Most of the time we want to see God do things immediately. It feels more dramatic when something happens in a moment rather than over a period of time. It appears that God is more involved when deliverance is instantaneous. But that is not always the case.
As I was reading the book of Deuteronomy this morning, I was struck by a verse that, for whatever reason, never really arrested me before. Deuteronomy 7:22 says “The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.”
A couple of things struck me about this verse. First, God said He would drive out the nations before them. He was going to do it. So, however it happened – slow and gradual or quick and completely – it was God who was going to do it. Second, He said He would do it “little by little.” In fact, He specifically said He would not allow them to eliminate the enemy all at once because the wild animals would multiply around them. In other words, it was for their benefit that God delivered them slowly.
I find that instructive in my life in many ways. So often, I think that unless I see something instantaneously, God must not be working. But perhaps that isn’t true. Maybe He is doing it “little by little” for my own good…so wild animals don’t multiply around me.
Let me tell a story that I think illustrates that. A few years ago when we were completing the construction of our new sanctuary, I was walking around the unfinished atrium, wearing a hard hat, and praying like the end of the world was at hand. “God!” I cried out. “You’ve got to help us pay for this!” (The amount of money that had been pledged had not all come in and we found ourselves in a tough situation, to put it mildly.) In that moment, I had a sense of God gently speaking to me: “I will provide for you. I will pay this off, but it won’t be as quickly as you hoped. I am going to use this to teach you to trust me and to more carefully follow me in the future.”
A sense of hope filled me that day. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel like a failure just because we didn’t experience a dramatic “payoff” of the building at that time. In fact, I felt just the opposite. God was just as much with me then as He would have been had He chosen instant deliverance… and I learned more.
Sometimes God delivers “little by little.”
And it is for our own good.
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