We live in a generation that is not noted for its ability to wait patiently. The demonstrators of the world march and chant in unison, “What do we want” and “When do we want it?” And the answer echoes back, “We want it now!”
Waiting is rarely seen as a virtue. Rather, we associate waiting with being left behind, with wasting time, with a missed opportunity or with someone getting ahead of us. However, a close read of the Bible suggests otherwise. Time and time again we see that there are seasons where waiting on God is of vital importance. The prophet Isaiah had learnt the value of waiting.
“Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who WAIT FOR HIM.” Isaiah 64:4
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
BLESSED ARE ALL WHO WAIT FOR HIM.” Isaiah 30:18
Have you ever noticed that there are times when God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry? His timing is different to ours. His ways are above our ways. It is not just good enough to know what God wants us to do, we also need to know when He wants us to do something. Living in the will of God is living in His timing.
However, there are times when He moves on in advance of us and waits for us to catch up with Him. I had just been married to Sue and was advancing in the business world, and one night I received a phone call from the pastor of the largest Baptist church in Australia. He said, “I have heard of you Rod, and the Lord has brought you to my mind. I want you to leave all that you are doing and join my ministry team.” I was shocked. I never had considered such an option. And yet 4 months later, Sue and I had burned all our bridges and had relocated to Melbourne to begin a never previously anticipated life in pastoral ministry, with no formal training and no previous experience. God had moved in advance of us and we didn’t find it easy to keep up with Him.
But, there are times when we find ourselves waiting on God. After six years in pastoral ministry, I began to feel a stirring to take up some form of full-time study. I made various enquiries but could find no peace in any of the directions I had been searching. Three years later I happened to attend a seminar by Dr Roberta Hestenes, then of Fuller Seminary in Los Angeles. As I sat and listened to her teach I was unusually moved about the issue of full-time study and at the lunch time break I asked Dr Hestenes if I could speak with her. This initiative was unplanned and unexpected. I felt led to ask Dr Hestenes about the possibility of travelling to America with my family to study at Fuller Seminary. Following a brief conversation, Dr Hestenes looked at me and said, “I believe the Lord would want you to go and study at Fuller Seminary.”
Immediately, I had a deep conviction that this was a word from the Lord and I returned home to Sue that day and shared with her how after some lengthy delay, the Lord had spoken a clear word concerning the issue we had been praying about for some years. And within a few short months, Sue and I arrived at Fuller Seminary with two young daughters and eight suitcases to begin what was to be a defining season in my life. It was a season that would connect me with key leaders from around the world who would be instrumental in opening doors of ministry for me for the rest of my life. It is not just good enough to know what God wants us to do, we also need to know when He wants us to do something. Living in the will of God is living in His timing.
Having said all this, I want to focus on how we are to understand the delays of God and the God of delays. David was a great example of someone who showed great restraint in a season of waiting that lasted fifteen years between the time he was anointed to be king by Samuel, and the time he was finally appointed to be king. Not surprisingly, the theme of waiting would feature in his writings.
“Be still before the Lord and WAIT PATIENTLY before Him.” Psalm 37:7
“I WAITED PATIENTLY for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.”
“WAIT for the Lord; be strong and take heart and WAIT for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
WHY WAIT ON GOD?
Rick Warren comments that “while you are waiting, God’s working.” It is critical that we understand why there can be a period of waiting and how we should be responding.
- Not to wait has its consequences. King Saul’s impatience in waiting for Samuel caused him to take matters into his own hands and disobey God. As a result the kingdom would be taken from him and given to David. 1 Samuel 13:8-14.
The Israelites refused to trust God in the desert and this caused them to suffer the consequences of their impulsiveness.
“But they soon forgot what He had done and DID NOT WAIT for His plan to unfold. In the desert they gave into their craving: in the wilderness they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them.” Psalm 106:13-15
- Waiting is used by God to test our obedience and patience in order that He might know what is in our hearts. Deuteronomy 8:23
- Waiting aligns us (keeps us in step) with God’s perfect timing, for only He can see the big picture in all of its details.
- Waiting strengthens our faith and teaches us to trust God in our unfolding future for without faith it is impossible to please God.
- Waiting can occur because God knows that we are not ready or not suited to take on a particular responsibility or position. Out of His concern for us He may close a door or defer the opening of a door.
HOW SHOULD WE WAIT ON GOD?
To keep in step with God requires us to keep our mind focused and in gear. So we wait :
We remain faithful in the things that have already been entrusted to us so at the right time God can entrust us with greater things. Luke 16:10
- FOCUSED ON GOD’S WORD
God speaks to us and guides us through the times of waiting by His Spirit and His word.
- MAINTAINING OUR LOVE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The burden of waiting is eased when we are living in a love relationship with the one we are waiting on. Consider the heart of Jacob when told that he would have to wait seven years and work for Laban before he could marry his daughter Rachel.
“So Jacob served (waited) seven years to get Rachel but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” Genesis 29:20
Interestingly, unknown to Jacob at the time, he would actually be required to serve Laban for fourteen years before he could marry Rachel.
God’s will is “good, pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2. We can be expectant about the future He has for us and we can wait with an attitude of trust, knowing that He will take care of every detail along the way. “Commit your way to the Lord; TRUST IN HIM and He will do this”
There are so many stories in the Bible of God’s servants who waited patiently on God for the unfolding of His perfect timing. We read of Abraham who waited twenty five years from the time that God had promised him a son to the time of Isaac’s birth, “And so after WAITING PATIENTLY, Abraham received what was promised.” Hebrews 6:15
The apostle Paul gives us a magnificent overview in his letter to the Romans of how Abraham summarises for us the important keys to waiting on God for the birth of his son.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘so shall your offspring be’. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead- since he was about one hundred years old- and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and he gave glory to God, BEING FULLY PERSUADED THAT GOD HAD POWER TO DO WHAT HE HAD PROMISED.” Romans 4:18-21
Are you in a season of waiting right now? Know that God loves you and has your best interests at heart and that there will come a day when you will look back on this time of waiting and thank Him for His perfect timing and unfolding plans and purposes for your life.
Finally, there is something about waiting that we all have in common right now. James explains it this way; “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters UNTIL THE LORD’S COMING. See how the farmer WAITS for the land to yield its valuable crop, PATIENTLY WAITING for the autumn and spring rains. You too, BE PATIENT and STAND FIRM because the Lord’s coming is near.” James 5:7-8 Jesus is coming again and one day our life of waiting will be over.
WRITTEN DURING A SEASON OF WAITING