Our natural inclination is to avoid waiting at all costs.
Waiting is an enormously misunderstood and underrated discipline; as such it is something most people will go to great lengths to avoid. Waiting seems like such a waste of time. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys waiting. As a culture we have come up with all sorts of ways to avoid or eliminate waiting. Everything from faster computer downloads, to instant messaging, to call ahead seating at a restaurant, are designed to minimize the wait time. But what we find so intolerable in our day-to-day life is absolutely essential in our relationship with God.
The truth is, many Christians do not enjoy a deep, experiential relationship with Jesus Christ and some try to fabricate a relationship by substituting counterfeit spiritual experiences for a truly experiential faith because they have never cultivated the discipline of waiting on God. There is no way to download an app for the Christian life; it must be experimentally learned.
True waiting on God is meant to foster an attitude of complete dependence on God and His word. Waiting on God is hard, as we will see as we explore the biblical passages dealing with this subject. It does not come naturally. The experience of waiting on God is a true Christian experience. Waiting on God is a discipline to be cultivated and is only possible through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit but, truly waiting on God can be one of the hardest things a Christian ever does. This is why so few people really learn to wait on God, have a truly experiential faith, truly know God as He is, and why so many Christians who profess to worship God really worship a god of their own imagination.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the heart of the Christian life and the heart of our relationship to Him are centered in waiting on God. Yet how very little of our life involves truly waiting on Him. It sounds so simple, but if it were simple it would not be so rare. If God’s people would learn in practice and experience, to simply wait only on God, it would influence a watching world more than all the ostentatious displays of religious charlatanism, the man-centered psycho-babble, all the motivational messages, the mystical experiences and entertainment-driven pragmatic programs ever could. May we, by God’s grace, learn what it means to truly wait on God.
“For Thy salvation I wait, O LORD” – Genesis 49:18
Jacob is in the midst of blessing his twelve sons who are to become the twelve tribes of Israel when, after blessing his seventh son Gad, Jacob interjects with this prayer, “For your salvation I wait, O LORD.” The fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the future hope of Israel is bound up in the destiny of these twelve sons. The salvation for which Jacob awaits is the salvation promised to Abraham and his descendants in the Abrahamic Covenant (cf. Gn 12:1-3); the promise of being a great nation, of having a great name, and of being a great blessing to all the earth.
It was through the fulfillment of these promises that God would reconcile sinful man to Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word translated “wait” means to “hope for; eagerly expect.” Jacob had a confident expectation that God would fulfill His promise because the promise was from God. He knew the character of the One who had promised; therefore He could eagerly expect its fulfillment. Jacob could do nothing in regard to the promise but wait for God’s salvation. God had bound Himself by an unconditional promise that He alone could bring about. Salvation always and ever is God’s work, ordained from eternity past and is something for which we must wait.
We want instant results.
But man in his impatience wants instant results so he develops his own methods to generate the results he wants. He makes conversion a work of man. He tries to create the right ambiance, set the right mood, use peer pressure, emotional manipulation, and scare tactics. Faith becomes defined as “accepting” Jesus and salvation is described as “inviting” Jesus into our hearts. Conversion is reduced to a “decision”, and repentance (if it is mentioned at all) is defined as being “sorry” for our sin. Conversion becomes something that is within one’s own power to effect.
Jesus is offered as the panacea for all our temporal troubles, the path to self-improvement, and the key that unlocks the door to health, wealth, and prosperity. The cross is portrayed with sentimental overtures designed to arouse pity and sympathy for Jesus. That none of these ideas and terminologies are found anywhere in Scripture, and instead are controverted by Scripture, seems to make little difference. If the goal is to produce results, then whatever achieves those results must be valid, even if it means equating salvation with something as subjective and frivolous as a human “decision”, and reducing Jesus to a pitiful object of sympathy and a servant of our lusts and fragile ego.
But God’s salvation is something for which we must wait. Genuine salvation is borne out over time. The seeds which fell on rocky soil and among thorns all sprouted, but only those which fell on good soil bore fruit. Failure to wait has resulted in millions of people thinking their false conversion is true salvation and the god of their imagination is the true God. The attempt to change a person’s view regarding the nature of salvation (from a consequence of their own free decision to that which is a sovereign work of God) is bound to meet with heavy opposition, especially from those whose hope hinges on their “decision”. This is tantamount to asking such people to renounce the only scheme which human reason has discovered whereby an unconverted person may – at least for a time – remain blissfully and securely unconverted.
The goal of our evangelism is not to elicit a positive response from people. When results become the goal then means are devised that generate the desired results. The results belong to God. I remember once hearing a missionary tell a group of people how he cornered a young boy and spent two hours giving him the gospel until he finally coerced the youngster into praying “the prayer”. Well of course the lad did; he wanted to escape the missionary. All the browbeating accomplished was to instill a false sense of security in this boy leaving him worse off than he was before. Such strong-arm, decision driven tactics may be done with good intentions and a sincere desire to see others come to salvation, but ultimately they deny in practice what we profess to believe. They confuse a person’s momentary positive response, saying the ‘right’ words, with genuine salvation, leaving many to live in deception and false security.
True conversion is very rare, and among people who have been convinced that a profession of faith is true salvation, and have lived under this deception for a period of time, true conversion is even more rare.
If our evangelism is truly motivated by a love for God and love for lost souls we would not stray from God’s ways and means. The means which God has established must be the best possible to accomplish His purpose and need no modification or embellishment. God’s means bring about God’s purposes, and only salvation produced by God is genuine. The sole instrument through which God saves is the gospel, it “is the power of God for salvation” (Rm 1:16); “God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…By His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” (1 Cor 1:21, 30); “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt 1:23).
When we rely on methods other than God’s, when we attempt to coerce, or emotionally manipulate people into praying a prayer or making a “decision”; when we repackage the gospel to make it more palatable to the unbelieving mind, we deny our total dependence on God for salvation. We deem the gospel insufficient, we elevate our methods above the gospel and ignore the work of the Holy Spirit. We think our own methods can succeed where God’s could not. We take the responsibility for salvation out of the hands of God and arrogantly assume it for ourselves.
The apostle Paul disavowed any association with this kind of manipulation in 2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.” The word “peddling” kapeleuo, appears only here in the New Testament and is a word borrowed from the market place. It means “to sell deceitfully or by trickery”. When applied to teaching it means to falsify by making additions. Paul refused to be compared or associated with anyone who adopted such strategies. He was motivated by a steadfast commitment to God’s word, a deep sense of responsibility to God, and unshakable loyalty to Jesus’ commission. He emphatically stated he was “not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2).
We really hate to cut it off here but in the interest of brevity, we will publish tomorrow the second part of “Waiting on God: For Thy Salvation I Wait,” by John Fast. We offer several ways you can follow us for updates on new postings (email, twitter, facebook).
Also, click here if you’d like to watch the video interview we conducted with John Fast about his “Waiting on God” series.