The Second Greatest Teacher in the World

Waiting is hard. And yet, we have to wait every single day…in traffic (UGH!), at checkout counters in the supermarket, at the doctor’s office, and in drive-thru lanes. These daily waits never fail to try our nerves. In fact, do you ever make your choice of a line at the gas station or the supermarket, and then…you keep an eye on the other line…where YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN if you had chosen that line? Hating to wait is a universal life experience.

But, there is another kind of waiting – a more poignant kind of waiting – the waiting of a childless couple, who has been praying and hoping to have a child for years; the waiting of a chronically ill patient for death; the waiting of an abused person for healing and peace; the waiting of a single person to meet a life partner; or the waiting of someone in a dead-end career for a breakthrough.

Make no mistake about it, waiting is one of the most difficult seasons of life. And yet…God has a purpose for waiting… and can teach us spiritual lessons in the classroom called waiting that we could not learn in any other way. If you are in a season of waiting right now, this is hard news to hear. It is a particularly hard truth to embrace in a culture that is characterized by “Instant-itis:” We want what WE want…NOW!

Author, Richard Hendrix says that waiting is the second greatest teacher in the world: “Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in Godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.” As, my friend, Ben Patterson says, “At least as important as the things we wait for… is the work God wants to do in us as we wait.” Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent (p. 11)

The Bible is clear that although we get impatient with waiting, God is doing a good work in us as we wait, producing qualities like perseverance, character, and hope. Waiting is not something that we do until we get what we hoped for. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what we hope for. Let that sink in for a minute.

Theologian and preacher John Calvin preached 159 sermons in the 16th century from the mysterious Book of Job. In each sermon, he concluded with these words, “Now we shall present ourselves before the face of God, and bow in humble reverence.” Calvin challenged his congregation to continually bow in humble reverence before God. He urged them to YIELD to God’s greater purposes. Calvin couldn’t tell people the reason for waiting, but he was certain that the response God seeks from us as we wait is humble reverence. Always.

Years ago, a church who was seeking a new Senior Pastor was deeply disappointed when their “number one choice” turned them down. The Chair of the Pastor Nominating Committee calmly told his committee that God already knows who will be their next Senior Pastor. Therefore, their task is one of discernment. So… at their next meeting, he invited the committee to join him in the sanctuary and “wait on the Lord.” He had arranged for the organist to play familiar hymns for one solid hour, as the group prayed in silence. The committee members were frustrated with this idea…they wanted to get back to work…and not WASTE TIME praying! But, during the prayer time, a member of the committee remembered that her sister had given her CD’s of a pastor who might be a possible candidate. The committee member had put them in her drawer at home, and never listened to them. That night she went home, listened to the sermons and shared them with the committee. Within three months they had called the pastor who had preached those sermons to become pastor of the church. This story means a lot to me…because the pastor who was called to that church was…ME!

[tweetable]God’s sense of time is radically different than our human sense of time. Waiting helps us to see time from God’s perspective. To wait for God is to bow before God’s superior wisdom and timing when it comes to the things we want. It is to confess that God is in charge…and WE are not!

Herein lies the greatest mystery of our waiting. Through waiting, we discover that God is the one who is doing the waiting! We think we are the ones waiting for God… but in reality, it is God who is waiting for us to YIELD to Him. As Martin Luther said, “I thank God for all the times I’ve prayed for silver, and God said no…and made me wait…so God could give me gold instead”

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