Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent - Waiting



When you came today, did you think, “God has brought me here by divine appointment?” God has something here for you not just today, but 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 may be the other one 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 for yourself. 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.


As you read the recorded history of God at work in the world, you see time and time again people waiting. We find David, waiting after his anointing for king Saul to die (or leave the throne). Before that we see Israel waiting for deliverance from bondage in Egypt for some 350 years. After the last prophet spoke, Israel was waiting for 300 years for a prophet’s voice. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. Simeon and Anna, both connected to the temple, were waiting for something God had said was coming. Imagine being 5 and understanding God speaking to you and saying you will see the Messiah in the temple. 70 years later the memory is still clear, but maybe you are tired of waiting, tired of waiting around the temple.

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 want 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. How are you at waiting?

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. Ben is in wrestling. If I stay by his side the whole time - he is in a match and I am there whispering in his ear telling him to do this and that, Ben doesn’t learn much. In fact, it is almost me wrestling, rather than him. If I am quiet and let Ben do “his” thing, whatever the outcome, then it is Ben wrestling. So it is with God. God is quiet sometimes so we can see how we’re doing. Our character has a chance to be proven. 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 truth is if I want a bigger bicep, I have to exercise it. I can’t just look at my arm and visualize an 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, or when God seems to be silent?

After the last prophet was heard, Israel started waiting. And in the midst of the waiting, when it seemed like God was taking forever, there came the 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. We pray, we get into the Word, we fellowship with our brothers, we strive to grow and yield to God so He can continue that work of holiness in our lives. What we will discover is that as we were busy focussing on the basics and doing the little things well, as we were waiting right, we will be 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 be 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 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.

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