a comprehensively well-read scholar, I would not have exploited this weakness. 
I would have wasted it.

So this year, don’t focus too much on finding your strengths. 
Give attention to identify and exploit your weaknesses. 
God has not given them to you in vain. 
Identify them. 
Accept them. 
Exploit them. 
Magnify the power of Christ with them. 

Don’t waste your weaknesses.