I began reading the gospel of Mark, and I was struck by the number of times the author wrote IMMEDIATELY. In fact, the word euthys occurs 41 times in the book. Things were always happening at a very quick pace. Immediately, the Spirit impelled Jesus to go out into the wilderness. Immediately, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Immediately, the leprosy left a man and he was cleansed. Immediately another man picked up his pallet and went out. Throughout the gospel, someone immediately receives sight or is healed immediately.
Not so with my life. Nothing seems immediate. There is always waiting and more waiting and process. Healing and growth happen over time. Understanding and insight are not gained all at once. Even after I have prayed, the path is not immediately clear.
A few weeks later, I was reading Genesis and Exodus and there was not the same sense of immediacy. Abraham waited until age 100 before the child of God’s promise, Isaac, was born. Joseph was estranged from his family over 20 years. Moses shepherded 40 years in the wilderness before the Lord brought him into the role of deliverer. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. In these accounts, I recognize how God is more concerned about refining those he has chosen through crafting character over time.
In the fullness of time, God sent his own son, Jesus. For centuries the people longed for the coming Messiah, yet this event was pre-ordained before the creation of the world.
Why does immediate seem preferable? Why is waiting so difficult? Maybe the problem is that I have a temporal mindset and God is eternal not subservient to time as I understand it. Or perhaps it is because our society has idolized time-management and waiting seems to be doing nothing. Or perhaps longer waiting takes more faith and trust. For all the longing and waiting, we do have one guarantee of immediate. In the twinkling of an eye…in an instant our earthly bodies will become immortal. When Jesus appears, we will become like him for we shall see Him as He is. And for that, I eagerly wait.
Here’s something you may not know about me: I feel a strong connection with persecuted Christians. Nearly 30 years ago I was introduced to the work of Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs and began giving and praying for these ministries who provided support and resources to believers in areas where faith costs the most. When I chose to be baptized at age 30, part of my testimony was that I had been thinking that if I was following Jesus, baptism as an adult did not seem necessary. However, after hearing a sermon seemingly directly from the mouth of God and receiving an issue of Frontline Faith, my heart was changed. I told those present that I realized baptism is an immense decision in countries where people are not permitted to openly practice their faith. Even though it was easy for me to confess my belief in Jesus, I was reminded that for some the decision could cost their family, their source of employment, their standing in the community, and even their life.
Two books I read early in my life as a believer were God’s Smuggler but Brother Andrew and Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. The latter was especially difficult to read because of the horrific extent those who confessed Jesus were persecuted. Their unwavering devotion to Christ, still leaves me astonished. One place in Tortured for Christ Wurmbrand states, “They gave us instruments” which compelled the imprisoned believers to praise God and share the good news of Jesus. He wasn’t alluding to a harp or a hymnal. He referred to each instance of abuse and torture that became a means where they chose to sing praise instead of becoming angry or despondent. In the midst of excruciating and unimaginable pain, these followers of Christ reaffirmed this commitment to Him by lifting voices in thanksgiving and proclaiming the gospel to all.
In even minor difficulties in my life, the tune escaping my mouth sounds more like a whine than a song. It takes a transforming work of God to see hardship as an instrument of God’s love. I am so not there, but I take heart in the witness of persecuted believers who teach me that rejoicing and thanksgiving are possible even in the face of suffering and persecution.