This is a sequel to my last post on waiting. The Body of Christ is not only a community of faith, it is also a community of hope. Therefore, it is always a waiting community, living in trusting submission to the perfect will of God, in which believers experience the peace of God, which “surpasses human understanding” – deliverance from fear, and the power to overcome all of the downward and backward pulls of life. How would you like to plug into that power when you are feeling helpless and hopeless, when you are tired, not just physically, but feeling mentally and emotionally fatigued? You can you know: “Those who wait on the Lord (i.e. wait patiently, wait hopefully, wait confidently) will find their strength renewed” (Isaiah 40:31). That kind of waiting has also been called “creative waiting” and “active waiting.” It does not mean that we just sit back and do nothing. It does not mean that we leave everything to God, for God is not going to do for us what we are perfectly capable of doing for ourselves. It means that God will do what we cannot do for ourselves. It has been said that “God helps those who help themselves,” and I guess there is some truth in that, but it is not the “Good News” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is that God helps those who cannot help themselves (i.e. in our own human wisdom, in our own limited human strength). GOD HELPS THOSE WHO CANNOT HELP THEMSELVES!
God has promised to renew our strength, especially in those times when our faith is weak, when our hope is wavering, when we are growing weary. In such times we need to wait patiently and confidently on the Lord, believing He is never late, but always right on time, and will in His own perfect time meet us at the point of our deepest need, if we do not lose heart. Waiting on the Lord should not be interpreted as something that is necessary because God is too busy to be giving His attention to our personal concerns at this time. Nor does it mean that God is “on vacation” or “taking a break,” and “cannot be bothered, so come back later.” It does not mean that God may be occupied with concerns in another galaxy, but will probably be back soon to take care of our individual concerns, or troubles on planet Earth that are causing us to have restless days and sleepless nights. No, waiting on the Lord simply means that God’s time is not our kind of time, He is not subject to calendar time, for “a thousand years is as one day” with God, and His dwelling place is Eternity, but He has also chosen to make the hearts of believers His home, His “temple” (I Corinthians 3:16) – and those who know God is not only with them, but within them, are able to rest in the assurance of His abiding presence, waiting patiently on Him, trusting His promise to strengthen them, in “the fullness of time” (i.e. when the time is right, according to His will), so they will be able to “mount up with wings like eagles” and soar in heavenly places, rather than being not only earth born but earth bound.
The problem is that we earthlings find it difficult to wait. Our living is geared to “time-saving” devices. Our forefathers did not have automobiles. Most of them walked to school as children, and “didn’t think a thing of it” (we don’t think much of it either). They may have ridden a horse when they were old enough. I am also reminded of those “circuit riding” preachers in colonial times, who traveled by horseback for so many miles, from church to church, week after week, month after month, year after year. Furthermore, there was a time when people traveling from coast to coast had to travel, often in caravans, for almost a year. I have a picture in my office of those early pioneers standing in a large circle, surrounded by their wagons, with a minister standing before them, with Bible in hand, and a table before him holding the elements of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, for they were taking time on their long journey to keep the faith, and to celebrate their hope in Christ. They had been waiting for months, and were still waiting, believing the Lord would continue to guide them, guard them, and take them to their desired destination. So it has always been, so it will always be, for Christ’s Church, wherever and whenever believers are gathered in His name, is a waiting community. This is a part of our trusting obedience to God, who has given us the “bifocals of faith” through which we can look to the future, even seeing beyond this life as we now know it, looking forward to our arrival at the final destination our Lord has prepared for us, beyond the grave, beyond what we can now see, in His everlasting kingdom (John 14).
In the meantime there will be times of suffering, You can count on it. There will be troubling times. We will experience struggles along the way, for there are lessons that can be learned no other way. There are doors that will open to no other key. There is a verse of scripture that has always serve as a reminder to this fact, for not even Jesus was immune. We are told by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews that our Lord “learned obedience” by what He suffered. I have often wondered why it was necessary for Jesus, who was “fully God”, to learn obedience. It was because He was also “fully human.” This is a great mystery, but the scripture teaches us that in His incarnation, the Word made flesh, He had completely identified with us, “yet without sin.” Therefore, He understands when we too have lessons to be learned that can only be learned by our obedience to God in the most difficult times of our lives. In the Gospel According to John (6:28-29), and again in I John (3:23), we learn that the kind of faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) is faith that keeps on keeping on, faith that keeps us faithful to God, living our lives on the basis of our trust in God – that is the greatest work of obedience, and it is a lesson that is only learned in the school of suffering, as we listen and learn while waiting on the Lord, waiting patiently, waiting hopefully, waiting confidently through it all.