Waiting On God Isn’t Passive, Lazy Or Unproductive…
Carpe Diem–Seize the Day
I don’t think many Americans realize how much our short-term and long-term lives are influenced by the phrase ‘carpe diem’ (“seize the day”).
We are taught from a young age to go after what we want, to chase our dreams, to dedicate ourselves to accomplishing, to focus and strive and attack life (Nike has taught multiple generations to “just do it”).
We even seize our times of rest and recreation!
IF we take a consecutive week “off” for vacation (and many of us are still plugged into work/voicemails/emails/facebook/texts even on our vacations), many of us declare upon returning from such a break that we “need a vacation from our vacation!” We have seized the day of rest, we have crammed so much fun into our break, we have dedicated ourselves to so much relaxing that we are utterly exhausted at the end of it! 🙂
Or think about the times that our seizing the day is interrupted by an unexpected delay: whether at the doctor’s office, in an extra-long line at the grocery store, stuck idling by a freight train, waiting on hold to talk to a company’s customer’s service department, or waiting for a website to load, we often first get frustrated/cranky that our stride has been broken (Matthew Wilder taught us well in the 1980s–“Can’t no nobody break my stride, can’t nobody hold me down, oh no, I’ve got to keep on moving'”) and then secondly we often react by multi-tasking and finding a new way to create a new stride, to seize something else, a new medium to get other seizing-work done: checking emails on our cell phones, quickly picking up a magazine for the latest news, responding to a new text message, calling a friend to chat, etc.–ANYTHING except waiting…i.e. doing nothing!
Of course, there is a time for movement, there is a time for boldly marching, we are to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). But, naturally, we American Christians have taken this to an extreme–we are so focused on seizing the day that we often don’t know how to wait on God. Waiting is almost an American swear-word–waiting, even on God, seems lazy, unproductive, and passive, something that you do only if you’re in a full-body cast. Without realizing it, many believe that waiting is for those who can’t do anything else…
But What Does The Bible Say About “Waiting” On God?
What Can We Learn From The Bible About Such Holy Waiting?
Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
- Biblical waiting isn’t passive; it isn’t doing nothing! In the verse above, the psalm writer lays personal, intense, deep, heart-wrenching, pain-filled requests before God before & during the waiting–this ain’t twiddling our thumbs in boredom!
Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
- Waiting on God isn’t for wimps, but for warriors. It takes strength and courage to wait on God!
Psalm 33:20: “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”
- Waiting on God is dangerous–we need Him to help us and to protect us as we do it, like a quarterback who drops back in the pocket, waits for a receiver to get open, and while waiting is allowed to look down the field (and not over his shoulder) because of the active and powerful protection of the quarterback’s offensive lineman all around him.
Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
- Waiting on God will sometimes feel as if we are being “left behind” (i.e. in the American rat race), as others who do not wait “get ahead” and (temporarily) seem to have life working out for them easily. But remember: the person who cuts down the tree fastest isn’t the one who is always sawing/chopping but the one who chooses to consistently stop to sharpen their saw/axe.
Psalm 38:15: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.”
- Waiting on God involves an expectant focus–we are waiting with a purpose…for God Himself to answer us! We might snicker or shake our heads, but we ultimately marvel at the amazing Black Friday deal gotten by those who wait out overnight in the cold to be the first in line. They aren’t sitting there doing nothing; they have a purpose and are expectant that in the morning they will receive what they are waiting for. The same is true spiritually with God…
Psalm 40:1: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”
- Many of us (myself included!) don’t often sit still and wait for God because we think HE is too busy/active/perpetually in motion to stop and have time for us. But what if the opposite is true? What if God is waiting for US to slow down so He CAN comfort us in our tears and wipe them away!?
Psalm 119:166: “I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands.”
- Again, Biblical waiting is not doing nothing. In the verse above, the psalm writer learns to obey God AS he waits for the LORD. Reminds me of what many of my teachers would say to us, “If you get to class and I am not in the room, just sit down quietly (wait!) and begin working on a worksheet until I return.” Though God is always “in the class” with us, until Jesus returns we are to learn to actively wait for Him by learning to follow His commands…
Psalm 130:5: “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
- Biblical waiting involves our entire person–mind, body, soul. We cannot wait on God AND multi-task doing a bunch of other things (like a teenager who studies, updates Facebook, listens to music, watches t.v., texts with a friend, and posts to Instagram all at the same time!). Part of waiting on God involves us learning to quiet our minds, bodies, and souls and simply be still before God. This isn’t an emptying of our minds as much as it is a comprehensive filling of our minds with a quiet focus of our gaze on God’s character as revealed in the Bible. As we wait for God, we focus on what His Word reveals about Who God is and what God does, has done, and will do.
Proverbs 20:22: “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.”
- Waiting on God involves us getting out of His way so that HE can act. We can focus on loving others (instead of getting revenge on them) because God Himself will perfectly deal with those who have wronged us.
Isaiah 8:17: “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.”
- Even when God seems far, even when the waiting is exhausting, even when our waiting on God seems like it is accomplishing nothing, even when we want to hitchhike with some other god/belief/philosophy to get us where we want to go, we can still choose to wait on the LORD because doing so shows that we are trusting Him and His timing for our lives.
Isaiah 26:8: “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”
- As we wait on Jesus, as we learn to obey Him in the midst of our waiting, the Holy Spirit transforms us to reflect Jesus more accurately. Then, as He transforms us, more and more people see Christ in us and some eventually choose to give their sinful/imperfect lives to Jesus and to receive His sinless/perfect life in return. Thus our waiting becomes a beautiful sacrifice to God because our waiting helps Jesus’ fame (renown) to spread to others, and ultimately that is what we want–to have other people realize how amazing God is, how amazing His love for them is, and to enjoy Him forever.
Isaiah 30:18: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
- We are not waiting on God to change His mind and come around to finally loving us–He already loves us, He already desires to comfort, forgive, re-birth, and transform us! Maybe our waiting on God is a waiting for us to be ready for what God has in store for us next…
Isaiah 64:4: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
- Our wildest imaginations literally cannot dream up what God is preparing for those who wait on Him. That makes me even more excited and expectant as I learn to quietly wait on Jesus each day!!!
Lamentations 3:24,26: “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him…it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.'”
- Even though we often wait on “whats” from God (tangible blessings, items, stuff, etc.), deep down we are really waiting on the “Who” from God (Himself!). The Giver is even better than His gifts; HE is our portion, our inheritance, the truest satisfaction to our deepest desires. When we wait on God we are waiting for more of Him…
Hosea 12:6: “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”
- Waiting on God is one of ways that we return to Him when we stray, when we wander off His path. Waiting on God is one of the most powerful, spiritual, and faithful actions we can ever do (right up there with showing love and fairness to others)!
Micah 7:7: “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”
- Every phone call is made with the belief/hope that the other person will answer the call. When we wait on God we believe/hope that He will meet with us, be with us, and communicate with us personally.
Zephaniah 3:8: “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them— all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.”
Mark 15:43: “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.”
- As we wait on Him, God develops in us a boldness to act in our daily lives. This is a beautiful example of less sometimes being more. It was DANGEROUS for Joseph to ask for Jesus’ body; this would have implicitly but clearly revealed Joseph to be an admirer and follower of Jesus (who asks for a “criminal’s” body after his execution?). Joseph easily could have been thrown in prison and crucified himself (especially if Pilate had woken up on the wrong side of the bed that morning). But Joseph had a boldness FROM God because he had been waiting ON God for so long, patiently each day.
John 5:19: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
John 12:49: “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.”
- Jesus saying and doing (His words & actions) were directly tied to Jesus “seeing” and “hearing” what His Father does and says, and Jesus seeing and hearing the Father happened as Jesus waited on the Father in prayer each day. Jesus, the ultimate Man of action, is also the ultimate Man of waiting.
1 Corinthians 1:7: “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”
- God has given us everything we need to effectively wait for Him, to survive AND to thrive as we wait for Him to fulfill His awesome and unearnable promises to us!
Titus 2:13: “While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…”
Hebrews 9:27-28: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
- Are we waiting on Jesus’ return each day? Do we even think about His return in an average day, week, month or year? Are we watching for His return? Are we paying attention to Christ?
Jude 1:21: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
- Waiting on Jesus to return for us is one of the ways that we keep ourselves in the love of God!
To Heinz Ketchup’s fantastic advertising campaign of the late 1980s–“Good things come to those who wait”–I would only add “on the LORD.” I pray that you have been blessed through this stroll amongst the Biblical passages regarding waiting on God…instead of ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day), let’s ‘carpe deo’ (seize the God)! 🙂