When God’s Promises are Slow Growing
It’s the season of waiting again! Waiting in December has gained a whole new meaning as we await our daughter flying back across the Atlantic to come home for Christmas. Everything has been marked by her arrival. While I was buying mangos– “These should be ripe by the time she gets home.” When Alex got his cold, “You’re going to be sick when she gets home.” When we were decorating up the tree, “Don’t put the star on– let Karis do that when she gets home.” I can’t imagine what it will be like when we have grandkids.
But I could name a half dozen other things I’m waiting with anticipation this Advent season: healing for my friend’s marriage, a soulmate for my mom, a deepening faith experience for one of my children, revelation for my twins about what to do when they graduate, clarity about a ministry situation.
As I prepare to lead the service at our little local church on King’s Day, I’ve been meditating on how God’s promise came to the Jewish people in an infant form. The complete realization of God’s promise, the deliverance of His people, still took decades to complete as Jesus had to grow into manhood. And even then, deliverance came in a completely different form than they expected.
While Mary, Joseph, and a handful of people knew the Messiah had arrived, the rest of their world was seemingly unchanged– the oppression from the Romans, their own poverty, a religious community deeply steeped in legalism, the public shaming of the circumstances around Jesus’ birth. When the Bible says, “Mary treasured these things in her heart,” it may well have been because no one else around her believed the Promise had arrived. She had been entrusted the responsibility to nurture and raise that baby into adulthood.
Most of us are holding promises of some sort that we’ve received from God. Perhaps we’ve been given seeds of hope for a person or situation. God has given us Scriptures, breakthroughs, and signs that He indeed is present to redeem. But we are still waiting for that promise to grown into its fullness. We pray, maybe even fast and pray like Anna, the widow at the temple, who waited decades to see the Messiah come.
Or maybe we’ve had prophetic words spoken over us– words that hold life and weight, that we know were intended for us to use as a guidepost about our calling. You’ve seen a little growth in that promise— maybe it’s at a toddler stage or in elementary school, but growing into what was spoken over you seems to be taking forever!
Apparently, God isn’t in the same hurry we are about seeing His promises fulfilled. He rather likes to deliver His answers in infant form– inviting us to hold them tenderly with expectation and joy, and expanding our faith as we await the promise to grow into its fullness.
And of course, there are times when we don’t see those promises fully realized here on earth. Loved ones die without seeing any redemption– literally and figuratively. Ministry dreams implode through conflict. A lonely single may never finds a soulmate or have children.
One of my friends, Connie Kennemer, lost her only son to suicide by mental illness a decade ago. She was one of the founding members of Moms in Touch– leading dozens of families in how to provide prayer covering over our children and schools. What happens to those promises Connie spent years nurturing now? As Hebrews tells us:
These heroes all died still clinging to their faith, not even receiving all that had been promised them. But they saw beyond the horizon the fulfillment of their promises and gladly embraced it from afar. They all lived their lives on earth as those who belonged to another realm. (Hebrews 11:13, the Passion Translation)
Sometimes our promises move into what I would call a “faith trust”– they are laid up for us in the spiritual realm, though we may not see them come to pass here on earth. We grieve, but not as those who do not have hope, we grieve WITH hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). And every one of those promises will see a fulfillment (though perhaps in a different form than we understood) in the life to come.
This Christmas may you take a few minutes to reflect on the promises that have been entrusted to you. Are you like Elizabeth and Zechariah– you’ve long given up hope that your longing will be fulfilled? Are you holding the answer to your prayers in infant form– and you need to nurture it into maturity? Is there a ‘Herod’ in your life– attempting to kill God’s Word in your life with ruthless ferocity?
Just like the cast of characters we read about in the Christmas story, WE are the cast of characters living out the awaiting of the His Second Coming. We have been entrusted with promises that hold significance in the unfolding story of the Kingdom of God at hand… here and now.
A Christmas Blessing over the Promises You Hold
Like Elizabeth, may a holy longing you have long believed impossible, birth in this new year.
Like Mary, may you treasure and nurture the promises God has entrusted to you.
Like Joseph, may you do what the Lord has told you no matter what the cost, in order to protect God’s promises.
Like the shepherds, may we kneel this Christmas season in worship at the one in whom all our promises reside.
Like the kings who came from afar, may you pour out all your treasures and resources at His feet in adoration.
Like Anna, may you not weary in your fasting and praying to see your promises come to fruition.
Like Simeon, may we live to see the Promise embraced by the next generation.
A blessed Christmas season to you.