"God Is Faithful. Get Busy And Wait On The Lord"#79-22
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 5, 2012
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Do I Need to Go to Church to Be a Good Christian?)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Isaiah 40:28-31
"Grace, and mercy, and peace to you from the Lord who always fulfills His promises to those who wait on Him!" Amen!
Have you noticed that people don't like to wait for much of anything anymore? We want more and more of a drive-thru life, just roll down the window, pick up your order, (whatever that order is) and get on to the next thing. And we want to get to that next thing fast.
Who of us likes to wait? Who of us even thinks that waiting might be the best thing?
So, most of us, we endure the pain of waiting. We anxiously wait in our traffic jams on the way to work. We endure the ads at the movies, waiting for the feature film to start. We wait our turn, grousing about why it's taking so long.
But we wait anxiously for other things, even more important things, too. We wait for that special person to call. We wait for that job, that needed job opportunity, to appear. We wait for those test results to come back from the doctor.
A recent poll by Priority Management, Inc. stated that "In a lifetime, the average American will spend six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, and five years waiting in line."
And worse, we get more irritated the longer we have to wait.
A 2006, Associated Press and Ipsos Poll found that while waiting in line at an office or store, women lost their patience after waiting in line for about 18 minutes, for men, it was about 15.
The point-we all spend a lot of our time in life waiting and we really don't like it. But why? One reason might be that modern people have been taught to expect things now!
In this technological age, we are an "instant gratification" people.
But, I do think that the issue goes even deeper than that. I think we don't like to wait, because we're not very confident about what tomorrow might bring. We don't like being in the "waiting room" at the hospital because we're uncertain of the outcome of our stay. We don't want to "take time getting to know a person," because we might just get hurt in the end anyway.
When things seem out of our control, we hate the wait!
In fact, we're tempted even then not to wait on the Lord but rather to do something about it, to grab for the gusto, to take what we want, now!
Wait? Who has time to wait? Who has patience to wait? Who has faith to wait? Yes, faith. Confident trust that the future will bring blessing no matter the circumstance of the moment.
In our lesson, the Prophet Isaiah speaks to the graced people of Israel who were an impatient people just like us. They were unwilling to wait on God; they were unwilling to do what He said. They often times usurped their position of being God's people of the promise and mercy for others. They often felt that God's favor was deserved and therefore that they had the right to do things on their terms and in their time. They weren't just impatient; they were disobedient. Impatience, disobedience, rash decisions, these things often go hand in hand.
But Isaiah isn't merely writing to an impatient people. He is writing to a people under the hand of God's judgment. Writing around the year 700 BC, he speaks to a people in turmoil.
What happened to them serves as a warning and an invitation to us. Their unfaithful impatience brought God's judgment and punishment. And as they sat in captivity in a foreign land, God's message to them and to us is clear: God says, "I am merciful, and faithful, I wish to bless you, if you will but wait on Me!"
"Those who wait on the Lord they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!"
Waiting? Often times, the underlying challenge really is, "Is the waiting worth it?"
It depends on who or what you're waiting for.
Because of our sinfulness, we often wait for the wrong things; wait on the wrong people. For many, then, to wait is to be disappointed, to miss out, to be discouraged. Our lesson today calls us to repentance, to a life whose object for waiting and hoping is God, Himself. Isaiah not only compels us to wait by faith as God's people, confidently and obediently, it literally links the word "wait and hope" together.
We can wait, joyfully, expectantly, hopefully, on God because we can trust Him!
The Hebrew word for "wait" in Isaiah 40:31 means: to bind together, to gather (together), to look patiently, to wait (for or upon) something or someone.
Such "waiting" here is really a "coming together" with the Lord, being "intertwined" with His purposes and His promises. Such waiting not only compels us to patience, it literally grants us hope.
We can wait on Him with hope because we can trust Him.
If there were ever was a time when the believers in the Old Testament needed an uplifting message, it was then! Many of the "chosen" people (the northern kingdom) were already taken away into captivity in Assyria and now Isaiah is predicting Judah's capture and demise in Babylon! Their rebellion and disobedience was threatening their very relationship with God. They were guilty as charged. They knew or would soon know that they had squandered God's grace. What would become of them now?
Yet in this time of testing, even this time of discipline, God's ultimate message to those who would trust Him is that He would restore them, God Himself would reestablish them mercifully as His people in this world.
As Christians, we can see this promise even more clearly today. God not only brought Judah back from captivity in Babylon, He would bring redemption and restoration to the world finally through the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. Isaiah's promises are fulfilled in Jesus for all the world to see!
The promises made to Israel that day come to fruition in the Person and work of Jesus. God ultimately has the final say of grace, and mercy, and eternal life with those who trust Him.
So, even in the midst of trial, or struggle, or discipline, we can trust Him. We can wait on Him in all things.
At age 16, Andor Foldes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian's personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Foldes play for him. Foldes obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, and Beethoven, and Schumann. When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead. "My son," he said, "when I was your age, I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, 'Take good care of this kiss--it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.' I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, now I give it to you."
In Christ, God's "kiss of blessing" was firmly offered to all who would believe in Him. In our text for today, Isaiah speaks of God's blessing, God's renewed strength, of His gift of life given to those who had lost it all. The God who fulfills His promises to ancient Israel, fulfills all of His promises to the world by sending His Son to bring the great treasure of life and salvation for all to receive. Through God's Word, His sacraments, God literally gifts us with His Spirit, His Grace, His love. As ugly and terrifying as the cross of Jesus might be, it is God's merciful "kiss of grace" offered to you and to me, to be a bearer of this gift in this world.
His blessing awaits all those who hope in Him, who wait on Him.
"Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint!"
So, we Christians, then, we get busy and we wait, with God's promises motivating us, with His Presence sustaining all who trust in Him.
But, waiting on the Lord, then, is no idle proposition. Such a "waiting hoping" life is active, involved, ready to roll up one's sleeves to get to work, but always in hope.
Get busy waiting. It means that we get to live this life of trust in Him in all things right now. Christians get to rise up, to run, to walk, to get busy.
As Isaiah reminds all those who put their hope in God, we get to rise up on eagles' wings with eagles' eyes. We get to run weary free in the midst of trouble. We get to walk dreary free in the midst of the mundane, the challenges of day to day routine.
With renewed strength in the certainty of God's promises, with an eagle-eye perspective of His Word in our lives we get busy waiting.
Christi Harken writes in "Eagle Vision And Dependability", she says,
"Birds of all kinds can see where they are going. They pick and choose their direction and path (but eagles see and do things differently.) As birds fly by instinct they head where they are directed. But they can only see what is in front of them. Eagles are known to have vision. An eagle can see up to five miles and often times is able to see well beyond normal sight. The eagle knows where it is going and determines how it is going to get there. While other birds migrate by instinct the eagle stays in its territory throughout the year, season after season. The eagle is dependable and will hold its place in its territory. When a storm approaches, other birds fly in fear while the eagle is energized by the challenge of the storm. The eagle catches the wind and rises above the storm."
Isaiah reminds all who wait on the Lord that we wait with His renewing energy, we wait with His sustaining Presence, and we wait with the eagle eyes of faith.
The people of Israel were to get busy waiting with hopeful faith in the Lord in all circumstances. Those who would find themselves in a foreign land they were to begin to live faithful lives even there.
So, too, we are called to wait, to hope in the Lord, to follow His lead, to be faithful to Him no matter what the circumstance.
God is faithful. We will trust Him. We will wait on the Lord!
Christians, then, get busy while we're waiting. But even waiting, we are hopeful as we do.
As we wait on Him, we're hopeful even though He works in His time!
I know that waiting is often difficult because there are times when God's answer to prayer is "to wait on Him." In those waiting times, even then, we need to remember God is working out things in His time for the good of His people.
For many, sounds like a strange answer, but it's not.
The Prophet Isaiah said earlier in Isaiah 30:18 - "Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!"
This is the answer that God has given to the questioning, even complaining people down through time. In all things He seeks to show Himself to be faithful, to demonstrate what it truly means to be saved by His grace alone with no merit or worthiness from or in me.
Therefore, in the middle of "the bread of adversity," or in the "waters of affliction," God invites you and me even then even now to wait on Him. Don't push away the hand of His grace. Don't act as though He has said something strange to you. Trust in Him, even in those times when all you have is His promise. He won't let you down, no matter what.
He says such things over and over again to all in similar times of need.
The Psalmist reminds us "be still before the Lord, wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." -- Psalm 37:7
The Prophet Isaiah says it again and again, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait on Him." -- Isaiah 64:
God's timing often seems slow to us! Yet even then the Bible says that He works for our good in His time, in His way. The Prophet Isaiah challenges Israel, and he challenges us all to never forget that God always works at the right time, and in the right way for you and for me!
In the Royal Palace of Tehran, a noted official was touring the palace, and then he was awed by its grandeur, especially the prisms of the multi-colored light, the glittering splendor of the grand entry to the palace proper. At that moment, the guide spoke of how such splendor came to be. "If you look closely," he said, "it is not diamonds that you see. It is small, broken pieces of mirror. The architect originally wanted mirrors from Paris to line the grand entry way, but when the mirrors arrived, they were all broken to pieces. All were disappointed, all were dismayed.
"As the workman gathered the broken mirrors to be discarded, the architect yelled, 'Stop.' With a hammer, he broke more and more of the pieces and glued them skillfully to the wall until the whole entry way was filled with sparkling light. The church official said he could only think of one line, 'Broken to be more beautiful.'"
The Lord always works at the right time for the good of His people. Even in our brokenness, He can work the beauty of His grace.
Judah's return from Babylon was "at the right time." The events of Christmas were "just in time." The promises coming to fulfillment through Mary and Joseph, to shepherds and wisemen alike, was at the right time. Whether in the brokenness of the moment or in the victory of the day, through this Word, this is the time of God's favor for you.
Have you been broken, don't despair, start looking for God's greater good. Are you anxiously waiting and yet the Lord seems so far away, trust in the Lord's guidance now. You will not be disappointed.
It's not that this seems too good to be true. It is that God has made it possible to be true. Isaiah called the promised people to believe and to trust in the Promises of God above all things, to trust in His mercy. Well, He calls you and me to trust in Him today too because the work of Jesus Christ on your behalf has opened the door out of bondage to an energetic, waiting-hoping life in God renewed, refreshed, and sustained always by Him alone!
The great Houdini was a master magician; actually he was an awfully good "locksmith." He had a standing challenge that there was not a jail in the country that could hold him!
A jail in the British Isles took up the challenge. They finished their "escape proof" cell and invited Houdini. Houdini accepted and was placed in the cell. As the locksmith left, he turned the lock in a strange direction and with the clang of the door they left Houdini to his work.
Houdini took out his special piece of metal to work the lock, he worked for 30 minutes. He put his ear up to the lock and through his skill; he did his work, waiting to hear it "trip." After an hour he was perspiring, after two he was exhausted. Finally, dejected and defeated, he leaned against the door and voila, it opened! They hadn't locked it at all! But more importantly, it had been locked in his mind.
Today God is offering you an open door to a new life with Him. Don't let the exhaustion of the moment or the troubles of today tempt you to take your eyes off the promises of God and the blessing that is already there for those who trust Him.
His promises open the door of forgiveness, and life, and salvation for us. By the power of the gift of faith, believers enter into that life of grace now. Even in the midst of trial, don't assume that God doesn't care or that He isn't concerned.
Remember this day what the Bible says, God is faithful. We will trust Him, in hope we will wait on the Lord, for "those who wait on the Lord they will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for February 5, 2012
Topic: Do I Need to Go to Church to Be a Good Christian?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Today a listener says he enjoys reading his Bible and listening to the Lutheran Hour. Why does he need to also go to church?
SELTZ: Mark, first of all let's say to our listener, "I'm sure glad that he enjoys reading his Bible and listening to the Lutheran Hour," please don't stop!! But it is interesting to hear the question, "Do I have to go to church also?" It used to be, "Since I go to church, why do I need to read the Bible too?"
ANNOUNCER: So, we should look at this as a privilege. It's not "I have to do this but I get to do this."
SELTZ: That's right. It should be a both/and issue, not one that is either/or. But, in the right spirit of "Do you mean I get to do all these things," let's see why going to church is so important.
ANNOUNCER: But, beyond being important, isn't it enough that God commands us to do that?
SELTZ: Yes, for the Christian, that is the first and last word, that's for sure. But even God's commands are for a reason. Remember in Hebrews 10:35, where the Scripture says, we're not to neglect the habit of meeting together." It says that in the context of discussing how "gathering" can help Christians "spur one another on to acts of love and service."
ANNOUNCER: So, in that sense, going to church is not only for your own benefit, it's also part of the Christian life, being lived out for the sake of others.
SELTZ: Exactly. Have you ever thought about the fact that Christians who commit themselves to "regularly come to Church," are not only receiving God's love and forgiveness through His public ministry, are also "making sure that's there's a church to come to."
ANNOUNCER: So, the act of coming to Sunday worship becomes a blessing to others, because it means that these "public gatherings around God's gifts" of forgiveness, life, and salvation will still be there, then, in the future for others when they need them.
SELTZ: Absolutely. But now we do need to keep first things first. Christians do come to church because they need to. They need to continually hear God's public declaration that "they need God's forgiveness and that they are forgiven, saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus." The Bible says in Romans 10. For "faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ." Often times, the most difficult thing in the life of faith is realizing that God is talking to you personally.
ANNOUNCER: So, it's God's Word for us that matters the most. But God's public voice is also meant for each of us personally.
SELTZ: That's a good point, and that's why public worship and God's public, pastoral ministry is an incredible blessing to believers. We hear FROM "outside of ourselves" that God's gifts are "for us" in Jesus Christ!
ANNOUNCER: All right. So, it sounds as if "going to church" then, is something like a hungry person going to that once a week "big feast" of the best, most delicious, most abundant food available.
SELTZ: Wow, that sounds great. But, wait a minute now. So things like the Lutheran Hour and our Bible studies, devotions, and witnessing training; are those merely "snacks throughout the week?"
ANNOUNCER: Well, certainly more than snacks. Think of it maybe as a lunch pail feast for the rest of the week!
SELTZ: I really like that..... "Lunch pail feast for the rest of the week." That's why I think this is a "both/and" answer.
ANNOUNCER: But, I also like what you said about "people going to church so that there will still be a faithful church to go to" in the future.
SELTZ: We often do take the incredible "Good news of Jesus" for granted don't we? We assume that it will be there when we need it. I think that's why Jesus commands us "To confess Him before others" in Matthew 10. It's for our sake, that's for sure, but it's also for all those who need to hear that powerful confession for their faith, too.
ANNOUNCER: Okay. So, going to church blesses you, it strengthens your faith, and it even provides blessings to others, as we commit ourselves to "publically receiving" and sharing this faith.
SELTZ: And, it's a place to practice your faith with others too. But that's a whole other show.
ANNOUNCER: We could also add that ministries like The Lutheran Hour and Lutheran Hour Ministries are extensions of that confession, and they provide resources for both individual believers and also for churches that can empower their walk with Jesus, personally and publically.
SELTZ: Absolutely, our "lunch pail feast" should make you want to go to church even more.
ANNOUNCER: Christ to the nations, the nations to the Church, and then the message of the church going back out to the nations, that's all part of that exciting life of faith together. Thank you Pastor Seltz, this has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" From Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort (© 2004 Concordia Publishing House)
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" arr. John Leavitt. Concordia Publishing House
"All Glory Be to God on High" arr. Timothy Albrecht. From Grace Notes by Timothy Albrecht (© ACA Digital Recording, Inc.) Augsburg-Fortress/SESAC