As you traveled in the family car as a youngster, do you remember asking your parents the age-old questions, “Are we there yet? How long till we get there?” Your parents may have responded, “Oh, five more minutes.”
After a few more miles and what seemed like a lot more waiting, your questions turned to pestering. Again, you asked, “How much longer?”
“Hold on,” came the reply from the front seat. “It’ll just be five more minutes.”
Indignantly, you responded, “But you said that 10 minutes ago!”
The similarities between this familiar family scenario and one of the great questions of biblical prophecy invite us to explore what is found in Revelation 6:9-10 Revelation 6:9-10 9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
American King James Version×. In these verses, Christ opens the fifth seal, which signifies the coming Great Tribulation. As He does so, the martyred saints symbolically cry out, asking, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The earnest question in this apocalyptic vision mirrors the intense inquisitiveness of God’s people down through the ages. We all want to know, When will we get there? How much longer until the Kingdom of God arrives, in all its fullness and glory? In verse 11, the answer comes. The saints are told that “they should rest a little while longer.”
We can’t know the answer to the question of how long we will travel this road of faith. What we can come to understand, however, is the way in which we are to move forward in this life. We have some work to do. We might call it “heart work.”
Being spiritually realistic
As the timeless echo of “How long, O Lord?” reverberates through our hearts during our challenging moments, there is one thing we must remember. We must be sure that we understand that part of our “heart work” is to be spiritually realistic about our calling from God.
On the last evening of His physical life, Jesus gave us two profound pieces of advice. In John 16:33 John 16:33These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
American King James Version×, He proclaimed, “In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
In one breath, Jesus effectively gives us a preview of what is coming in our lives. First, He lets us know that we are going to face tribulation. We might as well call it “trouble on steroids.” As Christians, trials are something that we will have to get used to. Secondly, Jesus reminds us, that through it all, we have the best company that we could ever ask for—Him!
I recognize that these concepts may very well be the exact opposite of some commonly held ideas regarding the Christian life. Many hold a sincere belief in what I call “faith formulas.” These formulas misrepresent faith by declaring that God would always spare the Christian from terrible trials if he or she lives a godly life.
God’s plan for our lives doesn’t follow the pattern of “five more minutes and we’re there.” We cannot necessarily expect to receive this type of response, either to the trials that we face now or to the challenges the saints will experience as the book of Revelation crescendos to its literal fulfillment.
How often have we all dreamed of a world of our own, where our lives would be stain- and pain-free, and the very word stress would be obliterated from our personal dictionary? That type of existence may sound indescribably wonderful to us. However, have you ever considered that God uses the difficult times in our lives to mold and groom us to enter into His worthwhile eternity? A life without challenges would hinder us from being fully developed by the Master Potter for our incredible future as rulers in His Kingdom (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×).
At this point, you may be thinking, Who, me? What can I possibly have to offer? There is one thing that must be made absolutely clear regarding our ability to have the spiritual fortitude that is required to make it through this life. Becoming prepared for future service to our Maker is not dependent upon our natural abilities alone.
What is truly important is how we respond spiritually to what is happening to us and around us. Our lives are made up of a long series of decisions regarding our emotions, thoughts and actions. Life is designed to challenge us.
Throughout all of this, we can be assured that we’re never alone. Remember what Christ said? He told us that we have a Guide who has personally experienced the difficulties of life. Revelation 22:16 Revelation 22:16I Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
American King James Version×reveals Him as the Morning Star. Christ is likened to that gleaming beacon that appears in the earliest, darkest and coldest hours of the day to grant us light and remind us that the night is passing away.
Being spiritually realistic requires us to focus on the reality that Jesus did not promise us a joyride through life. What He did promise us is far, far greater. He promised us a kingdom. The fact is that before we can wear a crown, we must bear a cross. That takes time.
Climb and never settle for less!
As our hearts cry out, “How long, O Lord?” let’s concentrate on another aspect of our “heart work.” We must keep climbing and never settle for less. Why is that?
As children, most of us loved to climb. If you’ve forgotten how that felt, just watch your own children or grandchildren. As they grow and develop, our little ones begin to climb from one piece of furniture to another. Before you know it, they progress to climbing monkey bars on the playground. The next thing you know, they’re up in the trees.
If we are not careful, the experiences that come with age can cause this natural desire to climb to be extinguished. We may actually allow a basic element of God’s creative design within us to be thwarted.
As the spiritual children of God, we should be just like we were as little children, when climbing was the most natural thing in the world. It’s always a breath of spiritual fresh air to read the millennial call that beckons us to “go up to the mountain of the Lord,” where “He will teach us His ways” (Isaiah 2:3 Isaiah 2:3And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
American King James Version×; Micah 4:2 Micah 4:2And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
American King James Version×).
Do you realize that the word mountain in this scripture is a prophetic symbol for what actually amounts to a kingdom? This kingdom is not of man, however, but is the very Kingdom of God! In Hebrews 12:28 Hebrews 12:28Why we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
American King James Version×, we are told that God has promised us a kingdom that “cannot be shaken.”
God’s Kingdom is eternal. It will never fail!
God has set an incredible journey before us. Once God has revealed to us the mountain that He wants us to climb, we must make a critical decision. Who will we take as companions on this path? Jesus Christ has already positioned Himself as our seasoned guide, but what about our human hiking buddies? We must choose wisely.
Any experienced mountain climber knows that it is not only his personal equipment that is essential to success. He has learned that it is imperative that he take along the right companions for the trail before them.
The same principle holds true for us as Christians. As we wait for the Lord, it is vital for us to have Spirit-led brethren around us. We must surround ourselves with people who are focused on the Kingdom of God, rather than their own “kingdoms.”
We need people who concentrate on God’s good promises, instead of their own problems. We should associate with people who remind us that God is not “slack concerning His promise” to ultimately intervene in human affairs (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×). We ought to choose to walk with people who treasure and seek to strengthen the ascending spirit that God has provided us so that we can continue on our day-to-day march toward eternity, instead of becoming mired in the downward spiral of today’s culture.
We will not find such people among those who chose to stop climbing a long time ago. No, these are the individuals who will be friends enough to provide us with a spiritual reality check when we need it. They will be the ones who remind us that “pain is inevitable—it’s only misery that’s optional” and that we must make a choice. Again, this takes time.
The staying power of a steady heart
As we beg for the answer to “How long, O Lord?” we must remember to never take the staying power of a steady heart for granted. At times, we may wonder just what it is that allows one person to move forward in faith during a trial, while another is left paralyzed by fear. The gift of a steady heart is the key that is held by those who are able to move through their daily challenges in this life, as well as those who will persevere by God’s grace in the tribulation to come.
Those who guard their steady hearts are prepared to accept the fiery darts of life. They realize that their existence is but a fleeting moment, shaping them for what they will be in the wonderful world that God has planned for tomorrow.
As a result, they are able to tune out the siren’s song of a life without pains, stains and stress. Those with steady hearts recognize and always remember the role that they will play in service to both God and the citizens of God’s Kingdom. They succeed because they don’t lose heart!
Jesus warned us, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
American King James Version×). However, He also reminds us that we have hope. He promises us that He has “come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Always honest and direct, Jesus proclaims that before we will be granted life, we will be exposed to a thief who comes to destroy life. That thief is none other than Satan, who wants nothing more than to rob our hearts of hope and joy.
We do have a joy. It is a joy that is locked deep down in our hearts by God’s Spirit. It envisions a glorious future reality, when the trumpet will sound and the dead will arise, when those who are living will join them in the air and Christ will descend on the Mount of Olives. It is the true and pure joy of the knowledge that one day, every single tear that results from this life will be wiped away. We must cling to this beauty and excitement stirring within us!
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
American King James Version×, the apostle Paul proclaims, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Here, Paul reminds us that compared to the glory of eternity, the trials that we suffer both now and in the future are considered “light.” Additionally, he advises us that although the present time seems that it will go on forever, our lives are but a “moment.” Finally, Paul tells us that what God sets before us is not designed to spiritually destroy us, but to enhance His work in us.
A precious second in time
As we reflect on the question “How long, O Lord?” we find that there are many spiritual lessons that can be learned. Let’s conclude with a reminder that God not only created time, but is the master of timing.
With this thought in mind, allow me to share the story of a conversation between a young boy and God. The young boy asked God, “What are a million years like to You?” God replied, “A million years are like only a second.”
This led the boy to ask, “What is a million dollars like to You?” God replied, “A million dollars is like a single penny.”
So the boy boldly asked God, “Can I have one of Your pennies?”
God paused and then replied with a knowing smile, “Yes, My son, but it will take a second.”
Through this humorous story, we can come to more fully comprehend an aspect of the millennial refrain found in Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×: “This is the way, walk in it.”
God’s way guides our hearts to understand and appreciate that He will answer all of our questions, including “How long, O Lord?” He will do so at the right time and in the right way. He will never be late “in bringing many sons to glory.” WNP