IT’S WORTH IT TO WAIT
Rev. George Bradford
“My soul, wait in silence for God only,
for my hope is from Him.” Psalm 62: 5
Waiting is not a favourite thing to do for most people. In fact waiting for a stop light to turn or a customer ahead of us in line at the store to finish their business or a baby to be born can be very frustrating. Patience is not something that the average person has in large quantities. In fact, waiting is difficult for most people. That’s why we have such things as microwaves, high speed internet, ATM machines, one-hour photo labs and instant foods. Everything has to happen now.
Life for most of us is pressure-filled and we’re always in a hurry because of the demands on our time and life.
Yet waiting is a very important part of the Christian’s life. It is something that the Psalmist David practiced (Psalm 5: 3, 33: 20) and tells us to do as well. In Psalm 27:14 he commands us to, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart;” and just in case we missed it the first time he repeats it a second time, “wait, I say, on the Lord” (King James Version).
The Prophet Isaiah also encourages us to wait in Isaiah 40: 28-31. There he asks the question, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired; they will walk and not become weary.” (New American Standard Bible)
As a young Christian I learned a very important lesson. The President of the College I attended, Dr. J. C. Macaulay, preached a series of three Chapel messages on 3 key elements of the Christian life – the worship of God, godly conduct and service for God. He challenged us as students to keep these elements in proper balance in our lives. If our life is spent entirely serving God and others and we don’t take time to worship God all that we do will quickly become meaningless. If we spend all our time in worshipping God and never touch the lives of other people, we are not carrying out Jesus’ command to tell others about Him.
In the years following college, as I sought to maintain this balance in my life, I quickly discovered that there was something missing. I needed to include “waiting on God” as part of my daily routine. I needed to do what David told himself and his readers to do in Psalm 27: 14, “wait in the Lord.” (KJV)
When the Bible talks about “waiting on God” what is the Lord asking you to do? What is involved in “waiting on God?” How do you do this? Let me suggest several things from Psalm 27.
1. Quieten Yourself Before God
If you are to wait on God the first thing that you need to do is to quieten yourself before Him. In Psalm 46 the Psalmist describes Israel going through a time of trouble and upheaval and in the 10th verse he quotes God Who tells His people, “Be still and know that I am God.”
In Psalm 27, where we are commanded to “wait on the Lord,” the Psalmist begins by speaking about the troubles that surrounded him (vs. 1-3). All of these difficulties caused him to ask God to allow him to “dwell in the house of the Lord,” “to meditate in His temple,” to be concealed “in His tabernacle,” to be hid “in the secret place of His tent.”
The fact is that the temple had not been built yet and, because David was not a priest or a Levite, he could not enter the tabernacle. What is David asking for here? What David is asking God for is a place where he can go and spend time with the Lord. He longed for a place where he would not be rushed or disturbed, a place where he could wait on God.
Waiting on God does involve getting away from the busyness of life. Today we live such frantic, active lives. There is always more to do than we have time in which to do it. We live with such pressures today – the care for our family’s needs; meeting our employer’s expectations, advancing our career, getting the grades at school that will allow us to graduate. Many of us wake up in the morning and before our feet reach the floor our minds are already racing and when we go to bed at night we find it hard to shut off our thoughts. We live with much restlessness.
Life, over the last few years, has become so complex and filled with so many distractions and demands that it’s hard to stop and get off the tread-mill. With all the electronic communication and entertainment devices that we have today our lives are constantly being filled with noise and distractions. Information is continually bombarding our minds. Yet Jesus comes to us the same way He did to His disciples and says to us “"Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place." Mark 6: 31 (NIV)
Waiting on God involves being still and being quiet. But you may object and say, “I can’t do that.” “I don’t have the time.” “I can’t afford to stop.” The fact is that you can’t afford not to stop. Even if it’s only 5 minutes a few times a day, learn to be still before the Lord.
Perhaps you say, “I don’t have a place where I can go to be quiet.” Recently I heard of a busy mother who was in this situation. What she did was, when she needed to stop and be still, she sat in a chair and pulled her apron over her head. Her husband and children knew when she did that she wanted to be alone with God. Find creative ways to be quiet even when everything is busy around you. Deliberately schedule 15 minutes or more into your day for stillness and quiet. Pray the words found in Zephaniah 3: 17, “Lord, quiet me in Your love.”
If people, who lived in simpler, slower times, when the Bible was written, needed to take time to be quiet before the Lord, how much more we who live in these hectic times. So, every day take time to “Be still” and get to know God.
Centuries ago the great French Scientist and Mathematician, Blaise Pascal, wrote, “After observing people over many years, I came to the conclusion that one of man’s great troubles is his inability to be still.” May that not be your problem.
2. Seek the Lord’s Face
When you are asked to be still and to wait on the Lord what are you being asked to do? Are you being asked to find a quiet place and just sit there and do nothing or let your mind wander? No! What God is asking you to do is not to be passive but rather active.
So what are you to do once you have quietened yourself before God?
Coming back to Psalm 27, where we are clearly told to wait on the Lord, we have noted that the Psalmist David is in a time of trouble and great need (vs. 1-3). However, we are not told what the situation was, whether he was being chased by King Saul or was under attack from surrounding nations or being betrayed by his rebellious son Absalom. Whatever was happening was very serious.
What was David to do with “evil men” advancing against him to kill him? His decision was to wait on the Lord. But, what did that involve besides being quiet before God? It involves seeking God’s face.
As we read verses vs. 4-8 the Psalmist tells us the passion of his life was to obey God’s command to seek the Lord’s face (vs. 8), to live in the Lord’s special presence, to look “upon the beauty of the Lord,” “to mediate “ on Him. (vs. 4) David’s desire was to enjoy God’s person and presence in all its fullness; to see God in all His glory and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with Him; to know Him intimately. The Psalmist wanted to know God experientially, not just know about Him.
His priority in life was to be preoccupied with God Himself. As we read Psalm 27 we discover that David’s longing to know God was realized. In verses 1-3 he describes God as his light, his salvation, his stronghold, his victor, his protector, his strength, his refuge, his confidence, his stabilizer, his peace and his comforter. This was not something that David knew about God from people or from books, but David knew God in this way from his own first-hand experiences.
Waiting on God is us, like David, taking time to seek God face; to gaze upon His beauty no matter what’s taking place around us. But what often happens to us in our times of trouble and difficulty is we turn our eyes away from the Lord and focus on our problems. That can also happen in the good times of life. We get distracted by all the toys that the world has to offer. When that happens we can easily lose sight of the Lord.
So how does a person seek the Lord’s face in our day? How do we get to know God the way David came to know Him? Listen to what the Psalmist writes in Psalm 130: 5-6: (New American Standard Bible)
“I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. ?My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130: 5-6
The word “hope” in verse 5 is an interesting word because its basic meaning is “to wait.” In other words, the Psalmist tells us that he is waiting upon God and he says that he is doing his waiting in the Word of God. That means that the Bible is to be the basis of our understanding, thinking and waiting on God. It is in His Word that we seek God’s face. It’s not us dreaming up our own ideas about God. Seeking God’s face is not us trying to imagine what God is like.
Reggie McNeil, in his book A Work of Heart writes “We need to get to know God firsthand and not rely on what others tells us about Him.” He goes on to say “many [people] have absorbed conscious and unconscious ideas…about God from a number of sources – parents, spiritual authorities, popular culture, friends. God has gone to great lengths to give us firsthand knowledge about Himself.” But where do we find that firsthand knowledge about God? We find it in His Word.
Earlier I mentioned that there are 4 key elements to the Christian life. One is “waiting on God” another is the worship of God. In John 4: 23 Jesus tells us that God the Father is looking for people to worship Him “in spirit and in truth.” A true worshipper is someone whose heart is right with God and whose worship is based on the truth about God. Where is this truth about God found? It’s found in the Word that God revealed about Himself- the Bible. Waiting on God will enrich our worship of God.
So how do you seek God’s face to-day? Some years ago I developed a habit that I carry on today. As I read my Bible I try to ask each verse that I read the question, “What is this verse telling me about God?” Human nature wants to ask, “what is God promising me here in this verse?” Resist the temptation to make yourself the focus of God’s Word and learn to seek the Lord’s face –His beauty, (Ps. 27: 4) His attributes, His nature, His goodness (Ps. 27: 13). As you do this, like David found, the fears and the problems of life will lose their impact in your life and your confidence in the Lord will grow.
In Psalm 145: 5 David tells us a second thing that he did as he waited upon God. Not only did He take time to reflect on the Person of God but he also meditated on His works.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. “
3. Examine Your Heart
As we read through Psalm 27 we discover that there was something else that David did as he waited on God. As David sought the Lord’s face (vs. 8) he goes on to pray “Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger.” Why would God invite us to seek His face and then turn away in anger? There is only one reason and that is sin.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe writes, “When the Lord’s face ‘shines upon us’ it means that He is pleased with us and will help us” but when God’s “face is turned from us He is displeased…and we must search our hearts and confess our sins.”
If we quieten ourselves before the Lord and seek His face but are hiding sin in our lives we are waiting in vain. It is absolutely necessary that when we come before the Lord we pray what David prayed in Psalm 139: 23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Waiting on God includes a time of self-examination, confession when sin is exposed, and a turning from those sins that God exposes.
4. Patiently Trust the Lord
As you read Psalm 27, where we are twice told in verse 14 to wait on the Lord, there is a third thing mentioned that we are to do as we quieten our hearts and seek God’s face and that is trust the Lord.
Despite the attacks on his life David was able to say in verse 3, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. Then in verse 13 he writes, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That’s trust.
How was David able to be so confident when his life was in such danger? Because in the past, as he sought God’s face, he had found the Lord to be his “light,” his deliverer, (vs. 1) his protector, (vs. 2), the stabilizing influence in his life, (vs. 5) and his helper. (vs. 9)
It is very possible to come to the point where we see God in all His power and might but when difficult times come we forget what we know about God and try to handle our hardships in our own strength. We let our problem become the focus of our life. We worry; we plan; we work hard to overcome our problems rather than depend upon Him to handle the matter. We pray and tell God all about what we’re facing but that’s all we do it tell Him about it but we don’t let Him have control of the situation.
There is an old story of a man who was walking towards town one day carrying a very heavy load on his back. A man driving a horse and wagon came up behind the man, going in the same direction. Noticing that the man who was walking was very tired the man with the wagon stopped to give him a ride into town. The man who was walking was very grateful for the help. But the ride into town did him very little good because he didn’t take the load off his back and lay it on the floor and let the wagon bear the weight. How often we are like this. It’s wonderful to know that God is there for us, but we don’t let Him have our burden. There’s an old Hymn that tells us to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there, not pick them up again and try to deal with them ourselves.
Waiting on God involves us trusting God with everything. Not some things, but everything. But this also requires patience on our part. David reminds us of this in Psalm 37: 7 when he says, “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” God has his timetable for doing things. His timing is always perfect even though we want Him to do things now. Remember, trusting always requires patience.
5. Call Upon God
The last thing that we see in Psalm 27 is that as David waited upon God he prayed. In verses 4, 7-12 David asked for several things:
a. The first prayer that David prays as he waits on the Lord is found in verse 4 where he asks that he could dwell in the presence of the Lord, to “behold the beauty of the Lord” and “to meditate” on Him “all the days of his life.”
b. He asked that God would guide him in the difficult days in which he found himself. (vs. 11)
c. He asked that God would protect him from his enemies. (vs. 12)
But the main prayer that David prayed was in vs. 7-10 where:
d. He asked that in vs. 7-9 that the Lord would show him His face.
As you wait on the Lord make this your prayer as well that God, through His Word would show you more and more of Himself – His nature, His attributes, His heart. As you come to the quiet place make David’s cry to God in vs. 7-10 your prayer. Be like Moses whose prayer to God was “Show me Your glory.” Exodus 33: 18
It was Dr. G. Campbell Morgan who noted that “Waiting is far more difficult than working.” That is possibly true, but it is worth it to wait. It was a Christian from India who once observed:
To talk with God no breath is lost, - talk on
To walk with God no strength is lost, - walk on
To wait on God no time is lost, wait on
Waiting on God will have positive results in your life and in your service for the Lord. The following are some of the blessings that will come to your life when you learn this life-discipline.
a. As I have mentioned earlier, waiting will enrich and deepen your worship of God.
b. Twice in Psalm 27 David speaks of having confidence in the face of the danger that surrounded him (vs. 3, 13 New International Version).
c. David also described the inner peace that he experienced when he talked about his absence of fear that he experienced in the face of danger. Psalm 27: 1, 3
d. In Psalm 27: 6 the Psalmist looked forward to the day when he would offer sacrifices at the Tabernacle and do it with the joy that he was “now” experiencing.
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
f. David also says in Psalm 62: 5 that waiting on God also produces hope in our lives.
“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.” NASB
g. Deliverance in the face of danger is another of the blessings that comes when you wait. David writes in Psalm 62: 1
“Wait for the LORD, and He will save you. My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.”
What a tremendous promise has made to us in Isaiah 64: 4 where the prophet writes,
“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”
At the beginning of this article I made mention of four important elements of the Christian life - our worship of God, our walk with God, our service for God and what we have just considered, our waiting on God. All of these elements have to be in proper balance in our lives in order for us to be spiritually healthy and effective for God. We must not focus on one or two of these elements and neglect the other two. We can’t consider one or two of them important and the rest of no value.
In Luke 10 we have the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha. (Vs. 38-42)
As Luke describes Martha she is a very busy lady focused on all she had to do to be a good hostess. She was working so hard that she was trying to do the work of two people. When she came and asked Jesus to send her sister Mary to help her with all the preparations, Jesus said this to her,?"Martha, Martha,…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
And what was Mary doing that Jesus called “better?” She was sitting at the feet of Jesus “listening to what He said.” She was waiting on God. Was Martha wrong to serve the Lord? No, but her problem was that she was out of spiritual balance and needed to take time, like Mary did, to wait on God.
If you find your spiritual life out of balance and waiting on God is unimportant to you, make the following words of the prophet Jeremiah your prayer and an important part of your action plan as you head into the future:
“I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”- Lamentations 3: 24-26