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What’s Your Role on the Stage of Life?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

It’s been said that the “whole world is a stage and everyone plays a part.”   Within my immediate family, I am the heroine playing many different roles–wife, mother, daughter, sister.

Some roles I “rehearsed for”.  For the role of wife, there were several callbacks and a few rejections.  The other roles, I inherited on the day that I took center stage (my birthday). These roles are challenging, requiring much prayer and patience.

As I reflect on the activities of this week, I considered this thought.  What role did I play in the life of those I came into contact with this week?  How well did I play my part?

  • Was I the villain–the antagonist who is always trying to interrupt the plans of others?
  • Was I a supporting actress–insuring that the lead actor and actress had what they needed to “shine” and deliver the story line?

We have a choice as to how we respond to those God places in our path.  We can either be a help or a hindrance; a bearer of encouragement or the purveyor of strife.

The word encouragement originated in the 15th century from the French word encoragieren which means “cause” and corage that means “courage.”  As I look around our world and yes, our churches too, there is a need for us to “cause courage”.  The role requires minimal rehearsal time and is easy to play–a kind word, a smile, a soft touch on the shoulder.  Let God’s Word begin to frame your role.

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Apostle Paul spoke often about encouragement.  When his plans to visit the church at Thessalonica fell through, he sent in his place Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.  Timothy played the supporting role of “brother, minister of God, and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

Everyday we are to go forth in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to play a critical role in this fallen world.  Jesus’ message to His disciples in the 1st century hold true for believers today:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

How well are you playing your part on the stage of life?

What is Your Eternal Net Worth?

One of my favorite Bible teachers and minister, Alstair Begg, recently chastised us for being more concerned with our IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) than our IEAs (Individual Eternity Accounts).  That brought to mind a WordBytes teaching I had written a few years ago.  It still has relevancy for those who have “an ear to hear.”  I hope you enjoy it.

“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Cor. 3:12-15 (NIV)

Net worth is a financial term used to describe the total value of all possessions minus all outstanding debt.  It reflects what is earned for personal benefit.  If we apply this financial term to spiritual things, eternal net worth is the value of one’s works that will be accounted to the believer for reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  How comfortable are you with your eternal net worth?  Here are some factors for consideration as you answer this question.

The Day will bring it to light.   The Day refers to the time of the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Bema Seat (1 Cor. 3:13) where each believer may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10). It is appointed to man once to die and then the judgment. (Heb. 9:27)  We will not be judge for our previous sins since Jesus Christ paid that price on Calvary.  It is here where believers will receive their eternal rewards.

Fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  At the Bema Seat, before issuance of eternal rewards there will be a “testing” of the worth of the believer’s completed works. The quality of the work is judged on its eternal value. Works of eternal value result in expansion and extension of God’s kingdom on earth. (Isaiah 61:1- 3)

If what he has built survives, there is reward.  One of God’s moral qualities is justice.  It is here where He will fairly evaluate not only the end result of the believer’s works but also the motives and the attitudes behind them. (Rom. 2:16)  To receive reward, the believer’s work must pass the holy scrutiny of God’s evaluation.  (1 Cor. 3:14)

If what he has built is burned, there is loss. The salvation of the believer will not be loss but how sad it will be for them to see their worthless works burn in the holy fire of God.  They will leave God’s throne with no rewards.  They will have no crowns to cast at the Savior’s feet. (Rev. 4:10)

Faith and action work together; faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:22-26) While our works are not redemptive in nature they do reflect our obedience and submission to God’s plan and purpose for our life. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field. (1 Cor. 3:9)  What is your eternal net worth?

The Road to New Things

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the

LORD hath created a new thing in the earth,

A woman shall compass a man. Jer. 31:22 (KJV)

A road is literally defined as a wide way leading from one place to another. We also think of roads as access to new opportunities of commerce or development.

A road can also describe a series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome. In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck uses “road” figuratively to describe the sometimes hard and often painful process of change. Peck uses the “road less traveled” as a illustration of the journey this requires.

In Jeremiah 31, the prophet speaks to the people of God in Babylon to prepare them for a “road”—both literally and figuratively—that would return them to their own land after their 70-year exile.

Jeremiah’s message is clear. They are not to be afraid or lose heart. They are to be focused with a firm resolution to rebuild the nation of Israel. In today’s text specifically, Israel is called to reframe from falling back into their old rebellious habits as God creates a new road to their salvation—a “new thing” that had never been done before (or since).

Israel is warned against potential backsliding which is interpreted as “faithless”. In the past both Israel and Judah had consistently failed to “holdfast” to God and depend solely on Him for their every need. (Job 27:6) The results was always disastrous as proven by the conquest of both nations.

Where are you placing your faith? Is it in people—elected officials, family members, or friends? Is it in things—bank accounts, social status, or professional affiliations? Is it in self—your intellect, looks, or personality? When Jesus returns, will He find you faithful? (Luke 18:8)

Israel is encouraged to trust God, Who would create a “new thing”—interpreted as strange and surprising—in the earth. God would create a woman who would “compass” or protect man.

Many interpreters understand this “new thing” to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  A woman, the Virgin Mary, enclosed in her womb the Might One. This was to be their incentive.

They would know that with their return from exile came the promise of not only their physical restoration but the spiritual blessing of the Mighty God (Is. 9:6). God would not cast off His people but bless them. This was to be their assurance.

And what is the road for us today? How do we live in the knowledge of this “new thing”? Knowing the blessings of being in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).

We live attentively in God’s presence. Assured that He is creating new opportunities for us if we would but listen for His voice and watch where He is working. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We live expectantly in God’s provision. God has provided all that we need to live godly lives and to accomplish His purpose in our lives. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

We live faithfully in God’s purpose. As the elect of God we live by faith. We do not backslide or “draw back unto perdition” but trust that He who began this “good work in us” is able to complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

Our journey to understanding “new things” has hopefully provided incentive and inspiration to walk in the divine purpose God has created for our lives. When we as believers trust God and understand God’s reason for “new things”, we can move forward joyfully in faith and confidence.

The Reason for New Things

But if the LORD make a new thing and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD.  Num. 16:30 (KJV) 

It is human nature to resist doing new things even if new things offer more than the status quo.  Our text takes us to the Book of Numbers where we observe the impact of a nation’s resistance to God and His divine purpose for their life.  What should have been an eleven-day journey resulted in a forty year “funeral procession” (Num. 14:28-29; 32-35).  Regardless of Israel’s opposition, God would show them a reason for His new thing.

From the time of their departure, Israel complained and was rebellious against not only the leadership of Moses and Aaron but also against God Himself.  Israel had seen the many miracles of God yet “Israel had Egypt in their hearts, regardless of what God did for them even as they marched into the wilderness.”[1]

Where is your heart?  When God attempts to move you to your divine purpose, do you complain and murmur?  Is your affection set on the things of this world when God’s plan offers much more? (Col. 3:2-4)

Motivated by jealousy and envy, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram attempted to seize the priesthood from Aaron and his sons. In so doing, they also challenged the sovereignty and authority of God. In the wilderness, God would teach Israel a painful lesson about the reason for “new things”—about sacrifice, authority, and responsibility.  [Read Numbers 15:1-20:13]  That “new thing” would come with a price—it would cost Korah, Dathan, and Abiram their life, their families’ lives plus the lives of 14,700 people within Israel’s camp.

One of the reasons for God’s severity in punishing Israel was to prepare the way for His new thing—a people who would accept the “new beginning” He had readied for them in the Promised Land.  It would be there that Israel would experience new victories, a new priest (Eleazar), a new leader (Joshua), and a new generation.

How does God use “new things” in our life?

  • God might need to reset or reboot our current efforts. Stalled plans, ungodly influences or fleshly lusts can often take us off the path God sovereignly chooses for us.  God’s intervention will guarantee success. (Phil. 1:6)
  • God may desire to take us out of our comfort zone. He may even allow “trials and tribulations” into our life to move us forward.  In trusting and waiting on the Lord, we find courage to persevere as we pursue God’s plan for our life.  (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
  • God could choose to introduce us to an opportunity that may not have been on our radar screen. It is in those moments we can depend wholly on God to bring prospects into our life that will result in our good and His glory.   (Matt. 7:11)

God always has a reason for introducing new things into our life.  They may not be easy but they are always worth it.  We may not understand “why” but we can trust “Who” (God).

In the past when faced with new things, I was like Israel, guilty of complaining and murmuring.  Out of fear and frustration, I would cry, “Lord, why me?” I now choose God’s path for my life and when faced with “new things” I sigh in faith and confidence, “Lord, it’s YOU and me!”

[1]   Wiersbe Bible Commentary

Invitation to a New Thing

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Is. 43:19 (KJV)

Do you need inspiration and purpose for your life?  You’ve finished 2018 and here’s another year—like the other “new year” and you’re asking this haunting question, “What can I do to make this year better than the last?”

You may have made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, gain more faith, or increase your personal time with family.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of your annual fast and prayer effort to discipline your body and renew your spirit.  Good for you!  But isn’t that the same thing you did last year?

Maybe it’s time to change your thinking as you create ways to make this year better.  Maybe it’s time to do a “new thing”!   In this mini-series, we will examine three (3) Old Testament scripture to develop new thought on how to walk in God’s divine purpose for your life.

It’s been said, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you got!”  So do a new thing!  God’s thing!  Walk in the divine purpose God created just for you—from the beginning of time (Eph. 2:10).

In the Old Testament, the use of “a new thing” is cited in only three (3) texts:  Isaiah 43:19, Numbers 16:30, and Jeremiah 31:22.  Here they describe situations where God’s greatness and sovereignty is on display as He “invites man” to move into His designated purpose.

In the New Testament this concept of “a new thing” is manifested in the fulfillment of Messiah who came to gift us with salvation and to restore man to God’s original purpose—to glorify Him and live with Him forever.  God was unable to fulfill His purpose through families, tribes or kings; through prophets, mediators or priests.  God brought salvation to earth through Jesus Christ—“God’s new thing”.

This “new thing” would result in:

  • The Kingdom of God coming to earth. (Matt. 4:17)
  • Mercy, grace, and truth. (Ps. 85:10)
  • Man becoming a “new creation”. (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • Freedom from the penalty and power of sin. (Rom. 8:1)

Now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” See what happens when God does a “new thing”.

In our text today, God is promising to retrieve and restore Israel from their 70-year exile.  Their deliverance out of captivity would be more famous than that from Egypt (Jer. 23:6-8).  Israel thought they knew God but He was about to show them something different—“a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert”.  To do this would be humanly impossible but God alone had the power and authority to do “a new thing” (Is. 45:7, 12).

Are you “lost in the wilderness”—trying to figure out which way to go?  Are you searching for “rivers in the desert”—relief from dealing with the struggles and setbacks in your life?  God wants to do a “new thing” in your life so you can walk in His divine purpose.  How will you know your divine purpose?

Here are a few thoughts to begin your journey:

  • Position yourself to hear God speak to you—pray, read and meditate on His Word.
  • Reflect on where God has been working in your life.
  • Humbly confess areas of sin in your life that are interfering with your hearing God.

Then, ask God how you can serve in His Kingdom (your purpose), wait patiently and listen attentively.  God invites you to join Him in doing a “new thing.”  When we trust God with our lives, we can look forward to an exciting future with purpose (Jer. 29:11).

The ABC’s of Waiting: The Purpose of Waiting

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:26, NRS)

What have we learned to date about waiting?  By definition waiting “is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.”

How do we feel about waiting?

  • We don’t like to wait.
  • Waiting has emotional costs—stress and boredom.
  • Our “waiting tolerance” is often determined by our generational mindset—Baby Boomer, Gen X, Y, Z.
  • Our anxiety (with waiting) is caused by what we do with the “unoccupied time” while waiting.
  • The Christian view of waiting is different than the secular view because God, from whom we derive our meaning and reality, operates “outside of time”—in eternity.
  • Our difficulty in waiting often stems from our “flesh-based” needs—impatience, pride, independence, and stubbornness.

Understanding these realities, it may be helpful at this time to revisit our personal perspective of waiting.   From a Christian perspective, why is it good to wait?  Consider these ABC’s of Waiting.

Waiting helps believers:

Accept the sovereignty of God (Acts 17:28).   God’s sovereignty is defined as His preeminent power and authority, a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  While God has given man “free-will”, it is critical for believers to “choose God”—to trust Him unconditionally.  God will always do what is best for His children including delays in privileges, plans, and purposes. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted that it was good for Israel to wait because God had the best solution for their situation—His salvation.  Waiting embraces God’s sovereignty.

Build strong spiritual muscles (1 Peter 1:13-15).  While we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we still live in sin’s presence and in our “fleshly” bodies.  Believers in Christ must be able to remain faithful during this postmodern era when our tenets of faith are continually under attack.  We must be patient as we listen for God’s instructions on where we are to serve.  Believers must endure hard trials and temptations, as we expand The Kingdom of God and wage spiritual warfare against Satan.  Waiting strengthens our spiritual muscles.

Create godly character and intimacy with the Father (1 John 3:3).  While waiting we draw near to God and listen for His voice through prayer and reading His Word.  As we practice the presence of God, we taste the wonders of His transforming power and His future rewards.  Because of this, believers are willing to accept delays and interruptions rather than demand “instant gratification” based on fleshly lusts and worldly influence.   Waiting transforms our lives.

I end today’s teaching with God’s Word to His people Israel through the Prophet Isaiah—a word to prepare them for their 70-year wait in exile:

“He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;  but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:29-31

There is always purpose in God’s wait—embrace it, let it strengthen you, let it transform your life.

What I Learned in 2018

This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.  Isaiah 43:21 (NKJ)

Yes, it’s that time again.  Another year has passed and I find myself asking, “where has the time gone and what did I do with it?”   As I glance over at the grocery store newsstand, I see the various renderings of what 2018 has been about—politics, weddings, and celebrations of life.

As it is with the dropping of the New Year’s ball in Times Square, it is the tradition of In the Word Ministries to mark the start of the New Year by asking, “What did I learn this past year?”  This year, I avoided looking back at 2018 WordBytes or my journal to give me a hint.  Instead I simply asked the Holy Spirit to distill all I had experienced in 2018 into two or three areas I could share with you.  The Holy Spirit (as usual) exceeded my expectations and gave me one word—PURPOSE.  Although one word, my learning about purpose could fill volumes.  I will attempt to be succinct.  See if any of these resonate with you.

  1. It is critical to understand God’s purpose (Acts 17:28). Every New Year a dear friend asks me what I am believing and depending on God for in the upcoming year.  The better question should be, “how can God best use me for His purpose in the upcoming year?” Key to understanding purpose is accepting the sovereignty of God—the “True Source” of our purpose.  As we begin our year fasting and praying, we should seek to understand our purpose as a direct outgrowth of God’s divine plan (Eph. 2:10).
  1. It is important to pursue God’s purpose (Heb. 11:13). Not to follow God’s purpose is willful disobedience that can result in negative consequences.  This year, God challenged me to undertake an area that did not “fit” the core competencies or strategic plan developed for the ministry.  God had spoken this new direction to me in three separate prophetic messages over a four year period.  I knew it was a mistake—mine!  But God was patient.  And yes, God has the authority to “change our direction” and do a “new thing” in our lives (Is. 43:19). I finally accepted the direction although I haven’t a clue as to where God is taking me.  God, however, knows and that’s what is important (Gen.12:1-4).
  1. It is essential to position ourselves for God’s purpose (Heb. 12:1). In Isaiah 43, God shares His future plan to redeem His people, Israel, now living in captivity.  They had historically rejected God’s purpose which was to reflect God goodness and glory to the world ultimately bringing them into His eternal Kingdom.  But Israel pursued its own purpose (Jer. 17:23).  They were not in position to accomplish God’s purpose, therefore they were sent into captivity for 70 years.  Their disobedience and distrust of God deprived them of God’s glorious purpose.

Like the children of Israel, we as believers often miss God’s divine purpose for our lives because of a number of factors.

  • We may operate out of fear. We are afraid of God’s purpose.  We fear we may not have the skills and capability to what God desires.  You may not have what you think you need, but God, through His Holy Spirit within us, will equip us for every assignment He gives.
  • We may lack trust. We’re afraid God won’t give us what we want.  God may not give you what you want but, be assured God will always give you what’s best for you.  Learn more about the nature of God—His goodness and His greatness.
  • We may be bound by sinful habits and relationships that we aren’t willing to release. Even King Solomon in all his wisdom was hindered from fulfilling God’s purpose because of willful disobedience and sinful patterns in his life.  Confess, repent, and lay hold of the extraordinary purpose which God has for you today.  Trade in what you think is “good” for the “best” God has in store for you.

The Westminster Catechism is a series of questions and answers (proof texts), on which Believers, affirm their faith in God.  The first question (out of 107 questions), is this:  “What is the chief end of man?”  In other words, what is man’s purpose?  The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

“To glorify God” is realized when we represent His rule and presence on the earth.  Created in God’s image, man can bring into reality the kingdom of God on earth and be in intimate relationship with Him.  With and in Christ, we now can pursue God’s unique purpose for our lives (1 Pet. 2:9).

“To enjoy God forever” has begun with the presence of the Holy Spirit with us—a foretaste of the ultimate glory that we will experience in full when we next meet Jesus—in heaven (upon our death) or in the air (upon Christ’s Second Return) (John 14:3).   The end will be the same—“eternal enjoyment.”

In 2019, I am living to understand, to pursue, and to position myself for God’s purpose.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ” (Matt. 6:10, 13)

What did you learn in 2018?

The Divine Gift Exchange

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. Romans 5:18 (KJV)

The tradition of exchanging gifts did not originate with man.  It was God who first gave the very best of Himself in exchange for man’s sinful soul.  Upon acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior, the new believer is gifted with a new heart and a new mind to follow God (Ezek. 36:26); he becomes part of the Body of Christ (The Church) with spiritual gifts for evangelizing, equipping, and edifying others.  The Apostle James states that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above who never changes (James 1:17).   God’s divine gift exchange exceeds anything that man can ever imagine.

In our study text, the Apostle Paul reminds the church in Rome of the perfect and free gift they have received in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:15-18).  As a result of the first Adam’s sin, man was condemned and separated from God.  In contrast, with the arrival of the second Adam (Jesus Christ), God offered to mankind the free gift of grace—the gift that would last throughout eternity.   What is the unique nature of that gift exchange?

The “incarnate life”—deity for humanity.  The arrival of Christ into history represented a holy God putting on flesh and dwelling with us (Matt. 1:23).  It was necessary that a lamb be provided for the atonement of sin (Lev. 4:32-35).  So God prepared for Himself a human body that would later become the “perfect lamb” for the sins of man (Heb. 9:13-14).  Jesus’ incarnation would mean that “whomsoever would call upon the name of the Lord would be saved” (Acts 2:21).

The “exchanged life”—righteousness for sin.  The Christ child was more than a sweet babe in swaddling clothing.  He was the long awaited “Consolation of Israel” and “redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38).  Just as the prophets had foretold, Jesus provided the bridge whereby man could be reconciled to God (Mat. 1:21; Titus 3:4-7).  Being justified by faith in God, redeemed man would receive Christ’s imputed righteousness as if it were his own and thereby become acceptable to God (Rom. 5:1).

The “empowered life”—strength for weakness.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Christ  would provide the power needed to accomplish the work that Christ had commissioned for not only His Disciples in the 1st century but also for the disciples in the 21st century (Matt. 28:19-20).  Prayer is the connection by which faith is energized.  There is an old Christian axiom that says, “Little prayer, little power; Much prayer, much power.”  Prayer and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provide the strength needed to meet the challenges of living and ministering in this fallen world.

The “resurrected life”—life for death.  Eternal life with God.  This is the greatest of God’s gifts.  Death’s sting has been removed; the fear of death is no more.  Through spiritual regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17) and continuous renewal by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2), Jesus pours out His life abundantly on us.  We now stand as heirs of God patiently wait for the redemption of our human souls for eternal life (Ep. 1:14).  “As we have born the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly; putting on the incorruption for corruption and immortality for this mortal” (1 Cor. 15: 49, 53).

We often misdirect our attention on Christmas shopping, holiday events and special parties.  While there is nothing wrong with these activities, we may often fail to acknowledge the Divine Gift and the Divine Gift Giver.  God has given us The Perfect Gift (Jesus Christ) through the ultimate gift exchange.  God has given us The Gift that will keep giving for all times and through eternity. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,  And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David.” Luke 1:68-69

Participate in the greatest gift exchange in your life by giving Jesus Christ YOUR LIFE.  St. Augustine said it this way, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  If you have not given your life to Him, do it today.

I Hate to Wait: The Process of Waiting

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.  Ps. 39:7 (RSV)

What goes on in our mind while we are waiting?  Why are we so anxious?  Why is waiting so difficult?   What is waiting really about?

Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.  It is the act of staying in one place or remaining inactive in expectation for something.

There are many views with regard to our “waiting tolerance.”  Some are unique to specific generational differences while others are common to all people regardless of age, socio-economic factors, or gender.

While much of our anxiety can be allayed based on the quality of the item one is waiting for, there is still a level of frustration that cannot be eliminated.

In a paper written by David Maister, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, he provides some insight into the psychology of waiting.  The main point is that the actual time spent waiting may have little to do with how long the wait feels.  What appears common is the whole issue of what to do with the time a person spends while waiting—the “unoccupied time”.

Unoccupied time is the window where the anxiety of waiting is the greatest.  It is the time spent in the present until the delayed outcome occurs. Give people something to occupy their time, and the wait will feel shorter.  How do you spend the unoccupied time while waiting?  (More on this aspect of waiting next week)

On a spiritual level, when one is waiting for healing, a word from the Lord, or emotional/financial release, the psychology of waiting takes on a distinctive difference.   Our normal perspective on waiting changes in lights of who we’re waiting for (God) and our level of confidence in the final outcome (also God’s).

In today’s text, David is crying out to God in a time of trouble.  His initial frustration in waiting is later transformed into “hope” by declaring his trust in God, who has always shown Himself faithful to his people and His Covenant.   David knows God will continue to do so, even when God’s specific plan for the future might not be fully understood.  Comfort in waiting is based on an overwhelming confidence or hope in God personally.

Interestingly, in my research of the word, “wait”, I was “re-directed” to the word “hope”.   Hope is one of the four principles we explore during Advent season in which we commemorate mankind’s waiting for Emmanuel, the promised Messiah.  Hope focuses attention on both “what awaits us” (Lam. 3:26; Ps. 37:34) and “the object of our wait” (Ps. 130:5-6).

In both the Old and New Testament the connection to hope and waiting is built on a personal relationship with and reliance on God.  While waiting in the secular world, causes frustration and anxiety, when anchored to God, waiting is filled with patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm (Acts 1:4).  Those who wait on God have the assurance that their waiting is for a specific purpose, which God is orchestrating.

There are many reasons we may have a problem with waiting.  Do any of these characteristics impact your waiting on God?

  • Impatience. We want what we want now.  Impatience is the inability to control one’s desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).
  • Pride. We operate with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  Pride is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10)
  • Independence.  “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  Independence is the need to control one’s affairs apart from outside influences (Luke 15:12-16), even God.
  • Stubbornness. Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness entails the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5)

As believers, we are not exempt from suffering and experiencing tragedy, yet we can face the future expectantly, waiting for the movement of God in our life.  We may have to wait a while for the full experience of the good that God intends for is, but be assured, God is fully committed to everyone who makes a faith commitment to him.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you;

therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him”.  Isaiah 30:18 

God, Time, and Waiting

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  Psalm 90:4 (RSV)

What is the socially acceptable time to wait?  In college, in the event the professor was delayed, we were instructed to wait for fifteen minutes before leaving.  If you go to a restaurant, you most likely can expect to wait before being seated.  The time wait is generally dependent on time of day, the popularity of the restaurant and the quality of the food. Regardless of “acceptability”, we still, at one time or another, are required to wait.

One of the biggest frustrations for individuals living in the 21st century is waiting.  Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

There are varying leveling of “waiting tolerance” based on generational differences, expectations, and the attraction of the desired outcome.

Baby Boomers, who tend to be more intentional in planning, are fairly comfortable with waiting based on the value of the outcome—waiting is tied to worth.  This is seen in their loyalty to career/employers and investment in relationship building.

For Generation X and Y, waiting is generally acceptable when it is connected to the availability of the desired item, vis-à-vis waiting for the latest IPhone or designer tennis shoe.

For Generation Z, born into a world that screams “instant gratification”, waiting is viewed as a negative—denoting that something is “broken” or “wrong” therefore interfering with receipt of their desired outcome.

All generations hate to wait—the difference lies in “what” or “who” is causing the delay—that even includes God.

What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?

Are the rules different?

If we are waiting for God—His intervention or direction—let me answer the second question first.  Yes, the “rules” are different because God is spirit—everlasting, eternal and immortal (John 4:24).

God exists not in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).  Time simply put is duration.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of time (2 Pet. 3:8).

In Psalm 90:4, Moses used a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A second is no different from an eon; a billion years pass like seconds to the eternal God.

In answer to the second question,“What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?”

My answer is simple—as long as God tells you to wait.  The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.  What makes the waiting for God “acceptable” (I struggle for a better word) is that God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).  Next week we’ll spend time exploring why we “hate to wait.”