Life involves waiting. I’m so cool that I’m waiting for the second part of the Doctor Who finale on Saturday, I’m waiting to travel to Russia next week on Friday, on a broader scale I’m waiting to finish university and get a job, I’m waiting for the day when I’m declared Emperor of the World. I’m waiting for my next pay cheque to come in, I’m waiting for the advert on Spotify to go away, I’m waiting for a lot of things.
I imagine I’m not alone in this. You’re probably waiting for something as well, waiting with baited breath and a thudding heart for this post to go up...or not. The point is that waiting is a common and universal experience. And most of us hate it.
This is never more applicable when it comes to spiritual matters. I’ve been waiting for three or four prayers to be answered for the past six months or so. You hear stories of people who had to wait forty years before their prayers were answered. If you turn to the Bible then you’’ find story after story about waiting. Jesus waited thirty years before he began his ministry, Moses had to wait until he was 80 before he was appointed leader of the Israelites and Noah had to wait as much as a century for the flood to come.
So the first thing to note about waiting is that it is a perfectly normal experience. The question is though: if God loves us why do we have to wait? How should we wait?
Waiting teaches us patience
We live in a culture of instant gratification, the type of culture that says: don't wait until you're married before you have sex have it now. The type of culture that is all about short term pleasure and instant gain even at the expense of long term loss. Our culture is always buy now and pay later.
Naturally this runs in the completely opposite direction to biblical teaching. Patience, that is the ability to wait without growing angry, is a virtue. In fact, patience is nearly always coupled with the other virtue of perseverance.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1 v 2 – 4
Waiting on God is often difficult it is a test of faith but like all tests we come out of it better than before. Waiting is learning patience the hard way. I think it’s safe to say that we all need to learn the hard way when it comes to patience.
The challenge lies in the very first few words ‘consider it pure joy’. Speaking as someone waiting on the Lord I’ve experienced a range of emotions; pure joy was not one of them. Impatience, yes, anger, yes, annoyance, yes, resigned acceptance, yes but never pure joy.
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.”
James 5 v 7 – 8
This passage a few chapters later reinforces the biblical teaching on patience – it is a necessity of the Christian life.
Patience is rewarded
“As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
James 5 v 11
If you do persevere you are blessed. In the Book of Job we read about the trails and suffering Job had to face. He had to wait quite some time before God spoke to him. But after waiting he was blessed and ended up richer than before.
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
Isaiah 30 v 18
Once again we have the exact same truth expounded. Waiting, patience and perseverance all lead to blessing.
Waiting is hard but God is with us
“but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40 v 31
Taken alone this verse is of great hope and comfort but notice the connection between waiting on the Lord and soaring on wings of eagles. To soar we must wait. From my own personal experience I know some of this true, the spiritual high points in my life have generally been when I was waiting on the Lord with the right mind set.
How should we wait?
So we know that waiting on God will result in blessing and that God is with us when we wait on him. But how should we wait? The answer to the question lies in what it means to be patience.
Patience is more than just waiting. It is our attitude to waiting. After all, we all have to wait on things but we aren’t all patient about it. Patience is our mindset to waiting. And patience is tied up with that major Christian virtue of Faith.
If we have faith, if we trust in the promises of God’s Word, if we truly believe in the perfection of God’s sovereignty over all things then we’ll be patient while waiting on God. To be anything else would be in rebellion against God’s plan for our life.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8 v 28
Patience is realising that we don’t know what is best for ourselves. God does. Therefore we wait on him without anger, frustration or irritation instead trusting God and being hopefully expectant that when the time is right our prayer will be answered.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
Psalm 27 v 14
Waiting on God is hard. But the encouragement the Bible gives are many. We must strive to always remember that those who wait on the Lord are blessed, that waiting is teaching us perseverance and that we must wait fully trusting in the Lord.
To end here is Paul’s prayer for believers:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
Colossians 1 v 9 - 11