In His Time

“God’s timing is always perfect.” We’ve all heard this before, and a good number of us have probably used this saying to bring a measure consolation to a situation. In studying God’s Word, we find that this statement is absolutely true. God is in complete control of life, He has a deliberate timeline for what happens, and He perfectly executes it.

But it doesn’t always seem like it, does it? I can’t begin to count the number of times when it has seemed as though God is out of sync with my unfolding circumstances. Typically, He seems late in responding to a particular need. His timing sure doesn’t seem perfect because if I were the sovereign ruler of the universe I would have done something by now. I want to trust His timing is perfect, but my own heart and mind pull me in the other direction. Raise your hand if you can relate.

This wrestle between the Lord’s timing and our circumstances isn’t new. It’s been something God’s people have grappled with since biblical times. We’re given a high-resolution image of this tension in John 11 as Jesus rounds the final turn of His earthly ministry. And if we zoom in on it, we see a few factors that bring the perfection of God’s timing into focus for us.

To set the stage, Jesus is about to make His final journey to Jerusalem, where He will be arrested and crucified within just a few days. Before He and His disciples make the trek southward from northern Judea towards Jerusalem, a message arrives. Lazarus, a close friend to Jesus who lived a couple of miles away from Jerusalem, had taken ill. Details of the sickness aren’t given, but it was serious enough to track Jesus down in the hopes of getting Him to Lazarus in time to heal him.

"I want to trust His timing is perfect, but my own heart and mind pull me in the other direction."

Jesus is informed about the situation and does something so counter-intuitive. Instead of rushing to Lazarus’ bedside, He stays put for two days! That doesn’t sound like perfect timing to me, and you can be certain it didn’t seem like perfect timing to Lazarus or those who loved him like his sisters, Martha and Mary. But it’s here we find our first factor that makes God’s timing perfect. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (John 11:5-6 NKJV).

Notice how love was very much involved in Jesus’ timing here. In fact, love was the foundational basis for why He did what He did. Never forget, even if we don’t understand everything God is doing time-wise, it’s all being done because He loves us. God’s timing for us flows from His love for us, even when we can’t see it.

We find that Lazarus died during this delay, and it’s then that Jesus decides to go visit him. The disciples are confused by this, especially since they, along with Jesus were marked targets by the Jewish rulers in that region. It seemed nonsensical to go to Lazarus now! But Jesus shares another factor of divine timing with His disciples when he says, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him” (John 11:15 NKJV).

Don’t miss this . . . Jesus says because He delayed and Lazarus died, it would benefit the disciple’s belief in Him. There was a greater consideration than just Lazarus’ sickness. A deeper, more lasting lesson needed to be learned by the disciples. A lesson that would shape their faith for decades to come as they would eventually take the torch of the gospel and carry it to the ends of the earth. The Lord is always mindful of the spiritual welfare of others, and His timing is calibrated accordingly.

A few days later, they arrive. Before Jesus can reach the gravesite of Lazarus, his sister Martha runs ahead to meet the Lord. Emotions run high as she questions why Jesus didn’t get there sooner, before death took hold of her brother. Jesus assures her that Lazarus would live again, and Martha acknowledges that he eventually would when the resurrection took place.

"The Lord is always mindful of the spiritual welfare of others, and His timing is calibrated accordingly."

Now, for the Jews, the resurrection was an obscure promise. They knew based on passages like Job 19:25-26 and Daniel 12:2 that the dead would eventually be raised to life. But they didn’t know the specific details concerning it. Jesus uses the situation, caused by His deliberate delay, to fill in a huge piece of this prophetic puzzle. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’” (John 11:25 NKJV).

Get this! Jesus took Martha to a whole different level here. He linked the event of the resurrection to His person. She knew about the resurrection and even believed in its reality. But she didn’t know personal belief in Jesus was needed in order to experience it. Martha learned this in the course of the Lord’s timing, which allowed Lazarus to die. Temporary loss resulted in an eternal gain, as she now knew her personal need for Jesus.

Know this: God’s timing revolves around Him revealing our need for Him. Whatever the circumstances may be, rest assured that our deficiency and His sufficiency will be seen in a whole new light as His timing perfectly unfolds.

“Jesus said to her, ˜Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”—John 11:40

Martha returns to her sister, Mary, and tells her that Jesus is here and is calling her. Interestingly, Jesus lingers where He met with Martha. He doesn’t even move to meet with Mary. It’s as if He deliberately delays, yet again! But watch what Mary does when she gets word from Martha. “As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him…when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet” (John 11:29-32 NKJV).

Mary doesn’t cross her arms and wait for Jesus to come to her, she runs to Him and even falls down at His feet. Why? Because at heart, Mary was deeply devoted to Jesus. And her devotion was drawn out by the fact that the Lord lingered. So too with us, God’s timing reveals what’s inside our hearts. It challenges us, but in such a way that draws out our devotion to Him . . . and this is a good thing!

Making His way to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus says something unthinkable. He commands the many people who had come to comfort Martha and Mary in their mourning to roll away the stone covering the tomb’s opening!

Martha tells Jesus the body had been dead for four days and opening the tomb would only release a horrible stench, exacerbating the misery of the moment. His response is something every follower of God needs to cling to. “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’” John 11:40 (NKJV)

Despite the darkness of the situation, Jesus promises that God’s glory would be witnessed that day! Of course, we know how the story ends. Jesus calls Lazarus to come out and he does! The resurrection power of God is displayed for all to see . . . something so astounding that it had a lasting impact on the people who witnessed it.

"God’s timing revolves around Him revealing our need for Him."

Now consider, if Jesus had done what was originally hoped and expected of Him, if He hurried His timeline to reach Lazarus before he died and healed him, none of this would have happened. They would have witnessed a healing, but not a resurrection. And that would have been to their detriment, because they needed to know God is able to raise the dead.

So do we, which is why John deliberately records this miracle for us. We witness the greater glory of God along with the mourners, the disciples, the sisters, and even Lazarus. We see the greater glory of our God, who doesn’t just heal the sick, but who also raises the dead, and who will also raise us in His perfect timing.

There’s that phrase again! But hopefully, through this story, we can start to see beyond the confines of our timing to apprehend the perfection of the Lord’s. Let this passage remind us that the divine timeline is directed by His love for us, calibrated for the eternal welfare of others, reveals our personal need for Him, draws out our devotion, and eventually shows us His greater glory.

God’s timing is always perfect . . . may we trust in this more and more.

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.