by James Ryle
Learning to Wait Upon the Lord to Fulfill His Promises
"And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend." (James 2:23, NIV)
Nothing in this world is better than being God's friend. All other blessings flow from that one fountain. The first man to ever know this was Abraham.
His story began with a whisper, some say. One night while he was standing near a grove of mulberry trees with a group of friends, a strange breeze rushed in from nowhere and rustled the leaves a bit. Some say that's all it was - just a strange wind. But Abraham heard the Voice.
The look on his face did not go unnoticed by the other travelers, for it seemed as though he had seen a ghost. No, he didn't see one - he only heard one. And it was a Holy Ghost.
The Voice, tender and befriending, called him by name - "Abram." We know him today as Abraham. And the Voice that spoke to him that night we now know as the God of Abraham.
They were friends, you see.
Their friendship began when Abraham believed. And what was it exactly that Abraham believed? Simply put, he believed God. Whatever God said to him, no matter how impossible or unlikely it seemed or sounded, Abraham believed that the One who spoke was true and able to do what He had said.
Wouldn't you like to be God's friend? Then believe Him; trust Him to do whatever He says He will do - no matter how impossible it may seem to man.
Abraham has led the way. Listen to how Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans:
"When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, 'You're going to have a big family, Abraham!' Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, 'It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.' Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said." (Romans 4:18-21, The Message).
What crazy, insane, impossible, and most unlikely thing has God promised you? And now does it all seem hopeless; certain never to happen? Well, you are on the brink of becoming friends with God! Just believe Him - and then do what He says to do.
Surely the Lord's word of promise to you will come to pass - sometime, somewhere.
We know from history that it happened for Abraham, and we therefore rest assured that it will also happen for us - no matter how long we have to wait for it.
A Promise That Spanned the Centuries
Perhaps one of the most astounding things about what God said to Abraham was the time span between the promise and when it finally occurred.
The Bible says, "Then the LORD said to him, 'Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country that is not their own, and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions" (Gen 15:13-14 NIV)
Consider how truly astonishing is this Promise.
At the moment God spoke this word, Abraham was childless and over 100 years old. Sarah his beloved wife was barren - unable to produce children. Nevertheless - God told him that he would be the father of many nations.
Specifically, God told Abraham that his descendants would be "strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. God also told him that He would "punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions."
In that instant Abraham knew that it would happen - sometime, somewhere. For that's what God's friends do - they trust, and they wait.
Waiting on God's Timing
The promise given to Abraham would not come to pass for at least fifteen hundred years. Think about it. First Isaac had to be born and grow to manhood. He then would marry Rebekah and have two sons, Jacob and Esau.
Jacob would grow to manhood and marry Rachel, and have twelve sons. Joseph was one of the twelve. He was mistreated by his own brothers, sold as a slave to a Gypsie caravan and carried away to Egypt. Once there he endured several years of accusation, abandonment and abuse.
Then Pharaoh had a troubling dream and learned that there was a Hebrew prisoner who could interpret it for him. Thus, Joseph steps out of prison onto the great stage of history and rises in power to second in all of Egypt.
Eventually his father, Jacob, and his brothers join him there and God blesses them for an extended season.
Then Pharaoh died, and a new ruler rose to the throne. His policy changed everything. He enslaved the Hebrews and forced them into hard labor. This slavery would last four hundred years - just as God has told Abraham centuries earlier!
And then, just as He said He would do, God punished the nation where they were treated as slaves and raised up Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage on their historic journey to The Promised Land.
And the Bible tells us, "He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes" (Psalm 105:37). They came out of Egypt with great plunder, just as God said they would. You see? What God says - happens! And the same will prove true for you - sometime, somewhere.
The question is, "Are you willing to wait?"
"God is not a man, that He should lie, neither a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Number 23:19)
God holds Himself accountable to see that what He has promised, He will do. God's promises are sure, and will never fail; they will come to pass just as God has said. Always.
Yet, between every promise and the Promised Land - there is a wilderness. And like Abraham, we must not waver, but be strong in faith as we make the dry journey to the place of promised blessings. For it is yet before us, there in the distance - sometime, somewhere.
Think of what it must have been like for Noah to wait 120 years for the rain to fall. Or, think about how it must've been for David as he waited to become King of Israel - even though Samuel anointed him when he was a boy.
And consider Moses, who refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin." Why would he do such a thing? The writer tells us - "for he looked to the reward" (Heb 11:24-26).
The reward he anticipated was to be the man God would use to deliver His people out of Egyptian bondage. However, it would not happen until forty years later!
Moses endured the heat of the desert knowing that God would bring to pass His promise - sometime, somewhere.
Jesus Himself, after that glorious moment in the Jordan River when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as a dove, and a Voice spoke saying, "This is My Beloved Son" - even so He was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted of the devil forty days.
Oh, how many times have great spiritual moments been followed by long periods of drought, and difficulty!
And Paul the Apostle, after his dramatic conversion of the Damascus Road, spent three years in the desert, and then another fourteen years of tent-making in Troas. Seventeen years passed between his conversion and his commission!
How did he make it? He knew that he was called by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles - just not yet. It would happen sometime, somewhere.
Years later when Barnabas visited Antioch and saw that the Holy Spirt was poured out upon the Gentiles. He immediately went to Troas and brought Paul back with him to Antioch. Thus was born the first of many mission trips - ultimately taking Paul to stand and preach Christ before Caesar himself!
And while imprisoned waiting to stand before Caesar, Paul began writing letters to the churches he had started. Those letters are now part of The New Testament, and have been read and loved by millions of Christ's followers around the world and throughout history!
Are you beginning to get the picture?
We can be sure that part of God's promise involves delay and suffering. We will be tested by delays and experience suffering as we wait - yet His Word will come to pass….sometime, somewhere.
Paul wrote, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18).
Are you willing to wait?
Your waiting is not in vain, for God is at work as you wait.
Five Things God Does When We Wait
"I waited patiently upon the Lord, and He heard my cry," David writes in his Psalm. The structure of the Hebrew wording reads this way - "In waiting, I waited." In other words, what else are you going to do?
God has made it so that there will be times in our lives where we wait; and the waiting can be long and dry. Between every Promise, and the Promised Land - there is a wilderness. And you must pass through it to receive your inheritance. God gave you the promise so that you could make it through the desert!
And know this, that while you are "waiting" God is working. Here are five things He does while we wait.
#1 - He opens our hearts for spiritual insights.
"Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day" (Psalm 25:5)
Joseph Parker, a Congregationalist preacher of the 19th Century, said, "If we do not get back to spiritual visions, glimpses of heaven, and an awareness of a greater glory and life, our altars will grow cold and we will lose our faith."
I have a small book I found several years ago called Snappy Sermon Starters. It provides pastors with nifty ideas for sermons. Seriously? Can you imagine Peter flipping through the pages of such a book looking for what he should say on the Day of Pentecost?
God opens our hearts to His truth and teaches us when we wait upon Him.
#2 - He preserves our integrity.
"Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You" (Psa.25:21). The word integrity means "to hold together under pressure; it is the quality, or state of being complete, undivided." God strengthens our integrity and preserves us in times of pressure when we wait on Him. Otherwise we would be tossed to and fro, uncertain about anything and unable to stand for one thing.
#3 - He relieves our anxieties.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way" (Psalm 37:7). Two great bandits are forever seeking to plunder our palace. Their names are Hurry, and Worry. God calls us into times of waiting so that He can drive them from our lives. Nothing can frustrate Hurry and Worry more than to be held inactive in God's inflexible grip of Timing. And so we wait.
#4 - He removes wrong motives from our hearts.
"My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him" (Psalm 62:5). Our need to survive has equipped us to be manipulators of people and things - all in our own self-interest. But these things don't work on God. No amount of pleading, crying, being angry, pouting, cursing or any other thing can move Him from His time-table. Once we realize this, we surrender all these carnal tactics and yield to His will alone - "for my expectation is from Him."
#5 - He keeps us focused on what He is doing.
"They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel" (Psalm 106:13). If we fail to wait for God's counsel, we will soon forget His works. And when that happens we become feathers in the wind - blown all over the place with no purpose, and no peace.
So my friends, let the words of the Psalmist become your own confession, especially in those times when all you can do is wait - "wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope" (Psalm 130:5). You will not be disappointed! For some time, somewhere what you are waiting for will happen!
Read this delightful poem by 20th century American writer and poet, Ophelia G. Browning
Unanswered yet the prayer your lips have pleaded in agony of heart these many years?
Does faith begin to fail? Is hope departing? And think you all in vain your falling tears?
Say not the Father has not heard your prayer; You will have your desire sometime, somewhere.
Unanswered yet? No, do not say ungranted. Perhaps your work is not yet wholly done.
The work began when first your prayer was uttered, and God will finish what He has begun.
If you will keep the incense burning there, His glory you will see sometime, somewhere.
Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered; its feet are firmly planted on the Rock; amid the wildest storms it stands undaunted, nor shakes before the loudest thunder shock.
It knows Omnipotence has heard its prayer, and cries, "It will be done"-sometime, somewhere.
Father, give us the grace we need to wait during those times when You are silent and Your presence is unknown.
Remind us of the promises You have spoken, and let us trust in Your unfailing love and faithfulness to do what You said You would do.
Guard our hearts from the assault of dark powers that would seek to undermine our faith and discredit Your word. Amen
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