I love that quote. It is a succinct reminder of the character of God. God always performs on his promise. As Agur writes in Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God proves true."
The issue of course is the parenthesis, the length of time the Lord asks us to wait before he fulfills his promise.
Joseph reminds me that sometimes it is a long wait. He should know. Joseph was seventeen when he received God's promise that he would rule (Genesis 37:5-11). He was thirty-nine when it was fulfilled (Genesis 45:6). That was a 22-year parenthesis.
I don't like to think that God might ask me to wait twenty-two years. I have hard being "on hold" for two minutes. I get frustrated waiting for a red light to change. That said, I understand that everyone must spend time "in the waiting room."
The question then becomes how do we peacefully, patiently, and profitably survive the parenthesis? I learn three things from Joseph:
1. Serve God faithfully!
We don't see Joseph griping, pouting, sighing, lounging, wishing, or complaining. He simply gets busy for God!
- He served faithfully in Potiphar's house.
- He served faithfully when falsely imprisoned.
- He served faithfully while he waited for his brothers to bring back the report of his father.
Joseph used the extended pause to be productive.
Sometimes I would rather pout. I find it easier to gripe than to get going, but I must get going! Why? Because like Joseph, God has work for me to do while I wait.
Here is a prayer to ponder: "God, how can I serve you faithfully in this parenthesis?"
2. Rest in God's providence.
Joseph understood God's providence, that God is working out his purposes in the parenthesis. We see this in Genesis 45:4-8:
4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:4-8 ESV
God is in control of your circumstances. Nothing has escaped his notice. He is working out every minute for your good. You can relax. You can trust Him.
It is helpful to tell God that. Try it:
Taking my focus off me and putting it on the Lord is a key step to finding peace in the parenthesis.
3. Repeat God's promises.
If you find your faith shrinking and your doubts about God's goodness growing, go back to the promises of God. His Word is more trustworthy than your feelings. His track record is flawless.
Remember: "Every word of God proves true!" Joseph experienced this truth firsthand. You will too. Here are three promises to ponder:
- "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
- "But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him." Psalm 4:3 ESV
- "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 ESv
God makes the promise. He will bring it to pass. He will help you thrive in your wait.
"Between the promise and the performance is a parenthesis." I heard the phrase listening to Ravi Zacharias' radio program, Just Thinking. Ravi noted that the saying did not originate with him. I'm sure glad he shared it.