The First Baptist Church at Conshohocken

            A Devotional Essay thru Psalm 27, Part VIII:  Wait for the Lord!

It took 86 years for the Boston Red Sox to win their sixth World Series championship in 2004, their last title having been won in 1918.  The Philadelphia Eagles kept their fans waiting until 2018, when they beat in stellar fashion the hate New England Patriots.  Both pair of fans went wild, with joyful celebrations playing out from the evening of their respective victories till several days later.

Much more soberly; can you imagine being in Times Square when the announcement came declaring the end of World War II?  Perhaps you would have been standing next to the sailor who famously kissed the strange lady, thus creating an iconic and lasting piece of photography!

We always believed that we would win; ultimately, and at long last; if we didn’t, despair would have flooded our souls, out-of-which no good ever comes.  Sox and Eagles fans might very well have become devotees of the hated Yankees or Cowboys and (more soberly and exactingly) the U.S. and Britain would have succumbed to Nazism, through appeasement or surrender.

There are things in life for which the wait is worth it.  It is best to have worked one’s way to success rather than to have it handed to one on a silver platter.  Sex is worth the wait, as one readies for the right partner, one to whom a life-long commitment in marriage will be made.  And I hearken to the inspiring words of Thomas Paine amidst the travails of the American Revolution:  “The greater the agony, the more glorious the victory!”

God’s Word tells us to wait.  His Spirit whispers into our ears that it is worth the wait, a whisper than becomes a megaphone deep within one’s heart.  Our circumstances may very well require that we wait.  We encourage one another (or should) to wait.  The actual act of waiting, by its very nature, is worthy-unto-itself.

But we wait to the extent that we believe the wait to be of value.  The Jews of history have awaited the coming of the Messiah for several thousand years.  Christians, having embraced Jesus Christ as the Messiah-who-has-actually-come, await His Return, a return that He promised us in His final days with His disciples before He took leave and returned to the Father in heaven.  We believe He is coming!

Sometimes we wait casually and glibly, often respectfully and obediently, but (and even better) some who really and truly loved the Lord are waiting with an earnestness and an anticipation.  They wait upon the Lord with bated breath and with fixed eyes upon the horizon, as they read the signs of the times, prepare themselves and call to others that the Kingdom of God has come and its King is on His way back.  They are the ones who live their lives as if it is worth the wait!

I Believe.

It is all predicated upon faith.  “I believe.”

I believe that the sun will arise in the morning; hence, I have made plans for the forthcoming day.  I trust that the room will be lit if I click the switch; therefore, I click the switch, even if I don’t understand the first thing about electricity.  I believe that candidate X will best serve our interests; accordingly, I cast my vote for him or her.  I believe, or trust, in the news media – Wait!  I don’t; consequently, I try not to listen.  Christian:  Do you believe or trust in Jesus Christ, or in your own carnal (however impressively intellectual) understanding?

What does it mean to “believe?”  It means, at the deepest level, that you readily and willingly place the full weight of your life on someone or something.  You adapt yourself to the conditions imposed upon you by that act of placement.

You believe that what effectively constitutes a piece of cylindrical aluminum will, by hurtling through the sky at 35,000 feet above the land, take you to where you want to go, whether to San Francisco or London or Sydney.  Such a conviction will entail inordinate physical discomfort, three small pretzels and a small cup of Coke, air-pockets that will make the plane jump-up-and-down, and the rigors of security on the one hand and (if trans-Atlantic) passport control on the other.  Is such faith well-placed?  Thousands every day say that it is, at least by way of their actions.

There’s the rub.  Does what you believe, or in whom you place your trust, directly effect what you do and how you live?  A man marries a woman (or a woman marries a man), thereby turning away from all others of the opposite sex (at least in terms of intimacy), in the conviction that life with the one spouse will provide happiness, security and whatever other kind of utilitarian worth within the context of a purported mutuality of love.  One lends oneself, both hook-line-and-sinkers, lock-stock-and-barrel, by applying one’s heart, mind and body to the other person.  And anyone and everyone in marriage will tell you that, having said “I do,” everything changes.

A young man or woman, having been raised in one area for all of one’s childhood and youth, willingly leaves all in order to move to another part of the country or world in order to take a job that, at least on paper and in theory, promises a life commensurate or even better than the one that has heretofore been known.  It’s a gamble, but one that a legion of young persons have willingly taken, uprooting themselves from all that they have known, in the hope that professional satisfaction and advancement, more palatable weather and exotic cultural stimulus will prove the ticket to happiness or fulfillment.  Heart, mind, body and will are fully applied.  It’s an act of supreme faith.

The saint lives a life of godliness in the knowledge or belief that such a life will prove to be peaceful, helpful and pleasing to God.  The martyr, in correspondence with the saint, believes that such convictions as are held will be worth the sacrifice of one’s life – Again; everything that constitutes one’s life is put into play or service for what is believed.

The Apostle’s Creed offers a kind of thumbnail sketch of who and what Christians believe at the most fundamental level, a level so fundamental that its basic tenets not only shape the thinking of the Christian but how he or she lives out one’s life:

I believe in God,

The Father Almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, died and was buried;

He descended into hell;

On the third day he rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;

From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And life everlasting.  Amen.

But don’t for a moment believe that the statement alone suffices.  It is a statement of belief or conviction which, as already articulated, proves to be a basis of action or of lifestyle.  The Apostles Creed is not merely an encapsulation of abstract Christian doctrine, however important such doctrine may be.  Christian life gives embodiment to these theological assertions, while the Creed gives definition to the lives of Christians.

I believe in the Father; therefore, I live my life as a little child, trusting in Him for everything, including His love for me, which gives me an emphatic sense of worth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, taking Him as my Savior and Lord, believing that He died for my sins and has raised me up into new life, living now for Him and awaiting His glorious return by growing up in Him, serving His people and bearing witness to the lost.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, trusting that He will guide and teach me, understanding that I must keep in step with Him, all-the-more prompting me to seek His daily filling and to be empowered by Him, not wanting to grieve or to quench His Presence in my life, understanding that by His operative work within me that I will become more-and-more like Jesus and will shine more brightly and lucidly before my fellow men and women.

I understand that I am a member of His Church, and align myself with a local fellowship, now living within a framework of mutual blessing to one another.  I know that my sins are forgiven, and that I must forgive others.  I know that death is not the final word.  “I know,” as the classic hymn states, “in whom I have believed.”

That I Shall Look upon the Lord.

It is the ultimate in destinies, the final and glorious stop after a lifetime of frustration and trauma, opposition and affliction, but also of promise and blessing and living hope.  Christians, not by anything of themselves or of what they’ve done, but solely by God’s grace, will enjoy the fullness of God’s glory.  The very Jesus to whom they’ve become doggedly attached, in whom they have come to find their very life and reason for life, of whom they have come to know His faithful and abiding Presence deep down in the interiority of their souls – This same Jesus will welcome them with arms open wide, a warm and welcoming countenance to defy anything they have ever encountered on earth, enabling them to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” ad infinitum but never ad nauseum!

We have been all along exhorted to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).  His Presence is very real.  His beauty is unparalleled.  His wisdom was wise enough to create the universe (Proverbs 3:19) and bring redemption to His people (1 Corinthians 1:30).  His love knows no bounds.  His peace surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6).  The fullness of His joy (Psalm 16:11) jettisons as dust the mere “pursuit of happiness.”  His authority commands legions of angels and provokes demons to tremble in terror.

But His welcome!  My; my, nothing in this life and on this side of the grave will ever be able to rival it, let alone surpass it!  “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful in a little, and I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23)!  Believe me (if not me; believe Him!); it will have been worth the wait!

There are individuals who have left a decided and indelible impression upon us.  My Welsh grandparents did, and I didn’t even know my grandfather and only have a distant memory of my grandmother.  My high school history teacher, Mr. Gary Dascoli, gave me far more than simply knowledge of historical facts; indeed, he was one of the most unique and truly eccentric persons that I have ever known.  My dear friend of 30 years, now deceased, John Medugno, remains embedded upon my heart, never leaving me; ever.

But Jesus!  My; my – Jesus!  There is no one like Him, not ever before, not now and not ever.  I long to be with my loved ones who left this planet and passed into the Presence of our Beloved Lord and Savior.  My day will come when my work on this side is finished, but when I cross the divide and take my place amongst them all – indeed; all the beloved of God – we will gather to individually and collectively gaze upon the exquisite and holy beauty of Jesus and never stop giving Him glory! 

In the Land of the Living.

It will be life beyond compare.  Jesus taught when we come to Him in repentance and faith in Him, we will have “crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).  New life, abundant life and eternal life have entered the fabric of our lives – Yes; brand-new life!  

But a day comes when we throw off this mortal coil, when the drapery of our fallen and foibled flesh is cast off, when that about which the Apostle Paul wrote proves so memorably true: 

“We do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  And our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” [2 Corinthians 4:16-18].

It is also alive.  It is the “land of the living.”  This life is but preparatory to the next.  We will live existences sans or without fear, pain, sorrow or suffering, loneliness, affliction, decrepitude of any kind.  I tend to doubt that we will even know any longer what death is.

It will be life joyfully aware of and alert to the holiness of God.  It will be life inclined towards His glory, making such contribution along with “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” (Hebrews 12:22).  It will be a world replete with life through-and-through.  Jesus said that “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32 and 36).  Free; yes, to truly live – You will be alive to Him, knowing the full benefits and value of Him who is “our life” (Colossians 3:4).

Wait for the Lord.

Just wait; literally, wait.  Wait for Him to speak, to move, to direct, to provide.

Waiting doesn’t mean we do nothing, though more-often-than-not that is the best thing to do.  Too often we get in the way of the Holy Spirit, thinking we know better.  We read in the New Testament of the Apostle Paul’s assessment in one instance that God’s Spirit was obstructive to their moving into a certain area of Eurasia (Acts 16:6); in another, that he and his cohorts were obstructed by Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18).  You know what?  We often get in God’s way; thankfully, we are not able to thwart His will or His blessing. 

We want to keep our eyes open,being on the look-out for His coming; in the interim, we are to be discerning of His Presence, provision and direction – His promises; after all, are true and therefore trustworthy. 

We are exhorted to prepare for His return:  If He were to return tomorrow, would we be ready to acknowledge or be recognized by Him?  Jesus talked of the ten virgins who were supposed to be ready for the bridegroom’s return.  Five of them kept their lamps burning, while five did not (Matthew 25).  Five wise and five foolish virgins is the math.

Jesus made the observation that the “the children of darkness are wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8).  We have played the fool for far too long. It’s long since time to light our candles as we make ready ourselves and our brethren, including the “snatching of some from the fire” (Jude 23). 

Preparations are never easy, but they are essential.  The preparatory work required before one applies paint to a wall is extensive but necessary.  The same application of energies in advance of a trip can be arduous and costly, but the trip is deemed worth the effort.

John the Baptist was charged with preparing the way for the coming of Christ the first time.  I think meeting Jesus is worthy of our preparations; don’t you?  

We are charged with putting our house in order:  The Apostle Peter spoke with severe candor when he wrote that “it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God” (1 Peter 4:17).  The Church of Jesus Christ in the West has certainly grown both complacent and stagnant.  She has lost all moral or spiritual authority in the eyes of the world, if the world is even looking our way anymore. 

Revival will break forth and spread across our land only if a spirit of repentance overtakes the Church.  We need, in classic 2 Chronicles 7:14-style, to humble ourselves, turn from our wicked ways, pray and seek afresh the face of God.  We would be wise to set aside our vision statements, strategies and sophisticated programs, outworn traditions and methodologies and get back to the simple expressions of Christian life:  Pure worship, sincere Bible study, “knee-ology,” meaningful fellowship centered around the Person of Christ, as well as loving service and bold witness. 

A house in order is a place of peace and productivity.  God’s house deserves no less!

We will find it necessary to pack our bags:  We must remember to travel light, as we can’t take our possessions with us.  Abraham was called by God to leave his father and his father’s household and estate and follow the lead of God.  He couldn’t take most of his possessions, or they would have severely-slowed and stymied their caravan.  Abraham traveled light, not accepting any handouts, but fully cognizant of the Lord God.

Dr. Alex Rowlands of Seattle’s Westgate Chapel preached a sermon entitled “Route to Rome,” in which he talked about his dying father.  The gent was old-fashioned (to put it mildly) and, with a love for cars, he would repair them in white shirt and dress pants, just in case Jesus came back.  Upon his deathbed, he implored his caretakers to help him dress in suit and tie.  It seemed mildly ridiculous, except for all that played out, courtesy of the hand of our great God and Father.  He wanted to be ready to be received by his Lord! 

And our bags will be filled with blessings, blessings from God:  Blessings to be applied in service to Him; blessings by which we will be made ready for entry into Heaven; blessings to be shared with one another; blessings of Good News to the lost.

 We will want to prayJust pray, and pray some more.  Former Times Square Senior Pastor Carter Conlon has said that we have “played away the day of grace,” and all that we have left is to pray.  I believe him to be correct. 

God’s Word instructs us to pray continuously, to pray all manner of requests, to pray in the Spirit, and to pray for a discernment of the will of God.  It is evident that we must now plead the blood of Jesus on behalf of our once-great land and on behalf of a weak and ineffectual but beloved Church.  Let us do so with earnestness and fervor.

Our brethren will need our help.  We are to be a mutual blessing, one to the other.  We are to do everything that leads to peace and mutual edification (Romans 14:19).  We are to strengthen one another (1Thessalonians 5:11).  We are to love one another (John 13:34).  We are to gently rebuke one another (Galatians 6:1).  We are to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). 

Our embattled and beleaguered brethren throughout the so-called 10/40 Window urgently need our prayer and support right now.  The persecuted Church warrants our full support by way of prayer, material and financial support and advocacy before prevailing power. 

Small churches need the encouragement of the larger churches.  It is vital for black and white churches to come together, especially amidst this racially-charged environment.  It is incumbent upon one another to forgive our detractors, especially if they are fellow Christians.  An environment of genuine affection, respect and quality of care should knock the socks off of those around us.

We must be expectant:  The prophet Elijah fully anticipated that the Lord would faithfully respond to him.  He had cried out to God to declare Himself before the people, and God responded:

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kings 18:36, 37).

God very powerfully made Himself known in that moment, to which the people responded by falling in prostration, crying “The Lord – He is God!  The Lord – He is God!” (v. 39). 

Elijah immediately ordered the roundup and execution of the false prophets of Baal and executed them. He went to the top of Mt. Carmel, anticipating rain, and sending his servant eight times to “Go and look to the sea” (v. 42).  Elijah was that confident in the faithfulness of God.  “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.’” (v. 44).  The servant would have traveled roughly one mile each way on each of the trips; such was the faith of Elijah to justify such lengths. 

“Go and tell Ahab, ‘’Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’  Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on, and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.  The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (vv. 44-46).

Elijah’s faith was earnest and expectant, moving, shaking and motivating him to great and arduous deeds, triumphing over the false prophets of Baal, powerful enemies and even his own despondency and fear, as the subsequent passages attest (1 Kings 19).

I have learned to be expectant; like Elijah, I have learned it the hard way.  An utterly unnecessary but very real and damaging schism erupted in my church.  Its repercussions played out as my cardiac condition began to worsen and would require major surgery to be performed by the one doctor in the entire western world who could do it. 

Our church had been laid low.  We had no little or no money but plenty of bills.  I was increasingly on the fritz.  But God, in His infinite mercy, paid every bill (follow the money trail if you doubt!), met every need, brought me through successful surgery and a near-death experience in its aftermath, strengthened our lovely little fellowship and reinvigorated me, both physically and spiritually. 

Our God is right:  We can trust Him in and through all things so, if we trust Him, why not also expect Him?  As the Father of Modern Missions William Carey once said, “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God!”

And waiting will entail patience and rest:  Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), as it is an attribute of God’s character, as the rhetorical query of Paul makes plain – “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance? (Roman 1:4); further, “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Rest is foundational and pivotal to Christian life.  My lovely wife has always sought after, accentuated in her Christian walk and found great benefit in, the rest that is part-and-parcel of the Christian life, a commodity that Jesus affords us from the very inception of His Presence in our lives:  “Come to be, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Rest, for the Christian, is not only essential; it is also productive.  We wait while we rest; we rest while we wait; while we wait and rest we offer ourselves up to God for His purpose, lending ourselves to Him in devotion and service, taking delight in His blessings and finding honor and privilege in being a blessing in His Name.

Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage.

Be strong:  The good news is that we don’t have to find strength in ourselves that is not there.  It is a silly proposition, and a demoralizing one, when someone, albeit with the best of intentions, but grounded in benevolent ignorance, tells you to be strong.  Are such purveyors of well-intentioned schlock prepared to stand with you and to hold up your arms and carry you as necessary?  If not; they need to shut up.

Many of us can’t find such strength.  We are simply too tired, or too weak, or to debilitated, or just too “not-strong.”  Thankfully; God never asks us to be strong in ourselves – Quite the contrary, we are to be no more reliant upon our own strength than upon our own wisdom.

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).  We rest in and rely upon God’s strength, just as we “lean not on our own understanding” but “in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

God is our wisdom and strength.  I thank God that I can attest to these blessings from on high.  He has carried me through the two darkest times of my life, as well as my lovely little fellowship through its time of greatest trauma, when we lost our building to a devastating fire.  He held us up and kept us strong, just as He gave us all-need provision, from direction to provision and personnel and – Yep; you bet! – a promising future, predicated upon a plan by which God will bless us (Jeremiah 29:11).  But we had to look to Him, wholly and completely.

We are called and equipped to be a source of strength to our fellow Christians.  I always love the biblical reference to Stephanas.  This is what the Apostle Paul tells us: 

“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.  I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it.  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.  Such men deserve recognition” (1 Corinthians 16:15-18).

May our churches be filled with the likes of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus!

And we will find ourselves pitted against our enemies in a three-front war of attrition.  We are cautioned that we have not yet fought against our sin by way of the shedding of blood (Hebrews 12:4).

We are put on notice that the devil is one the prowl, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  He launches “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16) against us, but we have our own version of the Israelis’ “Iron Dome.”  And we are blessed with spiritual armor from God, replete with defensive apparel and apparatii, as well as offensive weaponry.

We also are engaged in an ongoing conflict with the world in which we live.  We must be ever-vigilant.  We will be tempted to compromise, even if we don’t stumble and fall in the yielding to temptation.  I invite you to attend to the observation of no-less than C.S. Lewis, who once remarked that the world will hate you for being true to your convictions, but it will despise you for compromising those convictions in desire for accommodation with the world.  We have a whole host of fellow believers today who are “drinking the Kool-aid,” as is the current quip.  It is deadly to the taste and palate. 

Let your heart take courage:  Such a commodity as courageis badly, even desperately needed today.  Winston Churchill remarked that all of the other virtues are meaningless without courage (to which I would simply add the virtue of gratitude, as we live in a society that is beset by entitlement).  It is not for nothing that biographer William Manchester entitled his three-volume life of Churchill as “The Last Lion.”

Courage is predicated upon God-given faith in the One who dies and lives for us.  We can take courage, and its concomitant “Be of good cheer!” because Jesus “has overcome the world (John 16:33).  He knows what we are up against, and He has triumphed over it all.

The Jews were encouraged from the very start of their encounter with God:  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [their enemies] for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Our courage is the direct result, not of our manly vigor or physical prowess, or by way of the size of our army or economy, but by the Presence amongst us of Almighty God.  It’s a lot less strain on our budget and nerves; mind you, as it will put our enemies on notice.

Courage is also the victor in our confrontation with, not denial of, our fear.  Remember the story of Joshua and the spies (Numbers 13:26-33).  Ten of them infiltrated Canaan across the Jordan River to take stock of the land that God was giving to the Israelites.  Twelve spies went in and came back to issue their report.  Ten of them were overcome with fear, while only Caleb and Joshua were prepared to honor God and receive the blessing.  They did not allow their fears to take priority or precedence over their courage.  They knew that they had nothing to fear if God went with them.

“Fear not” is the counsel given to us some 365 times in the Bible.  I think that this is not for nothing.  I know in my own life of my own predisposition to fear rather than courage.  Beseeched God for three things in my early days as a disciple of Jesus, three things that I recognized that I badly needed, and three things that He gladly gave to me.  I asked Him for strength, wisdom and courage.  All three have proven to be gifts from God that come in quite handy as needed; in recent years, courage more than anything else is what I have required and with which God has blessed me.  I give Him all gratitude and glory!

Wait for the Lord.

After you have done everything, we are exhorted, we are to stand.  I believe it is also fair and appropriate to say that after we have done everything, to just wait, and wait some more, and keep waiting.

We know He is coming; praise God from whom all blessings flow – “’Come; Lord Jesus!”

Bradley E. Lacey

May 18, 2021