There is one truth that I have learned throughout my life and ministry which has proven true time and again. That truth is simple: God is never early!
It is a fundamental reality around our house: No matter what the event, no matter how far away or how close to home that event is occurring, I like to get there early. And my bride will do whatever she can to make sure we do not get there too early – on time, but not early.
The best illustration of this is church. When we were a multiple-vehicle household, often on Sunday mornings I would leave early so as to get there and make sure everything was in order well ahead of the rest of the congregation. That makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, I was the pastor!
But when we reduced our vehicles, realizing we would be only needing one in the not-too-distant future, in accommodation of my family needs, I postponed leaving the house on Sunday mornings until the last possible moment, simply because, in most cases, she was not ready!
That situation was even compounded when we moved closer to the church, because then we had a shorter distance to travel, and more time to prepare … right? Right! In fact, the folks at the church — oh how gracious they were — would comment that when we moved closer to the church, we got later in getting there!
Now, in fairness, I must admit that the lateness was not always due to the one I love and live with. There were times when I was the one running late.
In my conversations with people who are not true Christ-followers, I am convinced that much of the rationale that goes with people rejecting God is that they often feel as though God, if He shows up at all, is late. But that is also true of people who are Christ-followers in the real world. Sometimes it seems that God just doesn’t show up in time.
I was reminded of this recently as I re-read the account of a young New Yorker named Glenn Chambers.
In 1947, this young man was departing on the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to work for God in Ecuador. He was running late in catching his plane at the airport, but he wanted to drop his mother a short note from the airport just prior to getting on the plane. He did not have time to purchase a card at the gift shop, but he noticed a piece of paper on the floor and picked it up. He scribbled a quick note to his mother and dropped it in the mailbox right there in the departure gate area of the terminal just before he boarded the plane.
That night that plane crashed and exploded into the side of the 14,000-foot Colombian mountain peak called El Tablazo. When Chambers’ mother received that note from her son after she had heard the news of his death, she treasured his last written words to her. But on the reverse side of that note which had been written on a scrap of newsprint was a printed advertisement for some unknown product. But the word in that ad that blazed up at her from that newsprint was a giant bold-faced question: “Why?”
Why does God allow such things to occur? Could God not have prevented this? Or prevented her son from getting on the plane in the first place?
We all face those questions at some point in our lives. Why didn’t God allow the doctors to see something earlier before the disease developed to the point here it is terminal? Why was He late?
Abraham, in the Bible, no doubt asked that very same question. He was an old man when God miraculously provided him a son Isaac. But why then would God ask him to kill his son?
You can read about this is Genesis 22. God told him to take his son to a place which God would show him and offer his son there as a sacrifice to God. Abraham obediently complied with God’s directions. He even answered Isaac’s questions about the sacrifice by saying that God would provide the animal for the sacrifice. God had already told Abraham it would be Isaac himself!
But as Abraham was ready and willing, reluctant but willing, to do what God asked – to kill his son on the altar as a sacrifice to God himself, God showed up just in the nick of time! Just in the nick of time, he stopped Abraham from doing what he had told him to do. Just in the nick of time, God provided a ram to be sacrificed in the place of his son Isaac. God was not early, but He also was not late either.
The principle is clear: As we trust God for the details of our lives, it may seem like we are going through unbearable and impossible trials. If we stop to think too much about it, we may wonder where God is and why we have to go through these things. We may think He is late showing up. But Abraham is a clear testimony to the fact that, no matter what the trial, no matter what the situation in our lives may be, as we trust Him, God is never late.
He will always show up just in the nick of time!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.