Waiting on the Lord May Be the Hardest Thing We Are Asked to Do


They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength….  (Isaiah 40:31)

I waited on the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry…. (Psalm 40:1)

So, wait on the Lord.  Be strong. Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

Are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?  (Mark 14:37).

It takes time.

God has all the time in the universe.

Throw away your watch and your calendar, follower of Jesus.  You’re on heavenly time now and nothing happens on your schedule.

I suspect most of us are like the fellow who prayed, “Lord, give me patience–and give it to me right now!”

You’ve been praying for a loved one. And you don’t see an answer.  You keep praying.  For years, you pray and wait and hope.  Then the one you were praying for is in a traffic accident and killed.  Clearly, God never answered your prayer.  You are devastated. So disappointed.  Your faith in God wavers.  You’re so unsure anymore.  What is the point in praying and in trusting?

And then one day, years later, something happens.

A man walks into your office and tells you that ten years earlier he witnessed to your loved one who repented and received Christ.  When did this happen?  When he names the date, you realize that was one day before he died.  Twenty-four hours before he went out into eternity, your loved one repented and was saved.  God had answered your prayer after all.  All this time, you have not known.  You have been so angry at God you haven’t been to church in years. You weep and weep and weep. Thank you, God.  Forgive me, Lord.

Oregon’s Pastor Ron Mehl told that true story in one of his books.

Waiting on the Lord is so hard.  It may be the hardest part of the Christian life.

Our Lord gave so many difficult commands–to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, love your enemy, forgive seventy times seven, pray without ceasing–none of which we can do without the power of the Holy Spirit–but the command to “wait upon the Lord” may be the hardest.  It goes against our activist nature.

Waiting feels a lot like doing nothing.  It’s hard.

–You have gone to school to prepare for ministry.  You’ve been obedient to God’s call on your life.  You’re ready to go now. To pastor, to do missions, whatever He says.  But you hear nothing.  You wait and wait.

–You have a burden for a loved one who is away from God. You pray and pray and finally the peace of God assures you that your prayer has been heard.  So, you begin thanking God for the answer He is sending.  But nothing happens.  You wait and wait and wait.

–Your husband or wife is not doing right.  You pray and pray and nothing happens.

–You pray for revival for yourself, for your church, your community, your country.  And you wonder why God does not answer.  You constantly pray, and you wait.

–You need victory over a bad habit that is pulling you down.  You pray and pray and nothing changes.

–The people at your workplace are making life miserable for you.  You do your best to show them the love of Christ, and you pray constantly for God to intervene.  You wait and wait.

Waiting is a huge theme of Scripture

Noah waited.  It appears from Genesis 6:3 that Noah worked on that ark for over a hundred years.  Working and waiting.

Abraham and Sarah were 75 and 65 when God announced His plans to make them parents.   But nothing happened.   Eventually, when Isaac was born, Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100.  For twenty-five years they had waited.  (In between, they had grown impatient waiting for God and taken matters into their own hands.  You remember how that did not work out so well.)

As a youth of 17, Joseph received the vision of what lay ahead.  After years of slavery and imprisonment, Joseph became second-in-command for all of Egypt and the rescuer of his people.

Two eighth-century prophets–Isaiah and Micah–promised the birth of the Messiah.  Seven centuries intervened before God fulfilled those promises.  It’s as though a promise from the 1400s is being fulfilled today.

And when was Jesus born?  In the fulness of time is how Galatians 4:4 expresses it. What does that mean?  Only that for a long time God had been putting the pieces into place, planning this, and waiting for the right time.  One scholar says, “As a father set the time for the ceremony of his son becoming of age and being released from the guardians, managers, and tutors, so God sent His Son at the precise moment….”

We stand amazed at old Simeon waiting in the Temple (Luke 2) when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus for the dedication.  Described as “righteous and devout,” Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.”  He was faithful, waiting for day in and day out.  And then it happened.  A magical moment.

It takes great faith to wait and wait and wait.  

To wait for the Lord requires a lot of things:  Strong faith in God, a strong desire for God to do things His way, and control of one’s own impulses.

The New Testament speaks of God’s people persevering, of hope, of waiting.  Before going to ascending to Heaven, Jesus commanded (the disciples) not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised (Acts 1:4).  They were to return to the Upper Room and wait.  For how long, Jesus did not say. At some time in the future, the Holy Spirit would come into power.

The Upper Room became a Waiting Room.

Immediately after His ascension, two angels appeared with a promise of their own.  This same Jesus, who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven.  (1:11)  We believe that promise.  But we’re still waiting.

Okay, but here’s what happened to those disciples….

The disciples were much like us.  They were impatient.  They simply had a hard time waiting.  We recall that Blaise Pascal said all the evils of mankind have come upon us because people cannot sit still in a room. That is us.  We have to be doing something. Waiting on God looks a lot like doing nothing.

As the disciples waited in the Upper Room for the Holy Spirit’s arrival, they were continually devoting themselves to prayer (1:14), which was good. But that’s not all they did.

At some point, they decided as long as while they were waiting on God, they might as well take care of a little business.  They had a vacancy in the team.  The death of Judas had left an opening.  Scripture anticipated this, they decided, so it would be good to fill the vacancy.

Somehow or other, they decided the new apostle should have seniority–have been there from the beginning–and must have witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.  Only two men, Joseph and Matthias, qualified.  I love the little prayer they prayed before choosing.

Lord, you know the hearts of all men.  So show us which one of these two you have chosen to occupy this ministry.  (1:24)

Too bad if the Lord had someone else entirely in mind to fill that slot.  Sorry, Lord, it’s these two.  Show us which one you want.

Doesn’t that sound like us?

The disciples drew lots–not unlike flipping a coin, meaning it has to come up heads or tails–and Matthias was chosen.  We never hear of the poor fellow again.  (Two side notes: 1) after Pentecost, no mention of drawing lots is ever made again in Scripture.  The Holy Spirit put that system out of business. And 2) while it is true Matthias is never heard from again, the same could be said of most of the disciples.  So, to be fair, the silence proves nothing. Even so, I stand by the point that the disciples were running ahead of the Lord in this.)

Meanwhile, the thirteenth apostle whom God had already selected–Saul of Tarsus–was anything but ready to be made a role model for the faith or a leader of the faithful.  The man was busy making plans to wipe out the whole bunch of these Christians!

God’s faithful must be willing to wait for Him, to leave “holy vacancies” in the organization until God raises us the right person to fill them.

Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.  The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient;  strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near  (James 5:7-8).

As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.  You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lod’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful (James 5:10-11).

For in hope we have been saved.  But hope that is seen is not hope.  For why does one hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait patiently for it  (Romans 8:24-25).

Waiting is an essential part of the Christian life 

–In worship, we wait before the Lord.  What good is the hour we spend there?  Wait and see.

–We bring our offerings to the Lord’s house.  We give generously to those in need and to servants of God.  What does it accomplish?  We will have to wait to know.

–When we pray, we rarely see the answers immediately.  In fact, I’m going to say that 90 percent of what we pray for we will never know in this life whether or how God answered.  We will wait to see.

–When we teach and preach and witness, in most cases we will not know for a long time–if ever in this life–what God did with our efforts.  We will wait.

–We feed the hungry, minister to prisoners, work with the handicapped and needy, and help all we can, and we rarely see what we accomplish. We do all these things by faith and leave the results to God.  In time we will see.

Can you wait?  Can you be faithful that long?

In Luke 14 our Lord watched how people were behaving and misbehaving at a banquet.  He said to His people, When you give a dinner, don’t just invite people who can repay the favor.  Invite the poor, the needy, the handicapped, people who cannot repay you. Do this, He said, and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:14).

Think of that.  Our Lord said if we would do something for Him now, He will pay us at the resurrection.  I wonder:  Can we wait that long?  believe that strong?

I love the story Jeff Christopherson tells about his parents.  Allen and Helen Christopherson, natives of Saskatchewan, Canada, were married in 1960.  They were not Christians.  Allen needed a job and found work on a crew cleaning out beer storage tanks.  It didn’t pay much but the beer was free.  Many employees became alcoholics.

Sometime in 1967, Allen and Helen got a babysitter to stay with Jeff and his little sister so they could have a date night.  At the downtown theater, they saw a Billy Graham movie called “The Restless Ones.”  As they sat there watching the guy on the screen deal with his problems and heard the witness given to him, they were moved.  And when the actor was listening to Billy Graham preach on the radio, as he prayed to be saved, Allen and Helen held hands and prayed along with him.  When the movie ended, they brought up the house lights and a man in a dark suit walked out on stage and gave an invitation for people to be saved.

No one responded to the invitation, but outside in their little VW Beetle, Allen and Helen held hands and prayed for the Lord to lead them in this new life they had begun.  The Lord led Allen to change jobs and become a welder, and He led them to a wonderful church where the pastor was committed to starting new churches.  Over the years, he used the Christopherson’s to birth a number of new churches.  Now, fast-forward a full generation.

Franklin Graham was coming to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a crusade.  Festivals, he calls them.  And a steering committee had been assembled to oversee the planning and details.  Allen Christopherson was asked to serve.  At their first meeting, a man stood at the microphone and introduced himself.  “They’ve asked me to chair this committee,” he said. “But first, before we get started, I wonder if two or three of you would like to come to the mic and tell the rest of us about the impact of the Billy Graham ministry upon your life.”

Allen Christopherson sits there thinking, “No one wants to hear me.  I’m just a welder.”  Next thing you know, he’s standing at that mic telling of the time in 1967 when he and his wife went to the Billy Graham movie in their city and gave their hearts to Christ.  “Since then, we’ve helped to start a number of new churches,” he said.  “Our son Jeff is a church planter in Toronto.  Our daughter married a preacher and they are missionaries to South America, down there starting new churches.”  He paused and added, “Heaven along knows how many people are in the kingdom because my wife and I went to a movie in 1967.”  And he sat down.

There was silence for a minute, then an old man walked up the aisle to the microphone.  He said, “Folks, my name is Tom Dice.  I’m a retired counselor here in the area.  In 1967, God told me to bring The Restless Ones to our city.  I rallied my family and friends and we put it on at the local theater.  Night after night after the movie, I walked out on that platform and gave a public invitation for people to be saved.  But night after night, no one came.  When the week was over, not one person had responded to the invitation. And from that time to this, I had not heard of one person who was touched by our showing that Billy Graham movie.”

“Many’s the time,” he said, “since that, I’ve wondered if maybe I was mistaken if maybe the Lord did not tell me to bring that movie to our city.”  He paused and wiped away a tear, and said, “But now I see.”

Allen Christopherson got up and walked to the front and these two old men began hugging each other.  You could hear Tom Dice saying over and over, “Now I see.  Now I see.”

Oh, friend.  Keep on trusting.  Lean not unto thine own understanding.

Wait on the Lord. Be strong.  Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord.  (Psalm 27:14).


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