But, I Hate to Wait! (Part 2)

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22 ESV). One of my favorite scenes from the movie Forrest Gump is when Forrest sends his son off to school. They are sitting on a stump by the mailboxes waiting for the bus to arrive. It is a momentous occasion filled with both excitement and anxiety for both of them. But, the bus arrives and little Forrest boards the bus and all of the waiting seems worth it. It is a picture of life. When we pray, God answers. The answers are always the challenge. “No” is easy, because, well . . . it’s a no. “No” is concrete, and even though difficult, you can grieve, heal, and move on from “No.” “Yes” is great, because it’s a yes. You get the thing. But “Later” is hard. That’s the one we simply don’t understand. We don’t know if a “later” is “yes” or “no” until after the fact. It is helpful to remember that God’s most precious gifts are often established in the journey, which takes time to unfold. First, “later” increases our capacity for faith. if God didn’t want a deep and affectionate relationship with you, he would give you everything you wanted immediately. He would placate you with the pleasures of this world. For those who know God, that is intuitively unlike him — not unlike him to bless, but unlike him to appease. Second, God asks us to wait to build appreciation. Immediacy can depreciate the value with which the recipient receives the gift. In waiting, God is kindling the fire that allows gifts to be received with joy. God doesn’t just want a gift to be a means to an end, but for the delight in the gift itself to be a means to grow in faith and joy. Exercising patience is an investment in future enjoyment, both from God’s perspective and yours (cf. Proverbs 13:12). Third, “later” embeds permanence in our lives. We must be mindful that some gifts, in order for their goodness to last, require time to implant and grow. There are those times when we really do need to experience the storm to appreciate the sunshine. I always appreciate the cool day following a brief summer storm, even though they may be momentarily severe. Sometimes we use up all of our endurance, or a “no” comes, and faith seems to stand at the end sheepishly and embarrassingly empty-handed. It is at those times that we can look at all of those who have gone before us and recognize that God has already guaranteed an eternity where we will never be empty-handed. Even though I may hate to wait, that truth makes it much...

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But, I Hate to Wait! (Part 1)

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV). Some of our good friends from Middle Tennessee are farmers. This picture was taken by Cheryl  Brown overlooking one of their cornfields with a beautiful sunrise in the background. I have talked with her and her husband, Darryl, on many occasions about the complexities of farming on a commercial scale. There is always something to be done on a working farm, but there are times when you simply have to wait. You may be waiting on rain, or simply the process of growth to continue before you can harvest. I can tell you that I would have a difficult time doing that. I hate to wait. I read one author, Paul Maxwell, who expressed this common characteristic like this: Anxiety is the slave song of the human heart under the tyranny of insignificance. Impatience is an acute strand of anxiety — played in a certain key — that can mesmerize and trap a soul in an infinite loop of hypnotized idolatry. With each heartbeat, drops of innocent desire increasingly become a torrent of violent mania, accruing simple words with vast jurisdiction: “I want it” . . . “I want all” . . . “I want it all now, RIGHT NOW!” The truth is this impatience typically is masked under the calm innocence of the original desire. We have grown accustomed to waiting calmly on the outside while raging on the inside. We wait for that return text message; we wait for an answer from the outcome of clinical diagnoses from tests performed; we wait for our spouse to return home; we wait to hear news of that job we applied for and so desperately need. We wait. And, we grow weary. This impatience is the antithesis to the entire concept of “our daily bread,” in favor of a mere “give us each day”; further, it typically becomes, “Just give it.” Then we hear the misguided adage from well-meaning Christian teachers and ministers that “God gives three answers to prayer: yes, no, or later.” Well, the truth is we can barely tolerate “no” and “later” becomes the bane of our existence. Let me give you some good news. The temptation that faces every believer is to proceed as if God had given a “No” or “Yes.” To say “I’m just going to assume I’m getting this,” or “I’m just going to move on without a clear answer.” But that is not what God is doing with “later.” “Later” is not merely divine ambiguity. With “later,” God amplifies a Christian’s spiritual state. “Do you hear that? Do you hear that insecurity? Do you hear that fear? I’m teaching you how to respond to that. I’m teaching you how to process those emotions, and trust me with those thoughts.” “Later” is more than “not now.” “Later” means “I’m working. Wait a bit and the harvest will...

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The Now and Not Yet

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:12-13 ESV). I’ve been exploring some of the ways we can find rest the last few days. I hope you have been able to follow along. Today I want us to look at the simple truth of our experience. While we all long for rest from the fatigue of living, it is often challenging to find it. We seem to be caught in the midst of what has come to be known as “the now and not yet.” God has placed the desire for rest in our souls, and he promises to fulfill it. The prophet declares, “I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25). However, if you’re like me, I really get tired of being in between the labor of life and rest promised. Life seems to be a war with no end in sight. That’s why you are often tired. Many soldiers, who experience the fierceness of combat, want to get out of it. That’s why you’re tempted to escape. That’s why you’re tempted to give up. Let me begin with the enjoinder to not give up. Here are some encouraging Scriptures for some of those battles that seem so endlessly defeating: Don’t give up when that familiar sin, still crouching at your door after all these years, pounces again with temptation. The apostle says, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don’t give up when you feel that deep soul weariness from long battles with persistent weaknesses. Again Paul says, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9). Don’t give up when your long asked-and-sought-and-knocked-for prayers have not yet been answered. Jesus said, in the Parable of the Persistent Widow, that we can continue to pray to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1). The simple truth is that each moment, whether pressing in on us or releasing us to take another step is just a bit closer to that one glorious moment when we will receive real, eternal rest. Our call is to endurance! Let’s walk...

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Finding Rest (Part 3)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15 ESV). The last principle I would encourage you with is to know the depth of love God has for you. God loves us unconditionally. No matter what nothing can separate us from His love. His love does not fluctuate as it does with people. The Lord does not hang it over our heads when we mess up or sinned. He gave us Jesus to atone for this. Ask the Lord to show you His love to you, so you can enter in His rest. When we experience His love it will flow to others. On your darkest days when there is nothing to keep you going, He loves you. It is the kind of love no one can match. No husband, parent, friend, or child will love you the way He can and will love you. When we understand this we can move ahead and love ourselves, our enemies, and love God. This brings us to a position in life where we can have hope. We need to hope in order to find peace. Hope is the assurance that he cares for us, and will provide for us moving forward. This is a blind faith, and it tests our very soul at times. When you don’t feel like you can make it another day, turn to the Scriptures to feed your soul and drown out any voices that are condemning, or causing anxiety. God promised to renew our strength like the eagle, and we will run and not faint. Also, go to the Bible, a devotional, enter into prayer, or play worship music to encourage yourself and to keep your spirit energized. The ability to step away from the busy world and to enter into a divine rest is a blessing that can be yours. Stepping away from the world and trying to figure everything out never works. Try to surrender your will and dreams—allow Him to take it. Allow rest to become more of an active part of your life. If history teaches us anything about God it is that he never forgets His people and longs to bless them. Though the people had turned from the Lord, He longed to be gracious and compassionate to them for they were in a covenant relationship with Him. As a God of justice, He stands ever ready to send blessings to those who depend on Him so that they may walk in His way. The Lord longs to be faithful to His people. And when they call on Him for help instead of on someone or something else, He will answer. Though His people experience difficulties, God will ultimately amazingly bless His children. Take another step in your journey today. Trust him to show you each one. Know that he will not forsake you. He loves...

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Finding Rest (Part 2)

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6:29-34 ESV). The second principle in finding rest is in the releasing of our burdens. Our problems are not a surprise to God. When we try to make things happen and work in the flesh to vindicate ourselves or promote ourselves we will end up in trouble. We can lean on God and find the rest in Him. We can enjoy life no matter what is going on. Worrying is useless and will cause more stress in the mind and body. Don’t wear yourself out by trying to control what you can’t anymore. The bottom line is that you are being counterproductive when you enter into this type of negative cycle. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair, rocking all day, wearing yourself out, and getting nowhere. Trusting God means we give up worrying, reasoning, and anxiety and we enter into His rest with simple childlike faith; we live by grace through faith. Jesus knows that he only is our salvation, our fortress, our mighty rock, our refuge. He is the one answer to every question, concern, fear, and need we will ever have. And so he simply and comprehensively offers us himself. For our hope is from him. Only in him will we find rest for our souls. But if what he promises us is rest, isn’t there something we must do? Yesterday we saw Jesus say we must put on a “yoke” with him.  A yoke is placed on a beast of burden in order to do some work. So what is the “doing”? Jesus answered this question in our reading today. We must believe and abide. That really is all the work God requires of us. Faith (believing and abiding) is resting on the hopeful promises of God. That is the yoke Jesus calls us to put on. What is happening here is a yoke-exchange. In the cross, Jesus takes our unbearably heavy yoke of sin’s condemnation and penalty, and offers us in exchange the easy yoke and light burden of simply trusting him. He does all the work and gives us all the rest. And his work not only fully addresses our sin problem, but also provides the supply of every other need we will ever have (cf. Philippians 4:19). All we are required to do is trust him! And if that wasn’t enough, in becoming human and dwelling among us, Jesus makes it possible for us to learn from him how to live by faith. That’s the light yoke Jesus calls us to put on. It is the only yoke in existence that gives us rest for our...

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