Based on the promises I read in His word, and on actual experience, I have found this to be true. When we pray, God will provide wisdom, direction and answers. He knows and sees everything, and His strategies are beyond compare. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
What does one do, however, while waiting for the answer to come? How should we wait while the plan unfolds? In my own case, I find myself asking the Lord “How are you going to do this?” and “When will this be resolved?” The answers and approach ultimately come. Looking back I can see my two questions were eventually addressed, but I cannot recall ever receiving an upfront answer to those two questions when they were asked.
There is wisdom and strategy in God’s response to our request for direction and answers. In the Book of Exodus is the beautiful story of how God delivered the children of Israel out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and brought them into the land He promised their forefather Abraham. He used Moses and many mighty miracles to convince Pharaoh to set them free. He rescued them from the pursuing Egyptian army at the Red Sea, and provided food and water in the desert. He changed 400 years of slave mentality in the people, and parted the water at the Jericho River to allow millions of people to walk into the Promised Land. (See the Book of Joshua).
God’s wisdom and strategy in doing all that is perhaps best outlined in Exodus 23:20-30. These verses also give us an insight into how He works with us to answer prayer and keep His word. His strategy to complete the 40 year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, and to fulfill His promise made hundreds of years prior to Abraham, is set out for Moses as follows:
- V.20- God would send an angel ahead of the Israelites to lead them to the Promised Land.
- V.22- If they followed the angel, and did what God said, God would be an enemy to their enemies, and oppose those who opposed them.
- V.24, 25- They must worship God only, not bow down to other gods, and God would bless their food and water, give them a full life, and take away sickness.
- V.27- God would send His terror ahead of them to confuse every nation they would encounter, and make their enemies turn their backs and run.
- V. 29, 30- God would not drive out the enemies in possession of the land in a single year, because the land would become desolate, and the wild animals would become numerous. He would drive them out “little by little” to allow the Israelites to increase enough to take full possession of the land. Driving out the enemy would leave a void in the land He did not want filled with weeds, vines, and wild beasts. He wanted the Israelites ready and capable of filling that void.
“Little by little” may answer the questions of “how” and “when”. The concept and wisdom of “little by little” is not one often appreciated. Today’s society is focused on high-speed internet, drive through fast food, microwave ovens, instant recognition, next day delivery, and overnight success. The world’s information is instantly available at our fingertips through computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices. With the proper information on hand, we want to make a quick decision and move ahead. Personally, I have a hard time blending the concept of “little by little” with my own impatience. If God wants to bless or increase a person in a certain area, He wants to be sure they can hold that new ground. Wisdom and life lessons do not come instantly; they come over time. Deep and abiding trust, love and friendships are also built over time; they are not created overnight.
That is why studies of lottery winners show that very little of the instant wealth gained is retained by the winner. Most of the winnings are spent and wasted. Often the winner winds up in worse shape financially. There is no instant preparation for instant wealth.
Similarly, a person does not learn to drive a car in a few minutes, hours or days. A safe driver is one that has years of experience driving safely. A safe driver has had a few close calls over the years, and has learned what to watch for in terms of the conditions, situations and traffic around him.
Any army that moves too rapidly deep into enemy territory is subject to
1.Being cut off from its line of supply;
2.Depleting the number of troops on the front line as troops are required to hold the ground taken;
3.Allowing the enemy to fall back and regroup along the sides and rear of the attack, making the army vulnerable from every direction.
Any victory that is not sustainable is not a victory. Better to grow and advance little by little so that training and preparation can secure a lasting victory. Sometimes God answers prayer instantly. He does not wait long to rescue the drowning person. More often, it seems the answers come little by little. Like peeling an onion, layer by layer He moves people and pieces into place, but also prepares the one asking for help. The “how” is up to Him; the “when” is often dependent upon the preparedness of the one praying.
The Israelites had been exposed to this concept when God began to feed them with manna. According to Exodus 16:18, as the people gathered the manna (bread), those who gathered little did not have too little, and those who gathered too much did not have too much, because any extra would spoil. The provision of manna was not for the purpose of feeding the people a little or a lot; it was to teach the people to seek the Lord (the Bread of Life) daily or “little by little”.
Proverbs 13:11 says “…he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” When our two children were born, my wife and I began saving $25 per month for their college education. We increased that amount over the years as our income increased, but remained committed to saving each month. By investing the savings, the total amount increased over time, little by little. When they both graduated from college, all their bills were paid, and there were no student loans to be repaid.
We must learn that God is dealing with us in His love and mercy when He allows things to come to us “little by little”. We are often asking “how” even while His master strategy is unfolding behind the scenes, and we are asking “when” while He is busy preparing us for what lies ahead, which only He knows.
Little by little is not God’s strategy to delay, stall, or ration out limited resources. It is not an indication that God is operating at or near full capacity. It is not the result of a bureaucracy back-logged in paperwork. The Ancient One will act on our behalf as only He can, but only when He knows we are ready to receive the full benefit of His best for us, and only with our long-term best interest in mind.
Like a cup of instant coffee, a quick answer or strategy from God may not be what is really needed.