I don’t like waiting. For several years, I worked in retail sales, and the most common complaint from customers concerned long waits in checkout lines. We don’t like waiting at stoplights, traffic delays, slow computers, and people who take forever to tell us something. Last summer, I pulled some poison oak weeds and wasn’t careful enough, so I endured the inconvenience of the rash for 3 weeks, waiting for the problem to go away. Some Christians have medical conditions that doctors cannot cure, so they have to live with and endure those conditions for the rest of their lives. Waiting is often boring. Waiting is hard. Waiting doesn’t seem to have a purpose or point except to . . . wait. Why? Missionaries often say that one of the main lessons they learned while on deputation concerned waiting. Many Christians have been praying and waiting for many years for someone they know to trust Christ as Savior. Waiting has probably been one of the hardest truths for me to learn in pastoral ministry. Why?
If you think through the different events in the Bible, it is fascinating how often waiting and patience is part of the Bible. Just a few examples: The building of the Ark took 100 years, Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebekah, Manoah and his wife, Elkanah and Hannah, and Zacharias and Elizabeth waited many years for sons. Moses wasn’t ready to lead Israel from Egypt until he spent 80 years learning. Israel had to wait another 40 years before they entered the land. David had to wait several years before the kingdom was fully his and had to wait for the Temple (which he never saw). Daniel and others in Israel had to wait 70 years before God allowed people to return to Israel. The disciples had to wait parts of three agonizing days before Christ’s resurrection. People whom Christ healed had to wait years, enduring their problem, for Christ to walk by and heal them. And we are still waiting for the return of Christ, almost 2,000 years later.
Romans 5:1-5 indicate that character and hope are some of the products of waiting. Waiting reveals and develops different aspects our character. Hope develops as we look for a resolution of our situation. James 1:2-4 tell us that the testing of our faith produces patience and endurance. However, those qualities are not the final goal. The development of patience itself is part of the perfecting and developing of the individual believer, so that we do not lack anything we need for serving the Lord in this life.
Clear enough. But why patience? What is it about patience that does all of this this? I’m not sure. Learning patience attacks our self-centeredness and tendency to be in a hurry instead of our usual focus on ourselves. We tend to think that our interests, our plans, and our priorities can brook no delay Learning patience is probably one of the most direct confrontations with our sin nature that is possible. In many ways, learning patience and waiting forces us to trust the Lord for what we cannot control. We do not have any control over the fulfillment of prophecy. Outside of our own personal witnessing, we do not have any control over whether someone is born again or not. Although we have control and responsibility for much of our health, many aspects of our health are outside of our control. All of this forces us to wait, to trust, and to learn patience.
Although selfishness and self-centeredness are not the totality of sin, they do help us see the depth, control, and persistence of our sin nature. Being forced to wait, whatever the circumstances or reasons, is the Lord’s way of teaching us much about who we are and who God is.
Wally Morris is pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Huntington, IN. The church blogsite is amomentofcharity.blogspot.com. He has also published A Time To Die: A Biblical Look At End-Of-Life Issues by Ambassador International.