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When God Runs Late (A Talk Given at EBF)

watchLord, you’re late. In fact, you’re about 25 years late! I’ve prayed and agonized and even fasted at times. I’ve sought you so much for so long, and still you have not answered my prayer. Why? As Tvjah in Fiddler on the roof said, “Would it spoil some vast eternal plan for you to answer my prayer? I’m tired, tired of waiting. Should I give up hoping and believing? I can’t help but wonder if you really care about me. Have you forgotten me?

Waiting is hard, isn’t it. Identify for a moment, the areas in your life where you find yourself waiting on God.

Maybe your life feels like you’re in an airport. You have goals, dreams…but your plane is grounded. There’s no transportation to take you where you want to go. Your plans are thwarted.

At The Airport

My husband is from Maine and the last time we traveled there to visit his folks ended up being quite the ordeal. We ended up stuck in Chicago because of a thunderstorm, and as a result lost our connecting flights, had to stay overnight. So instead of arriving at our destination in one day, it took two full days. One extra day of vacation gobbled up by the travel industry! On the way home, our flight was again delayed in Chicago. This time it was because the President was on the tarmack! The President himself was interfering with my life!

Sometimes it feels like God is on the tarmack—his plans and purposes thwart my intentions. I don’t necessarily take kindly to God messing with my schedule!

So your dreams of that new house, a more rewarding career or broader ministry opportunities just sit on the runway.

God’s Customer Service

Or maybe for you, waiting on God feels more like standing in line at the customer service desk. This is where you go with all the piddly little things in life that don’t go right. All the minor broken things of life that need fixing: financial strain, bad habits I want to break, a relationship with a friend needs repair.

Waiting in God’s customer service line, it sure can seem like God is taking his time–serving everyone else ahead of you. And you wonder when it will ever be your turn.

Maybe you can’t relate to the airport or customer service line analogy.

In God’s Waiting Room

Perhaps waiting feels more like languishing in a doctor’s office. You’ve come to God because He is the Great Physician. You’ve come to Him because of your pain. Because of a need for healing. Yet, He keeps you waiting. This can be perhaps the most agonizing scenario of waiting on God. We are desperate to get out of our painful circumstances NOW! Our problem is urgent.

Waiting can make us feel abandoned, rejected, not listened to. God may seem distant, uncaring.

Psalms

Listen to the psalmist:

“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Or Job? He certainly didn’t feel heard by God. He demanded an audience and had it all planned out what he would say. He’d prove his innocence!!! It’s not fair what has happened to me!

Now that we’ve talked about the ways we wait and how it makes us feel, let’s gain some perspective. Why might God choose to make us wait?

To paraphrase Ben Patterson, what God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for.

Purpose in Waiting

We don’t like to hear this, but it’s still true—our characters need maturing. Particularly in three areas:

1. Grow in faith and hope
2. Grow in humility
3. Grow in trust

First of all, waiting gives us the opportunity to grow in faith and hope. Waiting, hope and faith are closely intertwined. You’ve heard this verse:

For in hope and faith we were saved… For who hopes and has faith for what is seen? But if we hope and have faith for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Faith and hope. They are inseparable twins–you cannot have one without the other.

Waiting helps us grow in confident humility. There’s nothing like NOT getting your way that takes you down a notch or two, isn’t there.

Illustration

John Ortberg wrote a great book, If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.

He tells this story:

A woman’s car stalls in traffic. She looks in vain under the hood to identify the cause, while the driver behind her leans relentlessly on his horn. Finally she has had enough. She walks back to his car and offers sweetly, “I don’t know what the matter is with my car. But if you want to go look under the hood, I’ll be glad to stay here and honk for you.”

That guy learned a lesson in humility!

When we are forced to wait, we learn once again that we are not running the universe. We are finite, we are weak, helpless. I’m not in charge. I’m the patient. I’m in the waiting room. Waiting humbles me in ways I need to be humbled. But in the real issues of life, we are not just waiting around—we are waiting on God. Therefore we can trust his wisdom and timing. We can wait with confidence.

Waiting requires that I surrender my agenda, my desires and I’m only able to do this if I bend my knee. If I am humble.

As you wait you grow in faith and hope and humility

Waiting exercises trust.

“The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”

Will I trust that God has good reasons for saying “wait?’ Will I remember that things look different to God because he views things from an eternal perspective?

Peter wrote that with the Lord, “One day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.”

The story goes that an economist once read these words and got very excited.

“Lord—is it true that a thousand years for us is just like a minute to you?

Yes.

Then a million dollars to us must just be a penny to you.

Yes.

Lord, would you give me one of those pennies?

All right. Wait here a minute.

God’s Timing

Too often we want God’s resources, but we do not want his timing. We want the penny, but not the minute.

Waiting means that we give God the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing.

Will you trust God? broken relationship to resolve the issues between you and the other person in His way and His time.

Will you trust God? Non-believing husband—meet your needs for Christian fellowship,

Will you trust God? With your child, even as it’s so difficult to watch him continue to make bad choices.

Will you trust God? With financial pressure, that he’ll care of your material needs, as you struggle to live on a shoe string budget?

Trust involves a certain tenacity—you will not give up on believing God.

How to Wait

Okay, remembering godly perspectives on waiting helps…a little. But I still wrestle with: HOW do you do it? I really had to think about what has helped me.

Let me first say what waiting on God is not. It is not passive, as you might think. God wants us to wait pro-actively. Engaged, interacting, involved in what He is doing. And the best way I can think of to deal with waiting is prayer.

Prayer—Prayer is how we get real with God and honestly tell him where we’re at. Prayer is how we deal with our sometimes out-of-control emotions—it’s a safe way to vent; Prayer is active—sometimes it’s quite a battle to surrender our will and accept His.

I have a good friend in Germany who longs for a baby but remains childless. Some time ago, I emailed her and shared my own struggles with waiting. I described my fatigue, my deep discouragement. We bonded in a new way that day.

We discovered that both of us prayed on Fridays with our prayer partners. So we made an agreement—now every Friday, though we live a continent apart, she prays for my request and I pray for hers.

So prayer is the first way to deal with waiting on God.

Living in the Moment

Another way to wait proactively is to practice living in the moment. You’ve heard Jim Eliot’s quote, “Wherever you are, be all there. This is good advice, but I fear I have a long ways to go to master this art.

How many of you have seen the movie, “Take the Lead” with Antonio Banderas? I could get distracted right now and swoon about Antonio, but anyway…

Antonio plays a professional dancer, Pierre, who uses dance to inspire and give hope to teens at an inner city school in New York. One scene in the movie stood out to me. A boy asked his partner why she liked dancing. She said, “Because when I dance, I live in the moment.” She came from a very rough background and dancing was a way for her to forget about the rest of her life.

The same is true for us—no, you don’t have to dance, although it could help. When we practice living in the moment with the Lord, it helps us get our minds off our troubles and the pain of waiting.

(Lyrics: My Hero)

So prayer and living in the moment are two ways to perfect the art of waiting.

Conclusion

My final advice on how to wait, is to “Bank everything on God’s faithfulness.”

Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who was tortured for Christ, says that what amplified pain was the memory that he had been beaten and tortured so many times and that tomorrow they will take him again, and the day after tomorrow. Here’s how he said he dealt with it,

“Tomorrow, I might not be alive—or they might not be alive. Tomorrow, there can be an overthrow, as in Romania. Yesterday’s beating has passed: tomorrow’s torture has not come yet.” Talk about living in the moment!

Regardless of the rut you think you’re in forever and ever, life is not predictable.

Is. 48:3 gives me a lot of hope:

“I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted and they came to pass.”

What a great phrase, “suddenly I acted.”

Let’s hang on to that!