Wait on the Lord: What it means, Why it’s so hard

We have three primary texts (and a dozen secondary ones)–

“Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord.”  –Psalm 27:14  This is a command.  Waiting on the Lord takes real strength. 

“I waited patiently on the Lord and He inclined unto me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a solid rock and established my footsteps.  He also put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”  –Psalm 40:1-3  This is a testimony. Waiting on the Lord is the gateway to so many blessings.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint.”  –Isaiah 40;31.  This is a promise. Waiting on the Lord–in time–makes us stronger and more confident.

Question: What would it take for you to quit believing in God? What would it take to make you quit going to church, stop reading your Bible, and no longer consider yourself a Christian?

–A fellow left a note on my website saying “I’m no longer going to church or believing in God.  The last two pastors I have had were terrible and treated me awful.”  I read that and thought, “That’s all it took to knock you out?  Just two bad preachers?  I can show you twenty-five monsters in the pulpit, and you quit after only two?”

–Someone says, “God did not answer my prayer for my child.” Or my mother.  Or wife.  “And I no longer believe in Him.”  That’s all it took, friend?  Just one unanswered prayer?  I’ve had hundreds of them.  But you dropped out after one?

Wait on the Lord.  What does that mean?

That admonition in Scripture is given to someone going through rocky times.  Things are bad and you would love for God to step in and put things right today.  But the Spirit tells you to sit tight, to remain in place, to trust in God.

My own paraphrase of “Wait on the Lord” looks like this:

Remain in place while the Lord fixes a problem, answers a prayer, and/or prepares a blessing, during which He may appear to be absent for a time.

In other words, be faithful.

I asked some friends for their own rephrasing of “Wait on the Lord,” asking them to give it a contemporary spin.  Here are some of the results–

–Okay, stay with me here.  It might get rocky.

–The captain over the intercom:  “Folks, we’re expecting a little turbulence.  Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened.  Flight attendants, take your seats.”  In turbulence, we sit quietly and wait on the Lord.

–The engineer or conductor says: “We’re going into a tunnel.  It will be dark for a time.  All is well.”  In the dark, we sit quietly and wait on the Lord.

–The NASCAR announcer: “The caution flag is out.  Hold your place.  The green is coming.”  In times when nothing seems to be happening, we wait on the Lord.

–No matter what you see or hear from others, keep doing what I told you to do.

–We’re in a spiritual holding pattern.

–Idle your motor–when you would rather be stripping your gears.

–At ease;  Watch me now.

–Buckle up.  Keep your hands and feet inside the ride until it comes to a complete stop.

In Wartime England, signs everywhere said: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.  That’s the point.

The counsel “Wait on the Lord” is directed to  those in difficult situations….

–Take Job.

Job lost all ten of his children in the same day.  We can only imagine the grief.  The same day, he lost all his considerable wealth.  He had awakened that morning the richest man of his day; he went to bed that night with unimaginable loss, grief and pain.  Someone suggested that he quit believing, that he ought to “curse God and die.”  But this righteous man would not give up so easily.  “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” he said. ” Blessed by the Name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)

Later, in pain from sores and afflictions throughout his body and being verbally brutalized by his so-called friends, Job held firm.  He would not quit. As the saying goes, he may have bent but he didn’t break.

In the midst of his pain Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  (Job 13:15)

Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at last shall stand upon the earth.  And that after my flesh is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another!” (Job 19:24-27). That is about as good as it gets, friend.  And that ringing testimony came out of Job’s darkness.  We are so indebted to him for this.

Finally, Job saw God. He declared, “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ears, but now mine eye seeth Thee.  Wherefore, I abhor myself and repent in sackcloth and ashes” (Job 42:5). God restored Job’s fortunes and gave him ten additional children.  (An interesting side note:  God doubled everything He had taken from Job with one exception: he was given the same number of children.  This is a tiny implication from the Old Testament of eternal life.  The point being that the first ten children were still living; God was merely keeping them for him. I find it interesting that before ending the long book, the writer of Job commented on the beauty of Job’s daughters: “In all the land were found no women as beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers” (42:15), which was remarkable in itself.)

Job had no idea of the cosmic drama going on behind the curtain, unseen to him.  As far as anyone knows, he never learned what this was all about.  But he trusted God in the darkness, stayed faithful in his turbulence, and emerged on the other side praising God.  (This begs the question “Where did this book come from? Someone had to have been told.”  Answer: God knows, and we will find out some day.)

–Take Mary and Martha.

John 11 tells of the grief of Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died.  They were upset that the Lord Jesus did not come immediately when He heard that His friend lay at the point of death.  By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days and the body was decomposing.  They had waited on the Lord, it would seem, to no avail.

Each sister gave Jesus the same rebuke: “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.”

It was too late by now, the sisters knew. “Lord, by now the body is stinking.”

At the graveside, the Lord said, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

Do not rush by that statement too quickly. It’s all about “waiting on the Lord.”  Remain faithful, Jesus said, believing in Me.  Do this and in time, you will see what God was up to, His power on display, His glory made visible.

“Lazarus, come forth!” Jesus cried out.  And the man dead four days came walking out of the grave.  (Side note:  In John 12:19-11, Lazarus has become a tourist attraction. As people arrived in Jerusalem for Passover, they took the short walk over the Mount of Olives to the little community of Bethany where the “man dead four days!” sat on his front porch in a rocking chair, smiling, saying nothing, turning people to Jesus by his very presence.  In a sense, that’s what you and I do.  We “show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).)

–Take Simeon and Anna

In Luke 2, Joseph and Mary take their six-week-old Son into the temple for the dedication.  There they encountered two senior citizens who demonstrate what it means to “wait on the Lord.”

Simeon “waited for the consolation of Israel” (2:25) and Anna “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (2:37).  They were each “waiting on the Lord,” and for that they received the blessings of a lifetime.  Simeon burst forth, “Lord, you can let me go on to Heaven now; I have seen Your salvation!”

–Take Israel in Babylonian exile.

Israel was in Babylon and didn’t want to be. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had conquered them, destroyed Jerusalem, and transported most of the citizens to Babylon.  The people were homesick, angry, broken.

That’s when God sent them a message.

“You’re going to be in Babylon for seventy years.”  Seventy years??  A lifetime!  “But remain faithful,” God said.  “Build houses, grow crops, have weddings, raise families.  Work for the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, for as it prospers, you will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).

But God was still on the job.  He said, “I know the plans I have for you–plans for your welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

They were to wait upon the Lord.

Don’t quit, weary pilgrim.  Serve God in spite of the difficulty–whether that difficulty is the death of loved ones, the loss of fortune, a long dry spell when God seems far away and unreachable, or even the darkness of spiritual exile.  Be faithful.  God is at work.

He has this.

Why we have such a hard time waiting on the Lord—

–God seems absent and Heaven seems shut up.

–The path forward seems unclear.

–The situation seems to cry out for action now, but God says to “sit tight; I’ve got this.”

–Your constituency (church members, friends, family) are demanding that you do something now.

–Waiting on the Lord looks like you’re doing nothing.

–Often, the Lord’s people become part of the problem.  Some can add to your burden with faulty advice (see Job), wrong-headed counsel (see Jeremiah 29’s false prophets), and selfish demands that you act now..

–We are an impatient people.  A day with the Lord may be as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day, but we don’t have that long.  “Make me patient right now, Lord!” we cry.

But waiting on the Lord is always the best thing to do, always the wise choice….

Our Heavenly Father is Lord of all.  He has all the space in the universe (we’ve seen through the Hubble telescope there is a lot of it!), all the resources in the universe (ditto), and all the time there is. “From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God!”

Furthermore, God has HIs own purposes.  He knows what He is up to.  Father knows best.

So, we say that  “Wait on the Lord” is–

–A command.  Psalm 27:14 says only the strong can do this.  The weak will cut out, grow impatient, and exit early.  (Watch any sporting event where the home team is losing big.  The fans head for the parking lot.  Only those who “remain in place” and wait see the occasional rally and the come-from-behind victory.

–A testimony.  Psalm 40:1-3 says “here’s what happened when I waited on the Lord.” Huge crowds followed Jesus wherever He went. But when the soldiers took Him to Calvary, only a precious few remained.  And after His death and burial, even some of them were leaving town (Luke 24:13).  But those who kept the faith came out with a testimony for the ages: “We have seen the Lord” (24:33ff).

–A promise. Isaiah 40:31 says you will come out on the other side with greater force, stronger resolve, a surer determination.  We wonder if this is what the Lord meant by “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22). The word “saved” is used in numerous ways in Scripture, not always referring to the act of being born again.  I suspect the Lord is simply saying that those who persevere, who remain faithful, they will “see the glory of God.”

So, don’t quit, child of God!  We cannot see what He is doing and may never be told.  It’s a matter of trust.

Trust God.

We may say with the anxious father of Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

He will.  He wants you to get through this. The blessings on the other side of this tunnel will be worth the wait.

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Wait on the Lord: What it means, Why it’s so hard

  1. Hi Pastor Joe
    Thanks for wonderful message.
    I needed to read this….you are a valuable instrument in God`s hands.
    Keep blessing us with the wisdom that comes from above.

    Pr Elias
    São Paulo, Brazil

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *