Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (ESV)
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Make Haste Slowly
Monday of Pentecost 23
17 November 2014
We often feel that God's work ought to be moving faster and being more successful. Our churches, we think, ought to be growing faster, our church body's programs should be more successful, our seminaries turning out more and better graduates, and making a greater impact in the world. We think that the divine promises ought to be fulfilled faster. We often blame ourselves too, because we don't seem to move things along fast enough. Why have the years gone by without a sufficient result and outcome in our spiritual lives? Why am I thinking of starting personal devotions again this year, after thinking about it last year and the year before? When I was confirmed I was excited about what I believed and sought to live in the life of Christ, and I am not now. Why not?
Paul wanted the Galatians to be reminded of how zealous they were for the gospel, they had been running well (Gal 5:7) and he wanted to call them back to that. How would the Apostle propose to do that? By calling the Galatians back to the freedom for Christ had set them free. The gospel was the thing that was to draw them back to that freedom. The gospel does everything. But it is just speech, it does not appear to be "doing" anything. How can it do anything? Because the gospel is God's speech, that's how. What God says happens. It is action speech. Even if it seems that the gospel is not doing anything, it certainly is. The divine Word does what it says (Is 55:10-11).
So even though it appears we are not progressing in our "Christian walk," God is progressing with the gospel. God goes forward with divine speed, even though we cannot see it. You might even say that God is not particularly "Wiki" (fast). We cannot see this, because God often uses weakness, slowness, suffering, and crosses, to work quickly, go forward, and succeed. In this matter we need to walk by faith, where death is life, suffering is blessedness, persecution is joy, and finally slow is speedy. Even God makes haste slowly (festina lente). So we are in God's care no matter how things fall out.
"The words 'You were running well' (Gal 5:7) contain a great comfort. For the faithful struggle with such trial, because their life seems sluggish, closer to crawling than to running. But if they persist in sound teaching and walk by the Spirit, nothing can move them, but their actions appear to progress slowly and are rather sluggish. But God judges far differently. For what seems to us to be slow or too sluggish runs swiftly for Him. Likewise, what is sorrow, sin, and death in our eyes is joy, righteousness, life, joy, and blessedness in the eyes of God. Here Christ said, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted, etc.' (Mt 5:4). To believers in the Son of God all things fall out to their good, even if it is depression or death. Therefore they are truly runners. Whatever they do runs along and moves forward successfully, being advanced by the Spirit of Christ, who knows nothing of slow enterprises."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.7