I am becoming convinced that the skill of waiting—more specifically, waiting well—is central to a Christian’s growth and maturity. I know I’m not alone when I say that God has been asking me to wait recently. Without knowing what for (in some cases), without knowing how long (sometimes), without knowing the details—joys or thorns—along the way, and without knowing why, he is simply asking me to wait. Unless you’re a super saint (or you’re extremely lazy) waiting usually isn’t easy. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I respond when God says wait.
Right now, I can count several substantial things I’ve been asking God for in various ways and contexts. His answers have ranged from, “just a little bit longer,” to silence. I’m learning that God’s desire to teach us to wait is a lesson that runs deep into the human heart. If you’re honest, waiting likely doesn’t rank high on your list of spiritual maturity issues. But consider for a second how intrinsically linked waiting is to character traits such as faith, trust, dependence, submission of will, selflessness, humility, etc. Could it be that growth in all of these other areas is tied to the lesson of learning to wait? If you can’t wait on the Lord then you’re not submitted to his sovereignty, you’re not depending on him for guidance, you’re not acting selflessly, and you’re not trusting that he knows what’s good for you better than you do. I’m just beginning to learn how important a skill this is to my walk with God. And it hasn’t been an easy path. In fact, the road has been full of potholes. But, as my alma mater’s motto used to be, “God never promised an easy path.”
The English word ‘wait’ appears 101 times in the KJV (the English word covered more meanings back then), 87 times in the ESV, and 70 times in the NLT. The point here is merely that waiting is discussed frequently in scripture and bears significance for every Christian. Even beyond the uses of the word (and related words), there are numerous examples throughout both testaments of people in history who have either benefitted from, or failed under, lessons on waiting.
I’m not the first to become convinced that the lesson of waiting well is foundational to spiritual growth and maturity, and I know I won’t be the last. Read the following quotation and be motivated to consider how well you’re doing in this area. God is working on me. Pray that he will do the same for you.
Spurgeon addressed waiting in his sermon entitled “Brave Waiting” (No. 1372, August 26, 1877 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle).
That word, “wait,” is so exceedingly comprehensive that I quite despair of bringing out every shade of its meaning. The word, “walk,” describes almost the whole of Christian life and so does this word, “wait,” for, rightly understood, waiting is active as well as passive, energetic as well as patient and to wait upon the Lord necessitates as much holy courage as warring and fighting with His enemies. We are to wait on, wait upon and wait for the Lord, for it is written, “They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the earth.” “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” And, “blessed are all they that wait for Him.”
What do we mean, then, by, “wait on the Lord”? I say, first, let us wait on the Lord as a beggar waits for alms at the rich man’s door. We are very poor and needy, laboring under such necessities that the whole world cannot supply what we require. Only in God is there a supply for the deep poverty of our souls! We have gone to His door, many of us, and knocked and waited. And, in so doing, we have obtained very gracious answers….To cling to the Cross, to rest at the altar of our Lord’s Atonement is the safest course. Believingly to wait upon the Lord, pleading the all-prevailing name of Jesus, is the suppliant’s best posture. I trust many in the House of God this morning have passed from this stage to the next—they wait as learners for instruction. The disciple waits at His Master’s feet and, according as the Teacher chooses to speak, so the disciple’s ears are opened.
Sometimes the servant will have to wait in absolute inaction—and this is not always to the taste of energetic minds. I suppose that walking round Jericho six days and doing nothing must have been very distasteful to the men of war who wanted to be coming to blows….The men of war chafed in their harness and longed to be at the foe! It is said that Wellington kept back the Guards at Waterloo till far into the fight and it must, I should think, have needed much courage on their part to remain calm and quiet while cannons were roaring, the battle raging and the shots flying about them. They must not stir till the commander-in-chief gives the order, “Up, Guards, and at them!” Then will they clear the field and utterly annihilate the foe. They were as much serving their country by lying still, till the time came, as they were by dashing forward when, at last, the word was given! [emphasis mine] Wait, then, upon your Lord in all sorts of service and patience, for this is what He would have you do. Another form of this waiting may be compared to a traveler waiting the directions of his guide, or a mariner waiting upon the pilot who takes charge of his ship. We are to wait upon God for direction in the entire voyage of life. He is at the helm and His hand is to steer our course. I am fearful that some Christians very greatly fail in waiting upon the Lord for guidance…”