Opening illustration: In April 2010, clouds of ash spewed by a volcano in Iceland closed airports across the UK and Europe for 5 days. Nearly 100,000 flights were canceled and millions of passengers around the world found themselves in an enormous holding pattern on the ground. People missed important events, businesses lost money, and no one knew when it would end.
When our plans fall apart and there is no remedy, how do we deal with frustration and delay? Isaiah 26: 3-4 is an anchor for our souls in every storm of life: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in [Jehovah], the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Whether we’re facing annoying inconvenience or heartbreaking loss, this rock-solid promise is worth memorizing and repeating every night when we close our eyes to sleep.
Introduction: In this chapter the Lord tells how He will restore the nation. The emphasis is on righteousness and peace. Peace may be outward and inward. Isaiah pictured the day when Christ will return to establish physical peace in the world. The picture is one of the redeemed entering the millennial kingdom. There will be complete peace with no wars, no crime, and no violence of any kind. Salvation is God’s total provision for His people’s needs (v. 1). The prophet encourages God’s suffering people by describing blessings that await them in the future.
Few things (if anything at all) in this fallen world can be called perfect. But God promises to keep us in “perfect peace” if we keep our minds focused on Him and continue trusting Him (Isaiah 26:3). So why do we find it so difficult to trust Him? Often, it’s because we’re afraid that things won’t go as we want them to unless we control them ourselves. The less we are in control, the more anxious and worried we become. Yet we often think our situation is too difficult for God. If we can’t solve things ourselves, we doubt that He can. We have our Christian beliefs, yes-but that isn’t the same as believing God. Believing God is a personal response that grows out of our Christian faith and is expressed by our increasing trust in Him while waiting on Him and His promises.
As our mind remains on Him, He keeps us in perfect peace. This has been the experience of countless believers, and you can experience it too.
How to deal with delay in our lives?
1. Trusting God (vs. 1-4)
What?" you’re asking. "That’s no secret. I’ve read that dozens of times in the Bible and heard lots of sermons on it. What does he mean secret?" The secret lies in putting this truth into practice, by making it such a powerful theme in your life that you view every event, every sorrow, every prayer with the unshakable conviction that God is totally, spotlessly trustworthy.
That’s where we mess up. We want to trust in anything rather than the Lord. We’ll trust in our own abilities, in our boss’s judgment of us, in our money, our doctor, even in an airline pilot. But the Lord? Well … It’s easy to trust in things we can see. Sure, we believe in God, but to allow him to run our life? That’s asking a little too much, we think.
The bottom line is that our wants may not agree with God’s wants for us. After all, it’s our life, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we have the say over it? Shouldn’t we be the one who calls the shots? God gave us free will, didn’t he? When you finally reach the place where your head agrees with your heart, you’re still hesitant. It’s scary. Trusting in the Lord can require that you abandon everything you’ve ever believed about what brings happiness and fulfillment. It requires that you accept the truth that God knows what’s best for you. But how do you make that leap from knowing to doing? How do you trust in the Lord instead of the world or yourself?
The secret lives within you: the Holy Spirit. Not only will he convict you of the rightness of trusting in the Lord, he’ll help you do it. It’s just too tough to do on your own. Because the Holy Spirit knows you better than you know yourself, he’ll give you exactly what you need to make this change. He’s infinitely patient, so he’ll let you test this secret—trusting in the Lord—in little baby steps. He’ll catch you if you stumble. He’ll rejoice with you when you succeed. When you trust in the Lord, you’ll feel as if the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. The pressure’s off you now and on God, and he can handle it perfectly. God will make something beautiful of your life, but he needs your trust in him to do it. Are you ready? The time to start is today, right now.
Trust in the Lord for that peace, that portion, which will be forever. Whatever we trust to the world for, it will last only for a moment; but those who trust in God shall not only find in him, but shall receive from him, strength that will carry them to that blessedness which is forever. Let us then acknowledge him in all our ways, and rely on him in all trials. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3: 5).
2. Desiring God (v. 8)
Wanting to be closer to God is something that all of us should long. Like a person who has not eaten in a while groans for a good meal, we too should deeply desire to feast on the presence of God. We must desire the divine. But what does that mean? What brings on this type of hunger? What causes us to desire God?
In Exodus 20, God commands the people to love Him. You’d think Israel would’ve felt as if God was forcing Himself upon them as He threatened their lives (and their kids’ lives and their grandkids lives and their great grandkids lives) if they loved anyone but Him. But after all He had done for them, why would he have to ask them to love Him? Wouldn’t it be natural that they would love Him enough that nothing could sway their love? Obviously not, because only 12 chapters later they couldn’t wait 40 days for the Lord before their love grew fickle and they were off making a golden calf to worship.
Also in Mark 12 we see Jesus reinforce the idea that we are not to love anyone beside the Lord. He cannot be compared to anyone or anything. He is the only one that can redeem us, forgive us, remove our guilt, bring us true joy… and the list goes on. And we are to love this God with all our heart, mind and strength.
If we are honest with ourselves I think we would have to agree that we indeed struggle to have a sustaining, focused joy in the Lord. The reasons are obvious; while in these fleshly tents we yet remain stained by sin which hinders our joy in the Lord (Ps. 51: 12), and in our tech-savvy society we have virtually endless distractions - keeping us numbed to heavenly realities and our heavenly calling (Heb. 3: 1). Indeed, we find ourselves lapsing, at times, into a “neutral” state with regard to the glory of God and Christ. But having a spiritual taste for the glory of Christ is not morally neutral. Not to have it is evil and deadly. Not to see and savor Christ is an insult to the beauty and worth of his character. Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin [Mt. 10: 37-39]. It must be fought.
An attraction to personal holiness is another sign of the desire for God. This can be triggered in at least two ways: first, learning about holy people in the past; and second, meeting holy people today. Holiness is naturally attractive, since it is an invitation into the divine. "Deep calls to deep," as Psalm 42 says. Think of the crowds that follow the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa. But holiness is not reserved for the saints, who were human after all. Holiness always makes its home in humanity.
By desiring God in the night and by seeking Him early, is meant that the desire to seek him was unremitted and constant. The prophet speaks of the pious Jews who were in captivity in Babylon; and says that it was the object of their unremitted anxiety to please God, and to do his will. Our troubles must never turn us from God; and in the darkest, longest night of affliction, with our souls must we desire him; and this we must wait and pray to him for.
3. Seeking God (v. 9)
Do we realize that we actually have a command to seek God? There are people in this world who seek a lot of things - fame, wealth, influence, power, etc., but there are not too many people who really seek God. Yet, seeking God must be man’s most glorious and rewarding assignment. In regards to our seeking God, it is first of all necessary for God to seek us before we are able to seek him. After man fell, the first question God directed to him was this: "...Where are you?" (Gen. 3:9). Since that point God has been the seeker. Man is not able to seek God on his own, but simply responds to God’s seeking. The Bible tells us that God looked down from heaven to see if there were any that sought him. The Lord had to conclude that there was not one (Psa. 14:2-3). Imagine that! In all the earth there was not a single person really seeking God. One of the problems in seeking God is that he, by his very nature, is hidden from us. This is mostly due to our own sinfulness. Isaiah says that God’s arm is not too short to save and his ear is not deaf, but it is our own sins which have separated us and hid his face from us (Isa. 59:2). There is another reason why God is sometimes hidden. It is due to God’s own mysterious nature. Isaiah laments, "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel" (Isa. 45:15). We read in the Psalms that "Clouds and thick darkness surround him...." (Psa. 97:2). It is said in scripture that "...Moses approached the thick darkness where God was." (Exo. 20:21). What a paradox! The God who dwells in unapproachable light, is surrounded with thick darkness! Perhaps we can realize by this paradox that when things are the darkest, God just may be the nearest.
Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” What does it mean to seek God’s face? What is in a face? If you pay close attention to someone’s face you can see a lot of things. In their eyes you can see if they are at peace. In their countenance you can see if they are happy, sad, mad, scared, or indifferent. You can tell what they think about you. When you are seeking God’s face you are seeking His heart and His mind. What is more important than that? But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence. But aren’t his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things. And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face. The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord. The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
Illustration: Steve McQueen was a top billing actor who led a life as tough as the ones he portrayed on the screen. Success filled his life until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty. In his despair he attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a profession of faith and requested an opportunity to speak with Billy Graham. A connecting flight in Los Angeles allowed Dr. Graham to spend a couple of hours with Mr. McQueen in the actor’s limousine. Graham shared numerous scriptures in his quest to give spiritual hope and assurance. Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. In Titus 1:2, however, he found a promise that spoke to him - "the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago" He requested something to write down the verse, but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternity with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the assurance of our eternal salvation because of God’s unfailing Word.
Application: Today, when plans are shattered, do our minds dwell on the circumstances or on the Lord? During frustrating delay, can we still trust the loving heart of God? In the hymn “Like a River Glorious,” Frances Havergal so beautifully expressed what we long for.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest. —Havergal
When we put our problems in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.