The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Waiting on the Lord’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/16/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1E7xGmw
Waiting on the Lord
Our text for this morning comes from the Book of Isaiah:
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on 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. – Is 40:28-31
Isaiah introduces us to the idea of “waiting on the Lord.” More often than not, we’re encouraged to get busy for the Lord in church: to go out and do something for Him. But what if I told you that sometimes God simply wants you to wait on Him? What if the most productive time in your life was not time spent going out and doing something, but simply time spent waiting on God?
“Wait” is the Hebrew qavah (Strong’s #6960), which means to lie in wait for someone with eager expectation. Waiting on God is not something to be done passively, but rather actively. When we wait on God, we shouldn’t wonder if He is about to do anything; we should expect that He is about to do something amazing. We never wait because we have nothing to do! We wait because we know He is coming.
When I was growing up, our family had a dog named Sterling. He was terribly behaved. Whenever we left the house, he would jump up with his paws on the windowsill, bark at us, and scratch the glass. Whenever he heard us get close to the house as we came home, there he was: tail wagging, tongue out, and excited beyond belief because we were home. He couldn’t wait until we showed up!
That is exactly how we should wait for God. Sterling didn’t expect us to leave one day, and never come back. He didn’t wonder if we would ever come home. He knew we would be back; and when we returned, he was there to meet us with all the enthusiasm in the world.
When you wait on God, He will show up:
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – Jas 4:8
We should have full confidence that when we earnestly desire and expect God to drop in on our prayer sessions, He will be there. You would never go outside to watch the sunrise, and wonder if the sun was going to come up. You would expect that darkness was about to turn into light, and cold was about to turn into warmth. When we wait for God in times of prayer, we should have the same steady confidence that He will meet us when we wait for Him!
When we wait on the Lord, we are promised several things according to our Scripture from Isaiah (above). First, the weak are promised power. We need to walk in power in order for other people to see God’s strength. God is our life source; and as we stay connected to Him, He will refresh us and fill us with all the miracle-working power we need!
Second, waiting on the Lord produces strength for those who have no strength left. The best way to get strong is to wait: to simply expect God to show up and make you stronger! Prayer is different from meditation. When you meditate, as practiced in many different forms of Eastern spirituality, you focus inside yourself. You find the strength in you. But when you pray, the focus should always be outside yourself, and on God! Genuine prayer means focusing on the Cross, realizing just how weak you are, and finding strength in God!
Third, waiting on the Lord allows us to “mount up” (v 31). Waiting on God with patient expectation prepares us to enter into His presence. As we wait on the Lord, the Holy Spirit actually gives us the strength we’re going to need to internalize everything God is about to say.
Finally, waiting on the Lord produces endurance. Waiting on God in prayer allows us to “run and not be weary” (v 31). In other words, God gives us sprinting endurance. He makes us ready to jump into action whenever God calls us out of our boats and onto the water.
Waiting on God in prayer also allows us to “walk and not faint” (v 31). That’s marathon strength. We need marathon strength to continue to believe in the fullness of God’s promises over our lives, even when we don’t see any tangible results in front of us!
Scripture encourages us to, “…run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1). We need endurance to hold fast to everything God has promised us; and the way we build endurance is by waiting on the Lord!
Jesus Is The Only Way
Without Jesus, we have nothing. He gives us strength when we are weak, power when we are drained, and life when our own decisions should result in death. The way we stay connected to Him is by waiting on Him in prayer: by spending time in prayer with no agenda.
Jesus told the masses at Jerusalem how they could find true life:
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. – Jn 7:37
Yes, “coming to Jesus” means that we must definitively give our lives to Christ. We must confess our sins and receive Him into our hearts as Lord over our lives. But Jesus’ instructions to “come to Me” were not just a one-time command. We are supposed to continuously return to Him and be refreshed.
Whoever makes a lifestyle of returning to Jesus by waiting on Him in prayer will have his thirst satisfied. Whoever comes to Him repeatedly will experience new life here and now. Did you know that God’s best life for you doesn’t have to wait until you get to heaven? He promises His goodness for you in the land of the living (Ps 27:13)!
If you’re thirsty, you can gulp down as much water as you want to quench your thirst. But that doesn’t mean you will never thirst again! It would be ridiculous to think that one heavy gulp of water would be all we need to survive for the rest of our lives. Yet that is exactly the assumption some of us make when we give our lives to Christ. We convince ourselves that we got all the fellowship with Jesus we could ever need when we gave our lives to Him. But He has so much more to offer. Waiting on the Lord in prayer leads to a fullness you can only imagine!
Structured Prayer Time
For many Christians, prayer time falls into two categories: ritual, and routine. A ritual is something we do regularly that has meaning and significance attached to it. Maybe you pray for your kids exactly the same way every day. These prayers are important, and shouldn’t be neglected. But God has more for you!
At best, we easily fall into settling for ritualistic prayer. At worst, we fall into routine prayer. Unlike a ritual, a routine has no lasting meaning. If you pray every single day and don’t experience relationship and intimacy with God, maybe your prayer life needs a jolt. When was the last time you cleared your calendar just to sit and listen to God? When was the last time you approached Him in prayer with no agenda at all: just to hear what He has to say?
I’m completely in support of structured prayer time. I pray many of the same prayers every day. I’m also all for structured time of Scripture reading. But I’d like to encourage you to take your devotional life one step further today. When you pray, make time to sit at Jesus’ feet with no agenda! Waiting on the Lord doesn’t have to make up all your prayer time; but it should make up some of it. We need to find our balance when it comes to spending time with God.
Unstructured Time in Prayer
God wants to ditch the prayer agenda and simply spend time with you! That’s the reason He created you in His image: so that His Holy Spirit could communicate with your spirit; so that you and He could experience incredible intimacy!
Educators have recently discovered the importance of unstructured playtime for the growth and development of children. In recent years, the focus of childhood education has moved drastically towards preparing for standardized tests. As a result, so much of classroom time is scheduled and planned out to the last drop.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) responded to that shift by arguing for balance. Educators began to argue for a return to unstructured learning. Parents began to understand the importance of unstructured playtime: taking it easy on all the extracurriculars, and simply allowing their kids to dream and play.
According to the AAP, unstructured learning time is, “…healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” If unstructured learning time is that important for your mental development, think about how important it must be for your spiritual walk with God!
Yes, there will be times when structured prayer is essential. There will be times when a specific prayer need must be addressed in a methodical way. But we need to find balance. We can’t allow our busy schedules to let us rush through prayer! We need to wait on the Lord so He can refresh us, and make us strong!
Your spiritual health depends on your ability to wait on the Lord. Without relationship, you will wither and die. If you settle for ritual and routine prayer all the time, you will lose your passion for the things of heaven. But if you make time to just sit at His feet and worship Him, you will have the world to gain!
Ministering to God
When you pray, you are ministering to God. As part of Old Testament worship, priests would minister to God by offering Him sacrifices. As New Testament worshippers, we are God’s priests through Jesus Christ! And one of the ways we minister to God is through prayer:
Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. – Ps 141:1-2
Our prayer is a sacrifice. Time is our most valuable commodity: we can never have more of it; only less. God receives our time spent with Him in prayer the same way He receives any other genuine gift: with love! And the truth is, whenever we set out to minister to God, He ministers to us so much more!
When we wait on the Lord in prayer, we attend to God. To attend simply means to be present in case He needs something. Butlers and servants wait on their superiors for instructions. Soldiers wait on their commanding officers for orders. We must wait on God if we are to receive everything He has for us!
Time alone with God in prayer is all He wants from us. My prayer is that it would become all we want from Him.
- by Pastor Mike White
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