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In His Time 

Luke 1:13 

Elizabeth had long since resigned herself to the fact that she would never hear the patter of little feet in the parsonage where she and her husband, Zechariah lived. Elizabeth was barren. Barren--the very word elicits thoughts of sand blowing across a desert wasteland.

Zechariah was in the sanctuary carrying out his priestly duties, when God interrupted him. Gabriel, the angel that stands in the very presence of God, left his coveted place to stand in the presence of God's priest. Shocked by the angelic sight, Zechariah became frightened. Like many worshipers today, Zechariah wasn't expecting to hear a word from the Lord while he was doing his religious duty. 

Gabriel had some good news: But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John." (Luke 1:13)

"Thy prayer has been heard"--what prayer! Zechariah hadn't done any praying for a child in years. He'd forgotten about the prayer, but God hadn't. In his perfect timing, God answered a young man's prayer when he was too old to believe anymore and gave his wife a son, when she was too old to conceive anymore.

How could a religious man be surprised to find a word from God in the sanctuary? Why would a priest doubt that God could answer his stale prayer?

Even spiritual men have moments when their faith flickers. Let me explain what I mean by that.

When the angel of the Lord told him he would have a son, Zechariah doubted the prophecy. It is impossible, Zechariah thought, for an old man and a barren woman to have a son. After 50 + years of disappointment, perhaps I'd doubt too. How about you?

After he expressed his doubt, Zechariah was speechless.

Literally, Zechariah was speechless. "And now, since you didn't believe what I said, you won't be able to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly come true at the proper time." (Luke 1:20 NLT)

I don't know what constitutes the greater miracle, an elderly woman having a baby or preacher being quiet for nine months. Though I have no experience having a baby, I did have a time in my life when I couldn't speak. It was a humbling experience.

During a surgery to remove my cancerous thyroid, my doctor tapped on my recurrent laryngeal nerve, thinking it was fatty tissue. The assistant surgeon assured the doctor it was not the nerve and advised he cut it. Twice he asked for an instrument to sever the structure, but when he tried, his hand froze. "Because I tapped on the nerve," the doctor explained to me, "it no longer transmits the signal from the brain to the vocal cord," The result was a paralyzed vocal cord.

"But doctor," I said, "I'm a preacher, what do I do without a voice?"

I stared into my Doctor's eyes. "Will my voice come back?" He blinked and looked away. "I don't know, maybe, since I didn't cut the nerve, normal function could return in a few months, or it could be permanent." 

In that moment, faced with an impossible situation, my theology and this bizarre reality rammed together, full force, in a head on collision. In that moment I had more questions than answers. Will I ever preach again? How will I earn a living? What about my family? WHERE ARE YOU GOD?

Like Zachariah, I doubted.

That night I lay in bed as a thick silence surrounded me. "God, I'm over here," I prayed. "Are you watching? Why are You doing this to me? Why don't You heal me?" 

God's people were good to me. The church supported me and preachers from our denomination's headquarters in Albuquerque filled my pulpit as I waited for my healing. 

My wife and my mother were my greatest encouragers throughout the ordeal, they pumped me with hope and calmed me when I had soul seizures. I worried about paying the bills, the welfare of the church and my future. Susan never worried. "Everything is going to be fine," she'd say. "God will take care of us." Her strength buttressed my crumbling faith. "God will heal you," my mother said, "He wouldn't call you to preach without supplying you a voice." These words were my lifeline, I held to them like a drowning man.

Clearly, God's hand kept the surgeon from cutting the nerve and I fully expected to get my voice back. Every morning when I awoke, I said "I love you, Susan." When the words came out in a whisper instead of a normal voice, I swallowed and thought, tomorrow--tomorrow will be the day. My miracle will come. 

Tomorrow never came. I was confused the day I checked into the hospital for additional surgery to correct the problem. God where are You and why didn't You heal me?

Immediately after the surgery, my voice was strong, but after the swelling went down, I was left with a course, breathy voice that projected slightly above a whisper. With every day it got weaker--and I grew more confused. Though the congregation encouraged me, I knew I was no longer a good preacher. My voice was too weak.

The disability had its accompanying trials. Drive-through windows were the absolute worst. On one occasion, the operator mocked my breathy whisper when he took my order. His immaturity brought out my own, I wanted to squash him like a bug. 

The only time I cried through the ordeal happened about a month after I lost my voice. I stood, next to the guest preacher as we began to sing. "I love you Lord, and I lift my voice. . ." Of course, I didn't try to sing-it hurt too bad to force the wind. I just mouthed the words. But when I got to the word "voice," I began to cry. "What good am I to you Lord," I prayed. "I can't even worship with Your people."

Occasionally, I got a chuckle out of my disability. I wrote the name of a person I wanted to visit on my note pad and showed it to hospital volunteer to get a room number. The kind woman slanted her head and asked, "Can you hear me?" Of course I could hear, but I couldn't speak to tell her, I had to write "yes" on the pad.

Notice that Zechariah's friends did the same thing when Elizabeth followed the Angel's instructions to name her baby "John."

"What?" they exclaimed. "There is no one in all your family by that name." [62] So they asked the baby's father, communicating to him by making gestures. [63] He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, "His name is John!" [64] Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. (Luke 1:61-64 NLT)

Did he praise God because he could speak, or did he speak because he could praise God? This isn't a "chicken or egg" type of question. Think about it. A man communicating with a pencil and tablet doesn't even try to speak. Apparently, his praise erupted and burst through a cold heart and sealed lips and flowed to the Glory of God.

Like Zechariah, my voice is back. After a third surgery, I have a near-normal voice and usually have a strong preaching voice. Though I thanked God for giving Dr. Netterville the skill to heal me, I still wondered why God didn't intervene. That is until a comment the doctor made during a checkup. "Your nerve is transmitting enough signal that the vocal cord is staying healthy--not enough that it can ever move again, but enough to give a rich sound when supported by the silicone implant." "Dr. Neterville," I asked, "what would my voice sound like if the surgeon had cut the nerve instead of tap it?" I heard his voice and God's at the same time. He said, "Your voice would have always sounded hoarse," and God said, "See, you got your miracle after all."

This side of my miracle, I view life a little differently. I praise God that though my faith may flicker from time to time, it never fails! Zachariah probably had the same thought when he bounced his new born baby on his knee.

In this season of faith, and hope and love will you trust in God for the miracle you need, and have the patience to wait for His answer?

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