Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.
Time out (pun intended). Fourteen years? Galatians 1:18 mentions three years before his first trip up to Jerusalem. The fourteen years mentioned here might include the three. If not, the total is seventeen years. Whether it was fourteen or seventeen, that’s the better part of a generation. Why so long?
This takes a little time to unravel, but it’s clear that Paul’s ministry had to wait a long time to get off the ground. In Acts 9:23-30, Paul tried preaching right after his conversion and that did not go well. After rescuing Paul from mob violence a couple of times, the disciples decided that they had seen enough and packed him off to Tarsus.
This is a wonderful example of how God’s timing isn’t our timing. This delay sounds excessive, but is it disproportionate to what lay ahead? Paul’s background gave him a great foundation for his ministry, but his training was far from complete. There was, for example, nothing in his background that prepared him for trials. He had the passion and fervor common to new converts, but he wasn’t ready for ministry.
And the world may not have been ready for Paul’s ministry either. Paul’s mission included one of the great plot twists of the first century—including the Gentiles in God’s covenant.
“He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” — Acts 9:15b
It looks like God gave the world a chance to get familiar with the basic concept of Christianity before unveiling the big surprise.
Great things take time.
If you’re frustrated with how slowly you are growing in Christ, welcome to the club.
But take heart; Paul was frustrated too. We’re impatient, and that’s an impediment. God’s timing takes some getting used to.
But objecting to it (even quietly) is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Being in a hurry reflects insecurity.
Trust God to run His creation. Relax; let God be God.
In my experience, it often feels like He’s teaching patience even while granting our requests. One prayer group I’m involved with has become quite familiar with God answering prayer in baby steps. Quick answers happen, but only in situations where slow answers don’t fit.
Trials happen, and they often last a long time. We want them to end, and we pray for them to end, but they rarely end quickly. Instead, they seem to linger and evolve. Then, finally, the endpoint is reached.
But if trials have a purpose, this sequence makes perfect sense.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.