For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
Genesis 21:2

From a human perspective, Abraham and Sarah waited a long time for their baby—twenty-five years!—but from God’s point of view, the timing was perfect. He always keeps His promises. Waiting is something that bothers a lot of us. We read God’s promises, or we feel God has made a promise to us, and then there’s a long period of waiting. We wait and wait, and we start to think, God, what did I do wrong? What’s the problem here? Then, in God’s own perfect time, just as He said, it happens.

Why is there so often a lag between the promise and the fulfillment? First, if there’s a big lag time, when the fulfillment comes, it’s much more dramatic. God receives more praise than He might have if the answer came immediately. Two, that’s how we learn to walk by faith. That’s how you get your sea legs. You want to become a person of faith? Okay; start with a promise. The questions will follow quickly: When can I expect it? If I claim it by faith right now in Jesus’s name, will it happen now? I’m ready now, Lord; let’s go! It might happen right away, or it might take years. If you’re walking on a road and you can see where you’re going, you don’t need faith, right? But if you can’t see where you’re going, if you’re launching out only on a promise, that’s where faith kicks in. When that promise drags on and on, it’s hard to wait, but the payoff will be great! Look at Abraham: “I’m 100 years old and I’m thinking, What’s the point of having a baby? I won’t live until it’s two! But here he is, finally, and it’s awesome.” His faith was definitely stronger because of the delay.

Years ago, there was a family in Scotland, the Clarks. They were a large clan, and it was the father’s dream to move his family to America, the golden land of opportunity. He worked and he saved, and finally the day came when he was able to buy tickets and get passports. Of course, he was thrilled to bring his wife and nine children to America. But then came delays. A week before they were set to set sail from Liverpool, one of his sons was bitten by a dog. The doctor stitched up the wound but was afraid of rabies, and the whole family ended up quarantined for fourteen days. The Clarks would miss their golden opportunity to go to America. Oh, was Mr. Clark angry! Mad at his son, mad at the doctor, mad at God, and he just wept! Five days later, however, he heard the news that the ship that was leaving Liverpool had sunk in the icy waters of the north Atlantic, killing 2,300 passengers. He had waited so long and he had been so angry, but when he heard the news of the RMS Titanic, he was so thankful. He hugged his son, and thanked him for getting bit, and thanked the dog for biting his son, and then he thanked God for His providence. Because God’s delays are not God’s denials.

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Skip Heitzig, author of The Bible from 30,000 Feet, is pastor-teacher of Calvary Church, ministering to more than 15,000 people weekly. He holds a DD and PhD from Trinity Southwest University and has a popular multimedia teaching ministry that includes print, audio, and online resources. Skip and his wife, Lenya, reside in New Mexico and have one son and two grandchildren.