Sunday, August 27, 2017

What are you waiting for?

I wonder, how do you feel when you need to wait? The word "wait" these days has become one of those "four letter words" that people avoid saying out loud, let alone desire to hear from another person. However, waiting in and of itself is not always seen as a negative experience. We will happily wait for something that we know is going to provide a big pay off. For example, a yearly bonus at work or a promised gift that we expect to receive for a birthday or Christmas. Then there are those times when our expectations can get the best of us and any delay that interferes with the timetable we set for receiving what we are waiting for can result in anger and frustration. There are also situations that are painful when we are in the midst of waiting. For example, a loved one who has a terminal illness and is slowly declining towards death or the phone call from the doctor revealing test results that are shocking and unexpected. For followers of Jesus Christ, the "waiting game" can be even more challenging when we know that God is well aware of a particular situation yet it seems that He is either slow to respond or altogether silent. I recently finished reading the second of two books that I purchased on the subject of waiting on God. One book, "Waiting on God:What to do When God Does Nothing" by Wayne Stiles, looked at the perspective of waiting on God through the story of Joseph. The author did an excellent job of filling in the gaps on what the characters in the story may have been thinking or feeling at different points in the narrative. The author's approach seemed to breathe new life into a story I have read countless times in the Bible. The second book, "When God Says "Wait":Navigating life's detours and delays without losing your faith, your friends or your mind." by Elizabeth Laing Thompson, took on a perspective which was a bit more personal. The author looked at the stories of 12 Biblical characters who waited for God to move in their individual lives and/or the lives of His people, Israel. The author then went on to relate her own personal struggles which paralleled what the Biblical characters may have been experiencing. In both cases, I felt I could relate to what both authors were ultimately trying to convey which was waiting on God is not easy and we may experience some bumps and bruises along the way but in the end it is well worth the wait. There are many verses in Scripture that encourage and exhort us to wait for the Lord. There are quite a few Psalms about waiting (Psalm 27:14; Psalm 130:5; Psalm 40:1) to name a few. Even in the New Testament we are encouraged to wait for various situations to take place. After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples these final instructions, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about." (Acts 1:4 NIV) Paul talks about all of creation groaning with expectation as well as the Spirit within us inwardly groaning as we wait for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23) Paul likewise encourages Titus, one of his converts who was a valuable asset to Paul in ministry, to wait for our ultimate desire, the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope----the appearing of the glory of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:11-14 NIV) There's not a human being on the face of the earth who has not experienced the agony and the ecstasy of waiting for something or someone. However, apart from God, waiting can result in depression and hopelessness because human beings like to believe we have more control over life's circumstances rather than the reality that we cannot dictate or expect certain outcomes. If you were to question any person who plays the lottery when the jackpot is in the millions, each one would most likely respond that they hold the "winning" ticket. However, when someone else claims the prize, feelings of anger and jealousy often rise up within us. We justify our feelings by thinking we deserved the jackpot rather than the winner, especially if the winner possesses qualities or characteristics we don't like (i.e. they are a minority or overweight, or elderly or from another country) When we choose to follow Christ we come to understand that the times of waiting are not a punishment, attack, or rejection, on God's part. During those waiting periods God is preparing us for what lies ahead, assuring that we will be well prepared for the outcome. God always has our best interest at heart even when the situation surrounding us seems to indicate the opposite. Please, don't get me wrong, waiting does not mean we will always do so patiently or with a smile on our face. There are plenty of Biblical examples of those who failed to wait for God to fulfill a promise and ran into trouble as a result of their impatience. (i.e. Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16) If we remember that God is seeking to conform us closer to the image of His Son, it may help us to tolerate the need to wait. James reminds us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV) James was addressing fellow believers under significant persecution unlike anything that we may have experienced in our lives. So what are you waiting for? Are you waiting for circumstances or situations to work out according to your plan? If so, you will more than likely be disappointed. God in Christ offers us the strength and comfort of knowing that He has "our back" and you may be surprised at the outcome!
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
Pastor Sheree