While You’re Waiting
*Waiting is an inescapable fact of life.
Somebody estimates most of us spend from 45-62 minutes waiting on something every single day. That includes waiting for the light to turn green, waiting at the drive-thru, waiting for the next available operator, waiting for the nurse to say the doctor will see you now, waiting for your computer to boot up, waiting for the cashier, waiting for the mechanic to fix your car, waiting on the barber/beautician to finish your hair, waiting for the kids to finish practice.
Whew! That’s a lot of waiting. What do you during all this time you wait?
You read the magazines, or if they have one, watch TV. You check out all the little temptations lining the checkout counter. You could dare to take a look at the car beside at the light. You can sing, or pray, or talk on the phone. Most of us try to find something to do.
What about those times when you’re waiting for something more important?
Barry Beck, a 34-year-old geology professor led a group from Georgia Southwestern College on an expedition to Anderson Springs Cave in the Appalachians of northern Georgia. By 4:30 on Saturday afternoon they had been in the cave 5 hours, following an underground stream. Suddenly, the stream began to rise. Where water had been dripping from the walls, it suddenly came gushing out like fire hoses. The hardest rain to hit the mountain in 50 years created tons of water pressure into the cave.
The climbers made their way back upstream to a large cavern and climbed to a ledge about 40 feet above the rising water. There was nothing they could do but wait in the pit and listen to the roar of the rushing water, until a scuba diver made his way up the roaring underground river nearly 30 after their ordeal began. They had to wait; they had no other choice.
Waiting can make you desperate. When you are waiting on God to answer your prayer, when you’re waiting to find out what happen w to your loved one or your job, when you’re waiting on the results of an election or an X-ray, waiting can translate into worry. Waiting on a traffic light can be a little annoying; waiting on a life-or-death situation can be almost unbearable. What can you do while you wait?
James 5:7-12 gives us some suggestions. Whether you’re waiting on God to move, or waiting to see what happens next, these 3 things will make waiting profitable for your soul. Let’s begin in vs. 7-9.
The word therefore is very important in vs. 7. It refers back to the previous verses where James writes of the injustice perpetrated against poor servants by their rich masters.
James says God hears the cries of the oppressed, and eventually He will bring justice to this world. But for now they must wait. It is to people waiting on God that James speaks. What can you do while you’re waiting? James suggests 3 things:
1. You can practice patience. (v. 7-9)
You’d think as much time as we spend waiting, we’d eventually get good at it. But we’re not usually, are we?
Patience is a virtue, possesses it if you can.
Found seldom in a woman, but never in a man.
There is a word to describe a person who is good at waiting: patient. One very important thing you can do as you wait is to practice being patient, both with God and with each other.
James writes in vs. 7-8, we can practice being patient with the Lord.
He specifically refers to the second coming of Christ, and uses the image of a farmer who waits patiently waits for rain and the harvest. Patience is a must for a farmer, because even though it takes a lot of hard work to produce a crop, you have to wait on it to grow. A farmer works in faith, believing all his hard work will pay off in the end. James says in vs. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Establish your hearts= strengthen your hearts. Don’t worry or fret; practice staying calm, because you know the Lord will eventually show up. As surely as the farmer knows the harvest is coming, you know Christ is coming. In fact, He can show up at any time. Our job is to do what we can and patiently wait for the Lord.
But James also encourages us in vs. 9 to be patient with each other. He writes don’t grumble (groan) against each other, because Christ, the Judge, is at the door!
James isn’t saying we should never confront a brother/sister over sin. What he is addressing is the petty griping and complaining about each other’s faults and failings. You and I are called not to criticize and find fault, but to love each other.
Jn 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
1 Pe 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.
James says remember we are all works in progress. None of us will be finished until we see Christ. While you are waiting for perfection, practice being patient with one another!
Patience takes practice. The farmer is patient because he’s had practice cultivating soil, planting seeds, weeding, and waiting on the rain and the harvest. So also you and I can practice being patient as we wait.
We’re all waiting for Christ to come back. But we are also waiting for the Lord to show up in many other ways, aren’t we? When you pray, you’re waiting on the Lord to show up and answer your prayer. Whether you’re praying for a sick person to get well, or a job to come through, or a lost loved one to get saved, you have to wait. It’s a good time to practice patience with the Lord. One thing I can guarantee: He never gets in a hurry.
We are all waiting for the day when we all become what Jesus saved us to be. But that day is not yet. We have to wait: I have to wait on you, you have to wait on me. There is not much I can do to speed up the process for you, not much you can do to speed up the process for me. You have to be patient with yourself. Growth doesn’t happen in a hurry. It takes time, and you have to wait. What do you do while you wait? Practice being patient with one another, instead of griping and complaining because none of us have arrived.
Practicing patience, both with the Lord and with each other, is one thing you can and should do while you wait. Another thing James recommends is
2. You can practice perseverance. (v. 10-11)
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer once created a strip depicting a man walking down a road. Coming to an intersection, the man encounters a wise man sitting at the junction. The traveler asks the wise man, "Which way is success?" The guru speaks not a word but motions to his left. The man rushes off in this direction and suddenly in the distance there is a loud "SPLAT." Eventually the man reappears. He is stunned and staggering. Thinking he misunderstood, he repeats his question to the guru. Again the guru says nothing but points to his left. Once again the man dutifully heeds the wise man's instructions. Once again after he disappears from sight, an ear-splitting "SPLAT" is heard. When the man returns he is crawling. His clothes are tattered and he is bleeding. He approaches the wise man, "I asked you which way is success," he screams. "I followed the direction you indicated. And all I got was splatted! No more of this pointing! Talk!" The sage finally breaks his silence and calmly replies, "Success is that way. Just a little past splat."
Practicing patience is not easy; practicing perseverance is harder. There are many people who can be patient for a long time, but eventually they give up. But a person who practices perseverance is in for the long haul, has made up their mind to keep running until the end of the finish line, to keep fighting until the victory is won. They are, in the words of vs. 11, those who endure and James gives us some good examples of people who practice perseverance.
He first mentions the example of the …prophets who spoke in the Name of the Lord
Perhaps James has in mind men such as Elijah or Jeremiah who were suffered rejection and persecution during their ministries. Yet they did not cave in to the crowd, but stayed at their task, giving God’s message to those who didn’t want to hear it. They waited on the Lord to vindicate them.
James mentions Job, a man who obviously knew a lot about waiting. You’ve probably heard about the proverbial patience of Job from the KJV, but the word is better translated the perseverance of Job. That makes a lot more sense if you’ve read the book, because there are many times Job appears anything but patient. But Job does hold on to his faith, he does persist in believing God will somehow come through for him. He does endure, despite his pain and confusion, and discovers in the end …the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
Both the prophets and Job had to persevere, to keep going and not give in or give up. While they waited, they practiced perseverance—a good example for you and to follow.
How can you practice perseverance? I think the prophets and Job give us some clues.
First, you hold on to God’s Word. The prophets knew they heard from God, and they held on to His promises and His truth.
They kept going in hard times by reminding themselves of what God said. If you want help persevering, you need to get a tight grasp on God’s Word, to cling tenaciously to His promises and His truth, no matter how things seem or what happens.
Don’t just read---study and meditate, even memorize key verses that deal with your situation. In the words of Ruth Graham, Billy’s wife find a verse and put your name on it.
But also hold on to God in prayer. The book of Job contains not just Job’s complaints, but Job’s honest cries to God for help. Prayer and perseverance go hand in hand. Don’t try to polish up your prayers—be real with God about what you’re going through, whether it be your confusion, your fear, even your anger. Prayer helped Job persevere, and prayer will help you persevere if you will keep praying!
While you’re waiting, you can practice prayer and perseverance. But one more thing you need to be sure to do while you wait:
3. You must avoid presumption. (v. 12)
At first, this verse seems to go off on a tangent. What do oaths have to do with patience and perseverance, or waiting? But on second thought, maybe there is a connection.
James’ words are almost identical to something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:33-37.
It’s important to narrow down what Jesus is talking about. He’s not condemning such things as the oath of office taken for the president, or the oath taken in a court of law.
He’s condemning the personal oaths people use to try and add weight to their words—especially their words about what they will do in the future. You shall perform your oaths to the Lord… = promising God what you will do. A modern example would be a person who says I swear on a stack of Bibles that I will do it. In those days, they didn’t swear on a stack of Bibles, they swore by heaven or by the earth or by Jerusalem or even by the hairs of my head.
What’s wrong with that? It’s presumptuous. You are trying to use what doesn’t belong to you to add weight to your words. Heaven and earth belong to God; Jerusalem belongs to David’s heir, the Christ. Even the color of the hairs of your head are not in your control (this was before the days of Clairol and Just for Men.)
Jesus and James say when you talk about what you’re going to do, a simple yes or no will do. Anything else comes from the evil one, and makes you liable to God’s judgment.
How does this connect to what to do while you’re waiting? When you’re waiting, don’t brag about what you will do or can do—don’t make promises you cannot keep.
It’s tempting, isn’t it? It’s tempting when you’re helplessly waiting to try and find some way to get control, to make yourself feel bigger and more powerful.
We promise ourselves, or other people, or God what we will or won’t do: I’ll never have doubts, never be afraid, never be worried, never weep, never lose hope, never hurt…But you don’t know that, do you? When you’re waiting—especially when you’re waiting on God---you don’t know for sure what will happen, and you don’t know for sure what’ you’ll do.
The only thing you can really hang on to is that Jesus Christ won’t change, no matter what happens. He will still be holy and all-powerful. He will still love you, will still be there to help you, to dry your eyes, to bring you through whatever happens. While you are waiting, you dare not presume to trust yourself—you can only helplessly trust Him.
The good news is: He can be trusted. He will always be faithful. He will never abandon you. He will always be able to bring good things out of even the worst things that can happen.
The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who was worried about her job. She said she wanted to feel safe about her job—just like all of us do. But I reminded her of something I have to often remember: Christ doesn’t promise to keep our jobs safe—He promises to keep us safe.
Lk 21:18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost.
This is the Lord’s way of telling us in the end, it will all be all right.
Will there be pain? Will there be uncertainty? Will there will confusion? Oh yes. But when it’s all over, it will be all right, because He will be with you, and you will be with Him. The waiting will be worth it, if you trust in Him.
Dad was puttering out by the boathouse. Two of his sons, a 12-year old and a 3-year old were down playing along the dock. The 12-year-old was supposed to be watching his little brother. The 3-year-old, little Billy, thought it would be a good time to check out the shiny aluminum fishing boat tied up at the end of the dock. So he goes to the dock and puts one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock, loses his balance and falls into the water, about 5-6 feet deep. The splash alerts the 12-year-old who lets out a piercing scream. Dad comes running, jumps into the water, swims down, but unable to see anything, came up for air. Sick with panic, he goes right back down into the murky water, feeling everywhere on the bottom, finding nothing. Finally, on his way up, he feels little Billy's arms locked in a death grip on one of the posts of the dock, about four feet under water. Prying the boy's fingers loose, they burst up together through the surface to fill their lungs with life. When the nerves calm down a little bit, the father asks his son, “What on earth were you doing down there hanging onto the post so far under the water?” Little Billy's answer: “I was just waiting for you, Dad.”
While you wait, no matter how desperate you get, don’t be presumptuous, don’t trust in yourself—trust in your Heavenly Father. You will never regret trusting Him while you wait.
Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.—Richard Hendrix[i]
What are you waiting for tonight?
I imagine there are some waiting on the Lord tonight. You’re waiting for Him to answer your prayer, waiting on Him to come through, waiting on Him to do the impossible. Let me remind you that the most important thing is not only that you finally get past the waiting; sometimes the most important thing is what you do while you are waiting.
James says waiting can help us grow as we practice patience, perseverance, and avoid presumption. What are you doing while you wait?
Is 40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
[i] Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.