"Waiting To Hear" (October 2010)
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1) Waiting is not something that anyone likes to do. Our human nature is driven by the desire to have what we want “now”. It isn’t something that we have to learn, it is inbred in us when we are born- it is called “impatience”. Our society doesn’t help with our impatience either. We live in what I call a “microwave” society- instant everything. Manufacturers work hard at trying to give us everything that we want the minute we want it so that we will keep buying their products. Go into any grocery store and you will find ready made foods that only take the opening of a lid and you have an instant meal. What about the “drive through”? There is a “drive through” for everything: fast food, banking, pharmacies, dry cleaners, oil change, etc. I have even heard that in Las Vegas they have “drive through” wedding chapels. You can drive up to a window and get married with no waiting and no getting out of your car. Most all of us have a microwave in our homes. (Wonderful invention- I love mine!) They cook our foods in a fraction of the time that it once took. Yet do you find yourself trying to even hurry the microwave up?
Our impatience in waiting affects every area of our lives. We don’t like to wait in a line at the local retail store, fast food place, bank or anywhere. We don’t like to have to wait at a red light or in traffic. We don’t like to wait for our meal to be cooked so we go to the restaurant buffet. We don’t like to wait at the doctor’s office, emergency room, or anywhere else. And if we have an appointment, we don’t want to be made to wait one minute past our appointment time. Not only is impatience found in our social activities, our business relations and just the daily affairs of life, but it also present in our relationship with the Lord.
Remember the term “microwave society” that I used earlier? I have noticed that we have a “microwave church” as well. What do I mean by that? How many times do you go to God in prayer and expect Him to answer you without your having to wait? How many times have you been impatient with God because He didn’t answer you when you wanted Him to? How many times have you gotten up from prayer without the answer you were looking for because you weren’t willing to wait until the Lord answered you? We tend to put God “on a clock” when we pray. Although we don’t actually say it, we kneel in prayer with the thought and attitude that says, “All right, God, You have exactly two minutes to answer me or I am getting up.”
When I was growing up there was something in the church called “tarrying”. I know, most haven’t heard of it because it is considered an outdated word and doesn’t fit in with the new, modern Christianity so it is seldom ever practiced in the church any more.
What I was taught that tarrying meant was to go to the altar, or a spot alone with God, and wait on Him until He answered your petition or you heard from heaven on the matter- however long that may take. The dictionary defines the word tarry as: to wait, stay or linger.
While tarrying may seem old fashioned or outdated, it is traditionally considered that the Church was birthed in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost. If that is the case then the church came about through the process of tarrying. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:1,2) Tarrying was a term and command used by Jesus on more than one occasion. The reason the 120 were in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost was because they were commanded by Jesus to go there and “tarry” until they were endued with the Father’s promise and power from on high. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The word tarry here literally means to “sit down”.
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38) When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, He told His disciples to “tarry and watch with Me”. The word for tarry here means: to remain, abide, not to depart, to wait for. So Jesus was telling His disciples to stay there and don’t depart but wait for Him to return and while they were waiting they were to watch.
My point is this-- if Jesus told His disciples to tarry when He was on earth, then why aren’t we still following His command in this area now as present day disciples? Isn’t it just as important for us to wait on the Lord and wait to get an answer or direction from Him?
Let’s talk a little more in-depth about the importance of “waiting on the Lord”.
As we said earlier, not wanting to be patient and wait is not part of our human nature- so waiting doesn’t always come easily. Waiting takes discipline- discipline of the flesh and self-denial. It actually takes “dying to self”. You must “train yourself” to be still and wait. You have to even “force” your flesh to “sit still” and resist the urge to stop waiting. Learning to wait on the Lord and for Him to speak to you is not an impossible task. You can do it.
How do you discipline the flesh to wait on the Lord? One way is by taking control of your thoughts. Impatience is first produced in your thoughts. So when the thoughts to give up or stop waiting until you have heard from God come, capture those thoughts and don’t entertain them. Make them obey you and sit still. “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)
The Bible is full of examples of men and women who sought the Lord and waited to hear from Him before they did anything. It is also filled with examples of those who did not.
First let’s talk about the ones who did not wait for the Lord. “And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights. And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” (Exodus 24:18; 32:1) Moses was the one who spoke to and heard from the Lord for the people. He had gone up the mountain to hear the word and receive the commands of God to bring back to the people. He was gone for forty days and nights. During that time the people began to get impatient in waiting for his return. As a result, they quit “waiting” and started devising and bringing to pass their own plans. When we get impatient waiting on the Lord we too will try to devise a plan and fulfill it. We will go our own direction and do what seems right in our own eyes or judgment. Doing that is a dangerous thing. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Leaning to our own understanding and following our own path will always lead to destruction. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25) There are always consequences to not waiting. You know what happened with the Israelites. They went to Aaron and said for him to “make us gods which will go before us.” They got tired of waiting to hear from God (through Moses) so they came up with their own “god”. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.” (Exodus 32:7-10; 33-35) What the people did so displeased the Lord that He was going to consume them in His wrath. That says to me that it is a serious thing when we don’t wait upon the Lord but make something else the voice that we listen to. Many of them missed out on the blessing that God wanted to give to them, and the root of it was their impatience in waiting.
Another reason why it is so serious isn’t just because we will miss the blessings of what God is desiring to do, but when we don’t wait for Him to answer and we come up with our own answer or seek out someone else to give us the answer- we have put ourselves or their counsel in God’s place. By doing so we have done the same thing as the Israelites- “make us gods”. We have replaced God as Lord and Head of our lives with our own “god”.
From the example above, what can we learn when it comes to waiting to hear from God? Some of what we can learn is what we have already talked about- it is a serious matter to God, we can miss out on the perfect plan that God already has in store for us, and there are always consequences if we decide not to wait but take matters into our own hands. What are some of the areas that we need to be patient and wait on the Lord to give us direction before we make a move on our own? All areas of life. We should wait for His answer concerning a spouse, concerning a business venture, concerning all relationships, concerning a physical move, concerning our educational field, concerning the ministry. When the Bible says to acknowledge God in all our ways, it means in “ALL” our ways. When we do, we can save ourselves a lot of grief and heartache. But it is not enough to just acknowledge Him, you have to wait for and listen to what He wants to say. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)
Let’s look for a moment now at the ones who waited until they heard an answer from God. The Bible is full of the names and stories of those who wouldn’t make a move to do anything without hearing from God. And not only would they not make a move, but they were willing to wait as long as they needed to in order to hear His answer.
Jesus waited until He heard from the Father concerning His will. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)
David didn’t pursue the Amalekites to rescue his family until he had heard from the Lord. “And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; and had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” (1 Samuel 30:1-8)
Daniel sought to hear from God for twenty-one days concerning the understanding of a revelation he had been given. “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (Daniel 10:1-3)
Jeremiah sought the Lord for ten days concerning a word from the Lord at the request of the people. “Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, and said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God. And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.” (Jeremiah 42:1-7) And the list goes on of many others.
To some an answer comes right away. To others it seems to take days, even weeks. The thing about waiting is that it involves time, and when it comes to hearing from God there is not always a set period of time in which He answers. He answers in His “own good time” and when He is ready. This is where trust in Him comes in. We have to trust that His answer will come at the perfect time and it will be the right one.
We said that there were consequences for not waiting. On the other hand, there are blessings that come to those who do wait for the Lord to answer. David heard the Lord say to pursue and he regained all that the enemy had stolen. Jeremiah waited and received an answer for the people. Daniel waited and received a great revelation. “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1) When you and I wait to hear an answer from the Lord, we too will be rewarded. Our reward? God will incline unto us. The definition for “incline” means to catch the ear and attention of. We will catch His attention. Why? Because of our prayer? More so because we “waited” on Him. That is what catches His attention more than just our prayer. As we said, waiting shows our trust in who God is and our faith that He will answer. Once He inclines unto us, we know that He has heard our prayer. “And heard my cry.” And if we know that He has heard, we know that He will answer.