Waiting on the Lord
Charles Naylor, 1920
Some people are always in a hurry about things. If they want to do something or to have something — they cannot wait, they must do it or have it at once. When they are compelled to wait, the time seems very long and their impatience grows with every delay. They cannot quietly and patiently wait for anything.
Such people bring this same characteristic into their spiritual lives. When they pray, they want an immediate answer — they want God to hurry up. If the answer is delayed, they get all worked up about it. Sometimes they murmur against the Lord and feel very bad, like spoiled children. Sometimes they pray a few times for what they desire, and if the answer does not come, then they conclude that God does not mean to answer them; so they give up seeking for it and sometimes question God's faithfulness.
If they see something that needs doing, or something that is not going to please them — it must be remedied immediately; if it is not, they are much displeased. They cannot wait for a proper time or until things have worked out so that they can be properly handled. Their motto seems to be, "Do it now!"
That is all very well for some things, but quite frequently it is necessary to patiently wait on the Lord and upon others. We cannot hurry the Lord — all time is his. He works according to his own purposes and will, according to his own wisdom and plans. We cannot choose for him — we must be willing for him to choose for us. It must be his to say both as to "when" and "how." Ours is to wait and trust — his is to choose and do.
Many years ago I read a story. Later, when I was lying on my bed of affliction and praying earnestly for God to restore my health, he brought to my mind this story and applied its lesson to my soul. It was such a help to me that I will give it to you also. I had been much troubled because I was not healed. I would pray very earnestly, with a longing that seemed to draw out all my soul. Others would pray also, but there was no answer from God. Disappointment and discouragement seemed to shut me in with walls of darkness. A feeling of helplessness and almost of utter hopelessness came over me. I was in this condition when God brought to my memory this long-forgotten story and applied it to my heart with a peculiar emphasis that made it a direct message from him to my soul.
This is the story: The king of a certain country was growing old, and he had no son to succeed him. He announced to his people that he would choose an heir to the throne from among the young men of the country by a competitive test which would give all an equal chance. On the day appointed a great number of young men presented themselves. A certain test was made, and some failed while others passed. Then other tests came, and each time some were rejected until at last only three were left.
They were put through test after test, but all seemed equally able to meet them, so the king announced through his heralds that on the next day the matter would be decided by a foot-race. The course was marked off, the judges were at their places, and all was ready. Just at this time a man came up to each of the contestants and said secretly to him, "The king is taking special note of you. Do not run when the signal is given until the king gives you a special signal."
The three took their places eager for the race. The signal was given, one bounded forward quickly — then hesitated and stopped; then another sprang forward after him, upon which the first started forward again and they ran for the goal with all speed. The third stood looking anxiously at the king and at the two runners, murmuring to himself, "I can make it yet, I can make it yet." The king gazed at the runners and gave no heed to the one still standing. The waiting man thought himself forgotten and soon realized that it would be impossible for him to win the race. He felt that all was lost for him.
The two runners ran on at top speed, reaching the goal together. They were brought back, and all three stood before the king. To the first he said, "Were you not told not to run until I gave you the signal? Why then did you run?"
"I forgot," said the man.
Of the second he asked the same question. His reply was, "I thought it would be but a moment until you would give the signal, and seeing the other running I ran also."
To the third he said, "And why did not you run?"
"Because you did not give me the signal, sir," he answered.
"My son," said the king, "I knew that you could run, but I did not know that you could wait." So the young man found that the test was not a test of doing, but of waiting.
And thus the Lord said to me that day, "I knew that you could run, I knew that you would work with all your strength — but can you wait on me?" These words have been repeated over and over in my heart during the long years. It was a hard lesson to learn, and many times I have grown weary, many times I have longed for the end of the waiting; but that lesson has helped me to bear and to wait and to be patient in the waiting. Sometimes it has seemed that the answer would never come. Sometimes it has seemed that the Lord had forgotten. Many times I have had to say to my heart, "Be patient and wait!" This is the hardest lesson that many of us ever have to learn, but learn it we must if God's will and his plan are to be fulfilled in our lives.
There are some things for which we do not need to wait, but for which we need to press our petitions with earnestness and diligence and with an out-reaching grasp of faith for a "now" answer. For example, the supplying of a soul-need, such as forgiveness or spiritual strength, or physical or other help where the need is urgent. Sometimes people think that it is not the Lord's time to save or sanctify them or to give them something else that is needed at once — when the trouble is they do not get in earnest enough or do not exercise faith as they might. God's time for necessary things, and especially for salvation work, is 'now'; and if we do not receive when we seek, we may look for the fault in ourselves or in our manner of seeking. Waiting on the Lord is not needful in this class of things, and it will only hinder receiving.
There are, however, many other things for which we may not know God's time, and in the case of which growing impatient and trying to force matters will grieve God and hinder us. Unfulfilled desire patiently and submissively met, is often a powerful factor in character-building.
Have you prayed for things, yearned for them, reached out after them — and yet your prayer is not yet answered? Have you been tempted to believe that it was of no use to seek for them? If you are not seeking selfishly, or if God has not denied you — do not lose faith. God has said, "Ask, and you shall receive"; and again he says, "Those who wait for me shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 49:23).
God is faithful. He knows what is best. As a loving Father he watches over you. His ear is open to your cry. We are told to "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Do not grow impatient, do not become wrought up, but while you must wait on the Lord — rest in him.
Jeremiah tells us how to wait for God to deliver, "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Lam. 3:26). Think of that expression, "hope and quietly wait." Do not these words mean confidence and soul-rest? Do they not mean assurance and trust? They do not mean, however, that we should be careless. They imply activity of faith and desire, but they shut out fear and unbelief. The Psalmist says, "Wait on the Lord — be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart" (Psalm 27:14). Keep up your courage while you wait, do not grow despondent, be strong in faith — God will not fail!
Again, we are exhorted to "wait on the Lord, and keep his way" (Psalm 37:34). If wrongs are not righted; if persecutions continue; if, like Paul, we have a "thorn in the flesh" and our desires are not granted — then let us do what this text tells us — let us "keep His way." Let us serve the Lord just as truly as though conditions were ideal and all our desires satisfied. Let us show our fidelity to God, by being true whether circumstances are favorable or unfavorable.
God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, but he went up and down in it for many years as a stranger. His posterity went into Egypt and there, under the lash of the taskmaster, they waited, waited, waited. Did not they have God's promise? Had he not said that that goodly land should be theirs? Why did he wait so long? Was this the way that he fulfilled his promise? Had he forgotten them? Did their cries to him fall on deaf ears?
Their waiting was not easy. It was long and oh, how wearisome! Why did God wait so long — was there any adequate reason? Yes, when God waits, there is always a good reason for the waiting. His acts are not arbitrary; he does not act according to caprice; he acts wisely and when it is best. He tells us why he delayed in this case — it was because the sins of the Canaanites had not yet come to the full. When they reached that point, the Lord fulfilled his promise and led the children of Israel out of their bondage into that goodly land.
Have you learned this lesson of waiting upon the Lord? Can you commit your ways to him, and feel that if desire is still unsatisfied, if obstacles are not yet removed, if trials yet bear upon you — the Father-love is not growing cold, nor his hearing dull, nor has he forgotten? In the proper time and way the answer will be sure, and because of the delay the answer will be fuller and will enrich you more than if it had come when first you asked. Wait patiently on the Lord, trust also in him, be not weary in well-doing — and out of your waiting will come strength, and out of your sorrow will come rejoicing, and out of the bitterness will come sweetness — and at the end of the way you will find a crown and life everlasting!