My son decided he needed to wake up 2.5 times per night, every night for the past four weeks. You don't know the meaning of exhaustion until you have a child. But, that is not the personal story I want to tell; rather, I would like to share a brief tidbit of my own life before we continue...
Two months ago, Bill Coleman gave his final sermon as a pastor at our church (if he ever gets incredibly bored one day and decides to Google himself, he will now get to see what an impact that sermon had on my life). He preached on the waiting period Abraham and Sarah went through in preparation for the promise of God - the birth of their son, Isaac. Thought, after nearly 25 years, it appeared that it would never come, God have never given up on fulfilling his promise to His Covenant man and his wife. Pastor Bill pounded the point over and over - it doesn't matter what you have done, it doesn't matter how long it has been, if you are willing to believe then God will fulfill His promise to you. I'm trying not to cry. I have had a promise on my life for years; and just like Abraham (Ishmael!), I have made numerous mistakes to hinder the fruition of that promise. I was running low on patience. I assumed God had wiped His hands of me. Yet, here I am listening to a sermon so uniquely designed to my circumstances. I went and spent some time at the alter after, and another member of the pastoral staff spent time praying for me. After a few moments, he leaned down and said, "I don't know you, but the Lord is telling me just a bit longer. I don't know what that means..."
I do. More stupid crying...
So now we finally return to our series on Jesus' parable of the sower. You see, what had happened to me that day fits in perfect with the second charateristic Jesus shows us in Mark 4:13-20.
These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.
All Hell broke loose in the weeks following that morning! There was an assault on my mind concerning my future that overwhelmed me. It has continued to this very day. That's what the enemy will do. When we receive promises from God - either through His written Word, or through divine revelation like I received that Sunday morning - Satan sets out immediately to distract us. He wants nothing more than to cause us to quit on God and His Word. You can guarantee that whatever you find out from God, Satan is going to attempt to refute. When we see promises of health and healing, Satan will attack with sickness and symptom. When we see promises regarding prosperity and provision, you can expect attacks on finances of possessions. When you receive promises regarding a hopeful future, you can take it to the bank that you will be constantly reminded of what you can't do. In my case, a severe lack of meaningful experience, coupled with a further lack of contacts, was the demonic tool of the trade to cause me to doubt that God would ever come through on His promise to me. But it is important to remember this...
A delay is not a denial.
We see this principle that Jesus is teaching us when Paul writes those oh-so-infamous words: "thorn in the flesh"
"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure."
I really enjoy tackling this passage, and we could talk about it alllllllllll night. However, I want to point out that the principle Jesus is explaining to us is at work right here. Because of the greatness of what Paul was receiving from God, Satan sent one of his cronies to stop him. God didn't crack this crony over the head, because then Paul would have no reason to trust Him. But keep this in mind: God doesn't "buffet" (many translations use the word "torment") anyone! Paul wasn't sick ("thorn in the flesh" is the same thing as "pain in the neck." It is nothing more than a figure of speech, such as seen in Numbers 33:55). Satan is not on the payroll any longer. God did not send him to do His dirty work. We see a spiritual reality taking place before our eyes. Paul is receiving great revelation from God, and Satan is doing everything he can to put an immediate stop to it. Paul is then relying on the grace of God to overcome - and boy did he ever!!
The same will be true in each of our lives. If we are not callous to the voice of the Lord and to His Word, we can be assured that whatever He promises us will come under fire. Satan doesn't care if you get excited about God when that excitement never lasts for more than a few weeks at a time. Jesus is comparing the promises of God to "seeds." Seeds take time to to grow. God isn't holding out on us when we don't see the fruition of His promises immediately. Our faith takes time to grow. That is why we have the instructions to remain patient under trial in James 1. Hold fast. Delays are not denials. God is not giving Satan side jobs to harass you for His glory. And get out of His way. Hold fast to your confession - your harvest will come.