We have seen in previous posts there is the kind of time we live by, time that can be measured, calendar time, “tick tock” time, twenty-four-hours in a day kind of time. According to the Genesis account of creation, God gave us the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night; we are creatures of time, set by the hand of God, determined by earth’s relation to these heavenly bodies. We live on a planet in a universe of countless planets that remain in their own orbits, allowing astronauts traveling through space to reenter earth’s atmosphere by way of a precise corridor at a particular moment in time. How is this possible? Only because this kind of time is predictable and dependable. It is “chronos” time, a Greek New Testament word from which a few English words are derived, including chronology and chronometer, which are only applicable to our kind of time (i.e. time that is constant, unchanging).
However, in the far reaches of outer space there is a different kind of time, time that is not so predictable and dependable, time that is measured in terms unfamiliar to most of us on earth, such as “milliseconds.” Scientists working in more than seventy laboratories, using the largest and best telescopes available in every continent, have been heralding a new era of space research known as “multimessenger astrophysics.” They use terms that cause us to be continually amazed at the immeasurable vastness of outer space, deep space far beyond our reach, with “black holes” that sometimes collide, collapsed stars crashing into each other, and other astronomical marvels never seen before. However, on August 17th of this year signals from an incredible explosion that occurred 170 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, finally reached earth – this happened when the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other, sending a burst of gamma rays streaming through space, rippling the very fabric of the universe and sparking an astronomical revolution on Planet Earth. It is impossible for us to wrap our minds around this kind of research, which actually allows us to see so far beyond the limits of our kind of time, including the distant past, raising all kinds of questions and spawning countless theories about time, even the possibility of time travel.
There is still another kind of time that is also not known to us, that has also been set by the finger of God, and this is “Kairos” time; time we cannot measure with man-made instruments, for it is God’s perfect timing. There are “times and seasons” that have been pre-determined by the will of God, that are only known to God, who is not a creature of “chronos” time. God is eternal, infinite, with no beginning and no end, and One for whom “a thousand years is as one day.” Therefore, we are often troubled because God does not always act quickly enough, according to the way we measure time. God often keeps us waiting, and waiting too long according to our calendar. Furthermore, we don’t like to be kept waiting, even by God! We know God is always pleased to honor prayers of faith, but we want God to answer right away. We may pray for weeks, months, or even years about matters that weigh heavily on our minds and hearts, seemingly without any definite answers, as far as we can determine at the time. We may even complain to God, as believers often do (read the psalms of lament), because we feel God is late in coming to our aid. However, in our saner moments, we know God is never late! God is always right on time, according to His own timetable.
In both the Old and New Testaments we are told that the people of God, including their leaders, frequently wondered why it was taking God so long to hear their anguished cries for help. Read the book of Exodus with this thought in mind, as you hear the covenant people of God complaining and grumbling, trying to “second-guess” God, wondering if they should have stayed in Egypt. Read the prophets with this same purpose, and you will find those heroes of the faith wavering in the testing times of their lives, questioning God, especially His apparent silence and slowness in answering their prayers. Read the gospels of the New Testament, hear the disciples questioning Jesus because they did not understand the way He was scheduling His time, which sometimes seemed out of character, and at other times even reckless, as when He“set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem,” in spite of the danger. Listen to Mary and Martha as they complained to Jesus because He had not come quickly when they sent for Him when their brother, Lazarus, was near death. He had remained four more days where he was, and did not come until Lazarus was dead and buried. They told Jesus, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.” They could not see the larger picture, even though Jesus told them that their brother’s death would be “for the glory of God.” When Jesus told them He was “the resurrection and the life,” they thought he was referring to “the last day,” when all believers will be raised from the dead.
Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus told His followers to not be afraid, to not allow their hearts to be troubled, to not grow weary in well doing, to not lose heart, but to trust God at all times and in all circumstances. Nevertheless, I confess I have often found myself anxious and troubled by so many things, and I too have wondered why God seemed so slow in responding to my petitions. I have certainly not always found it easy to wait on God, although God has promised to renew the strength of those who do so (Isaiah 40). Furthermore, there have been times when I was not able to discern that God was at work in the changing circumstances of my life. But there have also been many times when I knew certain happenings could not be coincidences, but were obviously GOD-INCIDENTS, for they really could not be explained apart from God working His purpose out in His own perfect time. In previous posts I have called to remembrance some of those times in order to illustrate the ways in which our sovereign God does intervene in the lives of those who are seeking to live “according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), in order to bless them and make them a blessing.
This is not something that happens automatically. without any effort on our part. God has given us free will, the ability to make choices, and we are accountable for those choices, as well as their consequences. Every decision we make inevitably has consequences. When we are truly seeking to live in obedience to God’s commandments, seeking to know and to do His will for our lives, we discover time and time again that God is guiding us and guarding us, defending and delivering us, providing for us and protecting us. In ways that are beyond our full understanding, God is working “in all things” for our good, if we are truly seeking to live “according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), obeying the voice of God when He speaks to us through His Word, or in response to our prayers when we behold the amazing ways in which God works His purpose out, for it is so obvious that he has put all the pieces together in “the fullness of time.”
Let me give you one more example from our own experience, two separate events that occurred ten years apart, but they were inseparably related, joined together in God’s perfect time. Following my graduation from seminary and my ordination as a Presbyterian minister, I was called to serve a church in Appalachia, Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Whitesburg, a county-seat town in southeastern Kentucky. Our years there proved to be some of the happiest years of our lives. That is where our first three children started school, and to this day they still consider their memories of Whitesburg, the beautiful people in those majestic mountains, among their most precious childhood experiences. We lived in the “manse,” the home that was owned and provided by the church as a residence for the pastor and his family. It was a great day when we dedicated that home the “B.C. BACH” manse, in honor of Dr. Bach, a beloved physician and Ruling Elder in the church. It was ten years later, when I was called to serve as pastor of Casa Linda Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, and was for the first time given a “housing allowance,” making it possible for us to purchase a home of our own. The first realtor the Pastoral Nominating Committee recommended was not able to find a house that was suitable and affordable, although we looked at a number of houses for sale.
An Elder on the committee said he knew a young realtor who was a very committed Christian, and suggested we consult him. We did so, and during our initial conversation with him, upon learning that we were natives of Kentucky, he said some of the happiest memories of his childhood were summer visits with his aunt and uncle in Kentucky. When we asked where they lived he replied, “Oh, in a small town in the mountains. I doubt if you’ve ever heard of Whitesburg.”
When we told him we had lived there, and served a church in that town, he was so dumfounded! However, the most amazing part of this story was yet to be made known to us, when I asked the names of his aunt and uncle. Can you even begin to identify with us, in our utter amazement, when he replied, “Dr. B.C. Bach and his wife” – and can you imagine how stunned that realtor was when we told him how the house we had lived in there had been dedicated in honor of his beloved uncle? But that is still not the end of this story.
The first house that young realtor showed us was the house we bought! Furthermore, the owners had left the house fully furnished, and we were able to buy a four bedroom house full of furniture, which we badly needed. By that time we had five children, but one had already graduated from high school and was attending college in North Carolina. The house was perfect for our family, with several families from the church either living on the same street, or in the same neighborhood, including a couple just a few houses away who would become our dearest friends in Dallas. Was this just a series of coincidences, or a sequence of GOD-INCIDENTS? Once again, I am sure you know what we believe!