Navigating the SUDDENLIES & the SLOWLIES

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that God can work either suddenly or slowly. I’m incredibly glad the Bible calls Him “the Lord of Breakthroughs” (1 Chronicles 14:10-11 NLT), because we all need a sudden breakthrough of His miraculous power at one time or another.

But God also presents Himself as “the Lord of the harvest” (Luke 10:2). While some harvests occur more quickly than others, this word picture is quite different than for a breakthrough.

By definition, a breakthrough is something that comes SUDDENLY, while a harvest is something that develops more SLOWLY, in response to seeds that have been sown over a period of time.

Before a harvest comes, there’s a period in which you may think nothing is happening. Although the seed is growing, it’s still in the hidden realm beneath the soil.

I’ll be honest: I’ve always liked God’s breakthroughs more than His harvests, because I like His suddenlies more than His slowlies.

That’s why I love Bible stories like the one where God “suddenly” sent an earthquake to deliver Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16:25-26). And it’s thrilling to read about the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, when the breakthrough awaited by Jesus’ followers came “suddenly” (Acts 2:1-4).

However, I’ve found that some of God’s greatest miracles happen slowly rather than suddenly. For example, aren’t you glad babies are born after a slow, nine-month process rather than just suddenly appearing on your doorstep? They come as the awaited harvest of a seed implanted months earlier.

A Kingdom Parable

Although Jesus often healed the sick, cast out demons, or raised the dead after proclaiming the nearness of God’s kingdom (Matthew 4:23-24), His parables about the kingdom often presented a much different side of the equation. For example, Jesus began His brief parable in Mark 4:26-29 (NLT) by saying, The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.” 

When I read this recently, it was a LOL (Laugh Out Loud) moment. Think about it: Of all the ways Jesus could have described His mighty kingdom, He said it was like being a FARMER!

Hey, I have great admiration for farmers. But I’m a city boy, and I’ve never really thought of myself as a farmer for the kingdom of God.

Yet Jesus wanted us to know that many of the miracles in His kingdom come as the result of a process rather than an immediate breakthrough of power. Instead of the miracle in this story coming all at once, Jesus said it was progressive:

First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come (vs. 28-29).

The harvest in this story took a while to develop, but that didn’t mean the farmer had any doubts about the outcome. In fact, Jesus said this man was so confident in his seeds that he went to sleep after planting them!

The apostle Paul made a similar statement in Galatians 6:9 (NKJV):

Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Notice Paul’s unwavering confidence that the harvest would come. “We SHALL reap…”  he declared. It was as good as done.

However, he also warned against our tendency to expect the harvest to always come quickly. Yes, we can be confident our harvest will come, but only “in due season.”

You see, farmers always must deal with the GAP between their season of planting and their season of harvest. No wonder patience is one of the earmarks of a good farmer (James 5:7).

And as farmers in God’s kingdom, Paul says we must “not lose heart” while we’re waiting. How sad it is when we give up hope right before our prayer is about to be answered.

Suddenly or Slowly?

So, what does all this mean on a practical level? If you are seeking a breakthrough in some area of your life today, I pray it will come soon and suddenly. And one thing is for sure: The closer you draw to “the Lord of Breakthroughs,” the better positioned you will be to receive the miracle you need.

But while you’re waiting, don’t forget about the lessons of the farmer. Although he had to wait, he was confident in an eventual harvest. He knew he had sown powerful seeds in preparation, and he was trusting the ground to do its work.

In the same way, farmers in God’s kingdom must rest securely in His great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-24). Our miracle may come suddenly, or it may come slowly. And in some cases, the breakthrough won’t occur until we pass into eternity.

Let me leave you with a word of advice and encouragement from the psalmist: Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass”  (Psalm 37:5 NKJV).

This is such good news. When you commit your difficult situation to your Heavenly Father and heed His instructions, you can trust the outcome to Him. The answer may come suddenly or slowly, but He will always be faithful.