Today we begin a new series about a little-understood subject: “Waiting on God.” In today’s society, we don’t want to wait on anything. We are all about fast food, fast communication, and fast travel, but God’s Word promises amazing benefits from the discipline of “waiting.” Listen as Derek explains what it means to wait on God — and the benefits associated with waiting.
It’s good to be with you again at the beginning of a new week, sharing with you Keys to Successful Living which God has placed in my hand through many years of personal experience and Christian ministry.
This week I’m going to be speaking about a form of spiritual discipline which is mentioned many times in the Bible, but is very little understood—or practiced—by contemporary Christians; least of all, probably, in the United States.
Before I tell you what it is I have in mind, let me first say thank you to those of you who’ve been writing to me. Before I finish this talk, we’ll be giving you a mailing address to which you may write. It means a great deal to me to hear how this radio ministry of mine has been helping you and blessing you. So please take time to write—even if it’s only a brief personal note.
Now for my theme for this week. The form of discipline that I have in mind is waiting for God, or Waiting on God. The older versions usually say, waiting on God—the newer versions say waiting for God, but essentially it’s the same thing. It’s a form of waiting that is specifically related to God.
There are many passages in the Bible that speak about waiting for God. We’ll glance at just a few to begin with. First of all, in Psalm 25, verses 1-5:
“To Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in Thee I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none of those who wait for Thee will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed. Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; Teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, For Thou art the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day.” (NASB)
Notice, waiting for God is mentioned twice in those verses. In verse 3, David says: “Let none of those who wait for Thee be ashamed.” And then at the end he says, “For Thee I wait all the day.” And just before that he says, “Thou art the God of my salvation.” I think there’s a connection. If God is the God of our salvation, then one of the ways we relate to Him as such, is by waiting for Him, if necessary, all the day. And it’s connected with that prayer, “Make me know thy ways, O Lord, teach me Thy paths.” I believe one of the ways in which we come to know God’s ways and God’s power is by waiting for Him. If we’re not prepared to wait for Him, there will be some things we’ll never learn.
Then we look again in Psalm 27, verses 11-14:
“Teach me Thy way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path, Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. 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.” (NASB)
We see there in the closing verse, David twice says, “Wait for the Lord, yes, wait for the Lord.” Again we see that it’s connected with his prayer a little earlier, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a level path.” It’s also connected with his prayer for deliverance from his enemies. So I believe that waiting for God is the key to learning His way and also it’s one of the steps that are sometimes necessary in seeking deliverance from our enemies and from opposition.
And then there’s another beautiful passage in Isaiah chapter 64, verse 4, which the prophet addresses to the Lord. He says there are certain things that distinguishes the true God and one of the things he says is:
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (NIV)
So there is one of the distinctive marks of the One true God, that He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. One of the ways in which we need to relate to this wonderful God, the God of the whole universe, one of the ways in which we will come to the place where He will act on our behalf is by waiting for Him.
What is the essence of waiting for God? What is really involved in it? Why is it so important? Why is there so much emphasis on it in the Scriptures? I would like to suggest to you that there’s a passage in Psalm 62 which probably contains the essence of this wonderful secret of waiting for God. Psalm 62, verses 1 and 2, and then verses 5 and 6. In verses 1 and 2 the Psalmist says:
“My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. [And then in verses 5 and 6, he returns to similar language but there are some significant differences.] My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” (NIV)
One important thing to see in those verses is that the word “only” occurs four times. Every time that the Psalmist speaks about “Waiting for God,” he adds, “Wait for God only.” And he also speaks about, “Waiting in silence for God,” or “Being silent toward God.” In other words, it’s focusing our total attention upon God. It’s looking to Him and continuing to look to Him. Not taking hasty or unwise action, not yielding to our carnal pressures, but focusing our attention upon God, waiting in silence for Him.
What is it then that is so important about waiting for God? What are the results that it will produce in us. I’d like to suggest that in waiting for God we acknowledge God in a very special way. We give Him His rightful place in our lives. It builds a relationship with Him that cannot be built in any other way. In particular there are three ways that we acknowledge God by waiting for Him. First of all, we acknowledge God as our source. That’s why the Psalmist said, “Wait for God only.” He was saying to his own soul, “What you need can only come from God. There’s no other source for what you need. So it’s in vain to turn in any other direction. You have to keep your heart and your mind focused on God, by waiting for Him.
Secondly, we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, and that is so important. The initiative is with God. The timing is with God. We can’t tell God when to do it. We have to wait until God in His infinite wisdom knows this is the time that it needs to be done. So we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our lives.
Thirdly, we are acknowledging our dependence on God. And that’s something that’s painful for all of us, because as a result of man’s fall, there is ingrained in every human being a deep desire to be independent—even to be independent of God. Waiting for God deals with this desire for independence. It continually reminds us we are dependent upon God. The initiative comes from God. The only source is God. And so it humbles and subdues that carnal impulse in us which is continually striving to be independent of God.
And then in that passage which I read from Psalm 62, we need to notice the transition. David says in verse 1, “My soul waits in silence for God only.” In verse 2 he says, “I shall not be greatly shaken.” And then in verse 5 he says, “My soul waits in silence for God only” and in verse 6 he says, “I shall not be shaken.” Notice there’s an important difference. First, “I shall not be greatly shaken,” then “I shall not be shaken at all.” In other words, waiting for God develops stability.
And finally we always need to remind ourselves that waiting for God is mutual. It is not only we who are waiting for God, but it is also God who is waiting for us. Here’s a beautiful Scripture to that effect in Isaiah 30, verse 18:
“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who wait for Him.” (NASB)
We tend to look only at our own situation and say, “God, I’m waiting for You.” But we need to be inspired by that scripture to know that it’s two way. Not only are we waiting for God, but God, on high, is waiting for us. And He’s waiting to have compassion. He’s waiting to be gracious. So even though at times our patience may be tested, let’s bear in mind it’s mutual. It’s two-way. We wait for God, but God also waits for us. And the reason He waits is to be gracious, to have compassion on us.
Well our time is up for today. I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow I’ll be speaking more fully about the results produced in us by Waiting for God.