|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 5
Meditation Title: A long-term Project
Gal 2:1 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem , this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.
years have passed? Fourteen???? Our problem sometimes reading scripture
is that we just don't take in the enormity or significance of what is
there; it is just words and they bypass our understanding sometimes. Can
you think back fourteen years and think of all that has happened in that
time in your own life? It's a long time and lots of things happen. Perhaps
it might be helpful if we catalogued Paul's early activities in Acts:
What a difference. No time scale, no reference to Arabia. Luke was just concerned with the big brush strokes of what happened and we have to scour Paul's letters to pick up some more of the detail. So between Acts 9:25 and 9:26 there is a three year gap which included going to Arabia. Between 9:25 and 15:1 there is fourteen years and within that fourteen year period are a number of long periods of different sorts of activity. Without trying at this point to tie down those periods to dates, let's simply note that each of these ‘phases' of Paul's life were quite long times. We don't really know how long he was in Tarsus. We do know he was in Antioch for a year teaching before the Holy Spirit sent him out with Barnabas.
The point that seems to stand out here is that the plan and purpose of God in history at times seems slow and ponderous, when we start looking at time, but the truth is that the Lord works in time and He works within human development and human circumstances. Our danger in what so often seems an ‘instant world' is that we expect everything to happen today, but the reality is that God works in great detail in us and He works within the day by day circumstances and so in a few lines Paul has just conveyed a little of what happened over roughly 5000 days!
Some times a lot happens in a day. At other times the day seems to drag on with nothing happening. That is what life is like. On the full days we complain about the rush and on the empty days we complain about boredom! Yet, every day, the Lord is doing something in our lives. We may not be aware of it, but He's constantly doing something. He also may be doing something through our lives, and so some days we have a sense of great fruitfulness or achievement while on other days we wonder why we bothered with the day!
Different people's perception of a period is also interesting. Have you ever been away on an activity packed holiday and come back after a fortnight and asked people, “What's been going on in church?” only to find them struggling to report anything of note. Life IS like that. Sometimes it just seems that week follows week and nothing spectacular happens, but of course we don't see with the Lord's eyes and we don't see the detail of what He has said and done in people's lives.
Our dangers therefore, as we ponder these things, seem to comprise the temptations of either writing off days or periods, or of being frustrated that things are not changing fast enough. When we can't see great significance in our days, and they just seem to pass so quickly, it's too easy to write them off but, as I've said already, we probably just haven't been aware of what the Lord has been doing. We also tend to forget that each day is a gift from God, a gift of a day of ‘life' and a gift of a day of opportunity.
The other danger, the one about frustration, is because we forget, or perhaps have never learned, that maturity takes time. There are rare times when God seems to accelerate a person's spiritual growth, but usually maturity comes about with time and circumstance. It is the varying circumstances and how we deal with them, that mature us, and therefore, to get in all that variety, it needs time.
God is not in a rush. He knew the time He had ahead with Paul, the time necessary for his other missionary journeys, and the Lord knows the time He has with you and me. He knows when will be the best time to bring about certain things in your life and they may yet be years away, but in those years of apparent waiting, He will be working within us and perhaps that future event/change is as far off as it is because He knows that that is how long it is going to take to bring the necessary changes in you for it to happen. Time is important. Think on it.