“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7) —King David, second king of ancient Israel, wrote Psalm 37 when he was an old man
Waiting is a journey that nobody likes, especially if what one is waiting for drags on for, well, decades. There is actually a definition for “waiting game” in Merriam-Webster that states: “a strategy in which one or more participants withhold action temporarily in the hope of having a favorable opportunity for more effective action later” (quote source here).
Yesterday I published a blog post on my other blog titled, “Backstage: God Behind the Scenes.” Much of our waiting has to do with what God is doing “behinds the scenes” in our lives. It also has to do with what He is doing in us. However, being human, we usually have a very low tolerance for waiting for much of anything in our easy access, available 24/7 culture. In fact, we find it hard to wait for the microwave to heat our food in three minutes or less.
Perhaps you know the feeling of waiting for your phone to charge?
You’ve run out of batteries, you’ve plugged the phone in and now there’s nothing to do but sit and wait? And even if it really only takes a matter of minutes (and even though it’s nothing more than a phone), you start to feel tense and anxious, wondering how long this could possibly take.
Most people don’t like to wait. We often get frustrated waiting on fast food or waiting behind the slow car in the fast lane. We are always in a rush to get to the next place or the next thing.
This mindset often carries over into our spiritual lives with us rushing to the next big thing.
But while most of us are in a hurry, it seems God is usually not in a hurry. The Scriptures say He is slow at going about things. It seems He always has a plan and a purpose for everything.
The problem with waiting is not having all the details. From our perspective, we have everything figured out and we want God to move within our time frame.
But God rarely does things according to our time frame, and because of this we can easily get discouraged. If we aren’t careful, we’ll think He’s uncaring or mad at us.
In the Gospels we see this happening to Mary and Martha while they are waiting on Jesus to come and heal their brother, Lazarus. When Jesus finally shows up, He is accused of taking too long.
God always has good reasons for making us wait. Waiting is a part of life and one of God’s tools for developing people. The Bible is full of stories of people having to wait on God, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel, Jesus, Paul and countless others.
In studying the lives of these great people, I’ve discovered 5 reasons God makes us wait:
1. Waiting reveals our true motives
Waiting has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. People who don’t have good motives won’t wait long because they’re not interested in the commitment it takes to see something through. They’re too interested in short-term gains or success.
Most of us have good intentions, but a lot of what we want to accomplish is an attempt to make a name for ourselves or for our own egos. It hurts to say this, but it’s often true.
2. Waiting builds patience in our lives
Patience in waiting for small things leads to having patience in the bigger things. If we can’t wait for God to do a small thing, we certainly can’t wait for something bigger.
Our problem is our perspective is usually wrong. We tend to think the bigger things in life are finances and possessions, while God thinks influencing and changing people is more important.
3. Waiting builds anticipation
Why do children get so excited around Christmas? Because the wait has produced anticipation. We tend to appreciate things the longer we have to wait for them.
A few years ago, my family and I were going through a difficult season. We had to live with my mother-in-law for a few years. During this time the Lord assured me that one day we would own a home of our own. It took a few years to see this happen, but when the day finally came, we could hardly contain ourselves.
Because of having to wait so long, we tend to cherish and take care of it more than others might. People tend to treasure the things they have to wait for.
4. Waiting transforms our character
Waiting has a way of rubbing off the rough edges of our lives. Most of us know the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. It’s a grand story of God doing great miracles.
But few sermons talk about Moses having to wait in the desert 40 years before God came to him. God used this time of waiting to transform his character. We know this because when he was a young man he was brash and impatient. In his impetuousness he killed a man and hid the body. When his sin was made public, he ran for his life and was exiled to the desert. When he was given a second chance he opted to do it God’s way and in God’s time. In the end, the Israelites were delivered from slavery and Moses became a great leader. Waiting transformed the life of Moses and it does the same for you and I.
5. Waiting builds intimacy and dependency upon God
The reason we are able to read about the great men and women of the Bible is because they all had one thing in common. They were all people who learned their success in life was directly proportionate to their intimacy and dependency upon God. For them, a relationship with God wasn’t a get rich quick scheme. For many of them it was a matter of life and death.
Waiting during the difficult times developed their relationship with God. Some of the most intimate relationships we have in our lives are because a friend stood in the trenches with us during the heat of the battle. Maybe this is what the scripture means when it says we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
The reason we get to read the stories of these great men and women is because they went through the difficulties of life with God. In the end, they enjoyed the process with God and the promise of God.
I’ve always believed God is just as interested in the journey as he is the destination. If not, all the biblical accounts would only include the feel good parts and not the good, the bad and the ugly of the times of waiting. We may not always understand why we have to wait, but the good news is that God never asks us to wait without Him. (Quote source here.)
There is no set time frame for waiting. It can take days or weeks or months or years, even decades. And acquiring patience goes hand-in-hand with waiting. In an article published on December 8, 2014 in Patheos.com titled, “3 Bible Stories on Patience,” by Dr. Michael L. Williams, Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor, he writes:
Humanity is constantly on the move. We want fast food, fast service, and fast resolutions to high profile controversial court cases. When we do not get what we want, we get impatient and want somebody to pay for not doing something when we want it to be done. As we struggle with our own impatience, there is much we can learn by looking at three Bible stories about patience.
What is the common definition of the word patience?
The common definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset” (quote source here). It is interesting that the word has the same root as the word “patient” that means suffering. For those of us that are impatient, it is clear that we often think that we are suffering when we have to be patient. The following three stories demonstrate what patience is all about.
Abraham and Sarah
God promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:1-6). This was despite the fact that Abraham and his wife Sarah were unable to have children when they were younger and were too old to have children at the time of this promise. However, we do know that Abraham believed God and God accounted it to him as righteousness despite this fact (Genesis 15:5-6).
Despite God reinforcing the promise over several years, when the promise was not fulfilled right away, Sarah suggested that Abraham take Sarah’s handmaid Hagar to have a child (Genesis 16). Abraham took her advice and the resulting child was Ishmael. It was not until many years after the original promise when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 99 years old that the promise was fulfilled by the birth of Isaac through Sarah (Genesis 17:15; Genesis 21:1-8).
Because Isaac was the child of promise, not Ismael, it caused strife in the household because the inheritance of Abraham went to Isaac. The fallout from this decision continues to this day through descendants of Ishmael (Arabs) and the descendants of Isaac (Jews) as they continue to fight over who should own land in the area of Palestine.
Cornelius (Acts 10)
Cornelius was a Gentile who believed in God and lived a life that reflected a deep faith in God, but did not personally know God (Acts 10). Because of his faith, God sent an angel to speak to him and tell him to send men to Joppa to get Peter and to bring him back to Cornelius’ house. Cornelius believed what God had said through the angel and sent the men.
In the meantime, Peter was on the roof of his house praying and God gave him a vision of different types of animals, both clean and unclean according to the law. God told Peter to take and eat, but Peter responded by saying that he would never eat and unclean thing. God responded by telling Peter not to call something unclean that He, God, calls clean.
About that time, the men from Cornelius’ house showed up and Peter went down to meet them. The men, along with Peter and some of Peter’s men, left to go to Cornelius’ house. When Peter and the men arrived, the house was full of people waiting to see Peter. After some initial introductions and clarification of who Peter was, Peter preached the gospel of salvation and everyone in the house believed it and was saved by God. Of particular note was that immediately after they believed, they spoke in tongues (probably Hebrew, but we do not know), which proved to Peter’s men and later the other Apostles that the God had given the gospel to the Gentiles.
Job was probably known the most as a person of patience in the Bible. In fact, the saying “the patience of Job” is commonly referred to in some circles when talking about someone with patience. A brief summary of the book of Job shows us that God considered Job to be a man who was perfect and upright in all his ways (Job 1:1, 8; Job 2:3).
Satan discussed this with God and tried to explain Job’s faith as a byproduct of God’s protection. However, God allowed Satan to test Job by attacking Job’s livelihood, his family, and his physical body. Satan’s attack was so vicious that even Job’s wife told him that he should curse God and die. Despite this, Job rebuked his own wife, and refused to curse God (Job 2:9-10).
Throughout the book of Job, we find that Job search for answers as to why this had happened to him. His friends tried to advise him but, their advice was somewhat contradictory and accusing of Job of deserving what had happened. It was not until Job examined himself and cried out to God that God answered Him and set Job straight. Job believed what God said, and God blessed Job abundantly above and beyond what he had done in the past.
What can we learn from these stories?
The common thread in each of these stories is that each of these persons believed what God said. However, we also see three levels of patience. In the account of Abraham, he and Sarah had patience to a point, but because of their impatience over how long it was taking, they decided to take matters into their own hands to produce a child. The result of their impatience is directly responsible for conflict today between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac. This teaches us that not having patience can sometimes have long lasting effects that affect many generations (Isaiah 30:15-18).
In the account of Cornelius, we see a man who had patience enough to follow what God said to do even though there was no mention as to why he was to send men to get Peter. Without knowing even if Peter would come, he called his family and friends to his house to wait for Peter. The result of this was that everyone who had patience with Cornelius to wait and see what would happen were saved. This teaches us that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we not only must have patience with God, but also have patience with each other (Romans 12:10-21).
In the account of Job, we see a man who had patience to continue to trust that God would give him an answer to his trials. Job had the patience to listen to the advice of his wife, his friends, and even his own self-examination, yet decided to wait upon the Lord for His answer. His own wife and friends tried to offer an answer for why God allows him to go through a trial, but Job waited for God’s answer. This teaches us that when we go through times of testing we often do not see why God allowed it to happen until many years later when we can look back and understand exactly why God allowed it in the light of God’s calling for today (Ecclesiastes 7:7-10).
Patience really does entail suffering on some level. However, when we continue to seek God’s intervention in the matter instead of our own, He blesses us and shows us at some point how He uses it to our good and to His glory (Romans 5:3-5; Galatians 6:9). (Quote source here.)
So whatever it is you may be waiting for, whether you’ve been waiting for days or decades, continue to believe in God, and wait for His perfect timing. I’ll end this post with Habakkuk 2:3—For the vision is yet for an appointed time…. Though it tarries…
Wait for it . . .
For it will surely come . . .
It will not delay . . . .
YouTube Video: “Worth the Wait” by 33 Miles: