Have you ever gone to a movie or read a book that had a dynamic character – a real hero, or a great adventure, only to leave the theater or lay down the book feeling somehow empty and a little depressed. Often, the reason we feel this way is that we watch movies, read social media posts, or read books with great and exciting adventures and characters and then compare them to our own ordinary lives.
Oh, we say, “if only such a chance would dip down into my life, and lift me out of it! I’m weary; I’m tired of this dull existence!”
Ah! It’s a common mistake. Men think that the occasion makes the hero; whereas it only reveals him. There must be the fabric of strong and noble character, built up by patient continuance in well-doing, else the sudden appeal of the critical hour will knock vainly at the door of life, and the soul, rather than rising to the occasion, will wince at the opportunity and lie helpless within.
Sad fact, if great opportunities were to come to most, we could make nothing of them. They would pass by us unnoticed or unimproved. They would go from us to those who had more nerve, or grit, or spiritual power than we. You can not, just because you will, speak a foreign language, or play a concerto on the piano, for these demand long hours of arduous study and practice in the quiet hours of seclusion.
You can not be brave in a crisis if you are habitually a coward. You can not be generous with a fortune if you are a miser with a limited income. You can not be unselfish in some such accident which imperils life if you are always pressing for the one vacant seat on the bus, and elbowing your way to the front on every possible occasion. David must practice with sling and stone through long hours in the wilderness, or he will never bring down Goliath (see 1 Sam 17).
In the second chapter of John’s gospel, John tells us that on the third day of a wedding celebration in Cana, Jesus and His disciples were invited to attend. And when they ran out of wine, Jesus’ Mother said to Jesus, “They have no wine.” To this statement, Jesus replies, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
“My hour has not yet come.” to what hour may Jesus be referring? In John 17:1, He prayed, “Father the hour is come; glorify thy Son that thy Son also may glorify thee.”
“The hour” is the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. “The hour” is the time of the irrefutable declaration of who He was and of the undeniable proof of His deity. “The hour” is when His earthly ministry would be finished, His appointed mission completed and His Father fully glorified.
It is believed by many, myself included, that Mary while making this seemingly simple request of the Lord was looking for something more than wine, but her own vindication and absolution. You see, all her life, since the time of her youth, she had been the subject of ridicule and mockery as the young unwed mother and recipient of an immaculate conception. Now, perhaps she’s looking for the Lord to be revealed in this moment and finally provide her the opportunity for vindication and validation of this miracle and testify of her own propriety and purity.
In Mary’s case, Jesus response indicates it was not the appropriate time to grant her request, for the Lord’s response, although seemingly distant to Mary, was as a gentle rebuke to his Mother. It was if he was to say, Woman, Mother, I better than anyone know you have been waiting patiently. I know better than anyone how you have been hurt. I understand better than anyone your situation. But it is not time to rectify everything, not quite yet” (see John 2:4).
What does this say to us? Oftentimes, I think we ask the Lord to do something that will get us off the hook or make us look a little better. We ask Him to do something that will smooth our road or lighten our load. Like Mary’s, our requests might sound very noble, very generous, very unselfish — but in reality, they’re self-centered.
And in such instances, Jesus might whisper in our hearts, as He did to Mary, “What does your concern have to do with me? This is not the hour. This is not the time. This is not the place. The problem will be solved. Your reputation will be salvaged. The provision will be made. The healing will be enjoyed but not yet. My hour has not yet come.”
Daniel was in a place of prominence and tremendous authority in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Then, when he was about sixty-five years old, Nabonidus, Belshazzar’s Father, came into power, and Daniel was removed from office. For twenty years, Daniel is not seen in the narrative given to us in the book that bears his name. But then the day dawned that Belshazzar called for him to interpret the mysterious writing on the wall (Daniel 5:13). When Darius the Mede seized control of the kingdom shortly thereafter, Daniel was placed in a position of prominence once again. Thus, for twenty years, Daniel was neither used in ministry nor given a position of responsibility. Yet Daniel, being a man of integrity, did what we must do: He remained ready.
Be like Daniel. Don’t say, “I’ve been walking with the Lord for five years, and nothing’s happening, so I think I’ll just go to the movies or look to other interests or hobbies.” Now is not the time to go on vacation, but now is the time to dig in and move forward in preparation. Now is the time to be ready and spend time with the Lord and to learn about the Lord so that when Belshazzar says, “What does this mean?” Like Daniel, we will be able to give them a Word from the Lord. The prophet Isaiah wrote,
“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned. That I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned.” (Isaiah 50:4)
We need to sit at the feet of the Lord, spend time with the Lord that we might hear and learn from him, so we will have a good word for others in their time of need.
In a certain moment, your hour will come. Your time will arrive. A significant task, a life-changing opportunity will arise, and then it will be too late to prepare.
In June of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, James Wilson, in regard to God’s direction: “I trust that as He shall further open the way, I will be ready to walk therein, relying on His help and trusting in His goodness and wisdom” (Marshall and Manuel, 1991, 6.23).
We too, just as Daniel, just as Isaiah and the great President Lincoln, must chalk up time with the Lord that we may be prepared, or as Lincoln said, “that I will be ready to walk therein.”
Oh, you may be thinking, I’ve been a Christian a long time – for many years, I think I’m ready. So did Jesus’ disciples.
As Jesus descended the Mount of Transfiguration, He was met by a man who said, “Master, I brought my epileptic son to Your disciples but they couldn’t help him.” Jesus then cast out the demon within the boy.
“Why couldn’t we do that?” asked His disciples. Jesus replies, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting,” answered Jesus (Matthew 17:21).
I can see Jesus’ disciples scratching their heads wondering, asking themselves, “If it takes prayer and fasting to cast out a demon of that nature, how were we to know we would have that kind of encounter?”
I believe Jesus was implying, and the crux for the matter is, that because they wouldn’t know when opportunities to minister would come their way, they should have been living a life of continual prayer and fasting.
So we ask, “Why weren’t the disciples in an attitude of prayer and fasting?” Probably for the same reason as you or I, prayer and fasting requires something of us we’re not prepared to give – sacrifice.
Because of their attitude, they weren’t prepared, they had nothing for the one who was hurting and they had nothing to give. They simply weren’t ready.
If we’re to have anything to share with another who is hurting or weary, we must first receive it from the Lord. Then, we may comfort another individual with that which we have been comforted. (2 Cor. 1:4) We must be as Isaiah, to have ears that are ready to receive and hear from the Lord, so we may have the tongue of the learned and be able to share the Word with others who are weary.
There are those today who say, “The Lord never uses me. The church never calls on me.” But when the opportunity arises before them, they are either unable to meet the need or are completely unaware of it.
Dear friend, your responsibility as a member of the family of God and in ministry is to be ready and then to rest. Be ready, as Isaiah was ready spending time with the Lord. Be rested, as Daniel, who was resting daily in the Lord. Be ready and rest; spend time in His Word today. Get to know the Lord better than you ever have, for in so doing, you will in fact not only be ready and equipped to meet the needs of others, but you will have your own needs met as well.
June of 1862, in speaking to James Wilson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish, p. 126. Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Glory of America (Bloomington, MN: Garborg’s Heart’N Home, Inc., 1991), 6.23.
William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).