Timing

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Joshua 6:1-20 (NLT)

Today is election day, and as I look at the recommended Nov. 3 Scripture readings, the irony of finding a particular story from the Book of Joshua does not escape me.

In the story there is a wall, and the wall collapses. The story has inspired many people through the years, including Black slaves who once sang, “Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumblin’ down.” It is a story of change, chaotic change, but change designed to benefit the people of God.

First and foremost, let’s be praying that any change to come from today’s voting process is according to God’s will, and to the benefit of Christ’s kingdom on earth. There also is a lesson in this story about timing, a lesson any culture can benefit from in any era.

Joshua asked the Israelites to do a difficult thing—trust God’s timing. It must have been strange, marching around a city’s high wall day after day in silence. I wonder, once back in camp in the evening, did anyone mutter, “When are we going to actually do something effective?”

Timing is difficult to master. If you’ve ever played sports or music, you know how critical timing is. My father has been a drag racer for decades; races are often won or lost by thousandths of a second. In karate, there’s an ancient saying: “The time to strike is when opportunity presents itself.” You can be too quick or too slow. 

People sometimes like to act as if God isn’t fully awake. The solution we’ve deemed right must be forced, it seems: Here, Abram, go impregnate Hagar. Other times, we lose focus, and we’re too late to be effective. (I plan to preach this “too late” text Sunday.)

Jesus’ earthly ministry relied on timing. He repeatedly warned the disciples and others not to reveal too much about him, not just yet. It was as if Jesus knew exactly which beams and nails had to be available for his crucifixion if heaven and earth were to be joined through him.

If we’re going to master timing as Christians, we need to be sure we’re hearing clearly from God. Let’s neither rush nor miss those moments when our Lord says, “Blow those trumpets! Shout!” Again, prayer and study of Scripture are the best ways to unstop our ears.

Once we know God has issued a call to action, we can be confident our efforts to change things for the better will be effective, even if it turns out we’re just one move in the Lord’s long game.


Today seems like a good day for John Wesley’s covenant prayer. Here’s a modern version:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

James: Be Healed

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 5:13-15 (NLT): Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.


All of this week’s lessons from James about how to live come together in a special way at the end of his letter. It is easy to stereotype a giver of solemn advice like James as dour, but here we see he is a man full of hope, one who trusts fully in God’s willingness to heal us.

Are any of you suffering hardships? In any group, there are always some who suffer, for so many different reasons.

James begins with simple advice: Pray. Keep doing what you have been doing as a follower of Christ. Stay immersed in the connection you already have.

There is a flip side to suffering, though, and James never wants us to forget this. There are good times, too, those times when all is well, when joy prevails, when all seems right with the world. We find such times in moments involving babies and brides and other big, happy events. We find them in the simplest of moments, too, for example, sipping a cup of coffee in the quiet of the early morning on a back porch.

In those good times, his advice is pretty much the same: Pray. He specifically says to “sing praises,” but such a sound is nothing but a variation on prayer, our words blended with music that expresses the ineffable part of our joy.

With this encouragement toward constant prayer in mind, James asks, “Are any of you sick?” Suffering and sickness go hand in hand, don’t they? And he’s not specific about what he means by “sick.” In modern times, we know we can suffer from all sorts of sickness.

There is physical illness, of course. We can be mentally or emotionally ill, too. As Christians, we also know we can be spiritually ill. Our relationships can be quite sick, too. And of course, these can all overlap or intertwine—for example, mental or spiritual problems can lead to physical problems or relational problems.

I don’t know if James had all of these illnesses exactly in mind, but I know Christian communities have seen healing in all of these areas.

Our starting point is spiritual healing. It is guaranteed as we open ourselves to God through faith in Christ’s work. When we seek miracles—direct intervention by God in situations that seem otherwise hopeless—we have to first let God heal our relationships with him through our belief in Christ’s work on the cross.

Spiritual healing also is the greatest healing. It is permanent. It grants us eternity. All other forms of healing simply are signs that God is breaking into this sinful world to make his presence known.

Those other forms of healing are wonderful to receive, however. And as a church, we do see such healing occur. Bodies are restored, minds find peace and calm, and emotions become manageable. Even relationships are healed when people at odds for one reason or another mutually submit to God’s presence.

Never be afraid to seek healing. If you are in church, there is a community that will come alongside you in the process, formally or informally.

Lord, may we see healings that astonish us, and may we have the courage to testify to what we have experienced. Amen.