Six things I have learned about God's perfect timing

Today is the day. We FINALLY hold the keys to the building our church has been trying to buy for the last three and a half years. What an incredible feeling it is to have reached completion day.

We had an amazing Sunday a few weeks ago, when my husband stood up holding the contract for the building our church has now purchased. Finally it was in his hands, ready to sign! Our church simply erupted with cheers and clapping.

Reflecting on that Sunday has made me think about when God's answer seems to change from 'YES!' to 'Yes...but you'll have to wait. And fight for it. And change. And pray – a LOT.'

You see, it has been a long journey to reach this point. For so many months we have had to consistently chase after this building, which it looked like God had just dropped into our laps the first time we saw it.

We have commented to ourselves that, while these last few years have been hard, and frustrating, we are so glad that God didn't just give us the building straightaway. That might seem strange, but as a church we have been transformed through the waiting period.

And I think that that's what God's 'Not yet' is all about. He works on us, as well as the situation. It may be hard but His sovereign plan is what is uppermost in His mind, not our comfort levels or our agendas. He doesn't always use the methods and approaches we think are best – and that can be hard. But He always knows better than we do.

There are many general lessons I think we've learned through this waiting period that I want to share on this day of celebration, with the prayer that they, along with the testimony of finally having breakthrough, can bring hope to anyone who is in a period of God's 'not yet' currently:

1) God loves it when we persevere in prayer. We can often shoot up a quick prayer request to God and think that that has things covered. But prayer is communicating with our saviour and getting our wills aligned with His. He wants us to take time over it, and grow in our experience of prayer. He wants prayer to be our gut response in all situations, not just what we eventually turn to when we are absolutely desperate.

2) God wants us all to capture the vision and work towards the end goal together. This has been a really important lesson for us as a church. To begin with, I think perhaps the idea of a building was just a 'nice' one that the leaders had. When our now-retired pastor shook hands with a representative of the previous lease owners, believing that he'd just done an incredible deal, it seemed like we were pretty much being given a building. But there were those in the church that didn't really share the excitement. Some even asked us why we needed a building anyway (we meet in a school hall). Having to fight for it, once we were told the handshake was not legally binding and the whole process became much more complicated, meant we had to really press into God and communicate the vision over and over. People had to learn to engage with the process – to get close enough to it that it affected them, so they weren't just bystanders looking on.

God has also been talking to us about unity and travelling together as a people. There is no point pressing in and reaching new places with God if you take no notice of people dropping off all around you. God wants us to move forward in unity, each looking out for one another as we do so.

3) We need to learn how to handle disappointment and focus on God's sovereignty. We have had some huge disappointments along the way. A couple of times we were outbid and, to all intents and purposes, lost the building. Handling the breaking of that news to the rest of the church was something my husband, as pastor, had to wrestle with and, I must say, he handled it extremely well. Clinging to a promise from God with absolute faith when everything around you screams that it's pointless is difficult enough for us as individuals – to encourage the whole church to do the same was something that we felt God's supernatural strength for (as I certainly couldn't have done it myself). Of course we wrestled with disappointment and the 'what ifs' of whether we had heard Him wrong and this wasn't the place for us, but ultimately this lesson was about believing what we'd heard, standing on His word and stepping out in obedience in response to it.

4) It's not the building that is important to God – it is honing us to be more like His son that is on the top of His agenda. While the ups and downs of this journey have seemed incredibly difficult to us, and specific aspects of the process have taken up a lot of our time, it has been vital to step back and see things from a wider perspective. Yes, we believe that God wanted us to buy the building and we have lots of plans of what we can do in it, but it isn't just about a building. God has used the process to challenge us on many things: expectations, perseverance, character issues – all sorts. His agenda is not ours, and He wants to use the 'not yet' time to work on us as people – to restore and rebuild us into His people following after His purposes.

5) God wants all of us, and often that involves sacrifice. You can't buy a building without funds and, while we have still managed to purchase a building for a good price, it certainly wasn't the give away one we had originally been quoted. So once we were all on the same page with the vision, it has involved members giving sacrificially in order for us to have a place the church can call home. Of course, God often uses such experiences to check our heart attitudes as what we spend our money on is a good indication of what we place most value on.

There have been many other sacrifices along the way – time being a major one. We are so grateful for all the people who have prayed with us day after day, week after week, month after month for breakthrough and for God's wisdom in the process. And of course my husband and the great team he has around him have poured countless hours looking into plans and legal documentation. As a church we must recognise and be so grateful to them for all the sacrifice they and their families have made to get us this far.

6) We can never rush God! His timing is perfect – even when it doesn't feel like it to us. However annoying it is, and however impatient we get, there is a purpose to God's delays. In fact, to Him they are not delays at all – simply steps along the way. Often we are all about the end goal; focused on the destination, but God can be more interested in the process and how it changes us. He knows that it would be dangerous for us to rush on ahead without preparing our hearts properly first.

Have you ever considered that perhaps we can sometimes make the process longer by being impatient and inflexible? I have this image of God just smiling, sitting back and waiting until we 'get' what He's trying to reveal to us. He's in no rush, and our hurried approach can be more of a hindrance to us in the end.

We found it important to take stock every time we hit an obstacle, to see what reason lay behind it – was it because God wanted us to do battle in prayer or because there was something He wanted us to learn about our own characters?

The next phase...

Now our prayers have obviously been answered and we are the excited new owners of a building that our church can call home, which we can open up to the community as much as possible. But with its dilapidated state and lack of facilities we are only just starting out on our next journey of faith: refurbishing the building before we can move in. I'm sure there will be many more lessons and 'not yets' from God along the way...