Waiting upon God

It’s one of the hardest things to do.  It runs against the grain of our nature, especially of those of us who live in the era of instant gratification.  We just don’t want to wait, but wait for God we must, if we are to know His blessing.

Modern Americans are not experienced in waiting; it’s as if we aren’t adequately equipped, as so much has come to us rather quickly.  More comes to us more readily, and earlier; too early and too readily, it can be argued.

Recently-deceased songwriter Marvin Hamlisch was 33 when he won the Oscar for “The Way We Were; years later he remarked that he won it too young, as there was little for which to strive or after which to aspire – Perhaps, even to hope.

Children are being pushed to attain to too much too soon.  Young people are sexually-active at earlier and earlier ages.  Few are given the privilege of lying on the ground and gazing upwards to the clouds, let alone the blessing of chastity until marriage.

Famed child psychologist Bruno Bettleheim observed that children need such cloud-gazing occasions in order to develop imagination.  I think that they also need to be free of sexual pressure and experience for the engendering of other aspects of life.

We have instant communications, brought to us via cable television or cell-phones, affording us little time for measured reflection; so much that passes for intercourse is mere dribble, as knowledge is mere information laced with little or no wisdom.

I went to see Les Miserables a while back, while I followed a Boston Celtics triple-overtime game on my cell-phone.  I am pleased to report that that Celtics won, but I’m not certain that my life evinced any measure of qualitative improvement.

The fact that I didn’t have to wait to find out who won the game was offset by a corresponding diminution of my ability to attend to the beautiful music and cinematography; waiting would have accentuated a double-pleasure, one spaced out over a longer interval of time, thereby allowing the pleasure to linger longer than it actually did, as one source of delight would have been built upon another.

I am a Christian and, as such, my faith is predicated upon something that has happened and upon something that is happening, but also upon something that will happen.  Christ has come.  Christ is here.  Christ is coming back.  We wait for His blessed return.

Christians are called by God to a life of waiting.  We are called to wait upon God.  Our waiting is a form of devotion and service.  It is also an expression of necessity, lest we get in the way of the perfect expression of His good and perfect will and action.

We wait upon God to move and work amongst us.  He is always working, as Jesus reminds us, and so is Jesus (John 5:17), but it is imperative that Christians both discern what He is doing and also discern what we need to ask Him to do or, perhaps better, to discern what He wants us to do in and through us.

We certainly need to wait upon Him amidst trial and crisis.  King David has to trust that God was working on behalf of His servant.  One of his songs is, amongst other edifying things, a clarion to such trust:

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.  

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:11-14, ESV).

I appreciate how the New English Translation renders verse 13:  “Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the Lord’s favor in the land of the living?”  It is, therefore, becoming of us to “Rely on the Lord” (verse 14).

Doesn’t waiting entail and imply trusting?  We wait because we now that God can better handle our situation and more adequately provide for our needs than we can.  I have learned the hard way that my bright ideas and evident abilities are no substitute for God’s wisdom and power.  My welfare is more secure in His hands than in my own.  I have every confidence that you will come to the same conclusion.

We look to Him as we wait upon Him.  The Jewish convert to Catholic Christianity, Simone Weil, was quite insightful on this point.  She writes in her article, “Forms of the Implicit Love of God,” the following:

“One of the principal truths of Christianity, a truth that goes almost unrecognized today, is that looking is what saves us.  The bronze serpent was lifted up so that those who lay maimed in the depths of degradation should be saved by looking upon it….The effort that brings a soul to salvation is like the effort of looking or of listening; it is the kind of effort by which a fiancée accepts her lover.  It is an act of attention and consent; whereas what language designates as will is something suggestive of muscular effort.  The will is on the level of the natural part of the soul.  The right use of the will is a condition of salvation, necessary no doubt but remote, inferior, very subordinate and purely negative.  The weeds are pulled up by the muscular effort of the peasant, but only sun and water can make the corn grow.  The will cannot produce any good in the soul.”

Translation:  Our participation in the work of our salvation is at best purely responsive to what God is already doing.  It is His salvation that we receive.

Protestant Evangelical Christianity must take care.  It has become very aggressive in its well-intended endeavor to reach people for Christ, especially young people; nevertheless, we will do them no good if we take the prerogative of extension from the Holy Spirit and place it in our own well-intentioned but grossly-misguided hands.

The late Chuck Colson has balefully remarked that the Church in the United States has grown three thousand miles wide, but only six inches deep.  We have often elevated style over substance and success at the expense of wisdom.  Massive amounts of money and energy have been deployed to keep Christianity alive and afloat on this side of the Atlantic, but prayer would be far more effective if we want more durable and lasting consequence to our godly endeavors.

The Welsh Revival broke forth upon the small land of Wales at the dawn of the 20th Century, but its impact reached across much of the 20th Century and over much of the globe.  It was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, and involved prayer and repentance rather than money and human ingenuity.  There had been people waiting upon God for a mighty moving of His Holy Spirit.  They trusted Him, not themselves.

Simone Weil continues with her thoughts:  “The attitude that brings salvation is not like any form of activity.  The Greek word which expresses it is … patienta [which] is rather an inadequate translation of it.  It is the waiting or attentive and faithful mobility that lasts indefinitely and cannot be shaken …. Active searching is prejudicial, not only to love, but also to the intelligence, whose laws are the same as those of love.  We just have to wait for the solution of a geometrical problem or the meaning of a Latin or Greek sentence to come into our mind.  Still more must we wait for any new scientific truth or for a beautiful line of poetry.  Seeking leads us astray.  This is the case with every form of what is truly good.  Man should do nothing but wait for the good and keep evil away.  He should make no muscular effort except in order not to be shaken by evil.  In the constant turning and returning of which our human condition is made up, true virtue in every domain is negative, at least in appearance.  This waiting for goodness and truth is, however, something more intense than any searching.”

Waiting upon God is far wiser and healthier than seeking after our own benefaction.
The 20th Century knows the existential blight of social engineering, a frightening and destructive enterprise pursued by intellectual do-gooders who are convinced that they have figured out the human ticket to happiness.  Avoid them like the plague!

Ecclesiastical bright lights are to be similarly avoided, as exemplified by the insidious luminaries within the Catholic Church who thought covering for their pedophiliac priests was the ticket for the Catholic Church, and by the aforementioned fleshly appropriations of Evangelical Christianity that have consumed but not transformed their constituencies.

I love what, by God’s grace my church has done.  We are no paragon of virtue, having learned a great many things concerning our high calling the hard way, i.e. by way of going about things the wrong way and finding ourselves coming under the disciplining, albeit loving, hand of God.
But our people knew not to take a mortgage in order to finance the construction of our new church building.  We knew that we would struggle to make monthly payments, let alone pay it off in full; we knew, too, that many local churches have been struggling to meet their mortgage obligations, and now many of them are facing closure.

We also knew that God would provide for us.  He already provided about two million dollars in order for us to begin.  We needed another $200,000 and He provided it.  We were given $34,000 last year, and now we need about $30-40,000 to finalize our project.  The latter figure is pocket change compared to the larger figure that He already gave us!

But He will complete the deal in His time.  It is for us to wait upon Him, discerning His purpose for us as we do.  It isn’t too difficult a wait, not if we take a look at why others are waiting upon Him.

There are Christians on the African island of Eritrea who are being held captive in storage containers amidst the military camps of the Communist government.  They wait upon God for their deliverance.

There are Christians who continue to serve God amidst spiritually stagnant situations, yet lend themselves as agents of redemption in a great many churches throughout the land.  They wait upon God for their renewal.

There are preachers of the Word who are coming under attack at the hands of congregants, let alone governments, yet they faithfully and boldly preach the Word, whether in or out of season.  They wait upon God for their vindication.

There are legions of Christians who seek to embody the merits of Christ before their families and friends who have gone apostate, and before their co-workers and fellow citizens, many of whom are increasingly hostile towards the Gospel.  They wait upon God for a change of heart in the lives of so many loved ones.

My fellowship can wait upon God for a few more dollars, knowing that we are worshiping comfortably and within the good graces of our current benefactors at the nearby community center.  We only await the change of worshiping venues.  

God is good, is worth the wait and is worthy of our worship, whatever our context or circumstance – May He be praised and adored!

Bradley E. Lacey
May 12, 2013