Summary: We can patiently wait for God’s timing without knowing when he will answer (Part 2 "Passing Life’s Tests")

Passing Life’s Tests

Hebrews 11:8-19

Part II

“Traveling Without A Watch “ The ‘When’ Test


A woman was shopping with her three year old daughter. As they passed the lolly section the child asked if she could have some. "No" came mum’s reply, upon which the little girl began to cry and complain.

"Don’t be upset Janey. I know you don’t like shopping, but we only have a few aisles to go. Then we can head home."

In the next aisle the little girl asked for a toy. When mum refused the child started throwing a tantrum. "Come on Janey, please try to be calm. There’s only one aisle to go and we’ll be at the check out."

When they finally got to the check out the little girl was mesmerised by the goodies carefully placed to appeal to our compulsion buying. Again mum said "no" to a huffy little girl. "Janey, we’ll be finished here in less than five minutes. Just hang on and you can go home and have a lovely nap."

As they packed the groceries in the car a man approached them. "Excuse me madam" he said, "I seemed to find myself in the same aisle as you most of the time during the shopping and I was right behind you at the checkout. I just wanted to let you know I really admire how patient you were with little Janey"

The mother replied, "Oh no, you’ve got it all wrong. The little girl’s name is Alison. I’m Janey."

This lady had a unique way of exercising restraint.

What should we do when we have to wait? How can we cope when we’re anxious or eager for something? When our patience is all dried up and we’re at the end of our tether, how do we survive? When we long for someone to give us a break, how do we manage?

We’ve all had our patience stretched. Waiting is one of God’s tests in life that is intended to build our faith. It’s the “When” test.

In the example of Abraham we find some real help on this issue. Let’s read it together – Hebrews 11:8-16.

We can patiently wait for God’s timing without knowing when he will answer because he has ….


Japanese soldiers found hiding out in the jungles of S/E Asia 30-40 years after the end of WW2 not knowing that the war had ended but still fighting it.

Now that’s endurance!

To help us pass the “When” test – to help us wait for God’s timing without knowing when he will answer - the Lord has developed our hearts for endurance.

HEB 11:9 By faith he[Abe] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;

When Abraham underwent the ‘where’ test (cf v8), he did what God told him and moved to the promised land … and he stayed there. He was where God wanted him to be even though he felt like a stranger, a foreigner. He knew God was going to give him this land to possess, but even though he didn’t know when this was going to happen he remained faithful to God’s instruction. He endured because God had given him a heart of endurance.

This is a key in passing the “When” test - Just keep doing what God had instructed you to do until further notice - faithfully and obediently.

That’s what we see Abe doing. He went on doing as God had commanded and left the timing up to him. He didn’t try to hurry God up and he didn’t turn back.

When we feel we’re just marking time it’s because God loves us – not because he’s holding us back. He will not move us forward until he and we are ready. He is patient with us. Perhaps we should be patient with him.

God has this to say…

If we endure, we will also reign with him (2 Tim 2:12).

This promise is for all of us – it’s an astonishing statement. To reign with Christ implies a life of power. Power to overcome impatience, anxiety, worry and concern. And today Jesus is offering to give us this heart of endurance so that we can reign with him – so that this power can be ours. So that we can rule over our anxieties instead of them ruling us.

As a church we have recently endured a period of waiting and uncertainty – perhaps even marking time. In the past 18 months or so what has the Lord taught us as we waited for his direction and answers?

Maybe he’s underlined his faithfulness; reminded us of his power; and given us fresh insights into his purposes for his work in Australind. Only you can answer that – I haven’t been here.

But the one thing that is clear is that - we can pass the “when” test and move to a whole new level in our faith. And this is because God has developed our hearts for endurance.


(U2 “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”)

I have climbed highest mountain

I have run through the fields

Only to be with you

Only to be with you

(Searched the world for satisfaction?)

I have run

I have crawled

I have scaled these city walls

These city walls

Only to be with you

(Climbed the ladder of success for satisfaction?)

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips

Felt the healing in her fingertips

It burned like fire

This burning desire

(Sought satisfaction in human relationships/love?)

I have spoke with the tongue of angels

I have held the hand of a devil

It was warm in the night

I was cold as a stone

(Pursued the extremes of spirituality for satisfaction)

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

(“But wait,” he says, “There’s more”)

I believe in Kingdom Come

Then all the colours will bleed into one

Bleed into one

But yes I’m still running

(His focus is not here – it’s on the future kingdom)

You broke the bonds

And ya loosed the chains

Carried the cross

Of my shame...

Of my shame

You know I believe it

(Could this be Jesus he’s talking about?)

But [he sings] I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

(FYI Video filmed in Las Vegas – haven’t found what I’m looking for).

What Bono may be describing here is a holy longing for more or a holy impatience with life

And it’s not an experience that new to humanity. The Apostle Paul went through this…

READ Phil 1:18b-26

Paul longed to go and be with Jesus. But he knew it wasn’t the right time. And what sustained him was his belief in a better life beyond the grave.

To help us pass the “When” test – to help us wait for God’s timing without knowing when he will answer - the Lord has set our hearts on the eternal (OHP).

We were made for eternity.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13).

If we want to take the worry out of waiting then we need to take an eternal view of the world. Taking things in from God’s perspective – where time is limitless – is a great help in overcoming anxiety.

The “When” test builds our desire and longing for the eternal as opposed to that which is temporary. The est is tough sometimes, but it’s an act of kindness on God’s part. He doesn’t want us to be disappointed – he wants our joy and satisfaction to last and not dry up when the temporary things disappear. You see, God’s promises are like a shopping bag – they’re non-biodegradable! They don’t break down when they’re exposed to the elements.

Ultimate and lasting satisfaction can only ever be found if we completely devote ourselves to relying (or waiting on) Jesus.

(Read Psalm 107:4-9 and expand)

i.e. when we “cry out to the Lord” he delivers (v6) and ultimately he satisfies the thirsty and restless (v9) [i.e. our impatience].

Don’t feel that you’re not up to scratch as a Christian because you experience discontent or restlessness. IT’S NORMAL BECAUSE YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!! You’re an alien! A stranger (Heb 11:13)! You SHOULD at least get home sick for your native home - heaven.

Take heart from this promise Jesus made to you …

“Blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied” (Luke 6:21)

Keep your eye on the eternal prize and hang in there.

Let’s make a commitment right now not to get tied up in the temporary but to keep our eye on permanent things.

(E.G. temporary = the latest Christian fad, marketing, music. Permanent = changed lives – ours and those around us. - - - - We may use temporary measures but our goal is the eternal/permanent result of changed lives. It takes time to develop and harvest fruit that will last (John 15:16) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE ETERNAL GOAL OF CHANGED LIVES, NOT THE PERIFERIES (Or cultural means) OF HOW WE GET THERE.)

The point is, we can pass the “when” test and move to a whole new level in our faith because God has set our hearts on eternal things.


The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best modern films made. Set in 1940’s America it tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a gentle, quietly spoken banker who is falsely convicted of his wife’s murder and sent to prison. The prison is governed by the harsh and uncompromising Warden Norton. Life inside is even harsher. Red, a life prisoner who befriends Andy, puts it like this: "The first night’s the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind from that delousing s__t they throw on you, and when they put you in that cell... and those bars slam home...that’s when you know it’s for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it."

And so Andy is subjected to the harsh realities of prison life, including repeated sexual abuse at the hands of some guards.

Yet he’s also very intelligent. Andy is co-opted by the warden to handle his accounts, including monies gained through corrupt and illegal activities. He develops careful and elaborate schemes to launder the money. And in return Andy is able to get some concessions for himself and the other prisoners - a library and basic educational services, a gramophone, beer while on a prison chain gang. These concessions are like little tastes of heaven. When Red hears an Italian opera on Andy’s gramophone he says: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

Unlike the other prisoner Andy retains a sense of hope, hope that life can be more than the hellhole of prison, hope that he can one day be released and live again. When he hears Red playing his harmonica Andy comments "Here’s where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget. Forget that there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s a - there’s a - there’s something inside that’s yours, that they can’t touch."

Then one day, two decades after he enters prison, Andy is gone. It turns out that for those two decades hope has driven him on as he has painstakingly carved out a tunnel, hidden behind a Rita Hayworth poster on his wall. No one knew about it, but with his tunnel complete Andy crawls though the earth, through the stinkhole of the sewer to freedom. He’s liberated and free.

Andy now goes to the bank that held the false accounts he’s set up for the warden. Nobody has ever met the fictitious account holder, Peter Stevens, before. But Andy has been preparing for this for a long time. He has the required ID’s and the matching signature. Andy becomes Peter Stevens and withdraws all the warden’s corrupt money. And then he anonymously reveals Norton’s corruption to see Norton’s harsh fist removed from the prison.

But one thing remains. Andy’s good friend Red. Red is finally parolled but struggles to cope with the changed world outside. He longs to return to the world he knows - prison.

Red thinks of ways to break his parole, when he remembers a conversation he once had with Andy, a secret hiding place in the wall of a windblown field. Red goes there, finds a box with an envelope in it that says "Red" on the outside. Red opens the envelope and reads a letter from Andy:

"Dear Red. If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help me get my project on wheels. I’ll keep an eye out for you and the chessboard ready. Remember, Red. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you, and finds you well. Your friend. Andy."

Red does remember the town they’d spoken of, and has in his hand $1000 Andy left for him. He sets off to find his friend, telling us "I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain...I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."

Red does make it. The film closes with Red and Andy reunited by the sea. And the message rings loud and clear: "Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free. The expectation of something greater, something beyond our current living – can fill us with great optimism."

And with God we have great expectations – we have a significant hope. God has pronounced some incredible promises for us – and we can expect Him to keep his word.

To help us pass the “When” test – to help us wait for God’s timing without knowing when he will answer - the Lord has filled our hearts with expectation (OHP).

It’s a gift God has granted his people throughout history.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died, they did not receive the things promised” (Hebrews 11:13)

They could live a life of delayed promise keeping because they fully expected God to keep his word – in His own time.

These early God worshippers - like those that worship him today - knew the truth of this statement from Paul the Apostle:

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful (1 Cor 1:9).

Hope and a heart of expectation is the key to overcoming a boring and clichéd faith. Immersing ourselves in the promises of God and faithfully expecting that he has more in store for you will revive your walk with him.

What do you expect to get out of life? What are your hope’s – don’t aim too low!

We can pass the “when” test and move to a whole new level in our faith because God has filled our hearts with the expectation that he will keep his word.


You may remember last week we discovered that God tests his people because he loves them and he wants them to grow and mature.

Let me give you are real life example of someone who underwent the “When” test. You may have never heard of Clyde Tombaugh – but I bet you’ve heard of the planet Pluto – he discovered it. Astronomers had already calculated a probable orbit for this mystery planet – but no-one had ever seen it. Tombaugh began searching in March 1929.

He examined hundreds of star images under a microscope. It often took three days to examine one photograph. Tombough described the work as “brutally tedious.” He searched for months and months, star by star. In all he searched 20 million images!

Finally on Feb 18th 1930 he was looking at the constellation of Gemini when he suddenly came upon the image of Pluto. It was the most dramatic astronomical discover in over 100 years!

I wonder if God has something dramatic and astronomical for us to discover by patiently waiting for his timing when we don’t know when the answer will come.