Through the Lessons Learned In The Wilderness books, God has enabled me to come in contact with many who have found themselves “camped” in the wilderness. Each day i am receiving emails or social media messages from people who are awaiting the fulfillment of a promise that God has given them. Often the comments are shared as a prayer request reflecting a desperation to see God’s answer regarding the healing of a loved one, a needed new job, the pain of a broken relationship, a heart cry to have a child, and much more. In many of those instances the waiting has been going on for months or years, and, in some cases, decades. My prayer list is growing daily with the requests.
Here are just two of those requests: A young woman is currently awaiting visa approval to come join her husband in the U.S. The process continues to lengthen as one hurdle after another has been added. In the meantime, this young couple waits on different continents for the Lord to bring about a swift resolution to their immigration conundrum.
A family has responded to God’s call to serve Him in another part of the world as tentmakers. “Tentmakers” means that they need to have employment in that new country. For two years they have taken each step that the Lord has placed before them. They got rid of most of their earthly possessions and moved across continents on nothing more than a word from God. Today they shared a praise that they have received a job offer. There are still steps to be taken for everything to be finalized, but this offer is a huge step in that direction. It would appear that after two years their wait may be over. But, in other respects, their journey may have just begun.
Scripture is full of people who were waiting on God. Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years for the son God promised to give them. Jacob worked for Laban for fourteen years in order to receive the hand of Rachel in marriage. Joseph waited thirteen years to rise from the pit of his imprisonment to the throne room of Pharaoh. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they entered the Promised Land. Fifteen years passed between the time that David was anointed king and the time he actually ascended to the throne. The one hundred twenty disciples waited eight days in the upper room for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon them. (Eight days seems like a pretty short wait – but, as we’ll see, it didn’t seem that way to the disciples!)
What are we to do while we wait in that waiting room? i know the simple answer is “trust God”. But what more has God shown us through these people in Scripture.
First, embrace the promise God has given you. And if you don’t have a promise, ask Him for one! God is at work through every detail of our lives to bring glory to His Name. We have the tendency to live with the myopic view that everything is about us. It isn’t! God created the heavens and the earth and all of us who dwell within it for His purpose – not ours. Everything we have is from Him. Our very lives belong to Him. Often the paths of our lives will lead through the unknown. It is in those unknown places that our faith is grown and our trust is strengthened. But our faith begins with a promise. Without a promise, we’re not walking by faith. So if you’re not sure what the promise is, ask God to clearly show you. He’s not up in His heaven hoping we figure it out. He is wanting to grow us in our faith in Him. In order to do that we need to know what He has promised. Seek Him. Seek His Word. He will show you! Every person that i mentioned from Scripture received a promise from God – Abraham and Sarah were told they would have a son, Jacob was promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth, Joseph was promised that his family would bow before him, the Israelites were promised a land in which they would worship God, David was promised the throne, and the disciples were promised the Helper. The writer of Hebrews recorded, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise” (Hebrews 10:23). Part of keeping a promise is receiving that promise to begin with. Ask Him for the promise if you have not yet received it, and then embrace it. Recite it. Write it down. Keep it before you and don’t let go of it. Then celebrate it when the day arrives!
Second, remember that waiting is not inactivity. We must walk in obedience, doing all that God has placed before us to do, while we are awaiting the fulfillment of His promise. For Abraham, it included rescuing his nephew. For Joseph, it included being a faithful steward in prison. For David, it included slaying the giant Goliath. For the disciples, it included worshiping in the Temple under the watchful eyes of the very leaders who had arranged to have Jesus crucified. Waiting is rarely a time to just sit back; more often it is a time to press forward in what we know God has called us to do. For me, that activity has included writing a series of books. Be faithful to do all that God has “put on your plate to do”, but be careful that you don’t put anything on the plate that doesn’t belong there. There is always a temptation to step out on our own to try and find a shortcut to achieving God’s promise. Abraham and Sarah attempted to do that. Their efforts resulted in the birth of Ishmael, when God’s promise was Isaac. The writer of Proverbs reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT). Don’t sit idly by. Take the path. But make sure it is His path.
Third, acknowledge that His timing is perfect. God is at work in ways we will never know to accomplish His purpose in His perfect timing. We all know that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in that upper room on the Day of Pentecost – but i think we have lost sight of why it was significant the Holy Spirit came on that day. Pentecost is a Greek name. The Jews called it the “Festival of the Harvest”. It was one of the three annual festivals that the Jews were to observe as established by God through Moses on Mount Sinai right after God had given the ten commandments (Exodus 23:14-16). This festival celebrated the first fruits of the harvest season. With the arrival of His Holy Spirit on the “Festival of the Harvest”, God was signifying that the harvest of the first fruits of salvation had now begun. Three thousand were baptized that day. The church was birthed. His harvest had begun – on the “Festival of the Harvest”. A word that the Lord gave me years ago is “I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22 ESV). His timing is perfect. He will delay until then, and He will hasten it on the day.
Lastly, trust that what He begins He completes. God never does anything halfway. It may not turn out the way we expected – but don’t lose sight that He is the Creator; we are the creation. The creation doesn’t dictate the finished product to the Creator. Paul wrote, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). No matter how much time it takes, no matter how long you have been waiting, hold onto His promise that He will complete what He has begun.
There is an end to the wait. It ends with His promise being fulfilled and Him being glorified. In the meantime remember this promise He has given, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT).