Time: God’s canvas

Time is an interesting phenomenon. Along with space, it frames how we view our existence. As time-bound creatures, we experience life in a sequence, not all at once. As such, we can only ever see the past and present. The problem is that many of us make important decisions entirely influenced by the present – a thin slice of time. We may get carried away by the moment or attach too much significance to the now. It’s easy to forget that our viewpoint is limited because we’re finite beings. A perspective that covers all permutations isn’t available to us. But all too often, our choices and actions in crunch moments reveal our hubris, ignorance, or lack of faith. 

God’s perspective is different. He existed before time [Genesis 1:1] and continues to exist outside time. Yet, He interacts with us within the context of time because we’re time-bound. But to my finite mind, that poses a challenge. How does God communicate with us, with our limited perspectives, in a way that impacts our worldview without violating our free will? Even if He tried to explain His perspective, we couldn’t possibly understand [Job 37:4]. As such, God must condescend to our level to relate to us because we’re incapable of ascending to His. When you consider that God needs nothing from us, He reaches out to us solely for our benefit because He loves us. He does so knowing that we’ll most likely spurn His advances and treat Him irreverently, yet He relentlessly pursues us regardless. No wonder David mused: “What are human beings that your mind is full of them?” [Psalm 8:4].

One of the primary reasons Scripture teaches us about the nature and character of God is so that we can trust Him unreservedly. Trust is foundational for any meaningful relationship. We don’t open our hearts to strangers or share our hopes, dreams, flaws, and vulnerabilities with people we don’t trust. In the Christian walk, faith in God is impossible if we don’t trust Him because He often invites us to believe now what will only make sense later, that is, after a passage of time. Many of our anxieties emanate from how we handle that period between now and later. When now exerts pressure on us, what determines our response? Will we give God time?

Examine the lives of our heroes of faith, and you’ll find many similarities. Their stories often start with God reaching out to them with a word and a promise which usually doesn’t make sense in the now. That’s typically followed by a season where their faith in God is tested. They hold on, often against the odds, and triumph through difficult experiences because they believed God would keep His promises. For some, God used their experiences as they waited for those promises to manifest to build their character for the future and to teach them and us timeless truths about His faithfulness and sovereignty [Romans 15:4]. It’s remarkable how often God took fearful or faithless nobodies and, over time, transformed them into giants of faith. You can trace an intentional process as one experience after another shaped their revelation of God and strengthened their convictions. By the end of their stories, we can say along with them: “Great is thy faithfulness”, as we witness their lives become testaments to God’s transforming power.

It’s become clear that I’ll need faith and time to see God’s glory manifested in my life. That’s daunting because I’m naturally impatient and struggle with faith. When the unexpected happens, I can become so engrossed in the now that I forget the promises God has made me. I typically channel my focus towards resolving my present concerns with little consideration for God’s perspective. I lose track of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty to the detriment of my decision-making. Even without the unexpected, my impatience often causes me to despise the process. I want to run before I can walk, but God is saying: “son, your legs aren’t strong enough to run yet. Focus on building muscle and in time, you will sprint”. The more I learn about God, the more I realise that process matters to Him, and His process takes time. God is meticulous and ardent in His desire to see me manifest His glory [Isaiah 43:7]. But, He won’t rush the process or permit any shortcuts.

Many of my days will be spent in seasons between now and later, often in realities that seemingly mock God’s promises to me. But I’ve noticed something curious: the more time I spend studying and meditating on Scripture, the more my faith grows. I can sense my paradigms slowly shifting as I trust God more because of my knowledge of His faithfulness and sovereignty. I can recognise much quicker than I ever have when He’s at work in the circumstances I experience. Graciously, He surrounds me with affirming voices who speak into my doubts and encourage me to stay on course. I recognise I don’t look like much today, but God isn’t done with me yet. Give it time and judge Him on the finished article on the canvas, not a segment of the painting [Philippians 1:6].

I believe one of the reasons Biblical characters are so relatable is to encourage us. It doesn’t matter how fearful or faithless you are today because Jesus is in the transformation business [Mark 1:17]. If you’re willing to trust Him, and give Him time, even when it seems foolish to do so, then the lives of those who have gone before you offer a bankable guarantee: God will make a marvellous object lesson of you, even through your worst experiences [Romans 8:28].

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