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Waiting on God in a World That Waits for Nothing
Bethany House, 2009, 172 pp. ISBN 978-0-7642-0678-8
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David Timms teaches New Testament and Theology at Hope International University. He is also a church planter, pastor, and trainer of pastors and the author of Living the Lord’s Prayer (see my noteshere). Waiting plays a vital role in our spiritual formation as we draw close to the Lord and respond to his leading. The first part draws lessons from the waiting of Bible heroes. The second part helps us learn during the waiting implied in the church seasons.
We don’t like to wait. There is too much to do. But as we increase the pace of life we lose quality in relationships. In our mad scramble for the good life, we get impatient with God. We expect him to address our concerns on our schedules. We have little time to nurture our relationship with him. We are not attuned to the extraordinary Presence of Christ. We rush right past him.
A waiter in a restaurant has two main tasks. First, greeting us, making us feel comfortable – just being with us. And second, serving us. Biblical waiting is like that: presence and service, drawing closer to Him and responding to His leading.
“In Scripture, waiting is not an option but a mandate. He expects us to conform to His plans and rely on His timing. And in the process we learn deep, transforming truths.” (16) The elements of sacred waiting are presence and service, attentiveness and obedience.
Chapter 1. Noah: Wait and Endure
Noah waited on God for a few centuries before God used him mightily. Most of us want God to clarify His purpose for our lives quickly. We want to make a significant difference so we agonize over what we should do. What we should do is learn to walk with God. Noah’s most strategically important qualification was his connection with the Lord. And then it took 120 years in the face of ridicule to prepare the boat and another year for the water to subside. Noah’s story is saturated with wait. For Noah sacred waiting meant getting to know the Lord intimately, responding obediently, and trusting His timing, showing extraordinary perseverance.
How might you assess your own sacred waiting ability as the years roll by and you persist in a task that shows no promise of great significance? Staying power comes not from our strong will, but from our walk with the Lord.
Chapter 2. Abraham: Wait and Trust
“Our faith has to be in the Lord, not in a desired outcome.” (36) “We tend to hold on too tightly. Our fixations, fantasies, dreams, and desires become sacrosanct. They may appear honorable and virtuous—a large church, family security, a respectable job, a child—but when they distract us from loving God wholeheartedly they slip from virtue to vice. Our difficulty is in knowing when that transition occurs.” (45)
“We must let go of what we love most in order to gain what He wants for us.” “The hoarding mentality of our culture—collect, store, and save—undermines our capacity to live with open hands.” (45) “We cannot wait on God effectively or successfully when our posture is protective. If we want Him to genuinely speak, we must genuinely be willing to release whatever He requests—even our own Isaacs. We must wait and trust.” (46)
“Grace does abound for our weakness, fear, and failure. But the cost of our soft grace is paid for by unredeemed, broken, and devastated lives.” (48)
Abraham’s obedience blessed us all for the Lord said, ‘All the nations of the earth shall be blessed,because you have obeyed My voice.’ (Genesis 22:18 NASB) (48)
“Waiting on Him, as Abraham shows us, means attentiveness, service, and trust—the kind of trust that releases what we love most in order to accomplish what He desires.” (49) “The problem many of us face is that we choose to wait for the Lord rather than wait on Him. We keep waiting for Him to lead in certain ways, do certain things, and provide certain blessings.” (49)
Chapter 3. Moses: Wait and Learn
“Radical Christianity is the complete and utter surrender of our own will to the will of God. Nothing is more radical, extreme…or rare.” (54)
Moses spent 40 years in the desert unlearning his personal dreams and self-assurance and turning his ear to the Lord. Solitude became his tutor. He learned patience, humility, and dependence.
“Waiting on God—presence and service—is not the means to another end….” (58) “Sacred waiting means living lives attentive to God while at the same time crucifying our visions of personal significance and competence.” “Sacred waiting thrust us into tasks of service that the Lord designs, not a ministry of our own making.” (59)
“Ultimately, in a broken world our healing is less helpful than our woundedness. Our pain, in His hands, can…miraculously, become a balm as it connects us together and opens opportunities to share a higher vision.” “Our grief, pain, brokenness, and sorrow all have transforming power in the hands of the real Physician.” (61)
Chapter 4. David: Wait and Worship
“The Hebrew view of life and reality starts with a different fixed point: God.” (67) The Psalms show that waiting on the Lord brings all of life into a new perspective, the high ground of worship. (67) The term wait has the sense of looking and watching, waiting in expectation. (71)
“We can either love God because we hope for something from Him, or we can hope in Him knowing that He loves us.” (72, quoting Thomas Merton) Our hope as Jesus followers is not related to specific responses that we expect from him. It is based on our unshakeable confidence that He loves us. We hold tightly only to Him. “When our hope rests solely and fully in the Father’s unquenchable love for us, nothing else in life controls us.” (72-3)
Worship means that everything we do reflects our love for the Lord and each activity or experience turns into an act of worship. Waiting, living, and worshiping are all connected. Do we grow impatient or prayerful? More demanding or more trusting? Driven to anxiety or worship? (76)
Chapter 5. Jesus: Wait and Obey
Jesus was subservient to the Father. “He simply looked to see what the Father was doing—and joined in. That’s waiting in its richest form.” Jesus used the word abiding. He reflected the Father’s words, actions, and judgments. He was always attentive to the Father, even through His suffering. And His suffering bore fruit, just as it can in our lives.
“Suffering means waiting. It’s that period between being wounded and being healed. And to wait on the Father (in the sense of sacred waiting) during seasons of suffering may be the toughest wait of all.” (82-3) “Sacred waiting during seasons of suffering is the graduate school of spiritual formation.” (87) “Yet historically, suffering has nearly always been the doorway to meaningful ministry. It’s the paradox of the gospel that life comes from death, purpose arises from pain, and meaning emerges from misery.” (91)
“Sacred waiting endures and obeys—remains faithful—when everything around us seems tempestuous. Sacred waiting nurtures our deepest strength, hope, and intimacy with Christ.” (92)
The second part of the book examines sacred waiting in the various seasons of the church calendar: Advent, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
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