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When God is Late

I used to be on an email list called Rivermail a long time ago. I read this testimony in 2001. It’s about the walk of faith, especially in the area of finances.

This is a testimony by Ruth Johnson at Lighthouse of Hope Ministries.

Sometimes it is quite humbling to be stretched by faith, especially when “it’s past midnight and God is obviously late”. Often people can’t understand and they look at our life through the logical natural mind and make judgments. Others predict our defeat. In their eyes we look utterly foolish to believe for something that seems so impossible and that they would never even dare to attempt.

This humbling in the eyes of men is part of the price of walking by faith. It also is used by the Lord to help us grow. In my own life, each time I encounter people who are less than supportive of what God has spoken to us, “The Lord’s searchlight penetrates my human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.” (Prov. 20:27) During the moments when that penetrating “searchlight” is exposing what is in my heart, I find that the part of me that still wants the approval of others has to be taken to the cross and die there once again.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and My glory is rising upon you. My beloved, arise and shine. Embrace the walk of faith and obedience, no matter what the cost. For only as you walk before Me in this way can My glory radiate out from you to the region and to the nations!
Trust Me and depend on Me with abandonment.

At the time I read this, we were just starting our walk of faith and were experiencing the same types of judgment and criticism that she describes here. The words she wrote were so encouraging to me. It meant so much to know that we were not the only ones going through this living by faith and getting persecuted for it. Just knowing that God was requiring crazy stuff from someone else made it a little less scary for us.

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I just now went to her website and found some amazing testimonies of what God has done for Ruth and her husband since the year 2000. I had never visited their website before. (Back in 2001, when I read this testimony on Rivermail, I didn’t realize that the email I wrote down as a way of remembering where I got it was actually giving me their website address. I was brand new to the Internet and didn’t understand anything except email – barely understood that!)

The timing of their being called out to live by faith and the way they were called out is uncannily similar to the way God did it with us. But they actually got to go to Africa on their big adventure! And they had a ministry with signs and wonders and miracles there. They brought revival and refreshing to the Church of Uganda. We thought God was going to do something like that with us, too, but He took us down a completely different path. We are still waiting for the power and the release into ministry. But we know that in the past ten years God has worked in us the things that we will need for the calling that He has for us. And we know that He has purified and refined us and is still in the process of preparing us for the calling that He has for us. We feel like we’re still in the preparation process and we’re still in exile. We are longing for home and for the power of God to move through us and to fulfill the purpose that He put us here on earth to fulfill.

The testimony I quoted above contains excerpts from the first chapter of a book Ruth Johnson wrote called We have a Dream.

Here is the first chapter if you would like to read more about their walk of faith. As I read her story, I felt like I was reading our own story of how God called us to walk by faith.

We Begin An Amazing Journey
Ruth Johnson

Our Walk by Faith Part One
Excerpt From Ruth’s Book – We Have A Dream

“Thy godly ones shall bless Thee.
They shall speak of the glory of Thy Kingdom and talk of Thy power.
To make known to the sons of men Thy mighty acts and
the glory of the majesty of Thy Kingdom.”
Psalm 145:10-12 NASB

What you are about to read has been written to declare the Lord’s mighty acts and give Him glory for what He has done. It is also a reflection of this truth that was once expressed by Smith Wigglesworth…

“Great faith is the product of great fights.
Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests.
Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.”

Now it is with inexpressible joy that I share our testimony of the Father’s faithfulness as Barry and I decided to do whatever He was asking of us so that we could live our dream to make a difference in the lives of others. I pray that the challenges we faced, the mountains we had to conquer and the difficulties and discouragements we had to press through will also encourage and strengthen you in your own faith.

* * *

It was the life-changing year of 2000 when Barry and I said yes to the Lord and we lay down everything we had to serve Him. Immediately we felt stretched in our willingness to trust Him. This stretching of our faith actually started in 1997 when God began to speak to our hearts about moving to Seattle, Washington to birth a church.

Barry was eager to move.

He was born in Portland and had longed to return to the Northwest for many years. But my roots were entrenched in California where I had raised family, established relationships and had a fruitful ministry. I didn’t want to leave all that I had known for most of my life.

Even more painful for me to consider, if we left San Diego I would be moving away from my adult children and giving up the family dinners and holidays with them that I so cherished.

To further intensify my reluctance, Barry had no job in the Northwest. Yet the Lord was asking of us what He required of Abraham…

By faith, Abraham when he was called, obeyed by going to a place
which he was to receive for an inheritance. And he went
out not knowing where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8 NASB

God asked Abraham to “leave his native land and his relatives and come to the land that He would show him” (Acts 7:3 NLT). He worked on my heart so that I would be willing to make this same choice.

In our marriage, we seek the Lord together when we need direction for our lives. So as Barry and I stood together at this crucial crossroads, we waited until we both had peace about what to do.

The months went by and then one morning I had a keen sense that what we decided to do about this possible move would set the course for the rest of our lives. It would make the difference between us fulfilling our dream or staying where we were and just being comfortable. If we had made that decision, we would have settled for so much less than the Father had planned for us.

One unforgettable day, as I once again wrestled with the thought of moving to the Northwest, the Father ministered to my spirit…

“My glory cloud over you and Barry has moved to Seattle.

Will you go where I am going or will you choose to stay where you are comfortable?

It is true that if you decide to remain here, you will have a good life. I will still love you and take care of you.

But you and Barry will miss out on my very best for you. If you cling to what is familiar and take the path that is comfortable, my purposes for you will be frustrated.

And in the years ahead you will have leanness of soul because the fulfillment of My promises for you will not happen here. They can only come to pass in the new place where I’m calling you to go.”

The second the Lord showed me this startling perspective I said, “Yes, I will go!” Then with much joy and a powerful oneness of spirit and direction, we began to make the necessary preparations to change our lives.

A year later, we packed up all of our belongings and moved to Seattle.

Shortly after arriving in this new place, a door opened for Barry to make even more money than he did in California. Yet he worked fewer hours while we pioneered a church. We grew to love the little flock that God gave us as we poured our lives into them.

Twelve months went by and once again God stretched our faith when He instructed us to leave that work behind. We obeyed but this decision was heartbreaking. It catapulted us into a season of crushing pain.

Slowly we emerged from our grief and our hearts did heal.

Then in April 2000 the Lord asked us to step into an even more challenging realm of trust.

He showed us that Barry was to end his lucrative job as a computer consultant and we were to live totally by faith. This drastic change in our lives was the only way we could fulfill our calling to serve Him as a husband and wife team.

Once again we surrendered to what the Father was asking of us and He immediately encouraged our hearts by opening many doors for ministry. Yet, enough money never came in to support us. This shortage of funds forced us to learn how to trust the Lord for all our needs. Just as He cared for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, He kept instructing us to stand in a place of immovable faith and He would provide for us.

We had no idea that by October 2000 we would be trusting Him for many thousands of dollars in order to live in Africa for several months.

Then the Lord told us to buy our tickets to Uganda, even though we still lacked most of the funds needed and our departure date was only seven weeks away.

At the same time, He showed us…

“You have stepped out of the boat. Don’t look down.
Hold fast and keep looking straight ahead.”

The Father quickly confirmed this instruction by having two people send us these exact same words. He then guided us both to this same remarkable verse on the same day…

If you wait for perfect conditions you
will never get anything done.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT

There we were, out on the water, with two tickets to leave for Africa and a monumental amount of money still needed to proceed as planned. Through this dilemma the Father tested our hearts, just as He did the Israelites…

The Lord your God led you through the wilderness for forty years.
He humbled you and tested you to prove your character and to find out
whether or not you would really obey His commands.
Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT

Later in Joseph’s life we see God working in this same way…

Until the time came to fulfill His word, the
Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Psalm 105:19 NLT

So we longed for the day when the Father would say to us…

“You have passed the test.
Now enter into the fullness of what I have promised you.”

Yet the stretching of our faith was by no means unique.

If anyone decides to surrender his life to the Lord and wants to be used by Him, there are going to be times when He asks us to trust Him for something that we can’t do our self. There is a wealth of eternal wisdom in this challenge to our faith. If our wise Father only asked us to believe Him for those things that we can accomplish in our own strength, abilities and resources, then we would get the glory instead of Him when the promise was fulfilled.

We also would never have to come to the end of ourselves. And that is the place where true faith begins.

In that uncomfortable place where we are helpless and we must trust the Father to intervene, attitudes of the heart that need to be refined are glaringly exposed. For example, in the months shortly after God told us that Barry was to end his regular job, this radical change in our finances challenged me to my very core. Consequently, I experienced moments of overwhelming panic. It felt like we were financially free falling off a cliff and I was waiting with utter dread for the moment when we would hit the sharp rocks below and go splat!

This pressure from being stretched far beyond what I was even remotely comfortable with exposed an issue in my heart that had to be dealt with before I could fully embrace the call that the Father had placed on our lives. My sense of financial security had always come from knowing that there was going to be a regular paycheck.

But now I had to die to any dependence on a predictable source of income and place all my security in the Father as our Source and Provider.

A welcome breakthrough happened when a friend sent us this story…

A young girl traveling on a train for the first time heard that it would have to cross several rivers. She was troubled and fearful as she thought of the water. But each time the train came to a river, a bridge was always there to provide a safe way across.

After passing safely over several rivers and streams, the girl settled back in her seat with a sigh of relief. Then she turned to her mother and said, “I’m not worried anymore. Somebody has put bridges for us all of the way.”

Just as soon as I read this simple account, our kind Abba Father assured me…

“I will be for you that bridge over troubled waters so that you also can find your way to the other side.

Every time you find yourself in a place where you need a miracle to get to where you are safe, I will be there. I will make the impossible possible.

I will do the same for you as that young child on the train.”

Many times since that day I have marveled as I watched God give us an unexpected bridge of provision that enabled us to walk over to a place of sheltering, reassuring safety.

During another time of struggle, we wondered if we had missed it when we thought God had spoken to us about Barry laying down his job and living totally by faith.

The enemy was delighted to add fuel to our paralyzing self-doubt. He was quick to remind us of all the times in the past when we were certain that we had heard from God, but things didn’t work out. We began to buckle under the weight of these discouraging thoughts.

Immediately, we were amazed by the Father’s comforting response to our questioning. A letter arrived in the mail and in it were these words that we knew were from Him…

“Don’t reason that you have missed your providential way because of the storm. These things come not for the deepening of your fear, but for the quickening and enlargement and completion of your faith.”

Through this timely message the Father strengthened us in the battle that raged against us, just as He did for Peter when Jesus said to him…

Satan has asked to have all of you and to sift you like wheat.
But I have pleaded in prayer for you that your faith should not fail.
Luke 22:31-32 NLT

No matter how intense the pressure, the Lord made one thing supremely clear to us. We were never to do anything to take matters into our own hands. He had called us to bring people into His presence that they may know His glory. And from the beginning of this call He cautioned us to never use this message that was so holy and sacred to the Father, to fundraise. No matter how serious our financial need, we were to never send out pleas for money.

We were careful to obey these instructions, but there were many days when it was extremely difficult. Sometimes when our needs were great and there was no provision, we felt like God had forgotten us. We pleaded for His help and there was only silence.

In the midst of this crisis of our faith, our loving Father intervened with an insight into Noah’s life that I had never seen before.

After spending one hundred and twenty years building an Ark, the torrential rains came and the Lord vindicated Noah’s faith. But after all the years of unwavering trust and having it validated, Noah still ended up floating on an endless sea of water for another twelve and a half months with no land in sight. He had no way of knowing how God was going to bring his huge ship to its promised destination.

I have no doubt that this man of great faith had moments when he felt like David…

Lord, why do You stand so far away?
Why do You hide when I need You the most?
How long will You forget me?
How long will You look the other way?
My God, why do You remain so distant?
Why do You ignore my cries for help?
Every day I call to You but You do not answer.
Psalm 10:1, 13:1, 22:1-2 NLT

These are very real emotions that the stretch of faith evokes in our soul.

Then one of the most poignant verses in the Bible appears in the story of Noah that contains life-giving hope for anyone who is waiting and waiting and it seems like God is far away…

God remembered Noah.
Genesis 8:1 NLT

Many a day I hugged this Scripture to my heart and it comforted me.

I also grew steadily more convinced that just as the Lord remembered Noah, He will be faithful to any of us when He asks us to trust Him with all of our hearts so that we can fulfill His destiny for us.

Throughout these trials of our faith, God repeatedly assured us…

I will make a dry path through your Red Sea.
Isaiah 11:15 NLT Personalized

And that is exactly what He did.

He made a way where there was no way. We were in awe as we experienced our Abba Father finally saying to us…

“You have passed the test.
Now continue to trust Me to provide for
what you still need and I will continue to honor your faith in Me.”

Then we left for Africa in January 2001.

Other than overcoming the damage from my severely abusive background that lasted until I was forty-five years old, this faith walk in the area of our finances is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Yet as I look back on the years since April 2000 when this walk began, I understand why God required that we learn to depend on Him to such a radical degree. When we emerged from each new trial by fire, our capacity to trust the Lord of the Impossible in all areas of our lives and ministry had grown phenomenally.

God knew the difficulties that we would be up against in our call to the Northwest and to Africa. Like the wonderful Dad He is, through each new funding dilemma He was preparing us to face those challenges with a much deeper understanding of our reliance on Him and His proven faithfulness to us. The Father was also carefully equipping us so that no matter what serious obstacles we encountered, we had the persevering strength to boldly declare as Paul did…

We are pressed on every side by troubles,
but we are not crushed and broken.

We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit.
We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.

We get knocked down,
but we get up again and we keep on going.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT

We can only grow in this determined, steel like tenacity when we must go far beyond what we think we can endure in trusting the Lord.

This believing God for what seems to be impossible is not limited to finances.

It can be for physical healing, freedom from emotional pain, an open door for ministry, restoration of a failing marriage or the return of a prodigal child whose life is in ruins. The possibilities that can put us in a place of desperate dependence on the Father are endless, but the struggles that come as we learn to cast ourselves on His love and trust Him are common to us all.

It is immensely reassuring to remember that God will never test us beyond what we can bear, even when we feel we are at the end of what we can endure.

Sometimes it is also humbling to be stretched in our faith.

Often people can’t understand. They look at our life through the logical, natural mind and make judgments. Others predict our defeat. In their eyes we look foolish to believe for something that seems so impossible and they would never even attempt to try it themselves.

Yet, experiencing the judgments from people helped me to understand how Abraham and Noah must have felt.

Abraham had a dream that God birthed in his heart. He wouldn’t give up on it, no matter what price he had to pay and regardless of how long he had to wait. Surely he looked like an old fool to many people up until it became obvious that his ninety-year-old wife was actually pregnant with their child.

Noah must have looked like another fool to his contemporaries when he “obeyed God who warned him about something that had never happened before” (Hebrews 11:7 NLT). He built a boat in preparation for rain and a flood, neither of which had ever taken place.

To make this even more of a stretch, he was erecting this huge ship in an area where there was no body of water.

Surely there were those who mocked him as he spent all those years building something that made no sense to them at all.

This humbling in the eyes of men is part of the price of walking by faith so that we can live our God inspired dream.

It is also used by the Lord for our own greater good. Being misunderstood when we embrace what God has told us to do, prods us to break through our own limitations and grow in ways we never thought we could.

It also requires that we submit to the penetrating look of the Holy Spirit and invite Him to shine His convicting light on our innermost soul. That is where attitudes that are less than pleasing to the Father can lurk unnoticed.

These are the defining moments in our lives when “the Lord’s searchlight penetrates our spirit and exposes every hidden motive” (Proverbs 20:27 NLT).

My times of struggle in trusting the Father also opened up to me an illuminating insight into how He felt about Abraham.

This mighty man of faith obviously faltered in trusting what God had promised him. He clearly made a serious mistake in his walk by faith when he told people that Sarah was his sister rather than being confident that the Lord would protect him from those who would want his beautiful wife.

Likewise, he failed in his belief that God could still fulfill His promise to give a child to two elderly people. So he took things into his own hands and had a son by a servant girl.

Yet this man who had times of serious fractures in his faith was described by the Lord in this glowing way…

When God promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, Abraham believed Him. God had also said, ‘Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars,’ even though such a promise seemed utterly impossible! And Abraham’s faith didn’t weaken, even though he knew that he was too old to be a father at the age of one hundred and that Sarah, his wife, had never been able to have children.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything He promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous (Romans 4:18-22 NLT).

I can’t begin to express how much it helped me to finally get a glimpse of why God felt this way about a man who clearly wavered in his faith, just like we do.

This is what the Father showed me that set my heart free…

“Yes, it is a fact that Abraham had his moments of weakness and he did make some serious errors in not trusting Me.

But all along I saw his heart. I saw his burning desire to be faithful to what I promised him, even though there were times when out of human frailty and weariness of soul he faltered in that faithfulness.

Because of the sincerity of his heart and his earnest desire to keep on clinging to what I had spoken to him, I didn’t hold to his account the times when he failed in his faith in Me.

I only remembered all the days, all the long nights, the many months and years that he tenaciously clung to what I told him.

My Word assures you that I look at all of My children in this same way because when I declared Abraham to be righteous, it wasn’t just for his benefit. It was for you too so that you would be comforted.

Even though you also have moments of weakness and failure in your faith, I will declare you to be righteous too. I will not hold those times of weakness against you either (Romans 4:23-24 NLT).”

Gradually the Lord showed me that this is what He is saying to all of us who are trying our very best to trust Him, even in impossible and terribly discouraging circumstances…

“Don’t beat yourself up because you’ve had moments, just like Abraham, when you’ve been weak or you’ve said or done things you wished you hadn’t said or done.

I see your heart.

I look past your failings to who you really are before Me.

So I say to you it is time to rise up!

Be filled with new hope and encouragement from Me, your loving Father.

Your light has come and My glory is rising upon you. For behold, darkness is covering the earth and deep darkness the peoples, but I am rising upon you. Isaiah 60:1-3 NASB).

It is time to step out in faith and go forward with whatever I ask you to do.

It is time to embrace your destiny that I have planned for you.

And as you go on your way, trust Me and depend on Me with abandonment, even if it seems you are believing for what can’t ever happen.

My beloved, hear My Father’s heart toward you and arise!

Embrace the walk of faith and a life of obedience, no matter what the cost.

For only as you trust Me with all of your heart will you fulfill what your life has been all about. And only as you walk before Me in this way can My glory radiate out from you to wherever I take you.”

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You can find her articles and books at their website at Lighthouse of Hope.

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