Response Time

What do these events have in common?

· A worldwide flood

· The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

· Wrestling with Jacob

· The burning bush

· The plagues of Egypt

· Bread from Heaven

· The march around Jericho

· The bronze serpent

· Balaam’s donkey

· Making the sun stand still

· The sign of the fleece

· Healing Naaman’s leprosy in the river

· Making the sun go back ten degrees

· Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace

· The hand writing on the wall

· Jonah in the big fish

· The virgin birth

· Walking on water

· The transfiguration

· The cross

They were all done once or for a period of time and never repeated. These aren’t the only examples – just some of the most notable. God doesn’t seem to like to repeat Himself. And even when He does, He is being intentional in order to teach us something through comparison and contrast (e.g., there were two miraculous catches of fish, but the nets only threatened to break before Christ’s work had been completed on the cross).

Sometimes, we look to God’s Word for a formula that will tell us exactly what to expect from Him, but God won’t be put into a box. Most often, God is doing a new thing in a new way, but we miss it, because we are looking for Him in the place He showed up last time. As a result, our response time for joining Him in His work is pitifully slow. So slow, in fact, that He’s usually done before we get there.

I think God uses so much variety in how He does things, because He knows how quickly we tend to ritualize spiritual things. We want to capture and domesticate them, bring them within our comfort zone. As soon as we see God move, we write a book and proclaim “The Ten Easy Steps to…” We set up an altar and worship what He did rather than who He is.

God is predictable but only in the ways that matter. His character is unchanging, and His purposes are sure. He is always building His Kingdom, and He’s always looking for those who will join Him in the work. But His methods for accomplishing His purposes will change regularly.

We are better prepared to join Him in His work if we study the character of God rather than His interventions. We are more likely to know His will if we seek it out for ourselves rather than copying what we see other Christians or churches are doing. Then we will know the types of things He is likely to do even if we don’t know how He will accomplish them, and our response time will be dramatically improved.


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