. God is never late - but He sure seems slow




Since we came together as Logos and Houtkruis my life has been inundated with counselling and dealing with people with all kinds of problems. It ranges from sin issues, to trials, to challenges, to relational issues, sickness, unemployment, slowness in the economy, business challenges, spiritual issues and so the list goes on. Trials are nothing new to anybody amongst us. It simply varies, and it’s timing is always wrong. What we are all looking for is answers. I believe that when we get to heaven one day we are going to find that we did not have one trial too many. Trials teach us what we are, they dig up the soil and allow us to see what we are made of. I love the way Spurgeon put it. He said that “when you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow on which you lay your head.”


Now sometimes trials can be brought upon us by ourselves either due to sin or irresponsibility or plain stupidity. Other times it comes from our enemies – including Satan, and yet at other times it just simply comes from nowhere or maybe even from God. Remember the trials that Job faced. While Satan was central in the deal, it was initiated by God, and came by the hands of the Chaldeans as well as natural acts which we call the Acts of God.


So in seeking Biblical answers we can focus on two sections of Scripture namely Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) “31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint,” and Habakkuk 2:2-5 (ESV) 2 And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. 3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”

John Piper in his dealing with Habakkuk had a very interesting title which is “God is never late—but He sure is slow.” Therefore, my title for today: “God is never late – but he seems so slow”.  I have preached this before under the title: “Hurry up and Wait’. Now, my sermon for today is not from either of the two texts but from Matthew 8:23-27 where we will learn some lessons from a simple experience of the disciples of Jesus Christ: “23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

The message of Isaiah is ‘wait’, the message of Habakkuk is ‘wait’ and the message of Matthew 8 is ‘wait’. But we all grew up with the idea that God’s promises are “100-percent-guaranteed lifetime-warranty, you-must-be-completely-satisfied-or-your money-back, over-night delivery promises.” Don’t we sometimes just wish that God has an overnight service delivery called ‘Heavenly Express for Christians’, as long as we get our prayers in before 15:30 in the afternoon? The name it and claim it guys sure seem to teach that.


Now it is true that sometimes God does answer our prayers and deals with our circumstances faster than your high speed ADSL link on your computer. But other times the line just seems so slow.


It is not always like that. In Matthew 8 we see immediate answers to prayer as well:


Look at the story of a leper. Matthew 8:1-3 (ESV) 1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Then we see the story of the Centurion who has a servant that was sick, and he asked Jesus to heal him. Now fast forward to verse 13 and what do we see? Matthew 8:13 (ESV) “13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”

Even mother in laws can be healed immediately; even though some son-in-laws believe they are still a pain. Matthew 8:14-15 (ESV) 14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.

So there are these instant healings, these instant answers to prayer, the instant answers to faith. But that is not always the case which is what we see in the story of the disciples in the boat.


I remember being on the Sea of Galilee when a storm was brewing and we had to get off the boat and the trip was cancelled. The disciples were not afraid for no reason. These were seasoned fishermen who spent most of their lives on the Sea and understood its quirks. The lake is 230 meters below sea level surrounded by hills. So, when warm air of the day cools and rushes down the ravines it creates a whirlpool effect which can be scary at the best of times. A clear, calm night can suddenly turn into a violent storm. And so they face this storm and what is Jesus doing? He is fast asleep. Is that not how we often feel? Here I am facing my storm and Jesus is asleep.

It is the most natural thing in our lives to want to set a deadline for God’s answer for me, but sadly God more than often ignores it! Why? I guess there are many reasons, but let me give you four, and I truly trust that these 4 will encourage you today.

Firstly, to increase our faith

“Look at Matthew 8:26-27 (ESV) “26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

I believe that there is a reason why all these other instant healing stories were told before this one. We just read about three stories all in chapter 8, big stuff, and after these big events, Jesus accuses His disciples of little faith.  It shows us that these big miracles do not necessarily build our faith. Remember the app. 20000 people who were fed from 5 loaves and 2 fish. You could not wish for a greater miracle. The very next day they are back at Jesus, not to worship Him, but to get their bellies filled. Let me give you a super miracle. Remember Moses and the Israelites going through the Red Sea. Surely this miracle makes for one of the top ten, and very soon after, they are dancing around a golden calf.

Faith does not always grow on the back of miracles; it is normally there before the miracles often in small dosages and it then more than often grows in that phase, and often there is a long phase between human deadline and heavenly deliverance, and true faith keeps on growing even if there is no heavenly deliverance. True faith is dependent on heart and not events, it is also not dependent on will, where I can increase it at random.

We see a situation like this in chapter 9 from verse 18-25. Jairus came to Jesus in faith; he believed that the Lord could heal his daughter who had died. She was gone, the flute players that are hired and the professional mourners were all there, but Jesus raised her up. I am sure that in the circumstances the faith of all those around was increased. The very presence of Christ should guarantee that even if He does not raise her up. Hopefully, the faith of the temple ruler and the professional mourners was increased.

Yet we tend to be, like the disciples, people of "little faith." We are often like little babies who cry for milk. They see mommy fixing the formula and based on experience they should stop crying, but yet they cry until that bottle goes in the mouth. But real faith grows between the deadline and the deliverance. We even see this in another storm where the Lord allowed Peter to walk on the water. Notice that the disciples' faith is tested again in a boat, in a storm. Matthew 14:30-33 (ESV) “30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Notice the difference this time! Instead of "What sort of man is this?” as we see in our text for today, this time they say: "Truly you are the Son of God". God usually ignores our human deadlines to increase our faith for this very reason, that we will move from “what sort of man?’ to ‘truly you are!’, that we will move from question marks to exclamation marks. Let’s focus on this as our second reason.

Secondly, to increase our vision

In these two stories or two experiences of the disciples in storms their vision of Christ changed from "Who is this man?" to "You are the Son of God." They now had a vision of His power and His providence and the way God works with His children. God has an abundance of Christian formula for us, we need to learn to trust.

God is described as a heavenly father, not a vending machine that we insert a prayer and product comes out. Neither is He a one arm bandit, where He offers a pay out to a lucky person now and then. Like any good parent, He doesn't give His children everything they want when they want it. It helps to view God as Father, rather than Lord. Lord gives the view that He is in control (and He is) and can do anything we ask (which He can). Father gives the view of a God that knows best what His children need. Sometimes He puts His children in the learning schools of life and sometimes it is painful. James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

So, God uses these times of waiting to increase our faith and our vision. There is a third reason.

Thirdly, to increase our testimony

After Jarius' daughter is raised from the dead, Matthew 9:26 (ESV) says: “26 And the report of this went through all that district.” That phrase is repeated over and over through the accounts of Jesus' miracles.

Something that does not impress me are the stories these TV evangelists concoct of health and wealth and miracles and just how they got it. Sometimes they claim huge stuff without providing any evidence or being able to, like Todd Bentley who claims that a man arrived in a wheelchair without legs but with a pair of shoes in his lap, and walked out of the auditorium. He also tells the story how God made a glass eye see.  It is like the TV evangelist who claimed that he raised 40 people from the dead. When he was challenged to provide evidence of just 1 he could not. What impresses me is the testimonies of believers going through absolute defeat and coming out with victory: maybe not with health and wealth, but they come out with the assurance of Christ's presence every step. To me, that's a great testimony!

A song that is always a blessing to me is the song of Scott Wesley Brown "When Answers Aren't Enough There Is Jesus"

You have faced mountains of desperation.
You have climbed, you have fought, you have won.
But this valley that lies coldly before you,
Casts a shadow you cannot overcome.

Just when you thought you had it all together.
You knew every verse to get you through.
But this time all the sorrow broke more than just your heart.
And reciting all those verses just won't do.

When answers aren't enough, there is Jesus.
He is more than just an answer to your prayer.
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge.
When answers aren't enough, He is there.

Instead of asking why did it happen?
Think of where it can lead you from here.
And as your pain is slowly easing,
You can find a greater reason to live your life triumphant through the tears.


God usually ignores our human deadlines to increase our faith and our vision and our testimony. Finally, God also ignores our human deadlines . . .

Fourthly, to increase our compassion

One reason for God's incredible slowness is His incredible love. Listen to what Peter says and remember he was in the boat when Jesus slept, he was the one walking on water. 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) “9 The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Do you realise that of greater importance than your physical healing or your financial provision is your soul? We live in such a material world, that we think that it is that realm in which God must always answer. At times God can keep somebody down and down and down, until there is a true breaking to repentance and salvation, and then He can still keep you down to prove if it is there or not. We all know that many people turn to the Lord just to get their needs taken care of, and when it is taken care of they run away.

So salvation is at stake, but also at stake is the fact that we through trials learn what it is to be more compassionate with others. As Christians we can be so judgmental of others. We see people struggling with sin and dealing with issues, and because I am at a good place now, I look at them in arrogance and filled with disgust. We forget where we were. We forget that we were in a place between human deadlines and divine deliverance. We forget that we were people in sin, people who lacked faith, people who struggled in our own way.

Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (ESV) “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”

Part of the delay, then, is God's divine love, that is so much greater than our human desires. And I think we become more compassionate after we have been through that time between human deadlines and divine deliverance.

My compassion for people who are unemployed increased 5 years ago when I was unemployed. Our compassion for people with children born with defects increased when our eldest was born with a cleft lip and pallet, my compassion for people with cancer increased when my wife contracted cancer, and had to endure chemo for 18 months.  And so I can go on and on. So church family, let’s learn these simple truths over this period of waiting as we consider God and our deadlines and realize that He ignores our human deadlines to increase our compassion, as well as our faith, our vision of Him, and our testimony.

God is never later, but sometimes He sure seems slow. But He is always on time, so hurry up and wait!


Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 2 October 2016