Today we’re going to continue a series that I started a while back entitled, “12 Scriptures that will Set on Fire the Course of your Life.” And what I mean by that is if you embrace these 12 scriptures and try to live accordingly, you’ll live life differently. Your life will be set on a firm foundation. I want to begin today by reading a few scriptures that are very familiar to all of you. You’re not a Christian very long before somebody shares this verse with you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:38 NASB
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Many of you have these scriptures memorized. They mean a lot to you, but all these scriptures have one thing in common and that is, if you embrace them they’re all going to involve a period of waiting and that’s the message this morning. It’s about waiting. Today we’re going to focus on the time between the promise believed and the fulfillment. There’s a period of waiting. Learning to wait on God is a very important aspect of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a very important lesson to learn if you want to put yourself in a position to receive from God. And if we look through the Bible, most of the central figures in the Word of God had to wait. You think about Abraham, Noah, Daniel, Joseph, Moses, King David, the Apostle Paul, the disciples. They all had to wait at one time or another. There’s all kinds of examples of people and we’re just going to look at a couple of them. Let’s go to Acts Chapter 1. Jesus had been resurrected for 40 days. We celebrated His resurrection last Sunday. Jesus had been resurrected for 40 days. He had appeared to more than 500 people. During those 40 days, He instructed His disciples on the kingdom, but obviously on how He wanted them to preach. How He wanted them to communicate His kingdom to the world. After those 40 days we know in Luke 24 that He takes His disciples (we don’t know how many people he had with Him at that point), but He takes them outside of Jerusalem, up to Bethany. And if you’ve been to Israel with me, you know you go out the East Gate and you come down and you go down in the Kidron Valley and there’s a garden of Gethsemane and you pass that, and you go up on the top of the hill there and that’s Bethany. And when you’re standing on Bethany, you have an unbelievable view of the city of Jerusalem. It’s a very famous picture. But that’s where Jesus took His disciples and He tells them that He’s going to send them into all the world. He’s going to send them out to do what He’s been training them to do, but He tells them that they have to wait. Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. Let’s just read the story.
4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me;… 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”… 8but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.”… 9And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
What an experience! Can you imagine? And then an angel shows up. What are you staring up there for? It’s Jesus. He’s gone. He’s going to come back someday. Now, again, we don’t know how many people were there with Jesus when He ascended into heaven, but we have to assume that these followers of Jesus had really gone through a traumatic forty days. Think about it. First Jesus is crucified. He dies. Earthquakes. Dead people arise. The curtain’s torn apart. All kinds of matter of stuff happened. They’re disillusioned. They’re behind locked doors and then Jesus raises from the dead. So, they went from fear and disillusionment to amazement and joy and now He’s gone. And He says, “Go to Jerusalem and wait.” Waiting. I do not like to wait and neither do you. We Americans don’t like it. I was reading recently that most Americans, (at first I said, “No” but then I started thinking about it) most Americans wait 30 to 60 minutes every single day. You wait for something. You wait in traffic. You wait for the light to turn green. You wait in the line for the cashier wherever that may be. I was going to say you wait at the DMW, but that’s not waiting. That’s eternity. That’s something else. That’s beyond waiting. You wait for the doctor. You take your kids, you’re going to pick up your kids or whatever and they’re supposed to be out at 3:30, of course you’re waiting 15 or 20 minutes, whatever. You’re waiting for your car to be fixed. On and on and on. Universally, I think we Americans like to wait and some of us have more trouble than others waiting. My wife doesn’t have as much trouble waiting as I do. But I’ve got trouble. So, what I’m going to share with you today… I’m sharing something that I know is true, but that I have trouble with this. And I don’t want to give you any idea that I have got this mastered because I don’t. But I do know this. I do know that waiting is one of the most important disciplines in the Christian life. It is mentioned all over in the Bible. I mentioned earlier, all these central figures of the Bible had to wait. If you wait, what happens is you put yourself in a position to be blessed by God. If you don’t wait, you go ahead of God. You lean on your own understanding and you make mistakes. And when you make mistakes, there’s consequences. There’s difficulties. But the fact is, again and again in the Bible, we are told to wait. Now what I’m going to do, I am just going to read through a bunch of scriptures. And just sit back. I want the truth of this to just wave over you. I want the truth of this whole thing about waiting (and it’s all over in the Bible) to just kind of hit you. So, just sit back and listen to me. Hopefully you already are.
Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
And remember, this is David and we’re going to talk about him in a little bit. But if there’s anybody that did a lot of waiting, it was David and he learned a lot about waiting.
I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.
In other words, when we trust God and we wait, heaven rejoices.
My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
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.
You know what I think is funny about that passage? We love that passage, but we just skip out the first one. The first line. “Those who wait on the Lord, will gain new strength…”
Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me; Watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorpost.
Now I hope you realize, that’s only some of the scriptures. There’s a whole lot more. And there’s one example after another of Biblical characters that had to wait. The point is, that the discipline of waiting is extremely important if you want to put yourself in a position to receive from God, and I hope that includes every person in here. Even though we know this is true… theologically we know if there is going to be a period of waiting and as we wait patiently, God is going to come through… waiting is hard because when we’re in the midst of a situation we want God to act swiftly. We want God to act decisively. We want God to act yesterday. And we want progress reports. Now wouldn’t it be nice if every couple of weeks you open up your emails and there’s a message from God telling you how things are going with the situation, the person you’ve been praying for. “I’ve been working in his life, this and this happened.” But that doesn’t happen. So, when we don’t see any progress or things get worse, how many of you know, sometimes you’re waiting on God and what you see is worse than what it used to be and so the temptation even becomes greater to do something. So, we conclude we better do something before the situation gets any worse. And if you’re like me, I’m an A-type personality and I want to fix everything. I want to fix everything. This is a problem in my marriage because I always thought, “You need to be fixed.” Without going into great detail, I needed fixing, but that’s another story. I don’t want to talk about that. If there’s a situation, I almost feel guilty if I don’t try to fix it. This was a real problem for me when I first started in the ministry because people would come with problems and I always tried to solve them. I tried to be their savior. It took me years to figure out, you’re not their savior and besides that, you’re not doing a very good job. Let God do it. I tried to fix everything for everybody. It’s hard for me to wait. You know, sometimes I almost feel guilty if I’m not doing something. If I’m not trying to fix something I feel guilty like I should be doing something. I know some of you are like me. I have to do something but herein lies the problem. As soon as you and I get ahead of God, most often we just make it worse. I’m going to give an example. You have teenagers? Some of you have teenagers. When they get to be about twelve, something happens, and boys have a hard time receiving anything from their mothers. I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t hear about, “What happened to my son? He used to love me. He hates me now.” He doesn’t hate you. There’s going to come a time when everything will turn around, but parents, you have to be patient. You have to let God. You know what they need to hear. You need to pray before you tell them what they need to hear. Especially when you get 15, 16 or 17. I mean, if you tell them at the wrong time what they need to hear, they’re just going to go (puffs up body in defiant gesture) like that. On the other hand, if you wait and you pray, and you wait for the open door and speak to them, lo and behold, they’re listening. They’re listening to me. What makes waiting hard, and I think this is probably obvious when you hear it, is because we’re waiting for God. It’s His time table. And this always upsets me because God’s eternal, for heaven’s sake. A day is like a thousand years. Really?! So, I’ve been waiting a year and the Lord just blinked His eye. No wonder it’s taking so long, you know? Eternity. But God’s timing is always perfect. And what does God say about His timing?
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9”For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
There you go. We’re all gonna be tempted to go ahead of God. We’re gonna panic. We’re going to try to take care of the situation ourselves. We’re going to lean on our own understanding and this whole message this morning is… don’t do it! Don’t panic. That was the introduction by the way. Don’t worry, I’ll have you out on time. The clock is ever before me. Here is the fourth scripture that will set on fire the course of your life.
For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
Whenever I preach a message there’s one thing I want people to remember. This is it right here. The Lord Acts While We Wait. Whenever you and I go through a challenging time that seems to go on and on, whether it be with our marriage, with our children, with our business. I mean, this weekend I have prayed with people that they’re really going through some stuff. You know, you’re trying to trust God. You’re in that period of waiting. It just goes on and on. You can’t see any progress. The natural questions that come out of our mouth are, “Lord, where are you?” “Why is this taking so long?” “I can’t see any benefit, Lord. What one benefit is coming from waiting here?” “It’s just getting worse for heaven’s sake. Can’t you see that?” We feel abandoned. We feel ignored. We feel desperate. And it’s at that point where you and I are tempted to take things into our own hands. Just like Abraham. It’s a great example here. God tells Abraham, “You’re going to be a great nation. As many as the sands of the sea” and he’s getting older and he’s looking at himself, going, “I’m old and Sarah’s old too. I don’t think… well, it ain’t happening God.” So, he tries to help God out. He says, “You know, maybe God wants to use my trusted servant Eliezer. Lord, I’m gonna make Eliezer my heir.” And God says, “No, don’t do that.” “Really?” “No.” Ten years later, Sarah’s got a brilliant idea. Stupid idea, but she has an idea. “Why don’t you take my maidservant, Hagar, and we’ll raise up a child.” And of course she gets pregnant, she has Ishmael. And lo and behold, Sarah gets pregnant, too. And then you have two heirs and there’s strife to the point where Abraham has to tell Hagar, (which is the hand maiden’s name, Hagar, the mother of Ishmael)… he kicks them out. Sends them out in the wilderness. I don’t have time now, but I don’t like that part of the story. He kicks his son out. I don’t understand it all, obviously. I mean, the reason why he did that is because there was strife beginning to happen between these two boys. Between Ishmael and Isaac. And that strife continues today. Between the Jews and the Arabs. All because of that stupid idea.
First Samuel. You know, King Saul started off as a great King. Sought the prophets. He had great victories over a bunch of mites. The Ammonites, the Edomites, the Moabites. Great victory over the Philistines, and the Philistines were the constant enemy of Israel. And Saul had a great victory over them, and the Philistines were defeated really badly and they just had enough. And so, they decided that they were going to form an alliance with all the nations around Israel. I hope this is sounding familiar. Form an alliance with all the nations around Israel for one purpose. Wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. So, they gather all these nations. This great alliance. A multitude, just a giant army, this massive army with one purpose; wipe out the Jews once and for all. Again, that sounds familiar if you know the story of Israel, 1948, 1967, 1976. It doesn’t work guys. So, King Saul, his massive army; of course, he calls the men of war together. Meet me at Gilgal. So, they all meet at Gilgal and Samuel, the prophet, said, “I’m going to come too, but you wait seven days. Don’t go to battle, don’t do anything until I get there. I’ll sacrifice and then we’ll win the battle. Don’t go before me. The Lord says, wait.” So, the army gets to Gilgal and they’re all excited, “We’re gonna win this battle against this massive army. God’s going to be with us.” But you know as the days go by, they start contemplating. You know, there’s five of us and fifty of them. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of them and a little of us. This doesn’t look good. You know, I didn’t sign up to die. I signed up for glorious victory. Every morning, Saul would get up and a bunch of the soldiers had left. Everyday Saul got up, the Israeli army got smaller. And so, in his eyes and any logical mind, the possibilities for victory became slimmer and slimmer every day. And you can imagine his generals. “Saul, you got to do something. We have to attack now. We have to do it now. We’re losing men every single day. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And the pressure got to him. On the seventh day, and I have to chuckle, the seventh day he cracks. I mean, if the dude would have just waited a couple more hours. I mean it’s ironic, it’s sad. So, he takes it into his own hands. He builds an altar. He puts his sacrifice on. He does the thing and he’s done. He prays to God, “God help us in this battle,” and as soon as he’s done, guess who shows up? I mean, the Bible says, as soon as he was done, Samuel shows up. King Saul paid a heavy price. He lost his kingdom. And I said all that to say this, and the Bible says, “He took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to a man after His own heart.” And if you know anything about David, he had to do a lot of waiting. So, this is what I conclude. A man or woman after God’s own heart has learned how to wait on God. Trust God to the point that they’ll wait until God comes through no matter what. No matter what they see in front of them, no matter what the situation looks like, a man or a woman after God’s own heart continues to wait on God until the fulfillment of that promise. (clapping). I’m glad you liked that but it’s waiting, guys. You’re clapping, but it’s hard. If you and I yield to the temptation, believe the lie that we have to do something because God would have certainly done something by now… “Maybe I missed something. I need to do something. God helps those who helps themselves.” You realize that’s nowhere in the Bible. When you believe the lie, “Well, I’m on my own” you’re going to take matters into your own hands and you will probably postpone the miracle. You will postpone the answer to prayer. Keep your bloody hands off of it. I’ve been watching a lot of BBC lately so I’m sorry. I have. They have a lot of good shows, by the way. So, you’re gonna go ahead of God. You’re probably going to postpone the miracle. You’re going to postpone the answer to prayer. And the reason is, is because you and I aren’t really seeing this situation as it really is. Our perceptions of the situation are off. We can literally be deceived by our perceptions and feelings. Jeremiah 17:9. We can’t trust what we think we see, what we think we feel. When you find yourself saying, “If God was doing something, He would have done it by now” when you’re tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness to keep His promises, I’m imploring you, I’m begging you, don’t do it! If you’re at the end of your rope, go find a mature Christian, a Christian with grey hair. A Christian who’s been a Christian for a while. Not someone who’s been a Christian a year and a half or two. What do they know? I mean, I’m just being serious. One thing I love about this church is we’ve always been for the most part, we’ve always had a widespread of people. But if a man or a woman has been a Christian for 30 or 40 years, believe me, 20 years, they’ve had to do some waiting and they’ve learned some stuff. Talk to them. Don’t go try to get some wisdom from somebody who’s been a Christian for 2 years. God bless them. They’re not going to give you what you need. Take a step back. Go to a mature Christian and tell them your situation and the Bible says there’s safety in a multitude of counselors. Go to more than one. And they’ll all probably tell you something similar. Pray with them. Recommit yourself and move on. Remember, God sees all aspects of your situation. He understands all the panicky thoughts you have. Look, I know that I have a gift. It’s not a good gift. Whenever anything happens to me, the church or my family, I can get a piece of paper and write the 12 worse things that could possibly happen in that situation in a matter of seconds. Seconds! My wife is just the opposite, and so often it’s really made me mad. I try not to put her in messages, but there I go again. He sees all aspects. He sees all our panicky thoughts. He knows what other people are telling you. But as you reaffirm your trust in God, if you fulfill your responsibilities for that day… waiting on God, guys, this is important, waiting on God is not procrastination. Waiting on God does not abdicate your responsibilities. Waiting is taking care of all your responsibilities, doing what God has given you to do in that day and then waiting on God.
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way.
The Hebrew word for established, here, means prearranged. Step by step. Even if you’re kind of going like this, (swerving around) and you know the Lord is going like this (trying to straighten you out). That is so often what the Lord has done in my life. He’s just kind of, you know, like bumpers on a bowling alley. He’s just, you know, He’s keeping me going. God has not led you as far as He has to this point, just to abandon you. Hebrews 13:5 tells us He’ll never leave us or forsake us. Now, if you believe God’s Word, you’re going to have to believe that.
A while back, I learned something interesting about trapeze artists. And when I was a kid, circuses were a big deal. I mean, I still have vivid memories of the elephants and especially the guy, the crazy dude who waved at the end of a cannon, put him down in and with a puff of smoke the guy would shoot in the air. I still remember it. Human Cannonball, they called him. But they had trapeze artists and, you know, they got the trapeze. There’s the catcher and the flyer. The flyer lets go of the trapeze and he or she does a little thing in the air and when they’re done there’s a moment in time where they just have to wait. They have to wait for the catcher to catch them. If they try to catch the catcher, they’ll fall and die. When I used to go to the circus, there’s no nets, dudes. There’s no nets. Remember that, Hank? Years ago we’d go to the circus and you’d go (jaw dropped) because you knew if they fall, they’re done. There’s something interesting, but this is off my notes, but as soon as they put up nets and everything, people stopped going to the circus. We are a strange creation, that’s all I can say. So, are we all hoping that they’ll fall? Anyways, that’s the truth. So, when the flyer lets go of the trapeze, he has to wait for the catcher to catch him. He’s got to wait in midair for the catcher to catch him. I thought, God’s our catcher. What a great example, God is our catcher. We have to let go of the trapeze bar, trust and wait for God, putting our absolute trust in God. We have a God who ultimately won’t disappoint us. So, the few minutes that I have left here, I want to get real practical. How do we wait successfully? I believe it involves 3 steps.
Give all aspects of your life to Jesus. “God, I accept your will in this situation. I surrender to it and I’m praying about it every day, but if I’m praying about this situation and it’s not according to Your will, show my what Your will is so I can pray according to Your will. Your word says if I pray anything according to Your will, You hear me and because You hear me, I have the request that I have asked of You. I want to pray according to Your will. I give You control. I’ll seek counsel. I’ll wait on You. Lord, I’m going to do my best every day (Colossians 3:23). I’m going to take one day at a time (Matthew 6:34). As I take one day at a time, I’m going to trust You that You’re gonna give me the strength that I need each and every day (Deuteronomy 33:25.)” Surrender.
I didn’t get married till I was 35. I got saved when I was 22. The girl I had been going with broke up with me. It’s a long story, I don’t want to go into it. You don’t care anyway. It was a disaster. And I started praying for a wife. I had all kinds of false starts. As a matter of fact, I had a ring drawer. Yes, yes, a ring drawer from false starts. And every time I got from point A, I had a ring. The Lord would say, “No, no, no.” It wasn’t till I surrendered that whole situation to God… I mean, I surrendered, “Lord, if I never get married, it’s okay with me. I’m done. I don’t want to date anyone. I’m done.” I can’t tell you how quickly I got married. God was just waiting for me. As soon as I started waiting on God, it changed and… should I tell them this? So, Mary and I decided to get married and I took her to that little ring drawer and I said, “Here’s a bunch of rings. Let’s melt them down and make you a ring.” Now, that should tell you two things. One, I am a nimrod. Number two, Mary is a saint. Okay? What an idiot. But I still remember, it was like 3 or 4 months after we’re getting married, I get up and I’m sitting on the bed and I’m looking at Mary and I look out the window and I remember thinking, “What happened?” I was happy, but what happened? So, number one, you’ve got to surrender. You surrender it all. I’m not going to try to control this. Oh, do we have some control freaks around here? I’m one. Lord, you do it.
Guys, remember this. Obedience puts us in a position to hear from God. Jesus said, “If you love me then you’ll keep my commandments.” And then a few chapters later, He says, “If you love me and you keep my commandments, I’m going to answer your prayers so that your joy may be made full.” John 16. Look at it yourself. Obey.
- Watch and listen
You simply listen for God to speak to you. He’ll speak to you at a worship service. He’ll speak to you while you’re worshiping. He’ll speak to you in the Word. He’ll speak to you from a message, a teaching. He may speak to you and give you an open door or divine appointments. Well, what is that? In other words, this is part of watching. You watch for an open door and a divine appointment. I tell people, “Don’t worry about if you think you’re getting an open door. It’s gonna sound like a giant garage door opening that’s squeaking all the way.” You will know! You don’t have to guess. You know. “Oh my gosh, He’s speaking to me.” But you watch, you listen. You have the attitude of the prophet, Micah, in chapter 7, verse 7. “As for me I’ll watch expectantly for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me… though I fall I will rise. Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is the light for me.” I love that scripture. I will wait expectantly for the Lord. It’s also testing. You’re watching and listening but you’re also testing what you think you’re hearing from God. I won’t make any major decision in my life without talking to at least three men that I trust and if they’re telling me I’m not hearing from God then I haven’t heard from God. And you know, its’ very easy to find people that will tell you what you want to hear. You want to find people that have the guts to tell you what you maybe don’t want to hear. Those are your friends. I’m going to close with one last scripture because we need to get out of here. This is great.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
Many times in the New Testament, Jesus says this, “He who has ears, let him hear.” He who has ears, let him hear. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says again, “He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit is saying.” Some of you have ears to hear and because of it, you’re gonna wait for God. And because of it, you’re going to put yourself in a position to receive from God and you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Never forget God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. The Lord acts while we wait!