Waiting Patiently on God
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:7)
“In your patience possess ye your souls.”(Luke 21:19) “Ye have need of patience.”(Hebrews 10:36) “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye May be perfect and entire.” (James 1:4) Such words of the Holy Spirit show us what an important element in the Christian life and character patience is. And nowhere is there a better place for cultivating or displaying it than in waiting on God. There we discover how impatient we are, and what our impatience means.
We confess at times we are impatient with men, with circumstances that hinder us, or with ourselves and our slow progress in the Christian life. If we truly set ourselves to wait upon God, we shall find that it is with Him we are impatient, because He does not at once or as soon as we could wish, do our bidding. It is in waiting upon God that our eyes are opened to believe in His wise and sovereign will, and to see that the sooner and more completely we yield absolutely to it, he more surely His blessing can come to us.
All the exercises of the spiritual life, our reading and praying, our willing and doing, have their great value. But they can go no further than this, that they point the way and prepare us in humility to look to and to depend alone upon God Himself; and in patience wait His good time and mercy. The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence upon God’s mighty working, and to make us in perfect patience place ourselves at His disposal. They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land; the promised land and its blessing. The heirs must wait; they can afford to wait.
The promise Jesus made to the disciples and us is that He would come again and take us to be with Him.
““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
This is what He said to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room before He was crucified. As they waited expectantly for Him to establish His kingdom on earth and watched their hopes and dreams seemingly vanish, they went back to their old lives. They had waited for the ultimate moment and it had not occurred as they expected. Some days later after Jesus has risen from the dead and established His proof to them as being the Son of God, they gather on the mountain.
“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
We have heard the message of His coming for years and as He lingers, we grow impatient. Like Mary, we say Lord if you’d just come now, you could fix all these things and as He delays we find ourselves losing hope and like the disciples drifting back into the life of merely existing. As I listen to the music and sermons of today, I notice that our focus has shifted to how to cope and how to be blessed while in this world. We seem to have settled in our minds that while Jesus may come it’s no time soon so we may as well focus on getting by. As He delays His coming, we develop theology that supports our refocusing from waiting expectantly for His return to living life. Like the child who doesn’t get his answer or his desire, we go back to play and in our impatience of waiting often miss the great blessing God has for us.
Some may criticize this as “escape mentality” but my hope is the coming of the Lord for His church. This is what I wait for. This is how we face the uncertainty of life and cope with all the troubles of this world. This is how I face the grief and loss of those dear to me. For I believe that Christ is coming back for His people. When life seems at its worst, I know that His coming will be worth the wait. And while I wait patiently and sometimes impatiently, I know I can trust God to lead me, guide me and keep me until that day when I see Him coming in the clouds. Jesus was clear that we would not know exactly when He would come(Luke24) but He had a lot to say about being ready for His coming. This is no time to abandon our faith or to be caught up in this world. This is no time to become discouraged and impatient. This is the time to seek God more, to pursue a deeper walk with Him, and to trust Him completely with child- like faith.
This is our story, our proclamation; that the Lord Jesus is preparing a place for us and He is coming again to bring us to that place to be with Him for eternity.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
One of the things I do to help me with impatience is to measure my progress. For example, when I’m traveling a long distance, I’ll count the mile markers and as I pass them say to myself that I’m that much closer to finishing my journey. As I wait on the return of Christ, I see mile markers indicating we are getting nearer and nearer to that day. When Sherry and I travel and as we are getting nearer our destination, we get prepared. She will have the mirror down checking her hair and makeup, for example. As we get nearer to the coming of the Lord, we ought to check our spiritual condition. Just as we want our physical appearance to be the best it can be before we meet those at the end of our journey, so should we want to be our best when we see the Savior in the clouds. While we may not know the day or the hour, we can read the signs of the nearness of His coming. I hope as we read those signs, even though they in themselves are troubling, we find ourselves waiting patiently but expectantly for Christ. We have been given some road markers to measure the nearness of His coming and by those measurements we are nearing our destination.
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Finally, may I say that this patient waiting on the Lord to come will influence our actions and work. This week we heard of the hurricane that touched South Carolina. As the news went out to the residents, I’m sure it was met with a variety of reaction. No doubt there were the skeptical who went about life as though it was the usual and made no preparations for the storm. There were those who immediately responded with fear and who no doubt abandoned their property and fled. There were others who were aware of the impending danger so they were diligent in preparing for the storm. They acted not out of fear or skepticism but out of cautious faith. They took all the measures to protect themselves and their property and then they waited.
In the same manner, let us not ignore all that’s happening around us. Let us be aware of the danger and acknowledge the prophecies of a Christ coming to pass. Let us prepare ourselves for His coming, but let us also find the urgency to do the work of God while it is yet day. I’m sure that those who were aware of the storm made sure that their friends and relatives in its path were prepared. We who are aware of the coming of the Lord should have an urgency to make sure that all those we know are prepared for this coming. As we wait, we work. As we we believe, we act. As He lingers, we wait patiently knowing that all He has promised, He will do. While the storm isn’t pleasant, having His presence in the storm is comforting.
Dr. John Thompson