Anyone who has seen the original “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” film from the 1970’s undoubtedly remembers the spoiled Veruca Salt who whines in song to her enabling father,
"I want the whole works
presents and prizes and sweets and surprises,
of all shapes and sizes,
and now don’t care how
I want it now,
don’t care how
I want it now."
While such behavior and attitude is blatantly odious to the the viewing audience, what is often much more subtle to recognize or admit in ourselves is our own inability to wait and have patience.
As a society and culture we don’t like to wait. Like Ms. Salt, we want what we want, and we typically want it sooner rather than later. Yet, we miss surprising spiritual benefits and blessings when we fail to head God’s imperatives and call to wait on Him. The word in Hebrew “Qavah” (Isaiah 40:31) means much more than merely sitting idle or with our thumbs twisting, like passively waiting for an Uber ride or the toaster to be done. It denotes waiting with activity, waiting with great hope to watch for God to act. The fact that God commands us to wait on Him ought to be enough rationale for obedience. However, in this very brief post, I’d like to remind us of three surprising joys that belong to the believer when they wait on the Lord.
- Waiting on the Lord fosters dependance rather than entitlement- Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. Psalm 123:2
When I don’t get what I want in life, in relationships, vocations and jobs, or even in ministry, I am forced to lean on something (or rather someone) else to attain satisfaction and hope. If the Lord “spoiled” us, and simply gave us whatever we desire (given our fallen nature, such gifts would be cruel) we would cherish the gifts rather than the giver. We would remain spiritually atrophied, for we would not look as much to the giver of all good things. He gave us His only Son, Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 8:32), how also will he not give us all things in their providential timing? Waiting on the Lord protects us from a sense of spiritual entitlement. It keeps us, in learning the beauty and art of delayed satisfaction, that to depend on the Lord is better, and a significantly more joyful endeavor than the perception that God owes us. It also teaches us that God himself is better and more excellent than whatever else we think we may want or need in this life.
2. Waiting on the Lord encourages the spiritual discipline of longing- “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait (long) for him” Isaiah 30:18
Waiting produces a wonderful fruit of anticipation. We often associate waiting in a negative connotation, without remembering the excitement and joy that comes from waiting for something wonderful. Whether it is as simple as awaiting the arrival of an Amazon prime package, or a child who can’t fall asleep because tomorrow is their birthday, the waiting is unrecognizably apart of the experience of what we love. The older I get, the more my desire and hunger for the eradication of sin and the presence of Christ in heaven is more potent. I remind my 9 year old son that waiting for a reward only increases its delight when its finally received. I need to be reminded of that as well! So too, as we wait on God, our desire and longing for Him and all His perfect righteousness is enlarged. God grows us spiritually in desiring what is good and perfect, and such growth adjusts our attitudes and ability to be patient. Patience, after all, is a fruit of the spirit. Immediate accumulation is not.
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8
3. Waiting on the Lord is a tool to fight temptation and sin- You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and kind in all his works. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” Psalm 145: 16-17, 20.
It’s often been said, and perhaps misquoted yet not misinterpreted, from Proverbs 16:27, that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Yet waiting on the Lord is a proactive rather than passive occupation for the Christian. As the Psalmist reminds us, God will satisfy the desires of our hearts (in Him), and God’s kindness will preserve us from falling away. When we are tempted to sin, one easily neglected means of grace is to wait on the Lord by diligently going to the Lord in prayer or reading the Bible. The means of grace and God’s covenant of mercies recalibrate us every time we avail ourselves of these treasures. In worship on the Lord’s Day, in Christian fellowship and prayer, we are turning from our old sinful inclinations and affections, and turning towards God’s love and mercy. Though the flesh fights against us in wanting what we want immediately, waiting on the Lord can equip our hearts and call to our minds that our status in this life is only temporary. To wait on the Lord is a wonderful and helpful weapon in our arsenal to fight against sin. We are not yet what we will be, and waiting patiently for God to renew all things, especially ourselves, fuels our joy. The best is truly yet to come, and it is more than worth waiting for.
“but they 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 be faint.” Isaiah 40:31