Isaiah 40:11; Hebrews 10:32-39
Speaking of patiently waiting, a turtle family went on a picnic. They had prepared seven years for their outing, then left home, searching for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey, they found it. For about six months they cleared the area, unpacked the picnic basket. They discovered, however, that they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed. After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to go back for the salt. He agreed to go on only with one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left. Three years passed, and the little turtle had not returned. Five years. Six years. Then in the seventh year of his absence, the eldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger, announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich. At that point, the little turtle popped out from behind a tree shouting, “SEE! I knew that you wouldn’t wait!”
How many of you have trouble waiting patiently?
A man in Los Angeles, California recently ran out of patience and was arrested for negligent discharge of a weapon after shooting his toilet bowl five times with a 38 caliber handgun. His daughter had flushed a hairbrush earlier in the day and it clogged the pipes.
He had been using a snake to try to clear it when he just lost it, so he shot the offending toilet. I have no word on the toilet’s condition, but the man’s patience was long gone.
Don’t you just love to wait? We wait in lines; we wait to hear about a new job. We wait for a decision to be made. We wait to grow up, wait to find a spouse, wait for children to come along, wait for them to grow up, and then wait for them to get it together. We wait to retire. We wait for someone to change his or her mind. We wait on traffic. Boy, do I love to wait in traffic; almost every day I go crazy trying to turn left onto North Court Street and enter into a solid line of stop and go traffic all the way up to the square.
By the way, if you are growing weary of waiting for red lights to turn green you can purchase a MIRT (mobile infrared transmitter). They’ve been available to police and fire/rescue crews for years in order to speed their deployment to the scene of a crime, a fire, or an accident. But you can purchase one for about $500 and never have to wait again. Never mind that it is a felony for an average Joe like you and me to use one.
Patiently waiting on God to answer our prayers, change our circumstances, or open closed doors is very much like sitting at a very long red light. Wouldn’t we all love to push a button and magically force God to give us a green light for all our plans and desires?
But it doesn’t work that way, does it? His timing seldom coincides with ours. But the Bible says, “God makes all things beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Waiting patiently is not only an essential quality of a happy life but also an indispensable aspect of living a victorious Christian life.
That’s what the author of Hebrews is hoping for the Christians he writes. They, like David, are in the pits, facing difficult times, in danger of giving up their faith. So this author encourages them to first remember all the ways God was faithful to them in the past. And then he continues: (Heb. 10:35-36a)
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now.
The word here translated ‘patient endurance’ is not the same Greek word translated in Galatians 5:22 when Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘patience.’ That patience has to do with being passively patient with another person who has somehow wronged us. This patience is active in nature.
These two NT Greek words are derived from two OT Hebrew words translated ‘wait;’
one of which is also passive and the other is active. The one used by Isaiah in today’s text and also a number of times by the Psalmist as for example in Psalm 40:1, “I waited for the Lord on high,” is the active kind of waiting.
The root of this word literally means to ‘bind together by twisting’ and as we can readily imagine described the process of making a rope. As the use of this word evolved, it took on the idea of ‘expectation,’ ‘patiently looking forward to,’ ‘to wait confidently.’ As in I don’t know how long this is going to take, but I can patiently look forward to the completion of this project, I can wait confidently because I know that in time the job will get done.
A great illustration of this word concerns a Thomas Cooper, who was born in Oxford, England in 1517. In 1549, Cooper began working on a comprehensive thesaurus. During the next eight years, he systematically chronicled 33,000 entries. Now Cooper had a troublesome wife who became jealous of his work. One day in 1557, she went into Thomas’ study and burned all of his notes on the pretense that he would kill himself with study. Arriving home soon afterward, Thomas asked who had caused this destruction. His wife boldly replied that she had burned his notes. “Oh Dinah, Dinah, thou hast given me a world of trouble” sighed Thomas. He then sat down and for the next 8 years he recreated the notes she destroyed. And finally in in 1565 the first edition of his thesaurus was published. His ability to wait patiently was rewarded when Queen Elizabeth, who was greatly impressed with his Thesaurus, made him bishop of Lincoln.
So you see when Isaiah says, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; when David sings, ‘I waited for the Lord on high’ and when the writer of Hebrews says that we need ‘patient endurance’ what they are saying is this: Before we begin to have doubts, give up the faith, get to the end of our rope, we need to remember to take our ‘situation’ (hold up smaller strand of rope) to the Lord God (hold up the other larger diameter rope)
and bind the two together by twisting while praying (pray as you twist) “Lord, I’ve been waiting for this situation to resolve for so long, I’m in the pits and I fear that my rope of faith is about to break as I can’t take it anymore. So I am going to bind this situation to You. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but that’s okay I can bide my time. I can wait confidently, patiently because I am wrapping my weakness around your strength.
What kind of waiting pit are you in? Perhaps the pit you are currently in has to do with poor health, or just the process of getting older. Perhaps the pit of loss; of a job, a friend, a loved one. Maybe a former friend turned against you. Maybe it was an unfaithful mate, the aftermath of a divorce or children who can’t seem to find their way in life.
Whatever your situation, whatever pit you are in, realize that God is throwing you a rope; His rope (the larger rope). Wrap your situation (the small rope) around His rope (larger rope) and as you do pray, “Lord, I’ve been waiting for some resolution for a long time
and I fear that my rope is about to break as I can’t handle it anymore. So I am going to bind this situation to You. I don’t know how long it’s going to take . . . but that’s okay
I can bide my time . . . I can wait confidently . . . patiently because I am wrapping my weakness around your strength and I trust that the light will turn green in Your good time.
By the way, our shepherd, the Lord Jesus models this very exercise for us. He was in the pit of despair as He made His way from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. He dropped to His knees to pray and said, “Father, this situation is too much for Me to bear alone; please get me out this jam.” (my loose translation). Those words had no sooner passed His lips when He realized He was asking for a green light and then said,
“Never mind, Your will be done, not mine.”
By the way, thinking about Jesus leads us back to today’s text where the author not only encourages us to wait patiently for the Lord to act on our behalf, but to also look forward to His return: “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay”
How do we reconcile “in just a little while” with 2000 years of waiting? Peter helps with his reminder that “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” By that reckoning, it has been only two days since Jesus left us with a promise to return!
Then too, there is Paul’s teaching that to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” We in the Christian faith believe this hope is fully experienced at death; thus the coming of the Lord is never any further away than one’s own death.
Indeed, the stories are many in which some saint has not only persevered through but also triumphed in and even soared over the greatest of sufferings and trials even death
buoyed by the hope of being present with the Lord and with other loved ones gone before.
A woman caught in a frightening storm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean had kept all the little children on board from panicking by telling Bible stories. After finally reaching the port safely, the ship’s captain approached the woman, whom he had observed in the midst of the tempest. “How were you able to maintain your calm when almost everyone else feared the ship would sink in this storm?” As she looked up, he noted the same quiet peace in her eyes that she had maintained throughout the journey. “I have two other daughters,” explained the woman. “One of them lives in New York . . . the other is already in heaven. I knew I would see one or the other of my daughters in a few hours.”
And it really didn’t matter to me which one.”
The Lord is coming again, one way or the other; and it really shouldn’t matter which one,
it just matters that He is coming with His heavenly reward.
Are you in a pit of despair today? Afraid that you are in danger of giving up your faith?
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. For in just a little while,
the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith.
But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away. But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.