This is a word to anyone out there who has been so sinful for so long after so many warnings and tragedies that he or she has quietly excommunicated himself or herself. Here is the word: The forgiveness of the Lord, when one asks for it, is instantaneous. And the ability to change course is also immediate.
Many things in this world are not instantaneous; there is a lag time. Enrolling in Obamacare is not instantaneous; there are hoops to go through and then you have to wait a certain amount of time until it goes into effect. Getting in to see the doctor or the car mechanic is not instantaneous; you make an appointment and mark it on the calendar. Even at the ER, assistance is not instantaneous. Unless you are actively having a heart attack, you will wait with your broken leg in the waiting room until they are ready for you.
But here is the way God responds to men when they call on him:
“Then he [a heavenly being] said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12).
One gets the impression that God couldn’t wait for Daniel to ask! (“Ye have not, because ye ask not.”) He was so eager for Daniel’s heart to create an entry point for divine action that He rushed into it as soon as it came.
“But Daniel was a good man,” you will object. “Of course God heard him ‘from the first day’ he set his heart. But what about a person like me who has messed up for years, even after being a Christian? Surely God is disgusted with me, and even if I repent this minute I cannot expect to be heard right away, or to be able to change right away.”
The Word says differently:
“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments” (Psalm 119:59-60).
It is possible for everything to be different starting today. The process need not be more lengthy and complicated than this: Think about your ways, and if you do not like what you see, turn your feet 180 degrees to God’s testimonies and commands. Hasten, and do not delay to start keeping His commands. If you are being mean to your spouse, quit it right now and start being kind. If you are walking around with a hard heart, stop it right now and be conscious every moment of obeying the command to unharden your heart—“today!” (Hebrews 3:7-8)
Manasseh holds the title of the worst king of Israel. And he was bad for many years, beginning at age 12 and reigning for 55 years. He brought a lot of trouble on Israel by his sin, and if anyone could have been hopeless of turning a new leaf, it was Manasseh. But toward the end of his life, he repented and stopped what he was doing, and started to obey God’s commands—and God did not delay to forgive even him:
“The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea …” (2 Chronicles 33:10-13).
You have not done worse than Manasseh. Think of your ways, entreat the Lord’s favor, turn your feet 180 degrees from evil paths and into obedience, and know that God has instantly heard you and forgiven you. No lag time. No doghouse for a month.
2016 can be the best year of your life until now.