Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A life of Waiting

In a world that waits for nothing, God has given us a few great examples of how to live a patient life, waiting fully on Him.

Think about your definition of waiting, what does it mean to you to wait?  Many times we see waiting purely as a means to an end.  But there is also a type of waiting has more to do with Presence & Service. It’s not just something we do for a time, but it’s a type of waiting that permeates who we are and how we respond.

If someone wants to be a good server or waiter at a restaurant, what are the two main things you are required to do? Be present and be of service.  Now this order is important, because if you’re not present to the person at the table, how will you ever be able to be of service to them?  In order to be a good waiter, or server, you need to practice the Presence of waiting…..making a connection with the person and listening to them well. 

As we look throughout the Old Testament you’ll see many examples of God’s people waiting, waiting, and waiting.  Some people in the Old Testament like Abraham & Sarah didn’t want to wait for God’s promise to them any longer, so they went ahead with their own plan.  Others, like with Moses & the Israelites, instead of waiting for God’s timing, they turned to idols & let fear take over which in turn they were told to wait longer…40 years longer.

There was one man though that waited an extraordinarily long time for God—and that man is Noah.  Noah grew up in a time where the people on earth, similar to today, were becoming more & more rebellious against God, turning to their own desires & plans.  Noah’s heritage however, was laced with strong & faithful men.  Enoch, Noah’s great grandfather was a man who walked so closely with God that eventually God just “took” him from the earth.  Noah’s grandfather was Methuselah, whose name meant “when he dies, it will be sent.”  And even Noah’s name meant “rest,” which at his birth his father stated that he would bring rest from the toil & work of the ground that was cursed.  I don’t know how these names were chosen, but as we’ll soon see, they were both very meaningful & prophetic.

For over 400 years, there’s no mention really of Noah’s life, except that he had found favor in the eyes of the Lord & that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9)  When Noah was given the task “Build an Ark,” it probably wasn’t because he was a great boat builder, or that he knew just how to do the task, but he responded because he walked with God and KNEW Him.  Noah was able to fulfill this request not because he was so skilled in making boats, or even building for that matter. What made him qualified for this enormous project was that he was in constant communication with God, and was consistently present to Him.  Over the 400 years of Noah’s life before this point, he had learned to discern God’s voice and knew when to respond.  In the game we played earlier, you needed to know what your teammate’s voice sounded like & discern their voice from all the rest of the yelling voices.  In the same way, Noah, in 400 years on earth had learned to hear God’s voice above all the others & pay attention to HIS voice as the one to direct him.

If Noah had any doubts about if it was truly God telling him to build an ark, he probably would have just dismissed the request & gone about his business. Maybe God would have chosen someone else for the project, or maybe he would have just kept speaking…..we don’t know, but what we DO know, is that Noah wasn’t confused about if it was God’s voice. He understood the request, and set about fulfilling it immediately.  He knew it was God because he had been waiting on God for 400+ years. Now hopefully it won’t take US 400 years to get this down, but Noah was constantly going to God’s table, getting to know Him and His desires. 

This is where it gets tough for me…many times, I get into a habit of praying to God about…. “God, give me this, or that, tell me the answer here, or can you direct this to happen?” But truly, honestly waiting on God like Noah did, should be more about listening for what God’s list for US is, not what OUR list for HIM is.  And Noah had quite the list from God…..the ark he was told to build was about half the size of the Titanic, he had to build with certain wood, to certain specifications, all while having people mock & criticize his efforts. 
Yet he waited and endured. Because of Noah’s certainty that it was God who called him to build the ark, he disregarded the people’s jeers and continued diligently in the directly God had set him.  The estimate is that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark….and I don’t know about you, but I’m almost sure that I would have given up before then.  But he just kept going because that’s what God requested of Him.  He didn’t jump ahead of God’s plans either, he patiently waited on God’s timing, while continuing to walk with God & listen for his leading.

"Barbara Brown Taylor, an outstanding Bible teacher & preacher, tells the story of a friend who traveled to visit her shortly after she moved from Atlanta to the small township of Clarkesville in the north Georgia foothills. Without a cell phone or a reliable map, the friend became hopelessly lost, increasingly frantic, and somewhat faster on the roads. Finally, she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw those ominous flashing blue lights. She pulled over, and as the police officer approached her driver's side window, she handed him her license and registration. "I am so sorry," she said. "I know I was speeding, but I've been lost from the last forty minutes, and I cannot find Tower Terrace anywhere on this map." "Well, I'm sorry about that, too, ma'am," he said, writing up her citation, "but what made you think that hurrying would help you find your way?'" ....like this lady, how can we ever find our destination if we don't first slow down to really get to know the map, or the Father?  We can't rush ahead if we aren't first present to the One who should be giving us directions.

Noah didn’t get distracted by the project, but kept his focus on the Lord throughout the 120 years that he built the ark.  Even when it didn’t rain for years & years, and there was no “reasonable reason” why he should be building an ark, He kept going.  And during this time, he kept waiting on God's perfect timing. Interesting to me, is that his grandfather, whose name meant something like "when he dies, it will be sent," passed away shortly before the rains & floods came!  Wow. And Noah, whose name meant "rest" was able to play a critical role in God renewing the rest on the earth from corruption & evil.

After the flood, God honored Noah and promised that never again would He flood the whole earth. 
If we are to have the same perseverance & waiting ability that Noah had, it won’t come from a strong will but a strong walk with the Lord.  We shouldn’t just follow God when we see results, we should follow Him because He is trustworthy and will tell us what we need, when we need it. By establishing a solid waiting relationship through PRESENCE, we can then be good SERVERS.

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isaiah 30:18)

"The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14)

3 comments:

  1. Timely and beautiful. I've spoken with many people recently who are in a period of waiting (myself included). The waiting becomes joy when we do so in community. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Very good. I'm not good at waiting. This is a great message for me. Thank you.

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  3. "...what made you think that hurrying would help you find your way?" Such a great question!

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