(I will sit in my spot for a minute or two before I move to the pulpit to make a point about what it is like to wait.)
What did it feel like just now, when you were waiting for what you believed would happen and you had to wait? Was there uneasiness? Were there questions? “Why isn’t she coming up to preach?” Some of you were tempted to come up here and give the sermon yourself, right? What do we do when something we are waiting for doesn’t happen as we believe it should? What if it never happens at all? How do we deal with disappointment or discouragement while we are waiting? What do we do with our expectations and our hopes? Should we try to make something happen or is there a purpose and value for waiting.
Psalm 37 1 Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
These seven verses are filled with admonition about things to do when you are waiting on God to deliver something or do something for you. There is, however, one admonition to not do something and it is simply:
Don’t Fret (vv. 1-2).
The Message translation of the Bible puts verse one this way, “Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked.”
There are always going to be people who look for shortcuts in this life. There will always be people who cut corners, cheat on exams, fake test scores, bribe their way into positions and lie in order to get ahead. That’s basically a given as that is the nature of sinners and unfortunately that is the nature of some people who claim to be Christ-followers.
However, we aren’t supposed to let those who make wrong or evil choices impact us emotionally or to get in our heads because when we do, we are focused on the wrong thing and are distracted from the right thing by our blood pressure rising over someone else’s advancement. We want to scream, “It’s not fair.”
There are many who appear to have it all; the relationship, the car, the house, the job, the vacation homes, whatever, but they are miserable on the inside. So just because you think you see success and it looks good, don’t be fooled or give any thought time to those people because it will only lead to envy. In most cases you’ll be envying something that doesn’t really exist. A lot of people who appear to have it all are hollow, unhappy, and discontented in life. They are living on credit and are one day away from losing it all. Their only hope is that you will never find that out.
In many cases, if you fret over the success of others who aren’t playing by the rules, it can lead to envy which will lead to additional sins like wanting to cut corners yourself in order to be like them. It’s difficult to wait when you see others who appear to be moving ahead of you in life. I was 29 on the day of my wedding. How many bridesmaid dresses do you think I owned by that point? How many of my friends do you think were already married and had children? Now I’m not suggesting that my friends compromised or cut corners in order to hook a man, but what I am saying is that when you see others have what you long to have, you can let envy lead to desperation and before you know it you’re making dumb choices to get what you think you want and you wind up one day realizing you compromised rather than waited for God’s best all because you started fretting over what you didn’t have at the time. I just realize, I’d better clarify that I didn’t get desperate and make a dumb choice! I love you, honey. J That part of my life is an example of how I waited on God’s best and it turned out to be more than I ever dreamed!
Why do wicked, evil people sometimes prosper in this life? I have no idea. But God’s Word is clear. They will be cut down like the grass at some point. So, don’t fret. Don’t worry.
As Bruce Howell has said:
Worry never solved a problem
Worry never paid a debt
Worry never alleviated a pain
Worry never made an enemy a friend
Worry never turned a wrong into a right
Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble—sometimes the troubles of tomorrow—which may never arrive anyway! (Bruce Howell-Sermoncentral.com)
While you are pursuing the things in life that you desire, assuming they are things God has planned for you, don’t fret. “Good things come to those who wait” isn’t in the Bible, but it is a great cliché to remember as it is simply good advice. So, don’t fret. However, while you are waiting, do the following:
Do Trust in the Lord (v. 3). You know why you shouldn’t fret? Because if you are fretting, your heart is full of worry and anxiety which means it can’t be a trusting heart.
You can’t fret and trust at the same time. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” A fretful heart is not a trusting heart, because it lacks the joy and peace described in Rom. 15:13
If you fret and don’t trust God, you might try to leave where you are when where you are is exactly where God needs you to be in order to deliver some kind of blessing or grow some kind of character in you or it’s where He wants to use you for His glory.
Instead, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
The word trust in some form or fashion appears 152 times in the OT. It carries with it the idea of taking refuge in, leaning on and staying upon something or someone. Trusting God means that we believe God will always be a safe hiding place, a peaceful resting place and a firm foundation which will make a secure standing place.
To go further, it means that when my body gives out, I believe my God will see me through. When my finances run out or run short, I believe my God will provide somehow for my needs. When my heart longs for something, I believe my God will grant it or redirect my heart to think about something better or keep my heart in peace while I wait. In other words, God is my all in all in every situation and for every need. So, when you are waiting, do trust in the Lord.
In addition, do delight yourself in the Lord. To delight in something means to receive pleasure in something or to enjoy something. What the Psalmist is saying is, “Put your affection and your focus on the Lord.” Enjoy Him. Spend time with Him. The word translated “delight” comes from a root that means “to be brought up in luxury, to be pampered.” Yes, while we are waiting for something or waiting on God to do something, we can experience a luxury, a pampering, and a blessing that comes from being in God’s presence. When we are waiting we need to look for ways to be in God’s presence more and more in order that we might have the benefits of joy and peace that come just from being with Him.
Graduates, as you leave high school and enter the work force or go to college, you’ll be pursuing some things like an education or financial stability or finding that certain someone to settle down with. Did you know that one of easiest times to disconnect from God and the church is during this young adulthood period? I don’t have statistics to back it up, but it has been my observation that more people disconnect from God and church during this time in their life than any other time. I’m telling you that is the worst possible thing that you could let happen to you. Many things will happen to you in life that are beyond your control, but you can control whether or not you will choose to delight yourself in the Lord. And if you do, Psalm 37:4 says, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not a time to walk away. You have your heart set on too much. This is a time to walk towards and to cling to and to search out the presence of God.
If you delight in the Lord, He will bring contentment to your heart. If you delight in people or partying or whatever, your heart won’t be satisfied long term. Stay the course. Stay connected. Keep going to church, even if you are going away to school. Pursue Him and He will bring great satisfaction to your life.
Do trust in the Lord. Do delight in the Lord. Also:
Do commit your way to the Lord (vv. 5-6).
What is commitment? To each person, it means something different however the principle remains the same.
To the Boxer, it’s getting off the mat one time more than you’ve been knocked down.
To the marathoner, it’s running another ten miles when your strength is gone.
To the soldier, it’s going over the hill not knowing what’s waiting on the other side, with reckless abandon to self, yet committed to a cause.
To the missionary, it’s saying good-bye to your own comfort to make life better for others.
To the Christian, it’s all that and more because everyone who is watching your life is depending upon you to get back up again, run that ten miles more, to display courage when faced with the unknown, and to die to self for the betterment of others.
Committing your way to the Lord is an all or nothing endeavor. There is no such thing as partial commitment. When pilots of a giant airliner are speeding down the runway, there is a certain point where they cannot decide to remain on the ground. When they cross that line, they are committed to the air or the plane crashes disastrously. Those pilots cannot change their mind when the plane is two-thirds of the way down the runway.
Committing your way to the Lord means you don’t rely on anything else but Him. There is no plan “B.” There is no bailout option.
Think about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They wouldn’t bow to the image of Nebechadnezzar had set up even though the consequence for not bowing was to be put into a blazing hot furnace. They had committed their way to the Lord. They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it and He will rescue us from your hand…But even if He does not, we want you to know…that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17).
Committing our way to the Lord doesn’t mean we will always get our way or that we will ever get our way. It means that regardless of our desires or what we hope for, more than our own way, we believe in the way of God and whatever He has up His Divine sleeve is what we choose.
Commitment is about more than follow through. For the Christian, it’s about letting go. Thom and I commit a certain amount of money each month to a financial planner who knows more about investing for our future than we do. Our hands are off of the whole thing. We don’t even try to give him our opinion because it would be so ignorant and limited we’d mess it up. We simply take his advice and watch to see what the future holds. It’s sort of like that when we commit to God. We take our hands off of our lives and allow Him to invest and use us wherever it pleases Him. We simply take His advice and watch to see what the future holds.
Many people are willing to commit their eternity to the Lord, but they aren’t as eager to commit their way to the Lord. They commit to the Lord but as soon as a trial comes up or a storm begins, they want to swim to shore as fast as they can and anchor themselves to something they think is more secure.
Listen, a commitment to the Lord isn’t for the duration of a summer camp. It’s not just for while we’re in high school. It’s not just for when the kids are little and we think they need to go to Sunday School. A commitment to the Lord is for a lifetime and it’s a day by day choice.
To commit ourselves to the Lord means entrusting everything—our lives, families, jobs, possessions—to his control and guidance. It means committing ourselves to His Lordship in every area of our lives.
Let’s face it. There are a lot of things you can commit to in this life. Those of you who are graduating, start watching your mail. You’ll have more credit card offers than you’ll have time to sign up for. Life is a series of commitments for those who are going to possess what they desire. You’ll commit to the process of going to class and doing the work if you want an education. You’ll commit to an employer to show up and do enough work to satisfy someone if you want a paycheck. You’ll commit to an exclusive relationship with a person if you want to be married. You’ll commit to making a monthly payment if you want somewhere to live. Life if full of opportunities to commit, but what will be first? If you commit your way to the Lord first, everything else will fall into place.
A person who is committed to the Lord will do things others only can dream about. Why? The second part of Psalm 37 tells us why. He causes us to shine. He takes up our cause. He is our Defender. If God is for us we’ll always come out on top. One way we commit our lives to the Lord is through prayer. Matthew 7:7-11 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
When you pray about the desires of your heart and what you hope your future or your today will look like, you are showing confidence in the Lord by turning to Him to take care of those things. You are expressing your commitment to Him as your Provider when you pray.
I wonder if God’s purpose in allowing us to wait is often just to get us to talk to Him and to rely on Him. If we could possess everything we desired whenever we desired it, we would be our own providers. We had some difficulty getting pregnant with Hannah. Waiting was very tough. I remember, though, how I turned to the Lord in prayer and am grateful for the waiting time as it fostered my faith and put me in a position where I had to trust God completely.
Do trust, do delight in and commit your way to the Lord. Finally, Do Rest in the Lord (vv. 7-11). The verb means “be silent, be still.” It describes calm surrender to the Lord. You have to truly rest before you can experience peace. But unless we learn to wait silently before God, we will never experience His peace. If you aren’t resting in the Lord, you might also get distracted and miss what God has planned.
God wants you to be your best at whatever you are attempting, but listen, your success doesn’t depend on you. You don’t have to make things happen. You don’t have to be in a hurry. There is a season for everything in our lives and in God’s time and in a way that is best for you and in a way that will bring God glory, if you’ll submit to Him, He’ll accomplish more in and through you than you could with the help of 20 friends.
A young boy went to the local store with his mother. The shop owner, a kindly man, passed him a large jar of suckers and invited him to help himself to a handful. Uncharacteristically, the boy held back. So the shop owner pulled out a handful for him. When outside, the boy’s mother asked why he had suddenly been so shy and wouldn’t take a handful of suckers when offered. The boy replied, “Because his hand is much bigger than mine!” God’s hands are bigger than yours. Wait on Him.
When you get anxious and you wonder if something will ever happen, just rest. Psalm 16:5-8 Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
What God has for you is securely yours. You don’t have to compete with anyone for it. Just rest in Him and wait for Him. So many good things come to us when we wait on the Lord:
Reader One-As I wait on Him, He rescues and establishes my life.
Psalm 40:1 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Reader Two-As I wait on Him, He enables me to live with expectation
Psalm 5:3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
Reader Three-As I wait on Him, He strengthens my heart and gives me courage.
Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Reader Four-As I wait on Him, He exalts me and gives me an inheritance.
Psalm 37:34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
Reader Five-As I wait on Him, He brings me comfort.
Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
Reader Six-As I wait on Him, He feeds my soul.
Lamentations 3:24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Reader Seven-As I wait on Him, He delivers me.
Psalm 20:22 “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”
Reader Eight-As I wait on Him, I receive good things from Him
Lamentations 3:25 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”
There are positive blessings that result from waiting on the Lord, and there are negative consequences for not waiting. Abraham and Sarah had been promised a son, but they would have to wait many years before Isaac was born. Through Isaac all nations would be blessed.
Abraham and Sarah didn’t wait, however, and took matters into their own hands. Abraham had a physical relationship with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar and Hagar became pregnant with Ishmael. Eventually Abraham and Sarah did have the promised son, Isaac. Many scholars trace the conflict that we know today as the Arab-Israeli conflict to that decision. Those who are descendants of Isaac became the Jewish nation. Those who descended from Ishmael became known as the Arabs. The Muslims call Ishmael a great prophet. The two groups have fought over land ever since.
Taking matters into our own hands rather than waiting on God will result in less than God’s best for us. While you’re waiting, don’t fret. Do trust in the Lord. Delight in Him. Commit your way to Him. Rest in Him. He’ll come through and He will provide blessing after blessing as you wait on Him.