Learning to Wait

17 Oct

Waiting.

I am not a big fan. Unfortunately, one of the things I have learned as I have grown older is that much of life is just that. Waiting for dinner. Waiting in line. Waiting to get off of work. Waiting until the weekend. I often tell my daughters that if they want to develop a skill that will really help them in life, they need to develop the ability to wait.

Waiting is not only a practical skill, it is also a spiritual one.

James commands us to do it.

“Be patient then brothers until the Lord’s coming.”

What does be patient mean except learn to wait well? It means not to give up, to endure the sufferings of this life joyfully looking towards the next. How do we learn to do that however in a world that is constantly pressuring us to do just the opposite? To trade eternity for the now?

1. Make a practice out of thinking about the return of Christ.

Sometimes waiting is difficult because we forget what we are waiting for. God does not simply call on us to wait. He calls on us to wait for something. Just think about James 5. “Be patient…until the Lord’s coming.” “You too be patient and stand firm…because the Lord’s coming is near.” “The Judge is standing at the door.”

It takes work to remember that Jesus is coming back. That is why Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13, “…prepare your minds for action, be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Peter is telling us we need to make a deliberate choice to think like people who are going to live forever in God’s presence and to not allow our minds to be deluded by worldly fantasies.

How can we do that exactly? One way is to talk about the return of Christ with your family and friends. Develop relationships with people who are pointing you to the grace that is going to be revealed to you. Another way is to cry out to God that He would help you live with eternity in view. Still another way is to listen to preaching that turns your thoughts to eternity. And yet another way is to actively store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth. Meaning, the more you make choices on the basis of eternity the more you long for eternity.

If you are going to become good at waiting, you have to fix your eyes and hearts on what’s coming.

2. Make a practice of remembering how good God’s been to believers who lived before you.

Besides reminding us of the Lord’s return as an encouragement to be patient, James commands us to think about the prophets and follow their example.

In James 5:11 he writes, “Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

In other words James is telling us that we can endure because we know the end of the story. We’ve “seen the outcome…” We can endure some of the more difficult portions of our life because we know how good God is to the person who endures. We study the Scriptures, learn of God’s faithfulness to others who have trusted in his promises, and place our “hope in the Word…”

One of the reasons God tells so many stories in the Old Testament is to remind us how good it is to wait for God. You are going through a trial, your life doesn’t seem to make sense, you can’t see the end, you are afraid it isn’t going to work out, that God has forgotten you, you need to remember the ways that God worked in the past, how His ultimate plan is your good, and how there is a reward for those who do endure.

Unfortunately, we can become so self-focused as we are waiting that we act as if we are the only ones who have ever had to wait for anything. God has been so gracious to us. He knows it is hard to wait and so He has given us example after example after example of people who have waited on Him and seen His faithfulness as a result, but to be encouraged by those stories we have to learn to get our eyes off ourselves and allow ourselves to find strength from the testimonies of those who have gone before us.

3. Make a practice out of meditating on the character of God.

When my wife taught kindergarten, the students had to wait for their parents to pick them up at the end of the day. Most got the concept, unfortunately there was one little boy who didn’t. Every day he had to wait and every day he cried, because every day he worried whether his mom was actually going to come and pick him up. Sometimes we as believers are like that in life and part of the reason we have such concerns is because we have forgotten the character of our father! This little boy didn’t need to become anxious. His mother was a good and faithful woman.

But our Father is even better. We are talking about someone who has never once in billions and billions and billions of years ever broken a promise. We are talking about someone who doesn’t change. Someone who doesn’t forget. Someone who is completely good. Someone we can absolutely count on. If we are going to become good at waiting, we have to know that, we have to know Him, we cannot allow our circumstances to distort our view of Him but instead we must learn to view what’s happening in our lives through what we know to be true of God!

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