Publication: Pastoral Letter, July 2009
Dear Friend in Christ:
Many people across the world are praying for revival, and some are experiencing it. For those of us who are waiting, I want to address the subject of how we wait. Is patience the same as passivity? Certainly not. God is patient, but He is absolutely not passive.
The difference between patience and passivity may not appear to the casual observer, but in reality, there is a vast chasm between the two. Here are some of the distinctions:
- Patience is something you exercise; passivity is failing to exercise.
- Patience is expectation; passivity is procrastination.
- Patience is powerful; passivity is purposeless.
- Patience is vigilant; passivity is slothful.
- Patience is hopeful; passivity is hopeless.
- Patience is faithful; passivity is faithless.
- Patience is aware; passivity is clueless.
- Patience is obedient; passivity is rebellious.
- Patience is a virtue; passivity is sinful.
Too many Christians are passive in the face of the threats to our future.
When a person goes to the doctor, there is usually a waiting room, where we….wait. Passivity is ignoring the symptoms and failing to address reality.We may not like to wait at the doctor’s office, but it beats waiting for disaster through passivity.
WAITING FOR GOD
It’s one thing to wait for a doctor, quite another to wait for God. The doctor is in charge of his practice, but God is in charge of all. The books of Psalms and Isaiah frequently reference waiting on the Lord. Jesus often spoke to impatient disciples about waiting.
We are in a season of 2 Chronicles 7:14 … humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face, repenting, and waiting for His hearing and His time. It is critical that we all be active in these regards and realize that we are dealing with God_the One who holds the future. But these instructions include waiting on God to bring deliverance.
The issues before us are serious. Recently, as I lay in bed waiting for sleep, the Lord spoke to me: “Is it a serious need for an awakening to come to the Church?” I answered, “Yes.” Then He asked, “Do you believe that I am serious?” I answered “Yes.” Finally He asked, “Are you serious?” I hesitated, “Not as serious as I need to be.”
We are too often serious about the trivial and passive about the vital. Waiting on the doctor may seem frustrating or waiting on a light to change may cause inconvenience, but we are far too passive when it comes to issues on God’s agenda.
David was anointed to become king while he was still a shepherd boy. He had to wait, even as Saul’s musician. Then he waited after great victories in battle and finally waited as Saul tried to kill him. He understood that only God could bring the promise to pass. But was he passive? No! He took care of his father’s sheep; he fought in battles; he played music before the king. He was active, but patiently waiting on the Lord. He was engaged, vertical in his faith,and possessed his soul and strength with focus (see Luke 21:19).
While waiting in the doctor, a person might read or meditate on what to tell or ask the doctor. It may be important to use that time. But what about waiting on God? Should we be passive? I would encourage you to study Psalm 37 for the answer.
In 1965, I was in a difficult time. As a Southern Baptist pastor, I had received a baptism with the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues. As word got out that I had testified to this experience, there was much opposition. It was not “Baptist.” I had become a “Holy Roller”.
Some key members of the church sought to have me voted out. I had a wife and baby to support, and my entire future as a Baptist pastor was in jeopardy. Numerous friends turned against me. My world was being disturbed. It was in those days that the Lord gave me Psalm 37. I learned to wait on God. Here are some things to do, or not do, while waiting for God’s deliverance:
Verse 1. Don’t fret because of evildoers. Do not become anxious. Do not be envious of those who seem to prosper in iniquity.
Verse 3. Trust in the Lord and do good – what is right. Dwell in the Lord – don’t run away, but feed on God’s faithfulness. Study the Scriptures and recall God’s past work on your behalf.
Verse 4. Take delight in the Lord. Focus on who He is. Strengthen your faith in His faithfulness.
Verse 5. Commit your way to Him; trust Him and don’t tell Him how to do it.
Verse 7. Rest in the Lord. While the enemy works, trust will be your rest and peace. Don’t be like the prophets of Baal who kept leaping in the altar and cutting themselves (see I Kings 18). Be like Elijah who waited and waited.
Verse 8. Don’t get angry… flee from wrath. Fretting only causes harm. It is not between us and them; it is between them and God.
Verse 21. Show mercy, even when under attack.
Verse 24. If you fall or get knocked down, allow the Lord to help you up again.
Verse 27. Depart from evil. If the Lord shows you sin in your own life, get rid of it.
Verse 34. Wait on the Lord and actively keep in His way.
Verse 40. The chapter ends with this promise, “And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked and save them because they trust in Him” (Psalm 37:40;see also 1 Chronicles 5:20).
These words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by someone who knew these truths firsthand.
WAITING IN PRAYER
Prayer is more than talking to God. In fact, that may not be the most important part. Listening to God is where the real answers are. Waiting is listening. If we simply talk, and then close with “amen”, we may miss the better part. If God knows that we will not listen . . . will He?
My father had a church member who would call on the phone and go into an endless, one-sided conversation. He could leave the phone and return, and this person never knew that he had left. I have often wondered if God does that. The overwhelming number of prayers are one-sided. We fail to wait for an answer and often don’t expect one.
Waiting on God gives us opportunity to still our soul and know that He is God (see Psalm 46:10). If the winds and the seas could be still at His voice, could we not do the same? Could we not meditate on the majesty of God and the wonders of His grace toward us? Could we not consider Christ Jesus, by whose precious blood we enter into His presence? Would it not be true that waiting in His presence reminds us that He is God, and we are not; that He is in control, and we are not?
It is possible that while we wait and focus on Him, that He might point out some sin in our lives which threatens our safety or some lurking adversary that we had not seen. While we are still and quiet, God may deem us slow to speak and ready to hear.
While we wait, the Lord might speak words of encouragement or direction that would lead to some unexpected blessing. He might direct us to some passage of Scripture that contains a word especially for our situation. The Holy Spirit speaks in a quiet voice, and our souls must be quiet to hear Him. We must come to a place where earthly noise is shut out of our spirit in order to hear Him.
It is my experience that this condition is not easily obtained. I have to drive out to the “countryside” of my “busy-streeted” mind in order to arrive at some degree of serenity. God is out there waiting for me. Too many of us live in a crowded theatre full of thoughts and some of them are yelling, “Fire!”
THOSE THAT WAIT
Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible. It begins with “‘Comfort my people!’ says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem and cry out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . ’ ” Then the chapter introduces the ministry of John the Baptist who would prepare the way of the Lord…seven hundred years later – talk about waiting!
The prophet was told to comfort God’s people with a hope that was yet to come… “The glory of the Lord would be revealed.” The chapter goes on to declare the good news that God would come to this people and feed them like a good shepherd, and He did!
Then the prophet devotes himself to describing the majesty and sovereignty of God. Nothing is compared to Him. In verse 28,he reminds us that God never gets weary; He never fails to understand, and He never lacks power. The chapter closes with this great promise, “Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.”
I have wondered that He said fly first, run, then walk. I would have reversed the order_walk, run, then fly. Perhaps walking was the last blessing of waiting because walking in the Spirit takes more patience than flying or “running in the Spirit.”Walking displays confidence that we shall arrive if we are willing to wait upon the Lord.
THE ISSUES ARE SERIOUS
Yes, I believe that the issues are serious, and that God is serious about His purpose_so much so that I believe He will send a visitation of His power. The question that remains is, are we serious…serious enough to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, repent, and . . . wait.
I urge groups of like-minded followers of Jesus to gather in small groups and seek the Lord. Learn to pray honestly to our sovereign, awesome God; to repent, wait, and listen. He has answered before, and He will answer again. Please do not be passive about this.
P.S. As you pray, I want to sincerely ask you to intercede for CSM, especially during this summer. We have so many difficult tasks before us – great opportunities, but much work also_and we need the wisdom, strength, and provision of the Lord. As I write this, we are out of cash reserves and, like many other ministries around the nation, we face the possibility of significant financial shortfalls as a ministry. Would you pray about giving a special gift to support CSM this month? Please see the enclosed card and envelope, or visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org.
Scripture Reference: 2 Chronicles, Luke, Psalms, 1 Kings, 1 Chronicles, Isaiah