But there are ways to cope and grow in testing times. Knowledge apart from application falls short of God’s desire for his children. He wants us to apply what we learn so that we will change and grow. We grow as our understanding of God’s Word increases, and as we apply what we have learned.
We tend to replace waiting on God with hurried attempts at pursuing growth on our own. We use chemical fertilisers in our gardens to force growth. So we settle for shallow roots destined to yield only mediocre growth. We have grown so accustomed to fast food restaurants that they are a way of life. We graft this attitude of hurry into our pursuit of God and it stunts the growth of our inner being. Trees that grow slowly are stronger and their annual rings are more densely compacted.
God told Noah to build the ark in preparation for a great flood. Enduring his neighbour’s derision and perhaps his own doubts, Noah waited 120 years before that rain finally came.
Job lost his family, his wealth, and his health. One by one the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual supports for his faith were removed. But Job chose instead to wait on the Lord.
At the age of 75, a very prosperous and settled Abraham left his native land. He was guided only by God’s promise to make him a great nation. Abraham waited on God a long time before the fulfillment of that promise became evident.
These ordinary people became spiritual giants because they chose to wait on God. If we are to grow in spiritual stature we must learn to wait on God. That stretches us.
Joseph endured 14 years inside a dark Egyptian prison cell for a crime he didn’t commit. But rather than withering and dying, he waited on God and trusted in his sovereignty.
Moses, the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, was well educated. But at the age of 40, he killed an Egyptian and was forced to flee for his life. For the next 40 years this leader lived alone in a desert learning to wait on God. It was a time when Moses learned to replace trust in himself (to get things done) with trust in God and waiting.
Paul was one of the greatest men the religious system of the Pharisees could produce. He zealously led the persecution of Christians. But Christ had other plans for Paul and intervened in his life on the Damascus Road. Paul spent the next three years alone, growing in his knowledge and understanding of his Saviour.
The Lord Jesus
Just before Christ’s public ministry began, Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world if he would only worship him. Jesus endured three tests. Satan tempted Christ to receive glory and power in a way other than God’s way, which was to be through the cross. Christ, however, was willing to wait, to endure suffering, and to become the sacrifice for our sin, before exaltation.
Waiting is the rule
Waiting on God is the rule instead of the exception. When there are no open doors, we try to force the locks. All of us have a natural tendency to make waiting on God the exception and trusting in our own wisdom the rule. This seems to be our default mode. But we need to re-programme our settings to conform to God’s ways. Waiting requires confidence in God that is based on an understanding of who he is. Let us trust him in the silence and darkness.
We must learn to accept the fact that, in many areas of our lives, waiting will be the very process God uses to mature us.
Waiting on God is resting, not hurrying. The difference between waiting and worrying is focus. When we are truly waiting on the Lord, our posture and attitude are like Mary’s (the sister of Martha) as she sat at the Lord’s feet, giving him her undivided attention. When we worry, we’re more like Martha, who, although busy serving the Lord, was distracted and anxious. We may feel trapped and we may be hurting but we can join Mary at the Saviour’s feet at any time.
Scripture counsels: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4.6-7).
There are times when we must wait for God to direct our steps. We need reminding of this when we feel our hearts beginning to grow restless. Trust God to provide for your needs. Our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. This is especially true when it comes to trusting God to provide for us. We’re only too happy to lift up needs in the areas of our weaknesses. But when it comes to the areas of our strengths, our needs are reluctantly lifted up, only after we have exhausted all our skills in trying to provide for ourselves.
Waiting is not easy. It seems unnatural in a world where everything is expected immediately. So we need the supernatural grace of God to help in such times of testing. We grow strong through waiting. ‘They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength’ (Isaiah 40.31).
Two ways to wait
There are two ways to practise waiting. First, we can wait in silence. Some of the best times we may ever spend in prayer are the ones when we stop talking and simply listen. These are times when we meditate upon the things of the Lord through his Word. During these times God may bring to mind a needed truth or something to be thankful for, or a practical application of his Word that we had been missing.
Secondly, we wait with hope and confidence. A student once asked a teacher if there was a course he could take that was shorter than the one prescribed. Many of us, while waiting on God, have asked a similar question. Lord, isn’t there a shorter, less difficult route I could take?
But it’s only by waiting on him (trusting, praying and resting) that our roots will go deep enough for us to be as solid as an oak. Waiting involves trusting. How can I exercise greater trust this week? Waiting includes praying. How seriously have I poured out my heart to God? Waiting implies resting. Am I anxious, tense and worrisome? In what areas can I practise resting this week?
We need to confess our shortcomings in approaching our situations and ask God for help in being still. Ask him for the wisdom to wait. Daily duties continue while waiting on God. Difficulties may increase while waiting on God and so we can become impatient. Delays do not mean God will fail to come through. Never question in the dark what God gave in the light.
Take the advice of the psalmist: ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!’ (Psalm 27.14). Let us be faithful while waiting. Let us expect God to come through in his time.
Kieran Beville is a Baptist pastor in Ireland and visiting professor at Tyndale Theological Seminary, Amsterdam.
This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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