I had other plans for my blog post today. But when I received a copy of the sermon which my good friend in Nova Scotia, Pastor Alan, preached this past Sunday, I was strongly impressed to pass it on to my blog friends as a Guest Post. I believe there is someone out there in my blogosphere whom God wants to encourage with this post. In fact, I believe most of us are at times, if not at this very moment, in some WAITING mode and feeling the impatience that comes with it.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Who of us enjoys the experience of waiting for something to happen? Most of us can't stand waiting! We endure it for a while, but sooner or later we grow frustrated. As someone has said, “Waiting on God is the hardest discipline of the Christian life.” Are you a discontented, disgruntled “waiter” or one who delights in God during the waiting process He leads us through at times?
I LIFE IS OFTEN WAIT, WAIT, WAIT
We are scheduled for a doctor's appointment, and arrive only to find we may be waiting for an hour or more. Some of us are waiting for money to arrive. I often hear seniors saying, “This is the day the checks come in. Grocery day today.” It's spring and some of us have been waiting for it to warm up enough to get our gardens going. Young people are often anxiously waiting to grow up. And then to have a career. And then to meet Mr. Right or Mrs. Right. I remember anxiously wondering if I would ever get married since I did not marry until my early thirties. We spend an awful lot of time waiting in long lines. In fact, statistics say that six months of our lives will be spent waiting in lines. Sometimes we hear the expression, “I'm waiting for my ship to come in.”
If you fly, you know all about waiting. If we are flying in Canada, we need to arrive at the airport an hour and a half ahead of the flight, longer for an international flight. Even then, the flight may be delayed and the wait will stretch out still longer. Then we are treated to the experience of waiting out the long flight, followed by waiting for our luggage to be off loaded.
It's interesting how much waiting is involved in two of our most popular sports, hockey and baseball. In baseball, you wait for something to happen and that can take a while before there is any action. The game of hockey actually only involves one hour of playing, but that is extended by all the stops and starts every time the puck goes to the wrong the place or a rule gets broken.
We live in a high speed, highly driven culture. You can wake up in the morning, have instant coffee, instant oats, etc. We can lunch at MacDonalds where a meal is considered late if food arrives five minutes delayed. People rush to and fro on city streets, drivers zooming by honk their horns. The message: “Get out of my way. I don't like to wait.”
II THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE OF WAITING
Waiting is a spiritual experience in which God has much to teach us. We're familiar with the widow in the Bible story who got fed up with waiting for justice from the judge and pounded on his door in the middle of the night. This was a parable about persevering in prayer when God seems slow to answer. We wait for a particular promise from God to be fulfilled in our lives, for circumstances to turn around for better. We wait for God to give us victory over bad habits and lousy attitudes. Christians are waiting for our Lord to return to earth.
If you have found yourself waiting on God, you have lots of company. Abraham and Sarah waited fifteen years longer after God promised their miracle boy. Moses languished in the Sinai wilderness for forty years before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Jesus waited thirty years to begin a three year ministry. Today is the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, and we are reminded that the disciples had to wait forty days for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Then there is the experience of heartbreak and hopelessness at the Pool of Bethesda. The sick and disabled gathered there as it was believed an angel came down from heaven every so often to stir the water. The first one into the water would receive a healing. When our Lord visited the place, He encountered a man who had waited there thirty-eight long years. Can you imagine how the poor guy felt, heartbroken and hopeless every time he helplessly watched others getting to the water before him?
Ever feel like you are in a holding pattern? That term comes from the world of aviation. At a busy airport like Toronto, the planes will be stacked up, told to stay in a holding pattern before taking off or flying in circles until it is their turn to land. Some of us can relate to the experience of Israel in the wilderness, wandering in circles for forty years.
III THE DANGER OF MISTAKES WHILE WE WAIT
Quite often, unable to stand the stress of waiting any longer, people make mistakes. They do not handle waiting well. Some examples:
- We decide to help God, look for a short cut to speed things up. When baby Isaac was slow to arrive, Sarah told Abraham, “Look, if you are ever going to have a male heir, you need to sleep with my maidservant Hagar.” Both Abraham and Sarah knew God had given them His Word. Both sinned by circumventing that word. Ever since, the Arab and Jewish peoples have been at loggerheads.
- Impatience causes us to say, “I must do something.” But the Bible reminds us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Ps. 127:1
- Unwilling to wait things out, we say, “I'm going anyway, even if God has not told me to.” This was the case with the Israelites when Moses informed them they would not be allowed into Canaan and would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years until they died because of their unbelief. They were angered at this, and said, “We will go up against the giants anyway.” As a result, they were defeated and suffered great loss of life because God had removed His protection from them.
- When the waiting seems long, we start to second guess God and grow doubtful of His ways.
- We start to believe devilish lies, e.g. “God must be punishing me. He doesn't hear me.”
- Sometimes, our inability to wait well can result in less than appropriate behavior. I read about a guy who became very frustrated when the airline announced that his flight would be delayed. He marched up to the ticket counter and pompously said, “I need to be on that flight right now and I need to be in first class.” The agent responded, “I'm sorry sir, that will not be possible. The flight has been delayed.” The man impatiently tapped the counter and said, “Do you know who I am?” The agent picked up the telephone and announced, “We have a person here who does not know who he is. Can anyone help him find his identity?”
IV SOMETHING TO LEARN WHILE IN THE SCHOOL OF WAITING
There is something to discover in God's waiting room. We can discover the God of whom Isaiah wrote these beautiful words, “No eye has seen a God besides You who works on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Is. 64:1 Wow! There is alot being said there. God is unique and competent to meet all our needs. He is always working, sometimes in obvious ways, some times behind the scenes, to meet our every need. Note what the condition of His working is: He “works on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Conversely, He will not work on behalf of those who do not wait for Him.
After the Lord had healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, the Pharisees criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath. He responded, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.” Jn. 5:17 Our Father is a God worth waiting for. Trust His timing!
Waiting on God presents us with an opportunity to experience God's transforming work and see it manifested in others. For example, when our Lord was informed that His friend Lazarus was sick unto death, He waited three days before arriving in Bethany. Martha met Him outside the village and accusingly told Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Christ told her to only believe and she would see the glory of God. He then revealed Himself as the Resurrection and the Life by raising Lazarus from the dead.
Here is a true story about the value of waiting. Brenda decided to celebrate her birthday by going rock climbing with friends. Half way up the cliff, Brenda stopped to rest. As she wiped her brow with her sleeve, the rope from which she was suspended snapped against her eye and knocked out her contact lens. This greatly distressed her as her sight was quite blurry without it. She prayed, “Lord, what am I going to do? I need that lens.” The verse, “The eyes of the Lord are running to and fro throughout the earth.” came to mind. In despondency, she finished the ascent of the cliff and made her way back down the mountain trail with her friends. At the bottom, another party of climbers was preparing for their climb. One climber asked if anyone had lost a contact lens. Brenda immediately informed him she sure had. The climber told her, “An ant was moving slowly across the face of this rock carrying it.” Brenda's father is a cartoonist, and when he heard this story, he created a cartoon of the ant carrying the contact lens with the caption, “Lord I don't know why you want me to carry this thing. I can't eat it and it's awfully heavy. But if this is what you want me to do, I will carry it for you.”
That's the way it works with God's answers while we wait. Believe He is working behind the scenes, and your answer is on the way, slowly, steadily, surely.
V JUST WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WHILE I WAIT?
That is the kind of question a Type A personality would ask. Type As are highly driven, action-oriented people. Nothing drives them crazy like having to linger in wait mode. For starters, here is what we can be doing while we wait on God. I am fond of acrostics and ran across this one.
W—Watch for God to work His ways in your situation. “Devote yourself to prayer being watchful and thankful.” Col. 4:2
A—Ask God about His purpose for your waiting. Some are of the school of thought that you should never ask God about His ways. Just grin, bear it and endure. But in the Psalms, we often find David asking, “Why?” and he was called a man after God's own heart. In the end, his why always lead him to surrendering the matter to God. He also prayed, “Teach me Your ways.” I do not believe God is put off by our asking questions. The way I see it, if He wants us to know what is going on, He will share it. If not, He will say, “Not for you to know right now. Leave it with me.” I happily accept whatever He says.
I—Invite Him to do His work in you while you wait.
T—Trust that God has a plan and is in the process of fulfilling His plan for you.
Okay, here are some suggestions of things to do while we wait on God.
- REST QUIETLY “Be still and know that I am God.” “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength.” Is. 30:15
- SEEK THE COUNSEL OF GOD On one occasion, David consulted God as to whether he should go after his enemies who had plundered his camp. God assured him he would be successful. 2 Sam. 5:19 Let your time of waiting be a time of seeking God in prayer. Gordon Jenson wrote a song about waiting. Here are a few lines: “Nobody wants to wait until the Lord has spoken. Nobody wants to wait and so their hearts get broken. They make their plans in their own ways 'cause nobody wants to wait.”
- WAIT IN EXPECTATION A pregnant mom knows all about that. It's nine months of saying, “I'm expecting.” The psalmist said, “Morning by morning, I lay my requests before You. I wait in expectation.” Ps. 5:3 Billy Graham says, “Heaven is full of answers to questions no one ever bothered to ask. God's answer is ready. It's just waiting for our personal, persistent prayer.”
- “HAVE A BLAST WHILE YOU LAST!” One pastor shares that upon beginning a new pastorate, he met the church secretary, a woman in her seventies named Shirley Banta. She never tired of telling him, “Have a blast while you last.” Sounds like great advice to me, even while we wait on God.
- CULTIVATE THE SPIRIT OF WAITING. Even when life is going great, cultivate the spirit of waiting on God. Leave your cares and concerns with Him, knowing that “victory belongs to the Lord.” In the midst of activity, we need to constantly cultivate the spirit of waiting. A thought to ponder, eh?
VI WE EVEN HAVE A ROLE MODEL
We hear alot of talk these days about role models and mentors. Well, God gives us a role model and mentor in Joseph. He was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. There he was accused of a crime he did not commit, was imprisoned and had to tough it out for fifteen years. He ended up being catapulted into the prime minister's job in Egypt. Here is how he handled his waiting. Gen. 40
- He remained faithful to his God and resolved to do the best he could in his situation. As a result, the warden placed him in charge of the prisoners. Some one came up with this profound little gem. “The secret of your future is found in your daily routine.” Ever feel like you have hit a wall? The author Elisabeth Elliott advised us to do the next thing, “because there is always a next thing that needs to be done.” v.1—4
- Stay ready for your big moment. Day in and day out, Joseph kept on serving God in prison. He kept himself ready for his big moment. The day came when the king complained to his cupbearer who had been released from prison that he had had a dream he did not understand. The cupbearer suddenly remembered he had been asked by Joseph to put in a good for him years ago, but had forgotten in the joy of his own release. He then told the king about Joseph's gift of interpreting dreams. Joseph was summoned, interpreted the dream, and became prime minister of Egypt.
- Be bold. Some believe that if you are in a horrible situation, you should just tough it out, keep your mouth shut and resign yourself to it. Yet the apostle Paul three times pleaded with the Lord to be healed from what many Bible scholars think might have been an eye issue. In the case of Joseph, when he heard that the cupbearer was to be released, he boldly spoke to him, asking him to put in a good word for him with the king when he had opportunity.
Some would say, “But all those wasted years!” Yet God was fashioning Joseph into a future prime minister who would not only be used to save Egypt, but the Jewish nation in seed form.
VII GOD IS LOOKING FOR DELIGHTFUL PARTNERS IN THE WAITING PROCESS
God knows there is no shortage of discontented, disgruntled waiters. He is looking for delightful partners in the waiting process, those who will use the time to delight in Him in a deeper way. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” There are a number of times where we find Christ partnering with people for a miracle.
- At the wedding in Cana, His mother pointed out there was no more wine. She waited for Him to do something about it. He seemed to deflect her request at first, saying, “My time is not yet come.” Then He told the servants to fill the stone water pots. He could have simply waved His hand for the miracle of new wine, but He chose to partner with people.
- After He was resurrected, the Lord waited on the shore as the discouraged, tired disciples came in from a night of unrewarded fishing. He asked them to launch out into the deep and put their nets down again. He could have waved His hand for a miracle catch of net-breaking, boat-sinking fish, but chose to partner with them.
- At the tomb of Lazarus, our Lord could easily have commanded the rock rolled across the tomb to be rolled away, but He chose to partner with people, asking them to roll it away before calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Pastor Keith Foskey writes, “God always expects us to do our best and He will do the rest.”
- King David loved to worship his God. He longed to build a Temple for his God. But God told him, “This is not for you. You have been a man of war and have blood on your hands. Your son Solomon will be doing this.” David could have griped, but he chose to partner with God and use the time he had remaining wisely. He drew up the blueprints for the Temple, and began to assemble all the materials Solomon was going to need. It became a two man operation. David laid the groundwork. Solomon brought the dream into reality. As Keith Foskey puts it so well, “Waiting for God does not mean doing nothing. It means doing what we can while we can while always being careful not to run ahead of God.”
Okay, where does all of this leave you? Are you a disgruntled, discontented “waiter” or a delightful partner with God in His waiting process? Joan Baez, a folk singer with a long career, had it right when she wrote, “You don't get to choose how you are going to die or when. You only get to choose how you will live now.” The psalmist made his choice. “I waited patiently for the Lord...He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Ps. 40:1—3 God is a God worth waiting for. Don't you think so?
(Additional Scriptures used in the above message: Ps. 37:1—7; Is. 64:4—5; Jn. 5:1—18)