Why Should I Wait for the Lord Any Longer?
Chapters 6 and 7 of the book of 2 Kings records the miraculous deliverance of the northern kingdom of Israel from a devastating siege against its capital city of Samaria, instigated by Israel’s perennial nemesis Ben-hadad, the king of Aram. As a result of the siege, all food supplies to the city were cut off, resulting in a devastating famine within the city. In fact, the situation in Samaria had become so desperate that the people in the city had begun to cannibalize their own children (2 Kg 6:28, 29), indicating the deplorable spiritual condition into which the people had fallen. Samaria’s destruction seemed imminent and inevitable; so much so that Israel’s King Jehoram had completely given up any hope of deliverance, even from God. As he told the prophet Elisha, “Behold, this evil is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kg 6:33).
While Jehoram could never have been accused of being a faithful follower of God, sadly his attitude is all too typical of many professing Christians today. We start out convinced that God has called us to a specific task or a specific ministry, and that call has been affirmed by other godly people and God’s own providential interventions. God gave you the desire, He provided your giftedness which others have affirmed, and He has met all your needs in the past. But then trials come – perhaps sustained trials which lay siege to your life. You tough it out for a while, but then “a while” gets longer and longer.
Our resources are being depleted and there is still no end in sight. Then, when circumstances appear to be hopeless, when all our efforts seem to lead nowhere, when door after door is closed, when the self-denial seems to be in vain, you give up on God and you abandon the call He placed on your life. Perhaps the cultural pressure to provide a certain standard of living for your family becomes too great or perhaps you tell yourself you must have been mistaken, God didn’t really call me, thereby effectively denying all of God’s providential working in your life up to this point, or perhaps family and friends have begun to question your judgment. Perhaps your trial is a marital situation; you are married to an unbeliever. Perhaps it is a rebellious child, or an employment situation, or a health issue. Whatever the reason for the trial which has laid siege to our life, we in essence say “why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”
From Ruin to Deliverance
The prophet Elisha had a message for Jehoram. “Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (2 Kg 7:1). In just one day the siege would be lifted and the city would have food in abundance. What in one day seemed like a totally hopeless situation, by the next day had been turned into a miraculous deliverance and unimaginable blessing.
One of Jehoram’s officers found Elisha’s prophecy more than a little hard to swallow and scoffed at the very idea, “Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be” (2 Kg 7:2)? Not even God was capable of ending the famine caused by the siege, or so he thought. Things are just too bad, too far gone and hopeless. It is time to give up on God, be practical, and face reality. As a result of his unbelief this officer missed experiencing God’s blessing which only a day earlier seemed inconceivable (2 Kg 7:19-20).
So many Christians give up on God. In our culture that has come to demand and expect instant results and immediate gratification, people can’t bear the siege. Most can’t even bear the thought of a siege. Unbelief creeps in and gets the better of them, and as a result they miss seeing and experiencing God’s ultimate blessing for their life. Just think of the spiritual blessings God’s people have forfeited because they gave up on God, because they thought that the way it is today is the way it will always be.
Joseph: Prisoner to Prince
Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years because they gave up on God. Because people give up on God they never walk with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death and been comforted by His rod and staff, but instead continue to wander in a spiritual wilderness. Think of the blessings you have missed because you gave up on God.
If God preserved and delivered His rebellious and unbelieving people, how much more will He bless those who continue to trust in His loving faithfulness to complete what He has begun? In one day Joseph went from being a prisoner in Egypt to a prince in Egypt. True, in one day he also went from being his father’s favorite son to being a victim of his brother’s jealousy and sold into slavery. And in one day he went from being in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house to being a prisoner in Pharaoh’s dungeon.
But even all of this was in God’s perfect plan and purpose. Joseph never gave up on God, and years later he could look back and tell his frightened and apprehensive brothers that what they had intended for evil, God intended for the blessing of many people (Gn 50:20). We do not know what blessings the next day may hold, and even if they don’t come tomorrow, we have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us, and we have the assurance that God is for us, even in the midst of our siege (Rm 8:31). This was David’s comfort when he faced fears in the midst of trials (Ps 56:9-11).
We have Jesus’ promise that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then all these other things will be added unto us (Mt 6:33). His kingdom is not of this world, and if we seek it from this world we will be sorely disappointed.
Trials are called such because they try our faith to determine how much it is worth, how much dross is mixed with the gold, how much unbelief is mixed with our trust, and how far we are willing to walk with Christ before we, like many of Jesus’ disciples, are unwilling to walk with Him anymore, but instead strike out on our own (Jn 6:66).
Everyone, even unbelievers, experience trials that are the result of living in a sin cursed world. There is nothing inherently Christian about suffering illness, unemployment, financial loss, or the death of a loved one courageously. The afflictions that try the faith of a Christian are not like those which the world experiences, but those that are particularly connected with being a follower of Christ (1 Thes 3:1-4).
These trials require endurance, trust, and patient waiting (Ps 62; Jm 1:2-4; Hb 10:32-36; 1 Pt 2:18-25; 2 Tm 3:10-12). Since we live in a fallen world we share in the same afflictions as unbelievers, but very few have their trust tested by trials that are a result of following Jesus’ call on their life, and that are a result of forsaking all to follow Him. Only those who truly deny self and forsake all to follow Christ can expect to receive the blessing promised to those who deny self and forsake all to follow Christ. Trust is measured by degrees. The apostle Peter is a New Testament example of this.
Peter: Spiritual Pride leads to Spiritual Failure
Peter’s trust failed twice, and both times it was because he took his eyes off of Christ, succumbed to his fears and unbelief, and gave up on Jesus. The first time was on the Sea of Galilee when he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the wind and the waves. He only had a “little faith” (Mt 14:31). The second time was in the court of the High Priest at Jesus’ first Jewish trial before Annas (John 18:12-27) when Peter was ashamed and afraid to be identified with Jesus. Both failures came about because Peter thought he possessed more trust than he actually did. Spiritual pride led to Peter’s lack of trust. Confidence in his own abilities and spiritual strength led to his spiritual failure.
We can accomplish what God has called us to do only if we acknowledge our complete dependence on Him, His means, and His power and abandon all self-confidence in our own natural abilities. Unbelief is an absence of trust in God. Spiritual pride is a result of trust in our own abilities instead of God, which is really self-worship and self-idolatry. Both lead towards spiritual failure and giving up on God.
Ben-hadad’s officer suffered physical death as a result of his unbelief. Peter, on the other hand, several years after his denial of Jesus, wrote his first epistle to the churches of Asia which at the time were facing intense Roman persecution. In 1 Peter 4:16 he wrote, “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name glorify God.”
If anyone knew what it was to be ashamed of being identified with Jesus it was Peter. It was the lessons he learned from his spiritual failures that allowed him to write three verses later, “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Pt 4:19). Peter had learned what it meant to entrust his soul to a faithful Creator. He learned what it meant to really trust, and to not give up on God, no matter how hopeless the circumstances or how counterintuitive it seemed to continue to trust in God’s word of promise.
Peter had learned the difference between an intellectual, self-confident faith and an experiential, dependent faith. But first Peter needed to be stripped of his spiritual pride. The only faith that pleases God is the faith that has nothing else on which to rely but God’s word of promise in His revealed word, and the nature and character of God to be faithful to His word (Hb 11:6; cf. Nm 14:11; Ps 78:19-22).
Why Wait? Because God is Working.
Are you tempted to give up on God? Such temptation comes from two sources; unbelief or spiritual pride, or a combination of both. God does not ask us to do His work, but He does expect us to do the work He has called us to do, and sometimes that work is to patiently wait on Him. When we fail to wait on God and resort to our own schemes and wisdom, we are attempting to do the work God has reserved for Himself. As a result we rob God of the glory due only to Him, we try to counterfeit what only God can do, and attribute our own sin-tainted schemes to God.
When God calls us to a specific task, trial, or ministry he also calls us to trust in Him unconditionally to provide all we need to accomplish the task or endure the trial. Anything less will lead to spiritual failure, giving up on God, and the forfeiture of God’s blessings which He has promised only to those who wait (Ps 25:3). We may even miss God’s intended blessing by just one day.