Bishop's Message

WAITING ON GOD

Mar 2009    

IF THERE is one Christian discipline that we are rapidly forgetting or are hardly practising, it is the discipline of waiting. We live in a hurried world of greed and anxiety that preaches that unless you seize opportunities, you will not survive or succeed. That is not a wise way to live.

Yes, it is true that seizing opportunities is important, and Scripture does urge us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5). But we must remember that those words were written in an age when emails, PDAs and jet travel were unknown, and time moved more slowly. Opportunities were understood in terms of eclipses and seasons, not flickering stock market boards and news panels announcing a constant stream of breaking news.

Those words were written by Paul in a Roman prison, immobilised by uncaring bureaucracy for two years. Paul had to spend long waiting years in prison. I believe that by writing those words, Paul was thinking of opportunities in terms of kairos time (God’s special moments) rather than chronos time (clock time).

He is not telling us to nervously find opportunities every minute, and race through life breathlessly. We must note that the Lord Himself chose to see time in a kairos rather than a chronos way.Often He would say that His time had not yet come, meaning that He waited for the right opportune time, never rushing into it. And when it came, He noted it and fulfilled His purpose. Jesus often waited in His life and ministry. He waited 30 years for His opportune time.

Indeed it is wickedness that knows not Sabbath rests or the value of waiting. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest” (Is. 57:20). Evil does not know how to wait. It is always in a hurry and flurry. The godly, on the other hand, are those who know how to wait.

It is interesting how frequently the Bible instructs us to wait. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD,” the psalmist encourages us (Ps. 27:14). Notice that our waiting is directed towards God. And why is that so? It is because God is the One who will bring the ultimate solutions to our dilemmas and problems. We take heart in this fact; it gives us courage to face our todays and tomorrows.

Often He would say that His time had not yet come, meaning that He waited for the right opportune time, never rushing into it. And when it came, He noted it and fulfilled His purpose. Jesus often waited in His life and ministry. He waited 30 years for His opportune time.

Indeed it is wickedness that knows not Sabbath rests or the value of waiting. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest” (Is. 57:20). Evil does not know how to wait. It is always in a hurry and flurry. The godly, on the other hand, are those who know how to wait.

It is interesting how frequently the Bible instructs us to wait. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD,” the psalmist encourages us (Ps. 27:14). Notice that our waiting is directed towards God. And why is that so? It is because God is the One who will bring the ultimate solutions to our dilemmas and problems. We take heart in this fact; it gives us courage to face our todays and tomorrows.

This waiting for God is connected with hope, as is frequently articulated in Scripture. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope” declares Psalm 130:5. In the same vein, we are urged to “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:12- “I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands” (Ps. 119:116). The prophet Jeremiah, in what was the darkest hour in the history of Israel, echoes the same truth – that “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lam. 3:26). The idea of salvation here cannot be restricted to our conversion experience, when we are justified and saved from the penalty for our sins. Neither is it to be restricted to being freed or saved from difficult, unpleasant or unwelcome circumstances. Salvation in the Bible is a full-orbed reality that addresses what God does to save us in the past, present and future. As Christians, we were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

In this respect, the discipline of waiting has to do particularly with our present and future salvation. Much of this has to do with what happens within us – how our character and souls are being shaped and refined. And here it is that the discipline of waiting is greatly needed. You will never find a godly saint who is ignorant of waiting for God. No one grows into holiness in a hurry; impatience and holiness do not go together.

The spiritual discipline of waiting is not a passive act of hopeless surrender to fate, but an active commitment and consecration to the living God, who shapes us according to His purposes and into the image of His Son. While we wait for God, something happens in us – we become strengthened, the spiritual sinews of our souls become exercised, and we grow in grace. “Wait for the LORD and keep his way” (Ps 37:4), Scripture instructs us, telling us that our waiting for God has to do with obedience to Him. Failure to wait when we ought to do so would become an act of disobedience. It would lead to spiritual stunting and distortion, and affect our salvation.

OFTEN the discipline of waiting is exercised through prayer. Prayer slows us down; it teaches us to reject the urge to go our own way, to trust our own strength or smartness, to take things into our own hands. Prayer helps us to wait. But Satan is an old hand in diverting our souls even when we are close to God. Even as we pray, he may create restlessness in our hearts, suggesting that God is not listening, or that God is not interested, that He is too slow in responding to our urgent cries for help. We must resist such temptations as we wait patiently for God. We must learn to say with the psalmist, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7). Waiting has its own blessings. Even creation, deeply affected as it is by human sin, knows how to wait. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Rom. 8:19). What creation knows, the sons and daughters of God must know even better. We must know that the perfect will come with Jesus Christ one day. God’s spiritual surgery must be done in us while we wait and keep still in the presence of God. When we receive this divine treatment regularly we will one day see the full benefit of such waiting and stillness.

“Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 8:24-25).

In his classic, Waiting on God, Andrew Murray wrote: “It is as if I myself am only beginning to see the deepest truth concerning God, and our relation to Him, centre in this waiting on God, and how very little, in our life and work, we have been surrounded by its spirit.”

What was true in the 19th century is also true for us today. If waiting on God is so central in discipleship, do we know it, and do we practise it?

DISCIPLINE OF WAITING

‘The discipline of waiting has to do particularly with our present and future salvation. Much of this has to do with what happens within us – how our character and souls are being shaped and refined.

And here it is that the discipline of waiting is greatly needed.’

REACH OUT

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