"Wait On The Lord" (December 2008)
I feel very blessed to have been born in America, there is no other nation like it. I am not always happy with the way things are in our nation though. I am very disappointed that we are turning our backs on God more and more each day. It saddens me that evil is on the rise and we are throwing a Biblical standard of morality and integrity by the wayside. But nevertheless it is still a good place to live. But what may be a blessing may also be a curse. I am blessed as part of the body of Christ to have the kind of liberty we have here in America to worship the Lord, but at the same time, the direction the church in America has gone, might be considered more of a “curse” to those who follow Christ than it is a blessing. Let me explain what I mean by that. I believe that the church in America has moved from so many of the basic foundations of the gospel. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. For one, we preach a materialistic gospel- a gospel that centers around money, having more and more, bigger and bigger and better and better. There is very little heard about “being content with such as you have” (Hebrews 13:5), and “godliness with contentment is great gain”. (1 Timothy 6:6) Spirituality seems to be measured by how much wealth you possess. Another one deals with faith and profession. We have been taught that if we “say it” enough and often enough “we shall have whatsoever we say”. There is a measure of truth to that, but faith is what moves the hand of God, not just our words. Our words have to be spoken from a heart of faith grounded in the faithfulness of God. You can “confess” it until you are blue in the face, but without faith backing it up, they are just mere words. Also if we ask more than once we are told that we aren’t asking in faith or that we lack faith. So we ask once then go on about our business. Jesus does not seem to be the central theme any more. Self-sacrifice and holiness are rarely mentioned. Another area that we have removed the “ancient landmarks” in is the area of “tarrying”- or “waiting on the Lord”. This is the one I want to address this month. I believe it is the most relevant foundation in Christianity for the day in which we are living.
The church has forgotten how to “wait on the Lord”. We live in a “microwave” society- everything is instant. Instant foods, instant coffee, drive-thru windows at “fast food” restaurants, drive-thru banking, pharmacies, cleaners, etc. High speed Internet doesn’t seem to be fast enough anymore. Electronics- television, radio, mp3 players- come on instantly at the touch of a button. There are so many conveniences out there designed so that we don’t have to wait. I have to admit that I love it. I am glad to have my hot chocolate ready in thirty seconds. I am glad I don’t have to peel potatoes, boil them, then mash them to have a bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. Instead, I can open a box of instant mashed potatoes and have them ready to eat in two minutes. I am also glad to have a computer that navigates the Internet in just a matter of seconds. So why might that be a problem? What can be bad about this? It’s such a blessing, how could it possibly be a “curse” as well? It’s not a bad thing but in my opinion, and I am sure my opinion is pretty accurate, when we are accustomed to having everything we want given to us in just a matter of moments we tend to want it like that in every area of life-- including our spirituality; our relationship with God. If we aren’t careful we can begin to expect the same thing from God. We treat Him, and prayer, like He has to answer us in the same instant we ask. When He doesn’t answer within a minute (instantly), we get frustrated, anxious and fearful.
“Waiting on God” has almost been removed from the vocabulary of the church- much less practiced; corporately or individually. I can remember the “old-timers” talking about “tarrying”. It seems that they tarried (waited on the Lord until they heard from Him) about everything. Nowadays, we hardly tarry about anything. Even our prayer meetings have been cut down to about ten minutes at most. Let’s talk about what it means to tarry, the benefits, the consequences if we don’t, the importance, why it’s so needful today.
What do I mean when I say to “wait on the Lord”? Isn’t that the same thing as praying? Yes and no. Waiting involves more than just making a request to God. It is more than just sending up a prayer for blessing, protection or guidance. Waiting involves asking and receiving. Most of what we do in prayer is ask, but we don’t “wait” long enough for an answer. The dictionary defines wait as: to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens. In other words, it means to sit still, stop, don’t move, stay right where you are until what you are expecting happens. Waiting on the Lord simply means that we sit still long enough while we are in prayer until we hear from Him, until we have been touched by His presence, until we know the “heavens are opened” and we have been in the presence of God. What would you think about a person who went to the bank to make a withdrawal, walked up to the teller with a withdrawal slip, handed it to her and left before she gave him the money? We would say that person is crazy. But isn’t that what we do to God when we ask Him to answer us but don’t give Him a chance to do so?
What keeps us from waiting on the Lord? One of the biggest hindrances to waiting on the Lord and in His presence is distractions. The enemy uses distractions as one of his weapons. His goal through them is to get you to focus on something other than God. If he can get you “looking” and “listening” elsewhere he can pull you away from waiting on the Lord. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6) I don't know about you, but often when I go to prayer to “seek the Lord” and wait on Him everything that can happen to distract me will. The phone will ring, someone will come in needing my attention, a thousand thoughts will come to my mind and try to capture my attention. At that point, it is easy to “give up” and say, “What’s the use?”. It’s then when we often leave the place of prayer having not met with the Lord. There is a reason the scripture says to “shut the door”. You have to learn to shut the door on those distractions. You have to learn to shut it by bringing those thoughts captive and by resisting the urge to be lead in the direction your thoughts are going. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Do whatever you have to in order to stay in the “closet” and wait on the Lord. “Shut the door” by turning off the phone, getting up earlier or making some other adjustments.
There are so many things that will distract us. We are warned that the cares of this life can do just that. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34) “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) Let me read it in the Amplified Bible. “But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose.” Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, famous or obscure, short or tall, male or female, whatever your nationality, life happens to all of us and life is full of cares. Life puts so many demands on us- the demands of family, careers, social status, our health, and mostly our time. When the cares of this life come, you can do one of two things with them. One, you can allow yourself to get caught up in them, you can let them control your life, you can let them steal your time with the Lord, you can let them cause you to lose your focus. Giving the cares of this life your full attention cause you to focus on them and not on the Lord- you can’t focus in two places at once. The second thing you can do is cast your cares upon the Lord. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6) Let me clarify, I am not talking about neglecting our responsibilities. We are warned not to be “overcharged” (weighted down) with the cares (anxieties) of the business of life. Some of what we consider as part of life are really unnecessary burdens that we take on. These will distract and weigh us down and keep us from waiting in the Lord’s presence because we feel we need to attend to them more.
Here are some more reasons that keep us from waiting on the Lord. Waiting involves patience- which is often in short supply. It involves trust and faith because the end result is not always readily seen. When we don’t see the answer immediately we begin to doubt whether God has heard us, whether He will answer, whether He even cares. It also involves perseverance. Perseverance is an action verb. It involves doing. Perseverance is defined as: steadfastness and determination to stay on course until the goal is reached. This is one area we fall short in. Let’s face it, we are, for the most part, lazy, even in the spiritual area of our lives we want everything to come to us easily without any work or without any effort. I call it a “welfare mentality”. We see it in the natural and we see it in the spiritual. Some of our teaching has lead us to believe that it all comes “easy”, the “hard part” has already been done by Jesus, now all we have to do is just sit back and let everything (all the blessings) fall into our laps. Jesus did do the hard part- He went to the cross, He was beaten, He paid the price, He redeemed us, and even though we are blessed by Him, there is more than one side of the gospel. These promises and blessings have conditions attached to them. This means that we have something to do as well. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:4-8)
Perseverance is what causes us to wait until we have heard from the Lord and our waiting is always rewarded by meeting with God. “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.” (Genesis 34:24-29) Jacob’s perseverance caused him to come into the presence of God. “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (verse 30) It was in the presence of God where Jacob was blessed, changed and empowered.
Why is waiting on the Lord so important? The things we need- such as peace, guidance, wisdom, strength, clarity, forgiveness, spiritual renewal, refreshing and revival- are found in the presence of the Lord. “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11) When we wait for the Lord and aren’t impatient but give Him time to show up, He will. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13,14a)
The Lord has always wanted to have an abiding, intimate relationship with us. “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) He desires to meet with His people. He desires that we come into His presence. He removed the veil that kept us out and opened the door so that we would have access into His presence. “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” (Mark 15:38) Jesus said, I am the door. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7) It’s always been God’s desire to have fellowship and communion with His people. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) “And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:22)
I often hear Christians say that they don’t hear from God. I hear them ask why aren’t they seeing the power and miracles that God has promised to do through His church happening. I hear so many that are confused and don’t know what to do. They don’t know which direction to take, they don’t know what God’s will is, they are lacking in faith, they are always cast down, they don’t seem to have any joy, their love level is on bottom, they ne
ver seem to have any victory in their lives. They can’t understand what the problem is. Often, the problem is because they are not spending time waiting to get into God’s presence. They aren’t persevering. They have grown cold, tired and lazy not willing to make the effort to go the second mile, spend a few more minutes waiting a little longer- in short, they aren’t willing to take the time to get in God’s presence. They think it’s going to happen like we talked about in the beginning-- instantly, at the moment the prayer comes out of their mouth. I will tell you, God can do it like that. He even said that He would answer before we call. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24) But God’s ways are not our ways. There are times He chooses to wait on giving His answer. There are times when He will take a little longer than we desire because He desires our company, and truth be known, if He were to answer in that “split second” that we asked, once we got the answer we would be gone and on our way. Of course, we would. If we won’t sit still long enough for Him to answer, what makes us think that we would sit there a few minutes longer after He does?
The Bible is full of accounts of people who waited for the Lord and the benefits that were received as a result- Moses is one of them. Moses waited on the Lord- he waited to hear from Him, he waited until God’s presence met with him. After he waited on the Lord until His presence came and ministered to him, he was able to lead a whole nation out of slavery through the wilderness. He received the Ten Commandments. He was given the instructions on how to build the Tabernacle- the dwelling place of God among His people. He also received a personal transformation that caused his face to shine like a light.
Our problem, the area that we are lacking in, is the area of waiting-- waiting until He comes and meets with us. We must learn how to wait- and wait patiently. We must learn to wait- if it’s five minutes, an hour or more- time can no longer be a factor. We must learn to wait knowing that there is nothing more important than hearing from the Lord. We must learn that there are no short cuts- it doesn’t just happen automatically, and it doesn’t always happen instantly, it happens as we wait. And if we wait, it will happen. “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)