Delay of a Vision
Richard M. Riss
When the Lord calls us to a specific task, He may require
a waiting period before its fulfillment. We must first be
proven in character, and this entails various waiting periods
before the realization of a God-given vision.
Patience, along with an unswerving confidence in the ability
of God to perform His Word, is wrought into our lives through
adverse circumstances. Certainly, if things came too easily,
we would not appreciate them.
Moreover, the Lord desires to make known to us the limitlessness
of His power. What better way to do this than to fulfill His
promises in the face of what would seem as impossible obstacles
to their fulfillment? If the Lord has made a promise, then
ultimately, nothing in heaven or on earth can impede His purpose.
There are many examples of this principle in the Bible. Joseph
was given a dream that he would rule over his brothers. But,
before its realization, he was nearly killed, sold into slavery,
imprisoned, and forgotten for many, many years. Moses understood
that he was called to lead the people of Israel out of slavery,
but he had to spend forty years in the desert before this
vision was fulfilled. Abraham had been promised that his descendants
would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens, yet not
only did he have to wait many years before the fulfillment
of this promise, but he was called upon to die to this vision
when God asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
There are examples in history also. John Knox is considered
the founder of Presbyterianism. He had tremendous spiritual
gifts, yet there were many long periods during his life when
these gifts were not exercised. In 1547, soon after he was
ordained, he was captured with several others by the French
at Saint Andrews where he was pastor, and was imprisoned.
For nineteen months he was a ship's galley-slave. In such
circumstances, he probably had moments in which there were
doubts about his calling.
After being freed in 1549, he began working towards this
end. But, he became an exile four years later, upon the accession
of Queen Mary who, as a Catholic, began persecuting Protestants
in the British Isles. During the six years of his exile, he
surely must have wondered whether it would be possible to
fulfill his vision for bringing the Gospel to his countrymen
What would be your reaction if God called you to a certain
ministry, and you were soon taken off into slavery, and later
exiled from the country to which you were called to minister?
It is certainly confusing when these things happen, but it
is helpful to remember that such things often occurred in
the lives of those who have received certain promises from
A promise from the Lord, or the bestowal of gifts, or callings
from God, is no guarantee that the promise will be realized
immediately, or that those gifts or callings can be freely
exercised at the time they are given.
Such examples of delay in a vision being fulfilled abound
throughout all of history. Interestingly, there is a noticeable
correlation between the effectiveness of a ministry and the
obstacles which stand in the way of its implementation.
One of the most powerful ministries this continent has known
was that of Maria B. Woodworth-Etter. As a teenager, she had
heard the voice of Jesus calling her to go into the highways
and gather the lost sheep. She pondered this, yet did not
know how it could be, since women in her generation did not
work in public. Not only that, after she was married, everything
that she and her family undertook seemed to be a failure.
And as if that were not enough, her husband was opposed to
her dream to work in Christ's vineyard.
Her growing family took her further away from her childhood
call to ministry. At that time, being a woman was an enormous
obstacle. She had very little formal education and no theological
training. Her family responsibilities were heavy, and she
was sickly. To make matters worse, five of her six children
died, permanently affecting her husband, who lost his sanity
as a result of this loss.
Throughout all of this, Maria Woodworth-Etter was acutely
aware of the calling of God upon her life. She wrote, "my
health was very poor, and many times I was brought near the
brink of the grave. Everyone who saw me thought I would die.
But the work the Lord was calling me to do came up before
me so plainly that I thought he would raise me up, and open
God gave her a vision, but for many long years, she had absolutely
no idea how it could possibly be fulfilled. Yet the Lord eventually
raised her up, and she ministered throughout the United States
from 1880 until her death in 1924.
With little or no support from local churches, she organized
huge Gospel campaigns. Her tent, with a capacity for eight
thousand seats, was often too small to hold the crowds that
flocked to her meetings to partake of the presence of God
that accompanied her.
In one instance, at Tipton Indiana, for two weeks beginning
Sunday, April 26, 1885, within a radius of about twenty miles
of her meetings, many people were struck down by the power
of God in their homes, in business places, and on the roads
and streets. Some of them lay flat on their backs for hours,
and had wonderful visions. Many of these people later entered
God raised her up as an evangelist despite the many obstacles
that seemed insurmountable. Yet, with God, all things are
The birth of Ishmael was a result of Abraham's attempt to
bring about God's promises in his own way. It is very easy
to fall into this temptation. If God has promised us something,
and it seems as if the opportunity for its fulfillment is
passing away, then we are tempted to force the issue. The
consequences are always unpleasant.
May our Lord grant us the grace to allow God to be God, and
the patience to wait for the vision and for its fulfillment,
according to His timetable - even when, to us, the fulfillment
appears to be impossible.
In His time, it shall surely come.