We had a great time sharing at All Nations Vineyard Church in Tulsa, OK! Below you can listen to Adam and Lora share a message about working among the Antakarana tribe in Madagascar, and about pursuing the work of God and the dreams he’s placed on your heart, even when fruitfulness seems far away.
He Who Promised is Faithful (3-12-2017 – All Nations Vineyard Church, Tulsa, OK – Adam & Lora Willard)
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'He Who Promised is Faithful' full transcript
In 1999, after having been a Christian for just one year, not yet 16 years old, God gave me a vision, an actual vision. In this vision, he asked me to go to Madagascar – something totally unexpected for me. Now this was the most amazing and impactful thing I had ever seen or experienced in my life and as I received this vision, I was full of a sense of urgency.
One of my first thoughts, after I simply accepted that it actually happened, was: “Great! Now I don’t have to finish high school!” I thought that for God to call me to something so big, that surely it had to happen right away, and I was excited and thrilled about it, though I had no idea what it would really be like or what to do. As I prayed to find out when I could go, all I knew was that it wasn’t time yet – that I wasn’t given permission to drop out of school and go. God gave me no indication when this would happen. Though I was full of a sense of urgency, always expecting the very next thing to be me going to Madagascar, yet year after year I felt from God that it wasn’t time yet. Though God very vividly called me to Madagascar, with an actual vision, and it filled me with an urgent desire to get there right away, but very softly God was calling me to patience.
So, in 2011, 12 years after God gave me that vision, it was finally time for our family to move to Madagascar and begin the work God had called us to. I just knew that exciting things would begin happening immediately, after all this waiting!
Lora: But like always, it takes time. In 2013, when we arrived on the island of Nosy Mitsio to reach out to the unreached Antakarana people, the people were not warm and friendly. They were not welcoming and hospitable.
The people also didn’t believe that we would actually stick around. They expected us to start some sort of business, to make money off of our relationships with them. Even though we repeatedly told them that’s not what we’re doing, they didn’t trust us at our word. The whole process of getting to the island and learning to live life with the Antakarana was slow and challenging.
Adam: After living on Nosy Mitsio for several months, one of our biggest challenges was transport. We tried to go to and from mainland Madagascar by relying on local boat owners.
So, we looked for a local boat that we could rent. We found only one lady willing to rent us a boat, and later we found out it was because her boat and motor wasn’t any good and she couldn’t very well use the boat herself. After spending some time patching up most the holes in the boat and getting the motor to at least start up, we loaded up our boat with all our supplies, me, my wife, our 2-year-old son, Matimu, the boat driver, and one other passenger, and headed out.
The Port village where you leave the mainland to go to Nosy Mitsio is really just the mouth of a shallow river and boats can only come and go at high tide and when the wind is right. So after getting our rental boat ready, we had to leave in the middle of the night, about 11pm or midnight that time. The motor worked fairly well for the first six miles or so. But then it suddenly died and nothing we did would get it to start up again. We put up the sail in the hopes of sailing back to the Port for further repairs. But there was no wind. New leaks were springing up in the boat too, and water was streaming in from several small holes and we were constantly bailing it out with buckets. Six miles from shore, in the middle of the night, my family and I were drifting in a leaking boat with no way to get to land. We even tore a couple of rotten planks off of the boat in an attempt to paddle back to shore, but we weren’t making any progress.
This was a critical moment for me. We’d spent several very difficult and tiring months just trying to pioneer this new work to the Antakarana and with little of anything to show for it. Helpless to do anything, drifting at sea together with my family, I lay back in the boat and looked up at the stars. I asked God, “is this really what you want from me? Did you call me out here for this? What about my family? We’re just drifting here!” And I wrestled over this with God, testing the call he’s given me. He didn’t give me a big answer or another vision or anything like that. But I just felt from God a reassuring affirmative, “yes”. This is where he wants us. Even if it means drifting at sea. I had to once again release myself and my efforts into his control. To do my best, but to wait patiently, to endure.
Over the night we drifted back towards shore and as the tide went down and the water became very shallow we used some sticks to push our boat back towards the mainland. We made it back to dry land close to noon the next day. And we kept pressing on. We were where God wanted us. Without any visible progress or any quick returns on our efforts, we were where God wanted us.
So, several years after that point, we’ve now gone through a lot and we have made some big progress in several significant areas. We want to show you a short video about what we’ve done during our last few years:
Lora: After a year and a half of preparations for our team they finally arrived on the island and the people realized we were actually true to our word.
By now we’re widely known and well-respected throughout the area. Our team is now trained in the work. Together we started a healthcare and school ministry. We’ve translated a Bible story set into the Antakarana language. We started gathering in each of our villages to share the Bible stories. All of these are good things that we’ve accomplished, but still there’s no fruit. There’s not yet one believer among the Antakarana on Nosy Mitsio. We’ve been faithful to God to this point, but after years of exhausting work, we still haven’t seen the results we’re looking for.
The Antakarana people are bound by fear of their ancestors.
In our village, those who used to gather to hear the Bible stories will no longer meet together because they say it’s the “land of their ancestors” and their ancestors don’t want them to hear about Jesus. There are still individuals who ask us in private about Jesus but for fear of the ancestors’ curses they’re afraid to gather as a group.
We often compare the work of God’s Kingdom to working in a field, how there need to be planters and harvesters. We often think about sowing the seed and expecting the harvest, but who ever thinks about what needs to happen before that? The ground needs to be cleared of sticks and rocks. Then, if the ground is hard, it needs to be broken up little by little. This is really hard work and it takes time! But we tend to overlook this time of preparation. God is always showing us that we need more patience, that we need to wait in hope and in faith.
Adam: Romans 5:2b-6 “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
This passage encourages us that even when things aren’t working out the way we want, even when it includes trials and even suffering, that we still praise God in the midst of it. Because through this God produces perseverance in our lives, he builds our character, and he gives us hope. Our efforts, our successes, and our accomplishments, in and of themselves are powerless – always! But at just the right time, God acts and he brings it to fruition.
”At just the right time!” We need to keep that in our minds. That time is coming! But when is it? When will it be? We don’t know. But it is coming.
Hebrews 10:23-24, 35-36 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
”He who promised is faithful.” These are the words that should give us strength. We work and we wait patiently, not in the hope that our deeds and our efforts are enough, but that the one who promised, the one who led us to this place, he is faithful. But for us to wait in faith, it’s not just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for God’s intervention – though God’s intervention is what we need. But waiting faithfully also means that we act in faith. As the author of Hebrews said, “let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” “When you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” And at “just the right time” God will act. So we act and we do, faithfully, but our hope is not in our actions, our hope is in he who brought us here, he who promised. He is faithful. And waiting eagerly, actively, is what it means for us to have faith in him.
Romans 8:24-26 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
This is what we grasp onto: what we believe God is doing, what he will do, though we don’t yet see it. And we join him in that work – in the hope of the unseen that it still to come, and we do it confidently and with assurance, because he who promised is faithful.
Lora: As a missionary it’s sometimes very hard to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” We’re not “faith superheroes”!
There were many times I wondered, “God, what are you doing? Where are you in all this mess? What is the point to all this effort when it seems like nothing and nobody is changing? In fact, things seem to be getting worse. God, when will you show your power?”
But the truth is, when we know God and turn to him, he reminds us of his story throughout history, that he has always been and always will be faithful to fulfill his promises. And one promise we’ve been standing on is God’s ultimate redemption of all peoples:
”After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9
One day there will be Antakarana standing before God’s throne worshiping him. We haven’t seen any fruit yet and it’s possible we may never see it in our lifetime. But our faith is not based on what we can see, but on confidence in God’s promises. So we press on in faithful obedience to the part he wants us to play in his story. And even when we question, he returns us to hope in him. Because “he who promised is faithful.”
Adam: “Holding unswervingly to the hope we profess” isn’t just hard for us missionaries. It can be hard for anyone here trying to live a life faithful to God, year after year. Most of us are here today because we’ve caught a glimpse of God’s Kingdom, of what he’s bringing to the world, of his New Creation that’s still being remade.
Romans 8:22-23, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” But some of us have been waiting for a long time now. When will it happen? It’s not hard to lose motivation for the promises of God and instead we just start “showing up”. We’re present but we’re not really engaged. We’re not waiting eagerly. Sometimes we’re not even waiting faithfully. We’ve lost sight, confidence, in the unseen things of God, his promises that are still on their way – that have been a long time coming.
Lora: What has God called you to in your life? I know most haven’t received a vision like my husband did. I haven’t. But for all of us, God puts something within us, some work of his Kingdom, some aspect of his recreation that he drops within our hearts or our minds, somewhere that he’s asking us to join him in his work. What has he inspired you about?
Has he given you the dream of reaching your loved ones, your siblings or in-laws or someone else who’s not yet ready to commit to God? Has he inspired you to take care of the needy, the homeless, foster kids, something like that? Has he been convicting you to steward your resources wisely, to be freed from debt, and instead to use what he’s given you to bless others? Has he given you a dream for some other kind of outreach, for church growth, for expanding the presence of his Christian community within the neighborhood? Or has he shown you some part of the church to be revived or reformed, some way it can closer resemble God’s coming Kingdom?
Adam: Oftentimes, God will drop these ideas in us. He will give us an idea of what can be or what should be. Sometimes we simply don’t know where to start, so we let it fall to the wayside. Other times we jump in eagerly, ready for this vision God’s given us to come to pass. We put all our energy and effort, our enthusiasm into it for a while. A short while. Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months. Maybe even a few years. But then, so often, nothing really changes. Nothing happens. We lose heart. We lose faith. We no longer look confidently towards that which we can’t yet see.
I can’t blame you for this. We live in a culture of instant gratification. We don’t usually think “good things come to those who wait”, because advertisements and self-help articles tell us instead that if you put yourself out there, if you pursue what you want today, you’ll be rewarded. But God didn’t give us a quick fix. There’s no “Amazon Prime and free 2-day shipping” with the way God does things.
In his plan to redeem the world, he’s really taking his time. Just look at the central aspect of it! God himself stepped foot on this earth. But rather than sharing his message and his truths from day one, instead he came as a helpless little baby. He spent 30-odd years growing up and then he proclaimed the Kingdom of God. He did that for a few years before he even performed the central work of it: his death and resurrection. God takes his time. That’s how he does things.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
He’s not slow as some, as we, understand slowness. He’s patient. His plans are bigger than each of us. What he’s doing in our lives isn’t intended simply to bless us, but through us to bless others! Chances are good that if God has put something on your heart, something he’s asked you to do in participation with the work of his Kingdom, that he’s probably going to do it slowly. Don’t lose heart! Look forward to what you can’t yet see. And look to him who has made the promise, because “he who has promised is faithful.” Live out that faith, day in and day out, by pursuing what God has asked of you – even when it’s hard, even when you don’t see the results.
Galatians 6:9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good. For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We want to encourage you to look into your hearts, look for those old convictions or dreams that God has given you, and pick it up again. If he’s given you a vision of reaching your family or your neighbors for him – don’t lose hope! He’s faithful. If he’s inspired you towards some greater work of the church – don’t give up! It takes time. You have to commit to what God has asked of you and you have to commit to those who are involved. He’s faithful. Be diligent in the small details, to pursue God and what he’s asked of you with everything he’s given you. And as you’re faithful in the little, he’ll give you more he wants you to be faithful in. Just don’t give up. Because he is faithful. At “just the right time”, whether we see it with our eyes or not, he will accomplish his purposes. Our job is to wait eagerly, to wait faithfully, to persevere and do what he’s entrusted us to do.
Hebrews 10:23-24 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
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