Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Waiting On God


I have a problem with patience. It’s not my strong suit. I hate waiting in lines. I hate waiting on anything. I’m sometimes guilty of finishing people’s sentence when they are slow talkers. Patience is definitely not my thing. Nor does my patience seem to improve with age, in fact quite the opposite. The older I get, the more I struggle with waiting. The Lord still has some refining to do on me in that area. I’m no better at waiting on the Lord than I am anything else. His word is quite clear on this subject. He instructs us over and over to wait on him, to be patient and wait on his answers and his solutions. The Psalms are full of his instruction. Psalms 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord...” plain and simple. In Psalms 130: 6 the psalmist says he waits for the Lord, “more than the watchman for the morning”.  Psalms 147:11 says the Lord favors those who, “… wait for His lovingkindness”. God expects us to wait. He expects us to be patient. He will reward us if we are faithful and faith includes waiting for him… waiting for him to answer or to act in our lives. Isaiah 40 proclaims the coming of the Messiah (Holy One, vs.25) and ends with these words of comfort, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary”.

That’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it? We want God to answer when we call, and he did. He sent his son to save us. The world waited for the coming of the Messiah, and in the fullness of time, God sent him. He sent him when the time was right, when everything was set. When all of the other pieces of the puzzle were in place, then he placed the missing piece and revealed his Son, Jesus the Christ.

 I’ve been reading the Christmas story again in scripture. I love to read it again and again and look for new layers of wisdom as God tells me the story, as a father tells a child an old favorite story. In Luke 1 we read the story of the birth of John the Baptist, who would announce the coming of Christ. Luke tells us that his father and mother were righteous and faithful to God (vs. 6). His name was Zacharias and he was a Levite. She was also from the tribe of Levi and was from the lineage of Aaron (vs. 5). Luke tells us the story of God’s revelation to Zacharias. While he was performing his duties in the temple, burning incense, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that God had heard his prayers, and he would have a son. Now Zacharias was  old, as was his wife Elizabeth. They were well beyond the normal age for bearing children (vs. 7). How long do you suppose it had been since Zacharias had prayed for a son? If you were a man, who was married and wished to have children, you would of course pray for children, if you were a man of God. How long and how often would you pray for this… every day? How many years would you pray? I’m sure that both Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed many hundreds of times, maybe thousands of times for many years, but now they are old, and they no longer expect to have children. They must have assumed that God didn’t want them to have children. Perhaps he was punishing them for some failure or sin in their lives. I’m fairly certain that this idea had been suggested and discussed by their friends, family and neighbors, perhaps behind their backs, perhaps to their faces. Being barren and childless would have carried with it a stigma in the society that they lived in. There was disgrace associated with being childless according to Luke (1:25), and I think we can assume that both Zacharias and Elizabeth had stopped waiting on the Lord to hear that prayer. They had given up on God in that respect, and even though they remained faithful, they no longer expected God to answer that prayer. So what a shock and surprise it must have been when God announced to them that He  had heard their prayers, prayers long forgotten, but not forgotten by God. He had answered their prayers in his own good time, when the time was right, and now they would be parents. Not only would they be parents, but their son would be a prophet, and the prophet who would announce the coming of the Messiah, in the spirit of Elijah (vs. 17).

We can’t really blame poor Zacharias for his failure of belief, for which he was temporarily struck dumb by Gabriel (vs. 20). Haven’t we done the same thing? Haven’t we doubted God? Now, I realize that angels probably haven’t made any announcements to you lately, nor have they visited me. But we are still guilty of giving up on God at times. Not only have we stopped praying, like Zacharias, sometimes we have even forgotten what it was that we had prayed for. But God does not forget. Nothing slips his mind. He hears our prayers, and he will answer them, in his own good time, in the fullness of time, when the time is right.

What are you praying for these days? What did you use to pray for? What did you pray for when you were young, and life was full of promise, and everything seemed possible? What did you pray for then, but you don’t now? Now that you are old, and maybe a little disappointed in the way that things turned out. Maybe you never met that Mr./Ms. Wonderful. Maybe you didn’t make it to the pros. Maybe you didn’t earn your first million before you were thirty. Maybe you haven’t earned your first million at all, and it doesn’t look likely, unless that lottery ticket pays out. Have you given up on God? Did your particular wish get lost in the shuffle? Did God forget? Worse yet, maybe he just doesn’t care.

Please, please don’t give up on God. Just you wait. He cares. He cared enough to send his Son to save us. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…”- Galatians 4:4. “”And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”- John 1:14. He doesn’t forget, even if we do. He remembers every prayer that we have ever prayed, and he keeps them all. He wants us to have every good thing that we need. He will not fail us or forget us or accidently leave us behind, or leave us out. He can make anything happen that he wants to happen, and he wants good things to happen for us.

 Luke 1 has another very important lesson to teach us on this subject. The angel Gabriel also appears to Mary, and tells her that she will conceive (miraculously) and give birth to a child, and her child will be the Messiah (vs. 28-35). Gabriel then informs Mary that even her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant (vs. 36). Her cousin Elizabeth, who was too old to have a baby, was also going to have a baby because of God’s power, and then God (thru Gabriel) tells Mary something very, very important. He says, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (vs. 37). Nothing is impossible with God! Mary needed to hear those words, and so do we. God is good and faithful and he loves us and he doesn’t forget and he can do anything. Nothing is impossible with God. We need to write those words on our hearts. We need to get up every day and say them to ourselves and to those around us, because they are true, and we need to live our lives like we believe that they are true.

 We need to know him (thru his Word and Spirit). We need to follow him (thru his Son). We need to obey him. We need to trust him, and finally, the hardest part… at least for me, we need to wait for him. We need to wait for him in our lives and in our faith and in our prayers.

He’s waiting for us too… imagine that! God is waiting for you and for me. He’s standing close by, waiting. The words of the old hymn tell us this.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

You see, God has given us a choice. He wants us to choose him. He wants us to choose to love him and obey him. He won’t act in our lives unless we first choose him. If we don’t want him to be in our lives, then he won’t force it. He will allow us to be on our own. But the invitation stands, as long as we live and breath, God is waiting and watching for us.

The bible tells us that God is waiting for us too. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come into him, and will dine with him, and he with me”.

The bible says, in Zechariah 10:8, “I will whistle for them to gather them together, For I have redeemed them”. Like a shepherd whistles for his sheep in the darkness. He’s calling us. He’s waiting for you and for me, to answer his call. He wants to be with us. He wants to know us. He came a long way to find us in the darkness. We don’t have to wait anymore. We just have to open the door. We just have to answer his call. He’s waiting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I believe that you can make a good case for the following proposition: God uses people in his plans and purposes. If this proposition is true, then we should be prepared for whatever God would have us do, and whatever he has planned for us.


I believe that he brings certain people together at certain times, in certain places, and he works through them. Now I don’t mean that these events are necessarily world-shaking events, but neither do I think that we are in a very good position to judge the significance of these events when they occur. We should treat every intersection, every chance meeting, every seemingly mundane event as if it is an opportunity, because it is. Every time we are brought together with other people, every time we meet a stranger, every time we meet a friend, or loved one, we have an opportunity to affect them for good. We have an opportunity to fill a need, to encourage, to lend, to love. We have an opportunity for God to work through us, if we will let him.


 It sort of boggles the mind to think of all of the billions of people in the world, milling about, bumping into each other, and heedlessly going about their business like a bunch of ants. But we are not ants. We are created in his image. He is seeking our participation in his purpose, and in his will. He is not in time, as we are. We live in a linear reality. If you think about it, all of our analogies about life involve moving forward along a straight line. Life is like a road, or a train. We are constantly moving forward; looking back at the past, and trying to peer forward into the future, and always stuck right in the middle, in the present, in the moment. But God sees it all at once, the whole parade of human history. He knows where we are headed, even if we don’t. He knows we are going to stub our toe on the dresser, in the dark, next Thursday. He knew it a millennium before we were born.


 God works his will in the world in three dimensions: people, place, and time. He creates a time, in a place, with a group of people that he has brought together, to accomplish some work, or to move his purpose in a certain direction, or sometimes…just for pleasure, just for fun! Who says God is not concerned with pleasure and with fun? Who says that pleasure and fun are not legitimate reasons for God’s concern, and are not important in God’s creation?


I call this convergence of people, time, and place, an Intersection. Can you think of any intersections in your life? Can you think of any such convergence of certain people, in a certain place, at a certain time, coming together, according to God’s purpose? The Bible is full of examples of these intersections. Human history in general is full of these intersections, but the purest examples of intersections that come to my mind are the family, and the church.


Who doesn’t believe that God had a hand in bringing them together with their true love? I know this in my own heart, as well as I know anything. There is no doubt in my mind, that God answered my prayers, and the prayers of my wife. In the fullness of time, when we were both prepared for it, he brought us together. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to imply that we are not capable of steering the wrong way at these intersections. God allows us to exert our own wills, in all matters of the world. So his purpose is not always served when an intersection occurs. Often a wreck occurs instead! God could make us do his will, of course. But he doesn’t. He allows us to choose, and sometimes our choices negate his will and purpose, often resulting in unrequited love, or wars, or other similar human tragedies.


The church is a perfect example of an intersection, if ever there was one. What a wonder and a joy it is to watch God bring people together, in a place of his choosing, at a time of his choosing, knowing that the seeds have been planted for the harvest of the gospel to grow! What a powerful force is the will of God, when people all work and pray in harmony to achieve it! And what a fragile force is the will of man, when we take our eyes off the cross and begin to seek our own.


What an opportunity we have when God brings us to an intersection! What an exciting thing it is, to realize the potential for affecting the lives of others for Christ. What an honor and a privilege it is to be an instrument in the hand of God, in the building of his Kingdom.


We can prepare for these intersections. We can prepare ourselves by praying for God to use us, by praying for his will to be done in our lives. We can prepare ourselves by studying his Word, to be used as a beacon, a lamp for those that we meet at that intersection. We can prepare ourselves by acquiring a loving heart, a God seeking heart, a need seeking heart, a serving heart. We can prepare ourselves by seeking his will, and watching for the next intersection. It’s up ahead, just around the next bend. Who will you meet there? Jesus will be there, and you. God only knows who else will be there, and only God knows where it will lead, or what you will be called to do. Prepare yourself.



                                                                                                M.J. Smith