Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God is boundless

When I see the attribute that God is boundless, the main thing that comes to mind is the fact that He is not bound by time. I have learned in the last six or seven months that God is not on my schedule--in fact, he is not bound by time at all. This morning, I was reading the end of Acts, in which Paul is accused by the Jews and taken before several judges to determine his fate.

What I had never thought about before is how much time passes in these last five or six chapters. Although Paul often faced resistance or persecution in his ministry (he had conflict in nearly every city he visited), he had not experienced as lengthy of a process as he does at the end of Acts. Even when he is arrested with Silas (See Acts 16), he is only imprisoned for one night. And he received his circumstance with joy. I believe that night was preparing him to persevere and endure an even greater challenge--three or four years in captivity.

We know from the time Paul was in captivity under Felix, the govenor, until Festus replaces Felix is two years. It's not clear how much time passes between Paul's appearance before Festus and later King Agrippa and later his appearance in Rome, but we know at least one winter passes on his journey to Rome. These chapters, while not always time-explicit, remind us that Paul spent a lot of time waiting:

At first, time seems to pass quickly:
  • "The next day..." (22:30)
  • "The following night..." (23:11)
  • "When he had arrived..." (23:33)
But then, time passes a little more slowly:
  • "After five days..." (24:7)
  • "After some days..." (24:24)
  • "But after two years..." (24:27)
  • "After three days..." (25:13)
  • "When they had been there many days..." (25:14)
From there, time becomes even less certain:
  • "And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy..." (27:1) 
  • "When we had sailed slowly many days.." (27:7)
  • "Now when much time had been spent..." (27:9)
  • "When the south wind blew..." (27:13)
  • "But not long after..." (27:14)
  • "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days..." (27:20)
Then, time becomes more specific again:
  • "Now when the fourteenth night had come..." (27:27)
  • "After three months..." (28:11)
  • "We stayed three days..." (28:12)
  • "And after one day....and the next day..." (28:15)
  • "After three days..." (28:17)
  • "Then Paul dwelt two whole years..." (28:30)
 Obviously, these are a lot of examples, but I was really struck by the passage of time in these chapters. Sometimes, our seasons are clearly defined by time, but most times, they are not, and they feel more like "When many days had passed' or "After some time..." It's easy, in hindsight, to count time, but in the midst, we do not always know how long this circumstance will last. Paul, however, never lost heart. With joy and with confidence, he also never wavered in his position, and at the end of this trial, he was given favor, his life was spared, and his ministry continued in Rome.

Now, I began this post by stating Attribute #3 - God is boundless. He is not bound by time. He is everlasting. A pastor in Amarillo recently preached that God's time is kairos and ours is chronos (See "Acts 3 - God's Timing"). Our time is bound. It is fixed. It is defined and limited to 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Our time is measured.

But God is eternal. That He is boundless means He stands outside our chronos time. This is why His timing is not on "our schedule." This is why some parts of our journey are clearly defined ("After three days..." or "The next day..."), but the "middle stuff" often feels so vague ("After some time.." ). But trust in this: because He is not limited by time (in fact, He is not limited by anything), His timing is perfect. Submit your time, your chronos to his perfect timing - kairos - and trust that He holds your today and your tomorrow in His hands.
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