You and I live in a time that we can have almost anything we want quickly. So then we tend to get impatient when we pray and ask God to meet a need or give us direction, because it feels like it’s taking too long.
But you know what? God isn’t at all moved by our time table! If you don’t believe that, just look how long He’s been saying that Jesus will return “soon.” Apparently, God’s idea of soon is different from ours. He’s just not in a hurry! His timing is perfect.
And here’s the deal – a lot of times, you simply aren’t ready for the next step, and He knows it. He loves you and wants you to succeed. He doesn’t want to throw you into the deep end before you can swim. You might feel like you’re ready—ready for ministry, ready for marriage, ready to move away, ready for that new job. But the truth is – and I know you probably don’t want to hear this – but you might not be ready yet!
You might still need some experience, some refining, some character development, some education before your prayer gets answered. And God knows exactly how to develop you, how to take out of you what needs to be taken out, how to put into you what needs to be put in so that you’ll be successful.
That’s what He did with Joseph, one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Joseph had to spend time in a pit, as a slave, and in prison before he could be exalted to his position as second in command over all Egypt (see Gen. 37–50). God had to teach Joseph so many things before he could step in that position of great influence.
Joseph was a bit cocky in his youth. He needed some lessons in humility. He also needed to learn some other important things like how an Egyptian household is run and how criminals think. God gave him all that during his time of preparation.
It wasn’t an easy time for Joseph, being a slave and then a prisoner, but it was necessary for getting him into place from which he could rescue his people from starvation. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Your preparation time might not be easy, either; but it’s necessary for all God needs you to do.
Preparation time is never wasted time. It’s so important to be well-prepared before you step into something new. If you’re not, you may have to stop, backtrack, and get prepared. Or you might have to scramble, working on-the-fly as you try to make up for a lack of preparation. Worse yet, you could simply fail at whatever you’re attempting because you weren’t well-equipped.
I’ve noticed, too, that preparation time almost always take longer than we think it should! Sometimes you will get a glimpse of what God has called you to do or be, the things He has in store for you. Those things might happen right away—or they might not. It’s not really up to you to make them happen according to your time table. It’s just up to you to be ready.
One minister said it this way: “Sharpen your ax!” If you’re going out to chop wood with a dull ax, it will take much longer and be lot harder than if your ax was sharp. It’s very inefficient to chop wood with a dull ax. But if your ax is sharpened before you go out, then you’ll get your chopping done quicker, easier, and with less effort. That’s what preparation time is—it’s sharpening your ax!
If you’re in a season of preparation, go ahead and embrace it with all your heart. Get that schooling, learn to work better with others or submit to leaders more readily, get more experience in your given field. Whatever it takes, sharpen your ax! Don’t fight God’s timing. Trust Him. It’s far better to move too slowly than to move too quickly and find yourself in trouble. As my spiritual father used to say, “It’s easier to play catch-up than cleanup.” Do what He’s set before you, and keep your joy.
This is an excerpt from Karen’s book “How to Make the Right Decision Every Time: 10 Keys for Finding God’s Direction.” Watch the video or read the first part of the book here.