Good day TRC and Friends! We just studied Isaiah 44:1-5 as our primary text for Stand Sunday. On Stand Sunday we draw attention to the foster care crisis and the church’s place in meeting the needs of our cities.
In this sermon, we introduced our theme for 2023, and that theme is maturity in patiently seeking and waiting on God.
One point I wanted to be careful to reiterate is that waiting on God is not a list of things to do and it is not doing nothing. Waiting on God is a posture of the heart.
To confuse waiting on God with doing nothing is to just not read the Bible seriously.
David uses “wait on the Lord” around 25 times. Isaiah uses the same phrase about 11 times.
Stop and think about David who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to pen Bible content, tells us to wait on the Lord. He reminds us to wait on the Lord while he is clearly not sedentary or failing to obey the clear will of God on mission and in ethical living, even while failing at mission and ethical living. David’s heart was bent toward the Lord, and even though he failed, his waiting on God looked like repentance and believing that God forgives him.
The predominant idea behind waiting on the Lord is the internal posture of the heart that anticipates, expects, cries out for, looks forward to, has eyes to see, and then actively receives the help and power of the Lord to advance his will on earth as in heaven as we, his hands and feet, are enacting and advancing his will through obedience.
Does that make sense?
Here is another illustration from Acts 16:6-15:
Acts 16:6-15 (CSB) 6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for several days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. 14 A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
God prevents Paul and his companions from going to certain places to preach the gospel as they are on mission to preach the gospel. They were prevented from going to the places they planned to go. They did not see the “frustration” of their plans as anything but the Holy Spirit keeping them out of a region, so they had to believe God wanted them to keep moving because Jesus has sent them on mission with his final instruction.
They didn’t sit down and do nothing, and they didn’t turn around and go home. They want down to another city, Troas. They kept moving. There, Paul had a dream of a man asking them to come over to Macedonia and help.
Verse 11 is huge. The Greek wording is more explicit than the English translations. “Put out to sea and sailed straight” carries the sailing thought that the winds actually assisted their direct course, and those winds just so happened to be for the location of the man in Paul’s dream.
Waiting on the Lord here looks like staying on mission and in faith pressing on, and when God frustrates the good plan, we keep moving to the next place, and we receive his direction. When we get his direction, we make new plans and expect the wind to push the ship along, and we get on board and roll with God on mission.
Implicit in the text is the inspired end of chapter 15. They made a plan to go and visit the places they visited on the first missionary journey. They worked through the plan, gathered their needs, and set out to execute the plan.
Paul and his team’s posture was to get after the mission, make a plan to do it, and view each detail of their plan as under the sovereign hand of God, and to keep moving forward on mission until and when the Holy Spirit caused the winds and ships to be going in the right direction.
That is clear as day. Waiting on God is not doing nothing. Waiting on God is the internal posture of obedience to being about the clear will of God, and full of faith that God can and will empower his work in and through us and thus a willingness to get after any “audible” God might call.
There is no such thing as being lazy, doing nothing, and at the same time calling that “waiting on God.”
We plan. We work the plan. We strive toward the mission. We hold our plans with open hands and anticipate the help of the Spirit. We receive God’s help. And all of this is possible because we believe and rest in God’s good work to cause spontaneous power to grow out of the garden of disciplined obedience to wisely get after his work.
So, do the clear things that God’s word says to do. Gather for worship. Spend time together with your fellow church members. Obey the Bible. Preach the gospel to people who are not Christians by being with non-Christians. Teach and practice obeying God’s word together. Baptize new Christians. Serve one another. Heal the broken things around you and tell folks that the kingdom of God has come near to them. You know, all the great things God has given us to do. As we do those things together on mission with wisdom, have a heart postured to hear and receive the Spirit’s direction and empowerment.
Whatever you do, don’t let yourself believe that waiting on God is doing nothing. We receive the power of God for mission as we are on mission with hearts tuned in faith to believing God and resting in him as we do his work.