Monday, 26 June 2017

Wait on the Lord - Serving in Hard Times

Wait on the Lord

Serving in Life's Hard Times
By Daniel Valles, 10/21/2012

There are many hard times in life that others tell us to “Wait on the Lord”; but what does this mean? When we lose our job, and are unemployed for months on end, when we lose those close to us, when we lose our home, when health disappears, when we are in the middle of circumstances that we would rather not be in – how do we wait on the Lord, and what does it mean?

Before we dive in, I want to say that this article is not just a mental or theological exercise, where I am going to say be warmed and filled and that everything will be ponies and rainbows. I have gone through all of the waters of the situations I listed above. Some of the hardest waters that I have gone through I am still in. It is by God’s grace that I can say what I will share with you is what has been in my life and heart for a few very long months now. It is my hope and prayer that this can be an encouragement in the trial that you find yourself in.

Oftentimes, when we hear or think that we should wait on the Lord, we are given the idea that if we just grit our teeth and sit still long enough, God will then address our needs, hurts, or situations. In our economy, with so many looking for work, it can be very depressing to just sit and wait, and can sometimes put God in a bad light due to our testimony. When other circumstances go south, and we want God to fix it and make it better, waiting in a corner is not necessarily what we should be doing.

In the hard circumstances and trials of life, the top two questions that are always on our heart are “Why?” and “When?” We want to know why this is happening to us, or those close to us. We want to know the details of behind what we do not understand. We want to know why we were chosen to endure such trials. Other times, or both, we want to know why such a nasty particular type of trial and testing was picked out with our name on it. The second question of ‘when’ is where we want to know when God will fix things, when the pain will go away, when the sun will shine again, when we will get a job, when our health will return, when wrongs will be made right, etc. It pains me to say this, but the hardest part of waiting on the Lord is realizing that God rarely reveals the answer to either of those questions. It does not mean it is wrong to ask those questions in a right spirit, but we must always balance it with the understanding that God does not owe us explanations – either before, during, or after a trial.

When Job went through his trial, we often forget that this man’s heart was broken for a length of time. He lost all of his children. The pain of that loss alone he would carry for years, especially when we read in the first chapter of how much he cared for them. The Bible records for us the sorrow of his heart as he pours out in Job 31:35-37“Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.” Earlier in verse 6, he cries out, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.” In this chapter he is woefully asking why did God allow this to happen to me, when I have served Him so faithfully? He begs God to write a book and explain to him what is going on. In the Psalms, we often find David asking the ‘When’ question, such as Psalm 6:3“My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?” Again, asking these questions is not wrong, but we must not let the questions obstruct or distract us from the heart of the matter – waiting on God. Unfortunately, we can find ourselves in a vicious cycle if we think our time of unanswered questions is only time for us to keep asking questions.

Only when we have a complete and full picture of waiting on God, will we be able to, with God’s grace, better act, react, and serve in the times that God brings into our lives. If we think those times are only about focusing on the questions we ask God, we may never realize that a test has been given us – the questions are for us, and the Teacher is usually quiet during a test.

James 1:2-4 reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” When we look at the life of the Apostles, we should realize that these men experienced the gamut of trials and heartache that few others have experienced. Yet, James starts out his book telling us that the diverse trials and temptations that we fall into are fashioned for specific workings in our life.

I almost have to chuckle as I read how he puts it: “…fall into divers temptations…” How often do we try to go through our normal day-to-day life, and next thing we know, we’ve stepping into a situation where you wonder, “How in the world did I get here?” or “What did I step in now?” When we find our self asking those questions, James has some advice for us: The key fruit of any temptation that you are faced with will be Patience. Let’s read that again: The key fruit of any temptation that you are faced with will be Patience.

Now, patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
Remember the top two questions that we often infatuate ourselves with during temptations: Why and When? Ask yourself the question: Does focusing on these questions counter-act the work of Patience in my life? Sadly, we all too often must admit that Patience is not able to do a work in our life, because our Impatience keeps interrupting. Again, it is not necessarily wrong to ask those questions – as long as it does not hinder the work that God is wanting to accomplish in our life.

Right after James gives us the key fruit to develop, he gives instruction on how to do such: “…But let patience have her perfect work…” This is often the hardest lesson and action for us to do, myself included. Too often we try to second-guess God, maintain our grip on what we think the reins are, and try to dictate to God what the best ‘When’ and ‘Way’ reasons would be. God wants us to let go. Completely. He is not looking for Reason. He is not looking for Logic. He is looking for 100% Faith – a trust to where our hearts are resting so much on Him that the When and Why questions become irrelevant.

James goes on to tell us why we must completely let go and let Patience have free reign: “…that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” This has the idea of complete and filled. How long do we go through trials and temptations, wanting (lacking) peace and joy and rest – all because we allow Impatience to keep Patience out of our heart? When we come to The Place, where we are broken and humble before God and admit that we are resting completely in His decision and work in our life – regardless of the outcome – then God can work to fill what is lacking in our life and heart. Sometimes God does not change a situation because He is more interested in changing your heart.

Isaiah 40:31 is a very familiar passage, but one that can be misapplied if we are not careful: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” It is a fault of ours that we can interpret this passage to mean that if I just stick it out, then this situation will get better one day. This is at the heart of what I see as a common doctrinal misunderstanding about the concept of waiting on the Lord. Let us look at another verse to see what God means by ‘wait’.

Psalm 123:2 says, “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”

To put it in our modern day vernacular, when the Bible uses the idea of waiting on the Lord, it is not in the sense of waiting as in a hospital or dentist’s waiting room; no, the sense is that of a waiter in a restaurant, or a bellhop in a hotel, or a house servant. Remember, when the Scriptures were penned, everyone, even servants, had servants. Almost everyone had someone who ‘waited’ on them, or attended to them. Even today, we have that same idea in a waiter at a restaurant – one who is constantly on standby to attend to our what we want done.

David is telling us in the passage that the way we should look to God is with the constant anticipation and willingness of a servant to their master. In our vernacular, our heart attitude, service, and action should be as that of a waiter constantly anticipating and meeting the requests of their patron.

This is a crucial distinction that must constantly be maintained in our mind. If we have the concept that waiting on God is akin to a hospital waiting room, we may tend to think that one day (if we wait long enough) our number will come up, and we will finally get the service that we’ve been waiting for. On the other hand, when we have the mentality of a bellhop, servant, stewardess, attendant, or waiter, then we will not be idling the time, but always on our feet, ready to serve.

The danger of the waiting room mentality is that we get distracted by the magazines, toys, or other people, and sometimes miss when The Physician calls our name! We get impatient, and start asking questions of Why things are taking so long, and When are we going to get what we are expecting? It is ironic, that even in that likeness, the hospital staff don’t necessarily owe you a reason, and will often tell you (in a gentle way) to sit down and be Patient.

When we have the mentality of a waiter, it is not ours to ask questions. The only questions that a waiter will usually ask is questions of specific clarification on what you asked them to do (what type of salad dressing, etc). They do not ask you Why you felt like you needed to pick out such-and-such. Usually, that’s none of their business. And a good waiter will not ask you When you are going to finish up and leave, so they can get back to what they want to be doing. If those questions are ever brought up, it is after the primary tasks have been attended to; yet even then those questions are more casual interest, and have no bearing on their service.

Our heart and mindset toward God, in any situation or stage of life, should always, always, always be of a servant/waiter. When we have a proper attitude and understanding of ‘waiting’, then we will better understand Isaiah 40:31,“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”  Why is their strength renewed? It isn’t because they have become fatigued sitting in the waiting room, it is because they have been on their feet faithfully attending to every need that their Lord required. Yes, service and waiting continually on the Lord can be wearying, and we can be tempted to faint, but (just like the waiter), there is a rewarding and refreshing to those that serve Him.

So, how does this become part of our day-to-day life and more evident in the hard times of life? How does this come into play when we feel we are so confused we don’t even know how to pray, or what to pray for? How do we truly wait on the Lord, when we feel that we can’t see His Hand? How do we wait on the Lord in the darkest moments of our life?

“…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1:21-22
Job 2:13 “So they [his friends] sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.”
There can be trials so dark that we feel numb to the world, people, and life. There are times where, if we could, we would never get out of bed or go to work, just stare off into space. There are dark times we feel like doing nothing of value, or even in the things that brought us joy before. Job was there.
How do you wait on the Lord, when grief or pain is all you feel?

Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”
Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.” When God does not answer the Why’s and When’s, we must then leave the matter completely in His hands, and not let the unanswered questions become a stumbling block to our service to what we do know the answers to. The day-to-day service and walk with God may be the very thing that God is calling us closer to by the trial. Too many people ditch God when the going gets tough, because they want to be in charge of the situation, and not have God dictate it to them. It is also possible to forsake what people often misthink of as the small stuff – prayer and Bible reading. I have a saying that I have to keep repeating to myself all too often: Pray hardest when it is hardest to pray.

When we come to the rivers and valleys in life where we do not have the answers, we must, must, must acknowledge that to God, and then also admit that not having answers will not hinder us from serving Him in body and in spirit. Instead of coming to Him demanding answers, we should humbly come to Him admitting that we will follow and serve even though we do not understand.

Psalm 37:7,9 “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. …For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.”

Sometimes, our heartache and situation is related to what other people have done or said. David found himself many times in these types of situations. These types of situations are usually the kind where we have little control or influence over the outcome, yet receive much heartache from them. David acknowledged two dangers that we need to be especially wary of as we wait on the Lord through circumstances: impatience, and fretting. When we get into trials where our hands our tied, and there seems to be absolutely nothing that we can do, how we wait on the Lord will depend on whether we turn bitter and anxious, or restful and patient. Another great quote I remind myself about is that there are two things I should not worry about: 1) the things I cannot change, and 2) the things I can change.

David was able to get rest (physically, mentally, and spiritually) from God because he wasn’t try to master plan a situation based on Why’s and When’s. He knew things were out of his hands with those that were lying about him and seeking his life, so he gave it completely over to God, and admitted that God was the only one who can handle his situation, so he was going to do his part in being patient. Just like a waiter sometimes gets into situations where they can’t handle it, they can go to the manager and let them handle it. Once it is given to the manager, it is out of the waiter’s hands – but their actions, demeanor, and attitude are still accountable for.

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may  exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

Sometimes in workplace training, a good manager may allow a waiter to get into a bind just to see if they will ask the manager for help. Too many times we find ourselves in a bind in life, yet we are too proud to go to God and say this is completely beyond me, my wisdom, my reason, my control; God, you alone are in control of the outcome, and I leave it in your hand.

As we dwell on that verse, we must also remember that cares are not responsibilities. After we give the matter to God, there are still responsibilities that we must tend to, and sometimes we may be given new and additional instructions for the matter at hand.

Lamentations 3:25-26“The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.”

Waiting on God is not the impatient toe-tapping demands, but is the quiet, submissive obedience to God, regardless of situation. Notice how He describes it as “…quietly wait…” Our service to God, even during the hard times, is more than a physical action, it is a inner rest in the spirit, that overflows onto the outside in patient obedience. Just like a good waiter serves and attends to your needs with as little interruption as possible, so we must put more focus on looking to our Lord for His direction, than on the questioning.

With an average waiter, you need to flag them down or get their attention if you need something. With a bad waiter, you might just get it yourself. On the other hand, a great ‘waiter’ is always in the wings watching and inquiring if anything is needed. As we wait for God, our requests should be focused on “God, what do you want me to do, I’ll do it…”

Next, we must look at right waiting versus wrong waiting. Right waiting is a quick and willing obedience to obey what our Lord desires, while a wrong waiting (knowingly or unknowingly) is being idle or busy in what we desire, under the guise of ‘waiting for the Lord’. All too often, from my observation, one can get sidetracked with what they believe is ‘waiting on the Lord’, when it is not. Now, I do not know God’s will for your life is, but let’s look over some safeguards for properly waiting on God.

1. Clear confirmation and/or constant hand of God.
Every now and then I cross paths with those who are following a certain direction in life that they believe is from God, yet the grounds that they present are isolated (premonitions, dreams, singular circumstantial events, etc.). God is not a God of ambiguity. When God asked Gideon to fight with only a handful of soldiers against a much larger army, Gideon asked God for a sign. Many people think that this was a sign of weak faith. I see it as a sign of strong faith – willing to serve God in anything, yet prudent to make sure that clarification was there. Yes, sometimes God will call people, even you, to sometimes do things outside of your usual standard operating procedure; yet, you must make diligence to be sure that it is from the hand of God, and not just a dream from the pizza you ate last night. When God requested it of Gideon, He already had a walk with Gideon, and had worked in his life on enough of a regular basis that Gideon could rest in recognizing God’s voice. If you are presented with what you think is the Lord’s will, ask for wisdom, instruction, and confirmation.

When Elijah was sent to the brook to physically wait out a portion of the drought and famine, God gave him daily confirmation by the ravens bringing him food, and the brook flowing freely during a time of drought. If we come to a time in our life where it looks like we might be by the brook for a while, God will confirm it.

All too often, willing people can jump the gun on a matter because they have not fully heard from God, or given Him an audience at all. I’ve seen on several occasions families and individuals jump to conclusions on a matter before they’ve even heard it, or heard fully from God about it. Proverbs 18:13 warns, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”  If you know God is trying to show you something, make sure that you have clear confirmation on what it is. Even when you know a general direction that God would have you or your family go, you still need to continually go to God for instruction and wisdom.

In Ezra 8:21, we find the people as a whole making it a point to stop and ask God for wisdom and guidance: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”

2. Stay busy while you wait.
Another thing I see is when someone is given situations with lengths of time, yet little action (physical or spiritual) is done during those lengths of time. A waiter in a workplace environment, even when the crowds are low, is busy while they wait – even if it is busywork. Let me give you a personal example. About eight years ago, I lost my job and house on the same day as a result of making a stand on what God wanted me to do. Since my employer deemed it politically-incorrect and since I was staying in their housing, I lost both job and housing.

In this situation, I did not know what the next step was going to be. I had to trust God literally step-by-step, day-by-day. I knew that God was closing the door on a portion of my life so that He could open another door. I was without a job for over two months. The Lord met my needs and opened up doors for housing and other needs during this time. Even though I was trusting God to open up the next door, I still had responsibilities that I needed to accomplish. I could not just sit in my trailer and twiddle my thumbs. I asked God for wisdom, and what He wanted me to do until He opened up the right door in His timing. God used those two months to prepare me for future ministry. I was able to use that time to clear a lot of stumbling blocks (physical stuff and spiritually) out of my life, become more organized, and ready to serve God in an even greater capacity than I was before.  God miraculously opened a door for work in an unmistakable way after these months; but, it was my obedience to getting my life organized and greater ready to serve that enabled me to make larger steps for Him once He opened the door.
The moral of the story is this: when God gives you a block of time, whether it is through job loss, health reasons, people, etc., it is for a reason to get something accomplished. Sometimes, that time alone is for nothing more than a chance to get a closer walk with God and in His Word because you were so busy before. Sometimes, and I have seen this in my own life, God has given me certain blocks of time, as a result of situations, that I have been able to get a lot of ministry work done, as well as a lot of housework and cleaning catchup that enabled me to be less distracted in other areas. Large blocks of time are also large opportunities to pray.

We need to constantly pray for wisdom – not just for what we see as the larger situation we face, but for every facet of life. Sometimes when we face a crisis, and we beg God for what we should do, we are surprised when He tells us clean out the garage, get rid of a certain hobby, memorize verses, drop a certain activity, get rid of the tv, bake a cake for the neighbor, etc. – when God gives us wisdom, it is for what He wants us to do, and part of the reason (from God’s perspective) why we are in the position we are in. We are in a position to wait on God, and what He wants done in our life, not us.

Finally, brethren, I close with a soberness: the waiter that sits idle and focuses totally on the why’s and when’s, and their wants instead of the what-should-I-be-doings, will usually find themselves escorted to the sidewalk by the manager.

Luke 16:1-2 “And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.”
God will either work through you, or around you. Wait on Him.
Micah 7:7 “Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.”
Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Lord, give me a servant’s heart.
Give me strength to obey.
Give me wisdom in how I obey.
I patiently wait on You.

1 comment: