When Will Help Arrive?

Hebrews 4:16 - "grace to help in time of need" - eukairos.

You're driving across west Texas, far from the nearest town, when your van suddenly loses the ability to make it up the next hill.  You coast to the side of the road and call AAA for help.

"We will be happy to send help, but all our tow trucks are busy.  It may be more than an hour before we can reach you."

So you settle down to wait, watching the tumbleweeds roll by as you check your watch and wonder how long "more than an hour" really is.  It's amazing how slowly time moves when you're waiting for help to arrive!

We often find ourselves in the same predicament when we are waiting for God to send the help He has promised.

Hebrews 4:16 invites us to come boldly to the Lord to ask for His help.  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NASB).

We know that God keeps His promises, and here is a clear promise.  He invites us to come boldly to ask for help and we can count on him to send it.  But there’s the matter of timing.  Even when I know that the Lord plans to help me, He is often seems blissfully unaware of the urgency of my situation!

The final phrase of this verse – “in time of need” – addresses my questions about God’s sense of timing.

In English, this is a four-word phrase.  In Greek, it’s a single word:  eukairos.  Strong’s Concordance defines it as “well-timed” or “opportune.”  Danker’s Concise Greek Lexicon says, “well-timed, suitable, at the right time.”  In a word, God’s help is well-timed.  It comes at the right time.

In English, this is a four-word phrase.  In Greek, it’s a single word:  eukairos.  Strong’s Concordance defines it as “well-timed” or “opportune.”  Danker’s Concise Greek Lexicon says, “well-timed, suitable, at the right time.”  In a word, God’s help is well-timed.  It comes at the right moment.

The word eukairos is formed from two shorter Greek words, eu and kairos.

        The Greeks would often add eu at the beginning of a word to mean “good.”

Kairos is the Greek word for “time” which means a crucial moment in time, a turning point, an opportunity.

Put them together and you get "a good opportunity, a suitable moment in time."

You can see this idea clearly in Mark 6:21, the only other place in the New Testament where eukairos occurs.  As the curtain rises, Mark explains the back story.  King Herod wanted Herodias, his brother's wife, so he arranged a divorce and married her.  It was a hot item for all the gossips in Galilee and a blatant offense against God's Law.  John the Baptist denounced their sin publicly and was arrested for his efforts.  Herodias was determined to put him to death, but Herod wouldn't do it.  He was fearful and fascinated by this brusque prophet. 

Then Herod scheduled a birthday party and a vindictive Herodias saw her chance.  Mark says, “A eukairos day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.”  A seductive dance and a thoughtless promise gave the queen an opportunity to dispose of John, and she took it.  It was the ideal moment to accomplish her longstanding objective.

If a wicked, deeply flawed woman can recognize the optimal moment to act, then the flawless, all-wise King of the universe can choose the perfect time to carry out His purposes, even if we would prefer a different schedule.

We want God's help to be prompt. 

We want God's help to be predictable. 

Instead, God's help is perfect in its timing.

He waited through 400 years of silence before sending His Son "in the fulness of time" (Galatians 4:2).  And those who lived during those centuries surely wondered if God had forgotten His promises.  But He hadn't forgotten; He was simply waiting until the time was ripe.

God may delay His help because He wants to strengthen our character (James 1:2-4).

He may act slowly in rescuing us because He intends to accomplish something in the lives of others through His dealings with us.  Jonah surely wondered why it took three days for God to get him out of that fish, but Jesus used the prophet's plight as a picture of His resurrection.

The Lord always chooses to act at a time that most effectively demonstrates His glory.  If nothing else, he may allow us to wait long enough to show that we can't fix the problem without Him!

God is the ultimate Multi-Tasker who knows exactly when to come to our aid - at the precise instant when it will accomplish His parallel purposes for us, for others, and for His glory.

John Piper says, “So it’s not surprising that a ‘well-timed help’ might be different from God’s perspective than from ours.  But his perspective is always best.  It is always grace to us.  It should always be trusted” (“Let’s Find 'Grace for a Well-Timed Help' Together"; www.desiringGod.org, November 17, 1993).

GOING DEEPER

You can expand your understanding of eukairos by studying its cognates, the other members of its family group.  Eukairos  is an adjective, but the lexicon lists three matching words:

                Eukaireō (a verb)

                Eukairia (a noun)

                Eukairōs (an adverb)

Look at the references where these words are used, and you’ll find some surprising insights:

Eukaireō – “have an opportune moment, have leisure”

·         Mark 6:31

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even eukaireō to eat.)”

·         1 Corinthians 16:12

“But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren, and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he eukaireō.”

·         Acts 17:21

“Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to eukaireō in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.”

Eukairia – “timely moment, good/favorable opportunity”

·         Matthew 26:16

“From then on he {Judas] began looking for a eukairia to betray Jesus.”

·         Luke 22:6

“So he [Judas] consented, and began seeking a eukairia to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.”

Eukairōs – “at an opportune time”

·         Mark 14:11

“Then they [the Jewish leaders] were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him [Judas] money.  And he began seeking how to betray Him eukairōs.”

·         2 Timothy 4:2

“Preach the word; be ready eukairōs and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instructions.

 

[Citations based on NASB]

 

John Bechtle