Faith, Patience and a Tarrying Lord

That’s an expression you hear some old-school preachers use some times: “If the Lord tarries”.

“If the Lord tarries, I’ll see you next week.” “If the Lord tarries, I’ll visit Africa next year.”

It’s about declaring a desired plan, but leaving open the possibility that God may have other plans we don’t know about, that would cancel anything we planned to do — like the Second Coming.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”:

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

But throughout history, we’ve wanted to do things in our time, and not as the Lord wills.

When Stephen, one of the seven disciples chosen to take care of the daily distribution to widows, was accused of blasphemy, he launched into an account of the history of the Israelites.

“This is he [Moses} who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,

“whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,

“saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’

“And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.”

Acts 7:37-41

In other words, they got impatient, waiting for Moses to come back from meeting with God, and created their own idol — a golden calf — to worship and even gave it credit for leading them out of Egypt.

When Moses found out, he threw the calf into the fire, ground it to powder, mixed it with water and made the Israelites drink it.

In the same way, it feels like our society has done the same thing with Jesus. He was taken up into Heaven nearly 2,000 years ago, and what have we done? We have anticipated His return. Maybe we misconstrued Jesus’ saying that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things [the signs preceding His return] take place” (Mark 13:30), thinking that He meant a “generation” the way we mortals measure it — from parent to child. I believe He actually means a different kind of “generation”: the Holy Spirit generation, which isn’t measured in human years.

Nevertheless, haven’t we — as a society — started asking, “Where is He? We do not know what has become of Him”. In His absence and our impatience, we have given up waiting and made idols of our own to worship, be they money, science, human intellect or New Age icons.

We need to beware: when Jesus does come down, perhaps people who still cling to the idols will be forced to swallow them, as the Israelites were with their golden calf.

So where is He? Is the Lord “tarrying”? That’s not for us to say.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night …

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:8-10a, 13

So let’s hang in there! Let’s get rid of the idols in our lives and return to God in our worship! And let’s make sure that those around us don’t perish, either, when that day comes!