Waiting on the Lord
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.(1)
Sacred history is filled with examples of those who waited on the Lord. Who could forget Noah? Though he lived in a desperately corrupt society, yet Noah walked with God. As a result, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and God promised to save him from the coming flood. Noah waited patiently on God for 120 years while the ark was under construction (Gen. 6:3,8-9,22; Heb. 11:7). Consider the example of Job. God allowed Satan to test the faith of this righteous man. As a result, Job lost all that he had: his possessions, his family, and his health. Yet, he waited on the Lord (Job 1:13-22; 2:7-10; 14:14). Ponder the faith of Abraham. God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees when he was 75 years old. Abraham obeyed God and went out, not knowing where he was going. He wandered in the land of Canaan as a stranger and sojourner for 100 years. When Abraham finally died at the age of 175, he still had no permanent dwelling place. He continued to look for the city of God (Heb. 11:8-10).
At the age of 40, Moses was in the prime of manhood when he slew the Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite slave. Thinking he was ready for leadership, Moses took matters into his own hands. He mistakenly tried to do God's will in his own way. The Lord would eventually use Moses to deliver the nation of Israel from Egyptian captivity, but he was not yet up to the job. At this point, his actions were rash, reckless and premature. When his deed was known, Moses fled from Egypt and became a shepherd in the wilderness (Exod. 2:11-15). Forty years he wandered and waited, forgotten and forsaken. Finally, when he was 80 years old, God called Moses from the burning bush. By then he had lost the bravado of his youth. He had lost the will to dare and to do. Yet, God was now ready to use Moses. It is not our strength, but God's that wins the victory. He alone is able to deliver (Exod. 3:1-12).
By the power of God, Moses challenged Pharaoh. Through successive plagues, he demonstrated that Jehovah God was greater than the so-called gods of Egypt. Finally, with his nation devastated and in ruins, Pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. Yet, soon afterwards he changed his mind and pursued the Israelites. When the people saw the Egyptian army advancing upon them, they cried out in fear. Yet, Moses said, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exod. 14:13). When all hope seemed lost, Moses fell back on his basic plan: he waited on the Lord.
The Bible holds many other examples of those who waited on God. Great believers are unwearied waiters. Aged Simeon, who met Joseph and Mary when they brought the Christ child to the temple, waited for the consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25). Joseph of Arimathaea, who went before Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus, waited for the kingdom of God (Mk. 15:43). The time would fail for us to talk of Gideon, David, Samuel, and the prophets. These great men and women of faith accomplished much, endured much, suffered much. Yet, they never fully realized the promises of God (Heb. 11:33-40). They lived and died waiting on the Lord.
Disciples of the Lord must be committed to waiting! (Psa. 33:20; 62:1-2; Isa. 33:2) We are most pleasing to God when we wait upon him. But what does it mean to wait on the Lord? Many think it implies a wholly passive attitude. Yet, saints cannot sit around twiddling our thumbs and be pleasing to God. Waiting on the Lord implies an attitude of confident assurance, patient endurance, steadfast hope, and willing obedience.
A. Confident Assurance.
Because God is the Sovereign Creator of the universe, we need never fear. Let us not be worried or anxious, disturbed or distressed. Be not filled with panic or fear, terror or trepidation. God delivers those who trust in him. As George Muller said, "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety."(2) Our heavenly father is dependable and trustworthy; he is our rock and our redeemer. Therefore, let us wait on him with complete trust and total confidence (Psa. 18:1-2; 20:7-8; 37:3-5; 125:1-2).
It is one thing to say, "We must wait on God." It is quite another thing to actually do it. Our professional expertise often gets in the way. We consider ourselves talented, intelligent and resourceful. People often trust in themselves and discount the need for God's assistance. They think, "I can get by very well on my own, thank you!"
Yet, it is imperative that we recognize the difference between human frailty and divine strength. In contrast with God's omnipotent power, our strength indeed is small. In comparison with God's eternity, our days on earth are fleeting. The span of our years is as nothing. The works of our hands shall not endure. Understanding our own incapability, let us therefore wait on God (Psa. 27:13-14; 39:4-7; Prov. 3:5-6).
We lack both stamina and strength, but God's might is never diminished from weariness or fatigue. We must learn to exchange our weakness for his strength (Isa. 40:28-31). His grace is sufficient to meet our needs. When I collapse with fatigue, he faints not. When I've tried and failed, he lifts me up and quietly encourages me to try again. When I, like the prophet of old, grow weary and think of quitting, he never wearies or gives up on me. Instead, he renews me with his strength. He enables me to overcome all obstacles. He empowers me to rise up on the wings of eagles. He does for me what I cannot do for myself. He liberally supplies my every need. Thus, I am not partially, but wholly, dependent upon God.
B. Patient Endurance.
Waiting is the rule rather than the exception. Life is filled with red lights. We are repeatedly told to "Stop!" "Stop!" "Stop!" Occasionally life has a burst of green lights. When you have an open door, Go! Grasp the opportunity. Seize the moment! Yet, understand that the rest of the time, we must wait. Be patient. Be stedfast. Be willing to operate of God's time schedule rather than our own. As George Macdonald once said, "The principal part of faith is patience."(3)
First, we need the ability to "Keep on keeping on." We must be willing to persevere, to endure adversity and hardship. Life inevitably has its difficulties and trials. Patience enables us to stand up under pressure. It is the staying power of life. It gives us the tenacity to see things through to the end. It helps us remain steadfast regardless of life's circumstances. At times our situation may seem dark and hopeless, but patience doesn't admit defeat or throw up its hands in despair. It doesn't become discouraged or bitter. Rather, it helps us react properly to the challenges of life (Jas. 1:2-4; Heb. 12:1). The Bible teaches that God delivers those who wait patiently upon him (Psa. 40:1-3). Those who look to God are saved from the overwhelming flood (Psa. 69:13).
Second, we must not be troubled by the apparent injustices in life. It is easy to become outraged at life's inequities. Nothing is so finely felt as unfairness. At times, we may be tempted to take matters into our own hands. Yet, we must not recompense evil for evil. God will set all things right. He will vindicate the righteous and punish the wayward. Wait on the Lord! (Psa. 37:7-9; Prov. 20:22)
Finally, let us never forget that Christian faith looks beyond this life to the next. It anticipates the Lord's return. Faithful disciples of Christ patiently await the coming of their Lord and Master (1 Cor. 1:7; 1 Thess. 1: 9-10; 2 Thess. 3:5).
C. Steadfast Hope.
The writer of Hebrews likens hope unto the anchor of a ship (Heb. 6:17-20). Storms may rage, billows may rise, but so long as the anchor holds, the ship is safe. So it is with the Christian. The anchor of a ship is cast downward into the murky waters of the deep, but the hope of a Christian is cast upward into the celestial waters of heaven.
As someone once said, "Eternity is the divine treasure house, and hope is the window, by means of which mortals are permitted to see, as through a glass darkly, the things which God is preparing."(4) As the people of God, we have been given exceedingly great and precious promises. Our hope of realizing these promises is anchored in the very character of God. Therefore, let us wait on the Lord with sure expectation and stedfast hope (Psa. 130:5-7; Rom. 8:2325; Gal. 5:5).
D. Willing Obedience.
Sinners do not wait on God's counsel (Psa. 106:13), but the faithful observe and obev Heaven's will. Waiting implies a listening ear. It describes a heart responsive to the will of God. It is displayed in the attitude of Cornelius, his kinsmen and near friends, who eagerly awaited apostolic guidance (Act 10:24,33). Let us meditate upon God's word and open our hearts to his truth. Let us heed God's wisdom and instruction (Prov. 8:33-35).
Waiting also implies service. Christians must be submissive and obedient to heaven's will. George Eliot once said, "It is vain thought to flee from the work that God appoints us, for the sake of finding a greater blessing, instead of seeking it where alone it is to be found - in loving obedience."(5) The life of Christ is a pattern of patient obedience (Jn. 4:34; 6:38; Heb. 5:8-9). Following his example, let us be ready to obey and willing to serve (Num. 3:10; Rom. 12:6-8).
Most of us would rather do anything than wait. In our "hurry up and wait" society, we rush to the doctor's office and then wait for two hours. We hurry to work only to get stuck in traffic. For this reason, waiting carries certain negative connotations. Yet, as the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait." This is especially true regarding those who wait on God (Lam. 3:25-26). Untold blessings are reserved for those who wait on him (Isa. 64:4; Prov. 37:9).
1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, [1807-18821, "A Psalm of Life," Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Knowledge Index Quotations Database (REFI), (Oxford University Press, 1979), Downloaded Sept. 29, 1990.
2. George Muller, Signs of the Times, quoted in Frank S. Mead, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1965), p. 135.
3. George Macdonald, Weighed and Wanting, quoted in Frank S. Mead, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1965), p. 135.
4. William Montford, quoted in Frank S. Mead, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1965), p. 234.
5. George Eliot, quoted in Frank S. Mead, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1965), p. 320.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 5, pp. 138-140