When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him
Andy Olson is a man’s man. He’s an Oregon State Representative now but in 2001 he was an Oregon State Police Lieutenant. At 6’3″ tall he’s a formidable figure. In the fall of 2001 Andy Olson and I traveled to New York City with a group of Christian firefighters, dispatchers, and law enforcement personnel. Our mission was simple. We wanted to see what we might be able to do to help in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers.
During much of our time there the tone was somber (we attended more funerals than I can remember) but occasionally we did find time for some levity.
Most of our group entered into a contest of sorts, adopting the classic New Yorker greeting, “How-ya-doin?” with the goal of seeing who could pass as a Native New Yorker out on the street. But I noticed that Andy declined to participate.
One evening as a group of us arrived back at our hostel we overheard Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins,” alone in our room. Except that the “How-ya-doins” kept coming out “How’re you doing?” or “HOW are YOU doing?”
He sounded like Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) from the TV show Third Rock From the Sun. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard. When Andy realized that we had overheard, the poor guy was mortified. It was at that time that a Fire Lieutenant from Corvallis named Steve Bowen took Andy under his wing and began to coach him on the nuances of how to deliver this classic New York greeting.
A few evenings later Andy and Steve were walking down the street in Times Square with Andy practicing his “How-ya-doins” when he finally nailed it. He sounded precisely like a native New Yorker. Just then a large African-American man who was a local approached.
“Do it!” Steve urged. “Greet him! You’ve got it. You can do it.”
“How’re you doing?” Andy sang out, reverting back to his Dick Solomon (Lithgow) delivery.
The native New Yorker laughed hysterically.
Back to Genesis: In Genesis 17 Abram is ninety-nine years old and it’s been fifteen years since he’s had a conversation with God. Why on earth would God not speak to the man who the scriptures tell us was God’s friend? (James 2:23)
Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. Perhaps you’ve been seeking the Lord and wondering why He doesn’t seem to respond in a way that causes you to experience His presence. Perhaps you’re feeling as though God is not with you in the way that you desire Him to be.
Take heart! Abram, God’s friend, had to wait fifteen years between conversations!
Remember, he’s not only called God’s friend, but Abram is also called the father of faith. God used the time between conversations to build Abram’s faith. And He’s using this time in your life when you’re not discerning His presence to build yours!
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) So God, being far more concerned with our relationship with Him than He is with our current comfort, will do what He knows to be best for you and for me by putting us in situations that build faith.
Faith is the language of heaven. Fortunately for then OSP Lieutenant Andy Olson, it wasn’t important that he learn to speak the language of the native New Yorkers. But in heaven, few things will be more important than being fluent in the language of faith. Because your ability to communicate in the language of heaven which is faith, is one of the keys to your relationship with God Himself. (Hebrews 11:6)
But there’s more. There’s another aspect of faith. What are we to do during the fifteen years between conversations?
We’re to be faithful.
You may have seen in the news the tragic story of the Criado family in Medford, Oregon. According to the Mail Tribune, police suspect that the father and husband of the family, Jordan Criado, stabbed his wife, killing her, and set his house on fire killing their four children.
My fire department responded to this incident. My own role had to do with extinguishing the fire, but most of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel on duty that day had their hands on those patients. They had their hands on those kids. They did everything they could to save those lives. Sadly, the outcome was already decided before we arrived.
I spoke with many who were on the scene that day and more than one recognized that they were performing extraordinary life saving measures on patients who were already beyond help. But, even knowing this, they were faithful to continue those efforts.
I know many of the firefighters involved in that incident to be believers. Year after year they come to work each day, dedicated to doing their job with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23) They’re faithful in what the Lord has given them to do.
So what are you to do during the fifteen years between conversations? Be faithful. Be faithful in what the Lord has given you to do: at work, as a husband, as a father, as a member of your church, as a youth sports coach, as a volunteer at your local school.
Be faithful in all these things. The next conversation with God will be here before you know it.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men