Monday, September 29, 2008

What does it mean to "wait upon the Lord?"

This question was recently posed in one of my Wednesday evening classes. Certainly on the surface we think of patiently trusting in God to come through for us in moments of need, whether that’s the need for guidance, financial provision, relational reconciliation, etc. “Waiting” on God has the same connotation as “hope,” which is a confidence in God to bring about the future he has promised (Thus the various translation of Isaiah 40:31 depending on what version of the Bible you use – the Hebrew word is qāwâ).

John Oswalt, an OT scholar, notes that “waiting on the Lord” implies two things.

1) Complete dependence on God
2) A willingness to allow Him to decide the terms

Oswalt writes, “to wait on him is to admit that we have no other help, either in ourselves or in another…[it is] to declare our confidence in his eventual action on our behalf. Thus waiting is not merely killing time but a life of confident expectation.” (Oswalt, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, p. 74).

Confident expectation – I like that. So practically speaking, what does this look like? Does it mean that I stop moving forward in my pursuit of discerning God’s will? If someone is unemployed, do they stop making phone calls to look for a job and simply “wait” on the Lord? Well no, because “wait” does not necessarily imply ceasing activity.

A person can wait patiently for God’s timing/God’s terms and yet at the same time do whatever is necessary and available to provide for one’s family. Maybe God wants to teach you something by serving and working for food in less "glorious ways" before He is ready to give you a greater amount of responsibility and income elsewhere. Besides, there are strong warnings against idleness in Scripture (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). So we should always be pressing onward and working out our salvation (some phrases from Philippians) – the operative idea here is “movement.”

Until God moves in a much larger way, I am going to serve him and work hard day to day, trusting that if there are greater needs then God will meet those needs in His own way and perfect timing. Sometimes he whittles us down to what we truly need first before He leads us and provides us with what we will need for later. We don’t always need what we think we need.

Waiting on God gives Him the opportunity to develop your faith and character, to shape your trust – the kind of trust that is surrendered, selfless, and obedient to Him. If we sincerely want to be followers of Christ, then we have to be submit to whatever God intends for us in order to make us that way – even if that means suffering and waiting. You don’t know what’s around the corner, but He does.

So to wait means ultimately to trust in the Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding, but in everything acknowledging His sovereignty and lordship over your life – and when you do, He will direct your paths. He wants you in His will more than you really want to be in it. So let Him work it out in your life, be patient, and wait on Him. Have that confident expectation in His power, and in His timing. He is faithful, and He will give you what you need when you need it. Is not your life worth more than sparrows? (Matthew 10:31)


wolf said...

Oswalt's statement, "to wait on him is to admit that we have no other help", is exactly what I was thinking (but wasn't bold enough to say) during your class. My immediate thought when you asked the question, "What does it mean to trust God?" is, most importantly, that you turned that sitution over to God. That's where people fall short. Do they really turn the situation over to God whole heartedly? It's easy to say, "I am waiting on God. I am trusting God for the answer." But, putting into action the wait by praying daily, fasting, and being actively moving is truely trusting God. And, I so agree with you that waiting on God gives Him the opportunity to develop our faith and our character! He knows exactly what area of our lives needs strengthening and growing. One of my favorite verses is I Cor. 10:13. I truly believe God will allow you to go through a storm - make a way for you to escape that storm - to simply teach you to trust, have faith in Him, and grow closer to Him. If I didn't have storms in my life to keep me focused on God and in His Word, would I be as passionate to learn all I can?

Thank you always for your Shepherding at CCC! Beth

Fish said...

I love the way God speaks to us when we need it most. This is something that Brian and I have been praying through lately and I am grateful that you've written truth to remind us that ultimately God will provide in His timing...but we need to keep plugging away where we are right now.

If indeed he is Lord of my life, I will leave the details to him as I walk with him day by day.

Thanks Eric!


Jack said...

reminds me of something I heard Jerry Bridges speak on once: something like an "active resting" in God.

Good thoughts.

sister gloria said...

Thanks so much Pastor Eric for your profound and anointing words. I am now waiting on the Lord for His provision and direction and it has been through the dry season that my FAITH has been renewed in my waiting. Others around me have been blessed in my waiting as well as the Lord being glorfied. May the Lord continue to bless and keep you.
sister gloria

Bharat Bhushan said...

Hello Friends,
"Waiting upon the Lord" is a big thing, let us suppose we are waiting for a certain thing in our lives like Job, Marriage, Children, Healing, miracles, deliverance etc.. in the Lord.

While waiting for a certain to happen, the most important things are, "How much we are drawing closer to God? How much God is teaching us about that certain thing? How much we are learning about that thing in the Lord? Are we making a good foundation on the Rock(Jesus) for that particular thing? Are we praising God while waiting without grumbling? Are we maintaining our character in the Lord while waiting? Are we completely depending on God? "
Those questions make us to seek HIS Kingdom and the result you know...

Thank you

Bharat Bhushan