As you walk through the days of this new year, it is important to keep in mind that obedience to God involves not only just doing the right thing as far as God leads you, but that timing is also vitally important. You can do the right thing at the wrong time and it will not be right.
I was thinking about that fact as I passed through the lobby at the Baptist Building not long ago. On the counter of the greeter’s desk was a folder filled with writing pens. I walked over and picked up one of the pens, and it had the name of a movie on it. I said, “What are these here for?” The greeter replied, “They forgot to hand them out whenever we showed the movie here several months ago.”
It was one of those movies that the producers had discovered if they can get Christian people and Christian organizations to see the value of it, those people and organizations will get all of their friends and neighbors at church and other places to see the movie and it will be a big hit. On a number of occasions, movie makers have asked if they could show a preview of their movie and invite pastors and their families and anyone who would like to come to see it, and one afternoon we showed this movie to a good gathering of people.
At that showing, the pens with the name of the movie were supposed to be handed out to everyone, but that was overlooked so now, months later, those pens could be picked up at the desk at the entrance of the Baptist Building. I said, “Well, that’s a little late but maybe someone will need a pen.” One of the men standing nearby said, “It’s sort of like handing out glasses after you just saw a 3-D movie.” We all laughed and I said, “That’s good, and a lot of good those glasses will do you after the movie.”
Back to the point, timing is always important when it comes to doing the will of God. You can be too early and you can be too late and miss out on what God is wanting to do in your life. I think about Philip in the book of Acts when God spoke to him and told him to go to Gaza. He was in Samaria and doing a great job. Good things were happening and people were coming to know the Lord and God said, “I want you to go down to the desert place in Gaza.” It was a good moment in time for Philip to just sit down and argue with the Lord. Philip could have said, “There are a lot of people here in Samaria and a lot of needs and a lot of wonderful things happening here, so why would You want me to go down to where there is really nobody?”
To his credit, Philip did not argue with the Lord. The Bible says God spoke to him, “And he arose and went” (Acts 8:27). Little did he know what was going to transpire in the days ahead as he traveled through the desert area of Gaza. There was a man going home to Ethiopia who had been to Jerusalem, the Bible says, “…for a worship” (Acts 8:27). Here is a man who had been to one of the festive occasions in Jerusalem and had sought God and was going back home still empty and he’s reading as he rides in his chariot and the passage he was reading was from Isaiah. Because Philip was following the Lord’s guidance in his life, he crossed paths with this man and went up to him and said, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:30). The Ethiopian said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:31). The Bible says Philip began at the place in Isaiah that describes Jesus’ sacrifice. The Ethiopian professed Jesus and was baptized by Philip.
What if Philip had waited a day or a half a day or just kind of piddled around for a week? Their paths would not have crossed. Philip’s Gospel witness would not have been given and the man would have gone on toward home still bewildered, with no one to tell him about Jesus.
When God is at work in our lives guiding us, speaking to us, and wanting to use us, timing is vitally important. He is not arguing with us. He’s not picking a fight. He’s asking His children to be obedient and to do His will when He tells us to do it. How many times have we faced an important decision and sensed the direction of God from His Word and the urging of God by His Spirit, only to delay, procrastinate, put off, and then finally want to step into the realm of obedience, only then to discover that there is now nothing to do because the moment of opportunity has passed and cannot be reclaimed?
It was very early in my ministry when late one afternoon I was returning home from a hospital visit. As I drove along, I felt an unusual impression from the Lord, just a moving of Him on my heart, to stop by and see one of our members who was at home and struggling with the last days of cancer. It had been a long day and I thought that I really needed to get on home, but I felt such a heavy burden that I should stop that I made the turn and pulled up at his house. His wife came to the door and I told her that I just wanted to come by and have prayer with them. She and I walked into the room where her husband was resting peacefully but clearly was very weak. I spoke to him and he was coherent and could even speak. After we talked for just a short time, he quoted for me Job’s words when he said, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25). With his eyes closed and after a few more short breaths, he was gone. I looked across the room at his wife as she sat nearby and said, “I believe he is gone.” She got up and stood on the other side of the bed from where I was and realized her companion of so many years was now in the Father’s house. Other family members quickly arrived and joined us. A thousand times over, I have thought back to that moment as God in His perfect timing guided me.
I have come to not only experience but also deeply believe that timing is one of the essential elements of obedience. So it is that each day God gives you and you want to do His will, do it according to His directing. Honestly, at times that will mean the immediate response you should give and other times it will mean that you should delay your response. Either way can be the demonstration of you being in the Father’s will. “This is the day which the Lord hath made” (Ps. 118:24). Let Him guide you step by step to do His will.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.