'Do not look so
sad, Lucy. We shall meet again soon.’ Please, Aslan,’
said Lucy, ‘What do you call soon?’ ‘I call all
times soon,’ said Aslan, and instantly he was
vanished away. (C.S.Lewis)
If there is one issue above all others that causes
us problems when it comes to listening to the Lord,
it is the mater of timing. Partly this is because
the words God speaks to us often have a short,
medium and long term application. This is a matter
of multiple fulfillments and ‘layers.’
It is important to understand that it is perfectly
possible to hear something correctly, but to be
quite mistaken about when it is going to happen, or
about what we should do about what we have heard.
There is a time and a place for a word to be given,
but often an entirely different one for it to be
worked out in.
This is hardly surprising when you realize that
God’s call comes from the heart of eternity. It
links into our timescale with perfect precision in
its final outworking, but it originates in an
altogether different time sphere. In other words,
just because we have received God’s leading does not
mean that we should automatically expect it to come
to pass there and then, any more than we should
necessarily act on it there and then.
We hinted earlier that there is often a distinction
between a call (which gets us thinking and preparing
in a particular direction) and a commission – that
is, the actual moment when we need to take action.
Understanding this distinction will cause us to
double-check sudden impulses, and save us from
acting prematurely. More times than I can count I
have said something like, ‘I feel we should go and
visit x.’ Ros has agreed, but balanced my eagerness:
‘Sure. Tomorrow!’ The word was right: the timing
simply needed adjusting!
We are great advocates of applying the old military
adage, ‘Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom
wasted.’ It has saved us from numerous costly
mistakes. When we first moved into a new house, we
needed to replace the aged kitchen units. We saw
some we liked in a local store, but felt a check
against buying them.
Four months later, we saw the same units somewhere
else, but this time with a 50% discount. ‘They’re
the right ones,’ the Lord assured us: ‘Don’t buy
them!’ Two months later, the Lord suddenly said,
‘Today’s the day. Buy them.’ For that day only it
turned out that they were being promoted with a 60%
When the Lord allows a prolonged delay between a
call and its outworking, there is always a reason.
If the call takes the form of a warning, the Lord
often allows an extended period of time between
announcing His sentence and actually carrying it
This is because He wants to give people the maximum
chance possible to repent. Thus we find Jeremiah
proclaiming with great urgency (and accuracy) that
the Babylonians were coming, but all of forty years
before they actually did so.
As we hinted in the last chapter, the Lord does not
usually give us a once-and-forever set of guidance
that will last us a lifetime. He may well want to
fine-tune (or even supersede) the original pattern
as events unfold. The principle is simple, even if
the practice is challenging: ‘Guidance comes as and
when we need it.’
How eagerly Mary and Joseph must have received the
angel’s summons to return to Israel! At last their
enforced status as refugees in Egypt was over! When
they reached the border, however, they heard the
disturbing news that Herod’s equally pathological
son was now reigning in Jerusalem.
Just think how things might have ended had they
decided that since God had called them to return
they might as well press on to Bethlehem! They were
wise enough to heed the Lord’s warning in the dream,
and headed north instead, to Nazareth.
For Reflection and Prayer
Just as we need maturity to handle the matter of
timing, so we also require discernment in the way we
appropriate the promises of God. For obvious
reasons, many may not have any immediate application
in our own lives – and those that do may still be
conditional on our continuing right response.
Lord, help us to welcome into our hearts
those promises that You are giving us,
and to trust You with the timing of their
for You often give hints today
that You intend to fulfill many years down the road.