Are you a good waiter?
What sort of waiter are you? I’m not a very good one.
Have you ever joined in with a group singing, “Why are we waiting?” Perhaps you were hungry, the food had not yet arrived and you were impatient! We live in a culture of impatience.
Perhaps you have cried out these words as you wait in the queue at the supermarket or maybe, if you are getting back to travel, waiting at the airport in one of those queues that snake around the building. It is so frustrating. Still we ask, “Why are we waiting?” even when we have all the facts about the reasons for the queue. We are impatient, and impatience is part of the human condition in a fallen world.
Perhaps even more seriously, we have the same view on our desires:
- “I want sex, and I want it now?”
- “I want a sexual high, and I want it now”
- “I want a partner, and I want him/her now?”
Our culture responds by providing on-tap pornography and dating apps. For example, here’s a quote from an online fashion magazine: ‘Whether you’re after a hook-up or no-strings sex, there’s an app for everyone.’ They go on to review no fewer than seventeen sex hook-up apps! I know what I want, and I want it now! We glare with envy at those who have paid for the fast track when we are stuck in the normal queue. And, if we are able to walk through fast track, we are prone to pride as we say to ourselves, at least we don’t have to wait like them over there. We scowl with envy at those who seem to have found the intimacy we long for, as we say to ourselves, “It seems so easy for them.”
The real and painful experience of waiting for our lives to be complete, for continual happiness and satisfaction, is our ongoing state as human beings. It is part of how sin has broken our world. In fact, it is reassuring to note that the Bible tells us that the whole of the planet is waiting and groaning.
Romans 8 gives us a glimpse of this: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23
The image of childbirth is very helpful, with the mother-to-be in pain for hours on end waiting for the child to be born, longing for her desire to be fully present to her and the world. Just as the earth is groaning in its waiting, so are we. Seeing and knowing something great is about to arrive, but experiencing a great deal of pain before the fulfilment or completion of what is to happen.
So, what is the purpose of all this waiting and suffering? The ‘waiting’ can be a form of suffering. Perhaps waiting for the pressures and temptations of same-sex attractions to ease. Perhaps feeling that the waiting is too much, like a pot about to boil over. I feel the pressures of the need for intimacy. I feel I can’t wait. And so, the temptation to enter a same-sex relationship or some other sinful way of meeting what we see as the things we must have. King David’s suffering and waiting often go hand in hand in the Psalms.
The text I am focussing on is the very end of Psalm 27: “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 NJKV “Wait for the Lord” is that expectancy of the Lord coming. He is there in the distance and we look out for Him in the future. Waiting for the Lord gives a sense of trusting and resting on Him. But, in tension with this expectancy, we also know that He is with us now, and we are called to rest in Him now and to be held in His arms. Both meanings are helpful to us.
Going back to Psalm 27, we see how David learned from the waiting. How did waiting and suffering affect His behaviour? In verse 1, David reminds himself that “The Lord is the strength of my life”. When evil men advance, he draws close to God. He learns that God is the person to trust. So it is with us; when the enemy comes to overwhelm us, we can turn back to God and He proves himself time and time again.
In verse 4, trouble prompts David to seek the Lord in His temple or dwelling place. The trouble prompts greater devotion and a greater sense of worship and appreciation of the Lord. In verse 7, we see that trouble prompts prayer, which leads to a closer relationship with God, “Hear my voice when I call, Lord.” In verse 11, trouble prompts David to become teachable – open to instruction in God’s ways: “Teach me your way, Lord.”
Verse 13 shows David’s faith response: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
In the New Testament, we see all these benefits of waiting underlined in red ink for us. There are these well-known verses from James 1: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4. There is, of course, a salvation purpose in the waiting: “The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. So, when we cry, “Why are we waiting?”, part of the answer is that it gives time for other people to come to, and grow, in faith.
For whom are we waiting?
Jesus is the Lord for whom David is ultimately waiting, and we too wait for Him. It does not need red flashing lights for us to see this. So let us look at how Jesus fulfils the truths of the first verse of Psalm 27. Firstly, the verse says, “The Lord is my light and salvation”. We know Jesus is “…the light of the world” John 8:12, and that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” Luke 19:10. Secondly, it tells us that “The Lord is the stronghold of my life”. We know that Jesus is the rock upon which we build our lives Matthew 7:24. God inspired David to write Psalm 27, and he wants us to wait expectantly for Jesus.
How are we to wait?
From Psalm 27, we can take the following applications for our lives:
- Firstly, we should continually remind ourselves of who Christ is. He is already our light, our salvation and our stronghold (v1). This leads to confidence in Him, and a corresponding reduction in fear, “…though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear” (v3).
- Secondly, the psalmist sees being in the temple as crucial to his safety (vv4-6). And so must we, although we don’t have access to a physical temple in Jerusalem like David, Jesus himself is the temple, but His church is that living temple, the body of Christ, so we must be fully immersed and joined to a local manifestation of His body, the local church (1 Cor 12).
- Thirdly, faithful waiting involves praying (v7). David pleads with his voice to the Lord.
- Fourthly, David was teachable. In verse 11, he said, “Teach me your way, Lord.” This means we also need a teachable heart. Sitting under God’s word being preached weekly is one way we might do this, joining with our brothers and sisters.
- Fifthly, let’s remember that we are still waiting for that time when Christ will come again, when He renews the groaning earth and God will perfectly satisfy all our needs. There will be no waiting ever again.
We must remember that God desires to see patience and a willingness to wait as part of the fruit of His work in our lives. We know that love is patient (1 Cor 13:4). Waiting is not something neutral. It is part of God’s design to make us more like Christ. So, as God works in us to look more like Christ, one characteristic that will grow in us is patience, a willingness to wait. The resolution of all our waiting comes in the second to last verse in the Bible. Here Jesus tells us, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Rev 22-20). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
This article was originally published in the summer 2022 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
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A conversation with the author...
Articles in Ascend often need to be ruthlessly edited down to fit within the required word count. To give space to discuss certain articles in greater depth, the TFT staff team will be recording occasional podcasts under the banner “Ascend Higher”, covering the issues raised in a more conversational style. To hear it for yourself, you can use the audio player below.
This article is a shortened version of a talk Stefan gave at the Merseyside “Steadfast” conference in May 2022. To hear his full talk click on the link below: