While You Wait . . .
Lamentations 3:25 says, “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” That’s a pretty simple verse. When we hear this promise we might think, “Great, I’ll wait for God and He will be good to me. This is going to be awesome!” But have we considered what it really means to wait on God? We have to know that before we can do it, and it is not always easy. However, we have a promise that God will be good to those who wait for Him, so it is definitely worth learning to do.
To help explain how to wait for the Lord, let us consider a Bible account and a list of ten items. The Bible account is from Genesis 15, where God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky. That was a huge and seemingly impossible promise to someone who was still childless at past seventy-five years of age. Abraham asked God for an assurance of the promise, so God entered into a blood covenant with him.
In those days, a blood covenant was an unbreakable agreement between two people. It involved cutting in half several sacrificial animals, laying them on the ground, and both parties of the contract walking between the animals, through their blood. While this sounds foreign in our society, the message was clear: if either one backed out of the agreement, he would end up like the dead animals. That was how binding a blood covenant was.
The Genesis 15 blood covenant begins with God telling Abraham to lay out the animals. We read, “And he [God] said unto him [Abraham], take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another...And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces” (verses 9-10, 17). The smoking furnace and the burning lamp represented the presence of God. Because God could not swear by anyone greater than Himself, He swore by Himself. God alone passed between the animals, guaranteeing that He would do what He had promised.
Abraham was called a friend of God. If Abraham had to wait on the Lord, we can expect that we will also have to spend time waiting on the Lord at some point.
In this account, there was a period of time when Abraham had to wait. First, Abraham obeyed God’s instructions to prepare the sacrifice—he obeyed immediately and precisely. Then he had to wait. This is significant to us because Abraham was called a friend of God. If Abraham had to wait on the Lord, we can expect that we will also have to spend time waiting on the Lord at some point. It doesn’t mean we have done something wrong; everyone has to wait on the Lord sometimes. The good news is that “the Lord is good unto them that wait for Him.”
Genesis 15:11 is the only verse that says anything about what Abraham did while he waited. It says, “And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.” He spent his time making sure the birds did not destroy his sacrifice to God. From his actions, we can see that Abraham’s attitude was basically this: “I don’t know when God will come, but I am determined with everything in me that there will be a sacrifice in pristine condition waiting for Him when He shows up.” Abraham was not too worried about what God would do, but simply focused on preserving what God had asked of him. If we adopt that sentiment, we are going to get somewhere with God too.
The sacrifice we must bring before God is nothing less than all of ourselves, laid out on the altar for God to do with as He pleases.
God told Abraham to offer an animal sacrifice, but His instructions to us are a little different. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” The sacrifice we must bring before God is nothing less than all of ourselves, laid out on the altar for God to do with as He pleases. Just as Abraham had to drive away the fowls that tried to eat his sacrifice, we must make sure the vultures of doubt, of self-indulgence, and of doing things our own way do not destroy our perfect sacrifice. Resist thoughts that question, “Where is God right now? Why isn’t He doing what I want Him to do?” If we dwell on thoughts like those, waiting on God will become painful and frustrating. Instead, we should remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His timing is perfect. We cannot know when God will answer our prayers, but we can determine that we will do everything in our power to make sure our sacrifices are always in pristine condition, ready for God when He comes.
So what does it mean to wait on the Lord? It is difficult to define, but people who successfully wait on Him usually follow a similar pattern of actions. To help us learn from them, I made a list of ten things people do when they are waiting on God. If we want to wait on Him, we should consider doing these things also.
#1: Be in church. Passages in the Psalms and in Hebrews tell us that being in the house of God is of absolute and vital importance to our walk with Him and our spiritual health. Being in church helps the Gospel move forward in our lives and in the lives of others, and it is something we need to be a part of.
#2: Be in the prayer room before church. This is a place where people can pray before every church service, preparing their hearts to meet with God and asking for His blessing. With God, great things begin in prayer. Therefore, great things begin in the prayer room. If we want to be a part of great things with God, we should be in the prayer room.
#3: Be at the altars of prayer after church. Our churches have altar benches where we can go after every service to commune with the God of the universe. God wants to spend time with us and this is a good place to do it! We can drop our burdens of sin at the altar and have our lives changed. We can lay out our sacrifices before God at the altars. We can find friends for life and our spouses there. We can find purpose for our lives there. The altars are precious, and that is a place we want to be.
#4: Pay tithes. Once we start earning money, we need to make sure that we pay tithes—ten percent of our income goes directly to God. In the Book of Malachi, God said there is a great blessing for those who obey the instruction to tithe.
#5: Say yes to helping in the Lord’s work. Along the way in life, we are going to be asked to do some things. Our Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or even our pastor might ask us to help out with different tasks. On rare occasions, we might be asked not to do some things. Whatever the case, we should be agreeable and be available. Of course there is a limit to how much one person can do, but as much as possible, we should say yes to helping in the Lord’s work.
#6: Share a testimony. Revelation 12:11 says we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and our testimony, so we must share our testimonies. Our church family loves us and will be glad to hear from us. Our classmates and co-workers may not want to hear it, but they need to know that Jesus saves. We must let people know what God has done for us.
#7: Read the Bible. God’s Word is the most important piece of literature in the world because it reveals to us the nature of God and His plan for mankind’s redemption. We don’t necessarily have to read many chapters, but we should read something from the Bible every day. It will feed our souls and give God an opportunity to speak to us and teach us.
#8: Talk about the Lord. Have you noticed that people tend to steer conversations toward the things that interest them most? Some people are into sports; some people are into cooking; others are into electronics. That is great; life is awesome and there are many things to enjoy. But does God come up in our discussions? We need to be passionate about the things of the Lord, and when we are, it will show in our conversations.
#9: Love not the world—love Jesus instead. This one is not rocket science; simply do not love the things of the world. The world’s favorite book, the world’s favorite song, the world’s favorite movie, or the world’s favorite social media topic should not be our favorite. The things of the world will not help us receive the gifts of God. Instead, we want to love Jesus with everything in us and get as close to Him as we possibly can. Then we will be so full of Jesus that we won’t even have to think about not loving the world.
#10: Memorize the promises of God. Without peeking in the Bible, how many of God’s promises can we quote that address our current needs? If we are seeking to be sanctified, how many Bible verses can we recite about sanctification? Do we need guidance? A job? Physical healing? We should search God’s Word, find the promises that address our situation, and take them to heart. As we apply them to our lives and apply them in our prayers, God will hear, and give us what we need.
We all have prayers that we are waiting for God to answer. Embrace this attitude in your heart, and it will see you through: “I don’t know when God will come, but I am determined with everything in me that there will be a sacrifice in pristine condition waiting for Him when He shows up.” The sacrifice is all of yourself, laid out on the altar for God to do with as He pleases. Doing the ten items listed will help you keep that sacrifice in place while you wait, and God will not leave a beautiful offering like that unattended for long. Wait for God with the attitude of sacrifice and He will be good to you.