Yet

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come” (Zechariah 8:20).

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

These verses would seem to have nothing in common except the word “yet.”

I’ve been thinking about that little word a lot lately. Let me tell you why.

Last May Marlene and I traveled to the Czech Republic to minister to a group of Josiah Venture missionaries doing youth ministry throughout Eastern Europe. When we asked one of the missionaries if she comes from a Christian family, she replied no, but her mother has accepted Christ. Then speaking of her brother, she said, “He is not saved yet.”

Not, “He is not saved.”
But, “He is not saved yet.”

The little word “yet” makes all the difference.

Here’s another story. Not long ago I learned that some friends are in the middle of a serious marriage crisis. I don’t really know the details except that divorce seems imminent unless there is a massive change of heart, which at this point is nowhere on the horizon. But the person who told me the bad news wrote later with an update labeled “Good News.” I was struck by this sentence:

This situation is not any better (yet!) but I don’t believe that God is through with this situation yet.

There’s that word again, twice in one sentence. That little word that makes all the difference. It’s not better (yet!). Then speaking of what it all means, my friend added these words:

He is real, He is aware of the today, the tomorrows of our lives and HE IS SUFFICIENT.

God will win............no doubt.  I am confident and humbled.

Last summer when I was speaking at a Bible conference, I found myself repeating one phrase over and over again. I didn’t plan it that way; it just came popping out in almost every message.

Good theology can save your life.

Not just your soul in the eternal sense. Good theology makes all the difference as we face an uncertain future. When A. W. Tozer wrote The Knowledge of the Holy, he began with this sentence: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He applied that not only to the individual but also the church itself. What the church believes about God shapes everything else. And what shapes the church must ultimately shape the culture around it. That’s why good theology matters so much. We start with God-who he is, how he has revealed himself, what we believe him to be, and what promises he has made to us. When faced with great difficulties, we have to go back to who God is. If we get squared away on the proper knowledge of God, we will have the right foundation to face whatever comes our way.

And that’s where the little word “yet” becomes so important.

Not, “He is not saved.”
But, “He is not saved yet.”

Thus does faith work through hope. To say “He is not saved” is a statement of current fact. To say “He is not saved yet” brings God into the picture. You are speaking of things you have not yet seen.

To say “He is not saved” is a statement of current fact. To say “He is not saved yet” brings God into the picture.

I. God intends to do things we cannot see today.

And that brings me to Zechariah 8:20 where God makes an astounding promise to the Jews who returned from exile to find Jerusalem in ruins and themselves under the control of the Gentile nations. Read chapter 8 and see the amazing promises God makes to his people, promises that at the time must have seemed fantastic and unbelievable:

“I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem” (3).

“The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there” (5).

“It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (6)

“I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west” (7).

“As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing” (13).

“I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah” (15).

The end of the chapter broadens the promises to include a vast number from the Gentile nations:

“Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come” (20).

“In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ “ (23).

God is saying to his discouraged people, “You have no idea-no idea!-of all that I plan to do through you. Just because things seem bad today doesn’t mean they will be bad tomorrow. I’ve got big plans that you can’t see at the moment, but the day will come when all these things come to pass.”

Applied more generally, God is saying, “There are multitudes that will come into my kingdom who today are far, far away.” The phrase “many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities” reminds me of John’s vision in Revelation 7:9 of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” I think John was struck by the immense size of the throng. What do we learn by pondering that unnumbered multitude? Certainly it teaches us that God will not be defeated. There will be no empty thrones in heaven. God will not be satisfied with a handful in heaven while the devil gets the majority. What kind of salvation would that be? Many will be saved. Many from every nation! This ought to teach us something about the power of the gospel, about the greatness of God’s heart, and the universality of the church. In this scene we have the end to all sectarianism, the end to all pessimism, and the end to evangelistic discouragement. It’s easy for us to say “Us four and no more” as if somehow sinners are so evil they can’t be saved nowadays. Away with all such poor-meism and unbelief!

God keeps score in his own way.

I realize that as we look at the cultural decline around us, it’s tempting to conclude that the bad guys are winning. They aren’t. God keeps score in his own way. Even when it looks like he’s losing, he’s not. He only appears to be trailing. But in the end, God wins. And he wins big. There will be more people in heaven than we have dreamed possible because our God is greater than our limited imagination. That’s what my friend meant when she said, “God will win  . . . no doubt.”

I freely admit that the glorious vision of Zechariah 8 has not yet been completely fulfilled. Its ultimate consummation awaits the day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth. But we should not read that passage and think it has nothing to do with today because everything in Zechariah 8 rests upon God’s great desire to see the Good News spread across the whole earth as we preach the gospel, always waiting and praying and hoping for that happy day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

We can say it this way.

God always intended to save a vast multitude of people.
Many of those people are not saved at the moment.
Most of them are not particularly close to the Kingdom.
But God intends to save them anyway.
And he will!

Not apart from human means.
Not apart from the preaching of the gospel.
Not apart from our prayers.

But with God both the means and the ends are ordained. So when God says, “I’ve got big plans that would blow your mind if you knew them,” we’d better sit up and pay attention.

There are some lost people today who will saved tomorrow.
And they have no clue about it today.

There are some lost people today who will saved tomorrow.

Now we don’t know who they are or where they are.
We just know they’re out there.

And that might include the brother in the Czech Republic who is “not saved yet.”
So that’s why we wait and pray and that’s why we keep believing.

II. God calls us to wait for what we do not presently see.

That brings me to our second text–Romans 8:25.

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

God allows our pain for a purpose. Through our trials God wants to develop two qualities in us:

Hope
Patience

Hope is that settled confidence that looks to the future, knowing that God will someday keep all his promises. Patience is the ability to endure present hardship because you have hope in the future. This explains why we have to wait so often for things that mean the most to us. It has been my personal experience that the more something means to me, the longer I have to wait for it. Part of that is simply the result of living in a fallen world where nothing works right.

Cancer happens.
Recession happens.
Disagreements happen.
Church splits happen.

Ugliness happens because we live in a messed-up world. But that doesn’t explain everything. Why do we often wait so long for our greatest desires to come to pass? Perhaps the answer can we reduced to four simple words.

We need to wait.

We need to wait. 

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). Waiting increases our dependence, strips us of our pride, forces us to cry out to God, kills our pride and arrogance, and brings us to the place where we say, “Lord, only you can do this.”

What is it that you are waiting for from the Lord? What are you hoping for that you do not yet have?

While you are waiting, don’t let go of that little word “yet.”

“He is not saved yet.”
“The situation is not any better (yet!).”
“I don’t have a job yet.”
“My son has not come back to the Lord yet.”

 Hang on to that little word “yet.” It’s a great word as we come to the beginning of a new year.

Who knows what God will do in 2009?
Who knows what amazing answers we will experience?

While you are waiting, keep on praying. And keep believing.

Good theology can save your life. It can mean the difference between hope and despair. Just because things seem impossible doesn’t mean that they are. Tozer was right. What we believe about God shapes everything else about us. If we believe that God is able to do far beyond what we ask or imagine, then we will face the future with quiet confidence.

Just because things seem impossible doesn’t mean that they are.

God honors forward-looking faith. Just because our loved ones are not saved today does not mean they won’t come to Christ tomorrow. Oh, we of little faith. Let us pray and believe for those who don’t know the Lord, and let us say by faith, “He is not saved yet” or “She has not come to Christ yet.”

God is not finished yet.

2008-12-26-Yet

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