Saturday, April 18, 2009

Waiting


Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'
Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'
But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'
Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Last week we talked about Peter, about his transformation from a guy driven by emotion and fear to being a leader of the church; a man rock solid in his faith and the church. We talked about that transformation, and today we are going to zero in on one part of that change. Before I go into this study I want to make sure you know why you’re here. First, God has brought you here by divine appointment. It’s not because of me or your mom, though it may look like that. God has something here for you each time you come. There are two things you can take away. You may take them both, or just one or the other, and next week it will be the other way around. The first thing is what you take for yourself. God is in the business of making you like Himself. As we look at the Word and consider the claims of Jesus God speaks to you about you. Maybe it is something you need to do or to change or to consider. But you may be here and you’ve got it all together. You may not need what God brings today. In that case let me suggest that God wants you to take this stuff for someone else. Maybe you never really knew how to talk about sanctification or faith or hope, or how to express it to someone else. You can take what we talk about here and share it with others. It helps sharpen your understanding and confidence, so you can build into someone else’s life. I’m glad you’re here, and I pray there is something here for you to take on your journey to Christ-likeness.

So, we had great services last week, no what? What did the disciples do? They spent their time fasting and praying and worshipping and in the Scriptures. They were waiting for God to show up. So, as they waited upon god’s timing, they focussed on the basics of the faith. Let’s talk about those periods of life when we are waiting for God to show up. We know He is always there, but we are praying fervently for something and waiting for an answer. We are wanting more of Him, but don’t seem to be hearing from Him. Everything seems to be going along pretty well, but we seem to be in a delaying period. The airplane is circling the airport waiting for their turn to land…

The value of waiting right. It is when God is silent, when we are in the in between times of His interaction with us, that we have the chance to prove our faith; to express our faith, to exercise our faith. You come visit me at my house and as you sit in my living room you look up and see on a shelf a circular saw. As you sit I regale you with stories of how wonderful my saw is and what projects I will do with it; but it is brand new, still in the box. You are not too impressed. Why? You are leery because I have never tried out my saw. I never put it to use, to see if I could cut a straight line. Quite a while ago I had a Mercury Grand Marquis station wagon. If you looked at it when I sold it you would have noticed a neat little slot cut in the trim above the passenger side rear wheel. I had leaned a piece of plywood against the car and needed to cut it in half. The saw blade was a bit further out than I realized and so the car was sold with a slot the width of a saw blade in it. Sometimes when we actually go out to do something, it doesn’t go as expected. Our mastery of the tools we own aren’t quite what we led ourselves to believe.
So it is with our faith. Often God is silent so He can get out of the way so we can see what our faith is actually made of. Does it bend precipitously under the slightest pressure or is it rock solid through the toughest gale? Is it something we just put on when we think we need it or do we carry it around like the pencil in the ear, always having it ready for when we need it?
I have one of those all in one weight machines in my basement. I know purists will say right away that that is my first problem. I really need free weights to get the most out of my exercises. The fact is, if I want a bigger bicep, I have to exercise it. I can’t just look at my arm and visualize and 18” arm and then it will happen. I have to get on that machine and do flys and Preacher Curls and work my arm, 3 times a week for a long time. With right eating and no injuries, I could do it. One reason I don’t have 18” biceps is because I haven’t done it. It’s easy to talk about my weight machine, the specific exercises, and even walk around wearing baggy shirts and shorts. It’s easy to say, but to actually do it is much harder. And it shows in my physique. So, how’s your faith? Have you exercised it lately? Are you exercising it in small things so it grows? It is easy when times are good to talk about Jesus and faith, but do you still cling to Him in the tough times?
After Jesus died and was resurrected, there was a waiting. The disciples and followers of Jesus focused on the basics and did those simple things, those little things that ground us in the faith. And there came a time when the waiting was up! Finally, God showed up, and in a big way!

The result of waiting right. So God shows up! The thing we have been waiting for happens, even if we didn’t know what we were waiting for. What we will discover, though, that as we were busy focussing on the basics and doing the little things well, as we were waiting right, we are now ready for God to use us.

  • We are prepared - Our time spent on the basics has prepared us for God’s presence. Often when He shows up He does a new thing. Remember Pentecost? That’s where the ministry of the Holy Spirit was inaugurated for Christians. Jesus promised He would not leave us comfortless, but would send the Comforter. So the Comforter comes, the disciples spoke in tongues, and in a few short years the Gospel was sent to the Gentiles. Talk about a new thing! Only those current in their faith, though, were able to plug in to what God was doing. As we spend our waiting time becoming all we can be in Christ, He can then lead us on because we get it. If we just sit around and cruise in our faith during the waiting, we run the danger of becoming aligned with the grumblers and complainers. Think of the stories of Israel coming out of slavery in Egypt, and proceeding to the Promised Land. Again and again you see people who couldn’t get with the program God had set. They couldn’t see or hear what God was doing because they weren’t tuned in to Him. Where was their faith when things got difficult? It was way back there somewhere, miles from where it should have been. Only 2 of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land had a faith that said, “We can do it because God is with us.” And only those 2 entered in. Wait right, so you are prepared for God’s coming.
  • We are available - God loves to use people for His ministry. Saul became Paul and traveled the world after spending some 3 years in the wilderness waiting for God. Remember when Jesus was brought to the temple as a baby? Two people who had been waiting for God there whole life to show up, were ready to proclaim their simple message. Simeon blessed the baby and was used because he was available and ready. When you are prepared, you are available and ready. Remember the 5 virgins who were out of oil and not prepared and as a result got left out? Be prepared and available to God.
  • We are used. Life with God is an adventure. We will find that we were waiting for the big thing, the new thing, the public thing, but in our day to day life God has brought His kingdom near. Every day we live is a celebration of the incarnation. We don’t have to wait for Christmas or Easter because jesus is in our lives today. The miracle of His presence changes us, so that when we look back through that time of waiting, we find that we have actually become so much more than we realized. It is actually those dry times, those times of darkness, those times of waiting that we are most greatly refined. It is one of those paradoxes of the spiritual life. The times we feel most alone, we feel most sad or put down, those are the times our faith grows the most. As you go through that, and do the basics, clinging to God, He will use you in mighty ways to speak to those around you. Stay the course - God will never leave you nor forsake you.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

awesome food for thought! pj

Steve G said...

Glad it was thought -provoking for you, pj! I am doing a follow-up sermon on Hope next week.