to A New Beginning (6)
How to Waiting Upon the Lord
21:1-9; Hebrews 10:32-39; James 1:2-4
A desire for instant gratification is
a characteristic of our fast moving space age. We have been reared
in a push-button age of automatic machines. We are now developing self-checkout
lines in many stores. I was in a Kmart store where you could check yourself
out. You scan the items you are buying just as a clerk would, and then
you scan you check card to pay for them and then you bag the items. You
walk out without any assistance. We live in age where time is of the essence.
Years ago if people missed a stagecoach they
were content to wait two or three days for next one. Now they get exasperated
if they miss one section of a revolving door. It is estimated that the
annual cost of running red lights, in medical bills, car repairs, etc.
is $7 billion. The average amount of time saved by running a red light
is 50 seconds. America is the country where we jump and run traffic lights
to save seconds and wait patiently for hours on the first tee.
In this fast moving age we have also
become impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching our goals.
Too often we seek to apply our space age technology to our relationship
with God. Many are looking for a shortcut to knowing God. Shortcuts usually
leave us shallow and hollow because they lead us to embrace hollow religious
philosophies. We try to read a chapter a day to keep Satan away, or have
a quick short devotion and rush away in hopes of making up for our spiritual
bankruptcy. We are glorifying men, trusting in religious externals, quasi-religious
fellowships, and salesmanship methods for church growth instead of depending
upon the dynamic power of God to accomplish his purpose in our lives.
You can learn a lot about the patient waiting
of God from nature. You can learn a remarkable lesson from the cocklebur:
its sticky seedpod contains several seeds, not just one. And these seeds
germinate in different years. Thus, if seed A fails to sprout next year
because of a drought, seed B will be there waiting for year after next,
and seed C the year after that, waiting until the right conditions for
Waiting Is A Great Teacher
Second only to suffering, waiting may
be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine
spirituality most of us ever encounter.
If Israel had of known that it would have
taken forty years to prepare them to enter the Promised Land they would
have never left Egypt. Israel learned their most important lesson in the
wilderness. They learned how to wait upon the Lord. Waiting wasn't Israel's
Israel had conflicting expectations as they
experienced the harshness of the wilderness. Their anxious expectations
of the Promised Land led them to believe there would be no difficulties
ahead. There was a conflict between what they expected and reality.
"They traveled from Mount Hor
along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people
grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and
said, 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There
is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!'"
Someone has said, "Conflicting
expectations are like a tight shoe. They begin with a pinch, but if left
unattended, they soon become painfully tender to the slightest touch."
In these verses we observe that Israel's waiting made them painfully tender
as they faced the difficulties of the journey. They lost sight of God’s
leading as they allowed their circumstances to drive them. "People
who struggle the most with expectations tend to be driven by gusts of circumstance
instead of knowing where they're going."
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing
of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its
work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to
all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks,
he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of
the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will
receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in
all he does" (NIV).
The only way we can "consider"
our difficult circumstances a "pure joy" is through seeking
to understand the purpose of our circumstances. Difficulties produce "perseverance"
which enables God to finish his work in us so that we may be brought to
maturity. When we have difficulty understanding the purpose of our trials
and tribulations, we must ask God for wisdom while we are waiting on him.
Jesus understood the nature and purpose of
his suffering. This enabled him to defer his desires by saying "my
time has not yet come." This is the motive for deferring our desires.
of us think our time has come five minutes after the desire first pops
into our minds.
"Be patient, then, brothers,
until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield
its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.
Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The
Judge is standing at the door!" (NIV).
James writes, "the Lord’s coming is
near . . . The Judge is standing at the door!" Almost two thousand
years after this was written, we are asking ourselves if James knew anything
at all about what he was writing. I think we miss the point of many verses
such as these as our minds race forward to the final Judgment Day. I think
James is reminding us that God stands at the door of our lives—He is near—He
knows what is going on—He will act when the time is right. The "Lord
is at hand" in every circumstance (Philippians 2:5). Throughout
the New Testament we read the phrase "the hand of the Lord was upon them."
The hand of the Lord continues to be upon his people. His hand is upon
your life. We must understand this as we are waiting upon the Lord.
Too often periods of waiting are times of
confusion. Some in Thessalonica waiting on the Lord’s return stopped working
as they stood around looking for Jesus to return. Too many are waiting
for Christ’s kingdom to come in the clouds. It is not in the clouds it
is here in the present where I stand. It is to forcefully move in every
area of my life as King Jesus rules my life. The words "watch"
and "beware" in the biblical scheme of things are usually
used to point to what we need to be doing in the here and now while we
are waiting upon God to act.
How to Wait Upon the Lord
It's relatively easy to understand that
we need to wait upon God, but what do we do while we are waiting upon God
to move? The idea of waiting may lead us to think it is spent in
passivity rather than action. It goes on in periods of waiting just as
it does in all other times. What do we do while we wait upon God's timing?
This is the crucial aspect of waiting.
It is not a time to bury our heads in the
sand. I received this note from someone who read one of my sermons on the
internet: "Skimmed through your article on the mind of Christ... am going
back to re-read it . . . was wondering if you could tell me what a ‘spiritual
crisis’ is . . . don't think I've ever had one . . ."
I am afraid this is what only knowing church
doctrine do to us. They persuade us to adhere to a few religious practices
as we bury our heads in the sand about the truly important things going
on in us and around us. They blind us to the reality of what is going on.
By the way I just sent this person Paul’s revelation of his struggles in
Times spent waiting
upon the Lord are usually those times Satan challenges us to follow him.
The Israelites became impatient during their time of waiting. They made
a golden calf, griped about the food and became impatient. Their failure
to respond correctly to periods of waiting blinded them to what God was
doing. Their time would have been much more productively spent reflecting
on what God was trying to accomplish during those periods of waiting.
While we are waiting upon the Lord we
must determine to live by faith. Faith requires seeing the unseen.
When we think God is not acting swiftly and decisively we can choose to
believe that he is working behind the scenes. The difficulty with faith
is that we want to see what God is doing in the present so that we can
be confident. We usually want him to act according to our ideas. When he
doesn’t we take matters into our own hands as we grumble and complain.
This is nothing new God’s people have always done this.
The Christians to whom Peter was writing became
anxious as they saw time ticking away. His promise was beginning to look
impossible. They were starting to think that they had missed out. Peter
reminded them that "God is not slack concerning his promises, as some
count slackness, but longsuffering toward us." When we start thinking
that time is running out we usually try to take things into our own hands.
This usually interferes with God’s purpose for our lives.
"Sustain me according to your
promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for
your decrees" (NIV).
The time spent waiting must be spent
in reflective meditation upon God's word. James tells us to ask
for wisdom. The wisdom of God comes as we study his word and ask for his
wisdom to apply it to our lives. The psalmist speaks of this kind of reflective
"Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel
of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law
of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates
day and night.
He is like a tree planted by
streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not
stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly
of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the
way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will
Waiting in reflective meditation is
a time to seek God's direction. Waiting is a time for reflectively
mediating upon the law of the Lord. It is a time to look inward at our
plans and motives as we reflect upon God’s plan. It is not enough to just
meditate upon the word but you must allow it to be reflected in your life.
We must look into the word as if were looking in a mirror with the intent
of improving what we see in our reflection. The psalmist mediates upon
God's word to walk in God's ways. I must think about how God's word applies
to the problems I am facing. How does it apply to my sexuality, personality,
marriage, finances, employment, or unemployment, etc.
Waiting in reflective
meditation is a time spent maturing our thoughts as we ask God for the
wisdom to apply his word. Maturity
prepares the way for real growth, but it is something that doesn't come
Waiting in reflective meditation is
a time spent in seeking correction. Jeremiah prayed for direction
and correction as he sought the Lord.
"I know, O LORD, that a man's
not his own;
it is not for man to direct
Correct me, LORD, but only
not in your anger,
lest you reduce me to nothing"
Waiting in reflective meditation is
a time spent in supplication to God. In Psalms 25 we find the psalmist
as his enemies surround him, he is feeling isolated and alone. In his anguish
he seeks gracious instruction from the Lord. It was a time that he needed
to wait upon the Lord.
"Show me your ways,
teach me your
guide me in your truth
and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day
Remember, O LORD, your great
mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember
for you are good, O LORD" (NIV).
Reflective meditation upon the scriptures
produces patience. The biblical record is given for our learning.
When we learn how God's hand has moved upon the people of the Bible as
they waited, we can reflect upon what God desires to do for us while we
wait. Those stories are given to us so that we might learn and gain comfort
from the Scriptures (Romans 15:4).
Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal
to act before God acts. In prayer, we are aware that God is active
and when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place,
and when our hearts are prepared, he will call us into the action.
Gideon’s time waiting while the Philistines were
plundering Israel was spent making sure that he didn’t run ahead of God
in making a decision about what to do.