Perfect Timing Christians should synchronise their watching with God’s
Spring came today, and I ventured out to the local driving range to hit my first golf shots of the year. Twenty years ago I was competent enough to play on my university team; today I sprayed balls to left and right of the target, only accidentally hitting an occasional “dream shot”. What had gone wrong? Basically, what sportsmen refer to as their “timing”. In golf, as in most ball games, “timing” is more important than size or strength. Having hands, or feet, or club in the right place at the right time makes up for numerous other weaknesses.
God’s timing is, of course, impeccable. What divine behaviours at first sight appear to be slow, or even late, are in fact right on time: “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son” (Gal. 4:4); “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
Like so many other divine perfections, it is in the life of Jesus that the accuracy of the divine timing is most evident. Hence the refrain that punctuates John’s Gospel, that our Lord’s “time” or “hour” had not yet come. When it did come, God’s perfect timing enabled His “weakness” to overcome the “strength” of evil. In the future, the sovereignty of God’s timing will once again be made obvious, for the man of sin will stand revealed only “at the proper time” (2 Thess. 2:6), when Christ is ready to utterly defeat him. God is never too early, nor too late. His timing is perfect.
What is true in redemptive history is also true in the individual lives of God’s children. He has remarkable ways of synchronising the various strands in His providence. He keeps back answers to prayer until the precise moment they are needed; He reserves blessings for days when His grace will meet us in weakness. Think of His timing in the lives of Joseph, or Ruth and Naomi, or David, or Daniel. So too, in the New Testament, God’s angel delivers Peter at the 12th hour (Acts 12:1).
Our timing must be synchronized with God’s, “in tune” with rhythms of His grace to us. God’s wind blows where it wills (Jn. 3:8). How then are we to develop a sense of timing in our lives in order to catch the divine wind in our sails? The Scriptures hold out several principles:
- Familiarise yourself with the rhythms of divine timing by exposing your thinking constantly to biblical teaching, and framing your life within the bounds of its moral directives. Just as the acid test for Jesus was, “Will this fulfill Scripture?” so too, in a sense, must Scripture be fulfilled in our lives. God’s timing now is never syncopated with His timing in Scripture, even if it seems to be!
- This principle is important, because we are often faced with opportunities that would be wrong for us, simply because they come at inappropriate times. The sense that we currently have certain basic biblical responsibilities gives us stability in a world of options; it will also safeguard us from taking specific blessings of God (marriage partner, sphere of service) before His time. Think, for example, of David’s restraint when he had two opportunities to slay Saul (2 Sam. 24 and 26), but rightly recognised that moral responsibility said this could not be God’s time. The throne was indeed to be his; but God must be allowed to do His work in His way, in His time, not ours.
- Learn to wait for God, not because He is slow, but because we are not naturally synchronised with Him. We need to curb our fleshly tendency toward impatience. In our instant society, learning to wait for God — patiently accepting the long-term, the unspectacular, the hidden disciplines, the divine ploughing and training whose harvest is known only “later on” (Heb. 12:11) — is set at a discount. Not so in the society of God’s kingdom. There, if we do not grow weary in well doing, a harvest will surely be produced “in the proper time” (Gal. 6:9).
- Nourish your ability to wait on God. When we are in love, the waiting for love’s fulfillment seems shortest when we are in the other’s presence. Yes, we look to completing our desires; but for the moment the joy of the present sustains us. So those who wait on God, in intimate communion with Him, find satisfaction in present duties and leave future fulfillment in His hands.
Thus it was for Paul. While others fretted anxiously over his imprisonment, he waited in the Lord’s presence, assured that His timing was perfect. So it proved to be. His sufferings were productive of both witness and glory. Those who humble themselves under God’s timing experience exaltation at the right time (1 Pet. 5:6).
The problem with my golf these days is that I no longer sense what has gone wrong with my timing. I have lost the “feel” I had when I played much each week. It is the same in the Christian life. Perhaps the truth about your Christian life is that a long “lay-off” has diminished your feeling for the Lord’s timing; your life is no longer synchronised with the Spirit. Why not get back to some basics? Restore Bible reading and obedience to their rightful places. Patiently submit to basic spiritual disciplines again; nourish your fellowship with God. You will begin to sense afresh His timing, and your own spiritual timing will be renewed.