Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hurry Up and Wait

At dance competitions or shows, my husband and I have a saying, “Hurry up and wait.” Given the unpredictable nature of scheduling at such events, there is always a rush to arrive at the venue in plenty of time to register, get a feel for the dance floor, warm up, change, and pray before the event is called. But once we do this, there is often a long wait before we dance, with the risk that muscles will get stiff and cold, that we need to refuel, and that costumes and makeup will need additional readjusting.

The same is true in many circumstances of daily life, like commuting. The morning scramble of dressing and grabbing a bite to eat before rushing out the door often results in a seemingly endless wait in a traffic jam. Or, once we breathlessly race into the important morning meeting for fear we’ll be late, we end up just sitting there restlessly for twenty minutes until the boss saunters in to rally the troops.

These moments of waiting need not be wasted, as our time on earth is short and precious (Job 14:1; James 4:14), and we should redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). While waiting to dance, my husband and I often use the time to pray, visualize our performance, and encourage our fellow dancers. While stuck in traffic or waiting for a meeting to start, we could mentally rehearse our plans for work and ask God for His guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6) in all that we say and do, to be good ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20), to His glory.

Such examples are common and not particularly dramatic, but a similar philosophy could be applied to a life-changing event such as childbirth. While the mother-to-be waits for nine long months for natural labor to begin, helpless to bring it on any sooner, she prepares her heart and her home for the new arrival, nourishing her growing infant by eating and sleeping properly and avoiding toxins or other harmful exposures.

But once she feels that first labor pain and her water breaks, she drops everything and races to the hospital, where again she must wait for the right time to begin actively pushing to deliver her child. The pangs become sharper and closer together, but in the interval between contractions, there is nothing to do but conserve energy, release stress, and wait patiently for the next one.

Jesus and the apostle Paul compared this process of childbirth to what the world will experience, and I believe is experiencing now, as the End Times draw near (Matthew 24:8; Romans 8:22). God is not slothful to deliver on His promise of the Rapture and Second Coming, but is waiting for His perfect timing (2 Peter 3). The signs of the times, such as earthquakes, wars, famine, epidemics, increasing evil, and false teachers (Mark 13; Matthew 24) become more intense and frequent as the day approaches, much like labor pains (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

It reminds me that “hurry up and wait” applies to our spiritual life as well. When we hear God speak to us through His Word (Psalm 119) or in other ways (1 Kings 19:12), we must be swift to obey, for delayed obedience is the same as disobedience (Matthew 21:28-31). If we ask our teenager to take out the trash, and he agrees to do it, but it’s still sitting there the next evening and growing putrid, he has not been obedient.

If we have not yet trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior, despite the Holy Spirit tugging at our heart to do so, we may procrastinate, but at our own peril. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), and if we keep putting it off, our heart and our conscience may eventually become seared (1 Timothy 4:2) to the point that we no longer hear God calling.

Often born-again Christians, who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, also indulge in this type of disobedience. We have clear direction from God, but we rationalize our delay in following, using such euphemisms as “God is laying a burden on my heart about this,” or “the Spirit is convicting me to do this,” or “I’m still praying for peace about this matter.”

As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!” Once God speaks, we must not only listen, but hurry to obey, just as the shepherds ran to see the infant Jesus (Luke 2:15-17), or the Samaritan woman raced off to witness about the Messiah she had found, in her haste leaving behind her water pot at the well (John 4).

But there are times that we agonize because God seems to be silent, or because we are unable to determine what path He desires for us in a specific matter, or because He has promised a good outcome that seems to be endlessly delayed. We forget that His timing is always perfect (Ephesians 1:10), and that His definition of “soon” can be one thousand years instead of one day (2 Peter 3:8), as we would prefer.

In circumstances like these, we must wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) to reveal His plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) in His perfect way and with His perfect timing. Otherwise, we will act rashly with irremediable consequences, as Sarah did. God had promised that she and her husband Abraham would at long last have a child, ending her barrenness even though she would be even older than she already was. Through that child of promise, Abraham would become the father of a great nation (Israel) and through his seed (Jesus Christ), all nations would be blessed (Genesis 18:10-18; 22:18; 26:4).

But nearly a quarter century passed since God made that promise, and Sarah was still barren. So she took matters into her own hands, as if God could not be trusted to deliver on His Word, and as if He needed her “help.” She persuaded Abraham to have a child by her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, and he too demonstrated his spiritual weakness by listening to his wife instead of to God (Genesis 16).

Ishmael, the resulting child, brought strife and heartache into his family’s life, particularly once Isaac, the child of promise, was finally born (Genesis 21). But the consequences of attempting to force God’s plan did not stop in their home, for Ishmael gave rise to the Muslim nations that continue to be at war with Israel to this very day.

We wait in lines at the supermarket; we wait for a birthday or special occasion, and we must patiently wait on God’s timing in all areas of our life, if we are to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), while we await His long-promised return. This waiting is not passive or slothful, but is actively spent in prayer, studying His Word, and doing His general will in areas where there is no question, such as witnessing to others about Him (Matthew 28:18-20), praying for others, giving (Philippians 4:10-17) and tithing (Malachi 3), and serving Him in a local church (Hebrews 10:25).

As Christians, we will be blessed if we hurry up to obey once God gives us a clear command, but wait to hear His voice before making any radical moves or decisions. May we listen for His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and be swift to obey it!   

© 2019 Laurie Collett


Saturday, April 20, 2019

No Resurrection, No Hope

Image from Jesus Film Project

A few days ago, while thinking about the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry, my thoughts strayed across the memory of a Holy Week many years ago, as if I had brushed up against an evil spider lurking in a cobweb within the darkest recesses of my mind.

Easter came early that year: March 27, 2005. I had been born again nearly 5 years previously, on April 17, 2000, by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). On the Thursday of Holy Week in 2005, my husband and I were in New Orleans to compete in a ballroom dance competition.

The city, festive as always, was blooming with spring flowers and enticing with sounds of jazz and brass bands wafting through the breeze. The weather was balmy, perfect for strolling through the French Quarter and admiring the intricate iron work of the historic buildings and the precious art objects in the windows of antique shops.

We were staying at the Ritz Carlton where the competition was taking place, the elegant ballgowns and sparkling Latin dresses adorning the already beautiful interior, replete with tasteful, fragrant floral displays and Easter décor. In the city, hotel and ballroom, the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the mood was jovial.

But my heart was heavy, sinking like a stone to the pit of my stomach.  My thoughts could not escape the darkness of the events surrounding Terri Schiavo, a young woman with severe brain damage and a family embroiled in a bitter struggle over her right to live or to die. Her husband had moved on with his life and had children with another woman. Yet he refused to relinquish legal guardianship of Terri to her parents, even though they offered to pay all her expenses.

I was one of the very few neurologists who, after thoroughly reviewing her complex medical records and videotapes, believed that she showed signs of meaningful interaction with her environment and especially with her parents. I had signed an affidavit to that effect in support of her parents, who had appealed to the courts to have her feeding tube reinserted after Terri’s husband won the legal battle to have it removed.

But after the “Palm Sunday Compromise” on March 20, which was emergency legislation to get the case moved to federal court, on March 25 the courts refused to reinsert the feeding tube. It had been withheld since March 18, meaning that Terri would be deprived of food and water and allowed to die from starvation and dehydration.

My heart went out to her parents, for I could not imagine the agony of knowing your child was deliberately being starved to death, and watching as her body shriveled away and her eyes sank deep into their sockets. Even worse would be the feeling of helplessness to intervene and knowing that your child’s pain was senseless and through no fault of her own.

Even for me, that Holy Week was perhaps the most poignant of my life, as it so vividly brought to mind the suffering of Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God led to the slaughter and betrayed by those He loved and trusted. And the pain that Mary must have endured at the cross, not only watching Jesus’ life ebb away, but knowing that her perfect, sinless Son, the Messiah, God Himself, was unjustly condemned to a horrific death and brutally tortured by those He came to save.

Meanwhile, protesters and prayer warriors gathered around the hospice facility where Terri was dying; the media were ablaze with arguments from both sides; and the courts and legislature continued to suppress any last hope of Terri’s parents that she would be allowed to live. President Bush spoke out for legal protection of those who had no voice of their own, and the Pope criticized US law for allowing such inhumane treatment and for not upholding the sanctity of human life.

On March 27, Easter Sunday, while Christians everywhere celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, John 21:14, Romans 8:34), Terri received the Last Rites, in keeping with her Catholic background. She passed into eternity a few days later, on March 31.

Despite the burden of these events, my heart found hope anew in singing God’s praises on Resurrection Sunday, for the risen Christ is victorious over death and brings hope to the suffering and once hopeless who have trusted Him.

I don’t know whether or not Terri Schiavo was saved, for only the Lord knows the hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). I do know that had Jesus Christ, God the Son, not taken on human flesh (John 1:14) to pay the ransom price for our sins (Hosea 13:14, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6), and had He not conquered sin, death and the grave by rising from the dead, that there would be no hope for any of us (1 Corinthians 15:13-58).

Praise the Lord, Christ arose! Now we who trust Him have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a blessed hope in His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13), and the assurance that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord! (2 Corinthians 5:8). If He calls us home before the Rapture, We will pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4) directly to our home in Heaven (John 14:1-4), where He awaits with outstretched arms!

And if we are blessed to still be living when He returns, we will not even taste death (Luke 9:27), for we shall be instantly transformed into glorious bodies like His (1 Corinthians 15:35-50), to meet with Him in the clouds and forever be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and our loved ones in Him!

Because of His resurrection, there is hope! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Amen! 

© 2019 Laurie Collett