Why He Waits
The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.(Exodus 3:4-6)
You ask, “How is it, if God waits to be gracious to us(Isaiah 30:18), that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give help I seek, but waits still longer and longer?”
There is a double answer.
First, God is a wise husbandman, who “waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it” (James 5:7). He cannot gather the fruit until it’s ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory. Waiting in the sunshine of His love is what will ripen the soul for His blessing. Waiting under the cloud of trial, that breaks in showers of blessing, is just as necessary. Be assured that if God waits longer than you wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, until the fullness of time, before He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands. He will avenge His elect speedily. He will make haste for our help and not delay one hour too long.
The other answer: The giver is more than the gift; God is more than the blessing. And our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Himself.
Oh, if God’s children only knew what a glorious God they have, and what a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with Him, then they would rejoice in Him! Even when He keeps them waiting, they will learn to understand better than ever: His waiting will be the highest proof of His graciousness.
What a dignity and blessedness to be waiting on the everlasting God, ever on the watch for every indication of His will or favor; ever conscious of His nearness, His goodness and His grace.
What then are we waiting on? And why isn’t God fixing these things? Many of us have been praying for years for revival and the wakening of the church. We have been praying for the harvest, that people would turn their hearts toward God. We have been praying against evil and the sinfulness of humanity. All the while we seem to be seeing an increase of evil and a decrease of righteousness. We as the people of God have settled into our complacent rut. We have continued our church programs and rituals and social gatherings while the world around us falls into deeper darkness.
God who is patient and loving has given us time to change, to return to Him with our whole hearts and to a large degree we have ignored His pleading. We read of the Hebrews and how they continually closed their hearts to God and chased after the idols of the day. We read that God sent warning after warning which they brushed aside. And we read of their collapse and the consequences of their sins.
In 2011 as we watched in horror the destruction of the Twin Towers, there came an urgency to pray. At the church where I was pastor, I had repeatedly urged them to become involved in prayer and evangelism. Out of over 100 people in attendance on Sunday morning about 3 people outside of my family would gather for prayer. Week after week they would show up for church expecting a blessing, a “good” sermon and a good time of fellowship. When 911 occurred I was away preaching a revival. Interestingly enough, that church even considered canceling the meetings. I got a call from a church leader asking if they could gather for prayer since I wasn’t there to lead it. I must confess that literally blew my mind. Of course you can have a prayer meeting, that’s what I’ve been asking for years. I remember driving home from the revival and almost every business I passed had something on their sign about prayer. For the next six months church attendance increased. Then we “got things under control” and life returned to “normal” and church attendance dropped to numbers less than pre-911. As a nation we felt safe and secure. We chose to remove from our courtroom walls the Ten Commandments, we chose to continue our practices of abortion, we chose as the church to regather in our little groups and life was business as normal. We missed our wake up call. You have heard me say again and again that God is never the author of destruction or calamity. Yet God will use those things to get our attention. I’ve observed over the years that trouble becomes the instigating of people coming to church or seeking God. When the Israelites were in Egypt and life was good, they became content. When life became bad, they cried out to God.
Let me go on record to say again that I do not believe the Coronavirus is an act of God, but I believe that God is using it for His purpose. Our normal routines have been disrupted. Our Sunday morning gatherings and our normal church activities have gone away. Now I know there is a segment who believe that at some point we will return to the old norm. I know there are those who have chosen to do nothing but wait for that moment. I believe that this is a time of refining. This is a time for us to awaken our faith. This is the time to move from complacency to action.
Malachi, the last OT prophet prophesies this:
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will prepare and clear the way before Me. And the Lord [the Messiah], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap [which removes impurities and uncleanness]. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi [the priests], and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord [grain] offerings in righteousness.”
The process of refining is designed to bring out a pure product. Silver, when it is mined has mixed with it impurities. To remove those, the refiner places it into a cauldron and heats it to extreme temperatures. As the product is heated, the impurities come to the top where they are skimmed off. This process takes place over and over until the silver becomes 99.9% pure. God in His love and grace brings us through this process so that we might become a reflection of His glory.
The second illustration that Malachi uses is that of the launderer’s soap. Now this was not the mild soap we’re accustomed to but lye soap with strong cleaning power. Malachi tells us that this soap removed impurities and uncleanness.
Beloved, I believe the church is in this process. Scripture tells us that there will be a shaking and only that which is unshakeable will remain. What is that unshakeable thing? It is God and our trust in Him and Him alone.
Covid has forced us to this defining moment. We have lost our norms of church. Even if or when we gather again, nothing will ever be the same. We can see this as something terrible or we can choose to see God refining us, getting rid of the useless things that kept us busy without kingdom results. We can wait impatiently until the virus is over or we can increase our pursuit of God. We can chafe at the restrictions or we can choose to seek fresh ways to do the work of God.
Whenever Covid is over, if that will ever be the case, we can treat it as we did 911, just as an interruption to our life and plans. We can return to all our activities and ways as though nothing has happened. But we will find that everything has changed.
Studies show that post-Covid church attendance will average 40-60% less than before. During this time, there have been and will be those who disconnect from the church permanently. We will see a decrease in the number of activities and programs largely due to the decrease of volunteers. We have been on this course for some time. Covid has just escalated that time line.
So how shall we respond? Will we let this situation move us toward being more Kingdom-minded? Will we allow the a Holy Spirit to refine us so that our faith increases? Will we discover more effective ways to share the love of God and the Gospel? Will we become more committed to the cause of a Christ? Will we become bitter or better?
No one is going to be unresponsive. Everyone will react to these times in some way.
This is a defining moment in history. The opportunity for the church is unprecedented and we have the opportunity to reset and regroup around the work of God. It’s a time for analysis. It’s a time to ask ourselves about our personal walk with God and about the effectiveness of our touching the community.
All this waiting for God has a purpose. I believe that during this time God is preparing Himself a people that He can work through. We must become unencumbered with those things that hold us hostage and allow the Holy Spirit to set our hearts free. I leave us with two things:
“As for me, I baptize you with water because of [your] repentance [that is, because you are willing to change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret your sin and live a changed life], but He (the Messiah) who is coming after me is mightier [more powerful, more noble] than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove [even as His slave]; He will baptize you [who truly repent] with the Holy Spirit and [you who remain unrepentant] with fire (judgment). His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear out His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat (believers) into His barn (kingdom), but He will burn up the chaff (the unrepentant) with unquenchable fire.”
“Blow a trumpet in Zion [warning of impending judgment], Dedicate a fast [as a day of restraint and humility], call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. [No one is excused from the assembly.] Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, “Have compassion and spare Your people, O Lord , And do not make Your inheritance (Israel) an object of ridicule, Or a [humiliating] byword among the [Gentile] nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” “It shall come about after this That I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
May we seek His face while we wait.
Dr. John Thompson