2 Helpful Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

What helps you when God’s plan seems stalled?

Most mornings the national news seems downright depressing. Political corruption. Religious hypocrisy. Sexual disorientation. I confess, sometimes it’s tough to see God working in the world.

2 Helpful Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?

We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:

  • God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
  • God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).

These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?

How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world?

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

One year Cathy planted potatoes in our garden. I remember coming back to garden a couple of days afterward, and, you know what? Those potatoes hadn’t grown an inch. After weeks of seeing nothing grow, I might have felt the temptation to doubt if my wife really planted any potatoes at all—even though I saw her do it.

Jesus used the same principle to teach us about God’s plan in the world:

The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows — how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. —Mark 4:26-29

Little sprout

(Photo: By Skotkin. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus said the farmer participates in a process he can’t comprehend. The process happens “by itself”—a phrase from the Greek term, automate. Just as God programmed seeds to sprout by themselves (how, we have no clue), so He does the same with His plan that may seem delayed.

2 Truths When God’s Plan Seems Delayed

The Lord Jesus intends to strengthen our faith through this parable. We see at least 2 truths to cling to when God’s plan seems delayed:

1. God’s plan is progressing in spite of what we don’t see or understand.

The process as Jesus described it—“first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain”—suggests a progression of steps, none of which we can hurry, skip, or delay. The sequence shows us the future: what seems hidden today will one day become visible to all.

In our day, where only in seeing is believing, Jesus’ parable encourages patient and persistent faith toward a certain and overwhelming outcome.

Israel's black mustard plant

(Photo: Israel’s black mustard plant. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Jesus used another illustration to reveal the future in spite of the present.

The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade. —Mark 4:30-32

The mustard plant in Israel grows to a height of 10-12 feet, but it has one of the smallest seeds. This illustrates the second truth to cling to when God’s plan seems stalled:

2. God’s plan is progressing in spite of its seeming insignificance now.

Compared to the large weeds in the world—which we see in the national news—Christianity seems like a mustard seed. Small, insignificant, and ineffective. But God works in ways that human eyes overlook. He is sowing seeds that await a certain harvest.

I love that Georg Frideric Handel included this quote from Revelation in his work, Messiah:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. —Revelation 11:15

Feeling discouraged at the slowness and secrecy of God’s plan? Remember the truths Jesus revealed. What seems small and insignificant now will become the largest of all kingdoms one day.

Question: What helps you when God’s plan seems stalled? To leave a comment, just click here.


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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Tom

    Wayne,
    Please tell me what you mean by sexual “disorietation”.

    • Sure, Tom. I’m referring to sexual orientation as defined by our culture, as opposed to defined by our God.

      • Tom Troyano

        Do you see sexual “disorientation” as an evil condemned by the bible?

        • I’m not sure what you’re driving at, Tom, that I’ve not already answered. The Bible clearly reveals God’s intent for human sexuality. Anything outside of that intent is outside of God’s will.

  • Arne Teigland

    Wayne, another marvelous use of the Revelation 11:15 passage is its being inscribed on the high altar at Westminster Abbey. It’s visible in this photo if you look carefully: http://queenanneboleyn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/high-altar-at-westminster.png

    If it is a good reminder to the queen when she attends services, it’s a good reminder to us too, as you said.

    • Wow, Arne. I’ve been the Abbey a couple of times, but I’ve never seen that before. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Arne Teigland

    Since we are talking about the Abbey, have you noticed the lectern? The two inscriptions are not so clear in any one photo I’ve seen online so here are two links:

    http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/bms/lectern1.jpg

    http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/bms/lectern5.jpg

  • Felix Moses

    Hi Wayne
    These two verses
    In your patience ye shall win your souls. Luke 21:19 and
    I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope. Psalm 130:5
    have always been helpful to me.

    Felix

    • Those are excellent verses to help with this, Felix. Thanks for sending them my way. God bless.

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  • Keith

    I appreciate the insight and the encouragement you have in your posts. They are not only timely, but relevant in so many ways, I’m amazed I’m seeing them, again and again. They help not only to keep me grounded, but looking forward to what God might do next. Bless you all for what you are doing.

    • Thank you, Keith. It’s an honor to connect the Bible and its lands to life. I’m grateful the Lord encourages you with my blog. Honestly, we all need the perspective and hope His Word offers us each day. God bless.

      • Keith

        I found many discerning observations in your book, ” Waiting on God “. But it was also like getting kicked by a mule, with the eternal perspective being so much more than anything I could accomplish in my life. I feel like a slow growing willow, insignificant in what fruit hangs from my branches. It is good to know God does great things, but reading them in the bible seems that God worked then powerfully, but with limited awareness, I don’t see that great work now, which is where too much discouragement settles. How could I ever expect than my limited senses and intellect could ever follow God for even a moment? It is my hope, by His grace and mercy, that I not stay what appears in my eyes as profitless and fruitless. I’m sure many others feel caught in that same cage.

        • I’m in that cage with you, Keith. This life is one of faith, and we’ll be scratching our heads at God’s methods until we see Him face to face. (Sorry about the mule.)

          • Keith

            The issue of faith, and it being pleasing to God is one I struggle with. There is faith in so many things, and placing faith in the wrong thing is tragic if not deadly. Perhaps you have an insight in this that eludes me. Faith is so close to being imaginary and many times doubt plays my mind like a flute. My only consolation is in whom I place my faith, but with the time span between prayers, and questions to God, and answers that make any sense, I wonder just how many of my thoughts and wondering are make belief and not from God. For lack of a better description, the tussle between what is faith and imagining is an uncomfortable spiritual boil. I’m sure I’m not alone, but I don’t hear others talking about this, as the pat answers seem to satisfy them, but are incomplete in their revelation to me.

          • Ultimately, it does boil down to trusting God—even to the extent that Job did: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (13:15). We tend to call answers “pat” when they don’t answer (satisfy) what our finite brains are incapable of understanding. Dealing with the gaps between questions and answers is best done two ways (as I see it): reading the Word expectantly and having these deep conversations with wise mentors face-to-face. There is no answer that ultimately will no longer require us to trust God.

          • Keith

            Your answer, ” There is no answer that ultimately will no longer require us to trust God. “, is an interesting response. I like it. God has the final say. I don’t think I’m looking for a reason not to trust Him, only to be sure that it is Gods will and direction that is being revealed. I’ve read and seem to come to scriptures and teaching that catch me in circular reasoning. One minute I’m content to accept what I read, and the next find something that implies the opposite. Some call these contradictions, but I’m finding they require further reading and prayer to show subtitles of meaning. Wish I had kept a record of them, so as to find them easily again, but as I didn’t, I find I’m not sure what to think and believe at those points. I love it when scripture opens up and is clear, but I find many times I just want to scream, God, why are you messing with my mind? “

  • Michelle thick

    Your writing keep me grounded. When I feel lost and read your words im ok. Thanks appreciate you.
    God Bless

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Michelle. I always try to keep my words grounded in God’s Word— the ultimate source of our comfort and wisdom. Thank you.