Saturday, April 27, 2019
Hurry Up and Wait
At dance competitions or shows, my husband and I have a saying, “Hurry up and wait.” Given the unpredictable nature of scheduling at such events, there is always a rush to arrive at the venue in plenty of time to register, get a feel for the dance floor, warm up, change, and pray before the event is called. But once we do this, there is often a long wait before we dance, with the risk that muscles will get stiff and cold, that we need to refuel, and that costumes and makeup will need additional readjusting.
The same is true in many circumstances of daily life, like commuting. The morning scramble of dressing and grabbing a bite to eat before rushing out the door often results in a seemingly endless wait in a traffic jam. Or, once we breathlessly race into the important morning meeting for fear we’ll be late, we end up just sitting there restlessly for twenty minutes until the boss saunters in to rally the troops.
These moments of waiting need not be wasted, as our time on earth is short and precious (Job 14:1; James 4:14), and we should redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). While waiting to dance, my husband and I often use the time to pray, visualize our performance, and encourage our fellow dancers. While stuck in traffic or waiting for a meeting to start, we could mentally rehearse our plans for work and ask God for His guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6) in all that we say and do, to be good ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20), to His glory.
Such examples are common and not particularly dramatic, but a similar philosophy could be applied to a life-changing event such as childbirth. While the mother-to-be waits for nine long months for natural labor to begin, helpless to bring it on any sooner, she prepares her heart and her home for the new arrival, nourishing her growing infant by eating and sleeping properly and avoiding toxins or other harmful exposures.
But once she feels that first labor pain and her water breaks, she drops everything and races to the hospital, where again she must wait for the right time to begin actively pushing to deliver her child. The pangs become sharper and closer together, but in the interval between contractions, there is nothing to do but conserve energy, release stress, and wait patiently for the next one.
Jesus and the apostle Paul compared this process of childbirth to what the world will experience, and I believe is experiencing now, as the End Times draw near (Matthew 24:8; Romans 8:22). God is not slothful to deliver on His promise of the Rapture and Second Coming, but is waiting for His perfect timing (2 Peter 3). The signs of the times, such as earthquakes, wars, famine, epidemics, increasing evil, and false teachers (Mark 13; Matthew 24) become more intense and frequent as the day approaches, much like labor pains (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
It reminds me that “hurry up and wait” applies to our spiritual life as well. When we hear God speak to us through His Word (Psalm 119) or in other ways (1 Kings 19:12), we must be swift to obey, for delayed obedience is the same as disobedience (Matthew 21:28-31). If we ask our teenager to take out the trash, and he agrees to do it, but it’s still sitting there the next evening and growing putrid, he has not been obedient.
If we have not yet trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior, despite the Holy Spirit tugging at our heart to do so, we may procrastinate, but at our own peril. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), and if we keep putting it off, our heart and our conscience may eventually become seared (1 Timothy 4:2) to the point that we no longer hear God calling.
Often born-again Christians, who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, also indulge in this type of disobedience. We have clear direction from God, but we rationalize our delay in following, using such euphemisms as “God is laying a burden on my heart about this,” or “the Spirit is convicting me to do this,” or “I’m still praying for peace about this matter.”
As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!” Once God speaks, we must not only listen, but hurry to obey, just as the shepherds ran to see the infant Jesus (Luke 2:15-17), or the Samaritan woman raced off to witness about the Messiah she had found, in her haste leaving behind her water pot at the well (John 4).
But there are times that we agonize because God seems to be silent, or because we are unable to determine what path He desires for us in a specific matter, or because He has promised a good outcome that seems to be endlessly delayed. We forget that His timing is always perfect (Ephesians 1:10), and that His definition of “soon” can be one thousand years instead of one day (2 Peter 3:8), as we would prefer.
In circumstances like these, we must wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) to reveal His plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) in His perfect way and with His perfect timing. Otherwise, we will act rashly with irremediable consequences, as Sarah did. God had promised that she and her husband Abraham would at long last have a child, ending her barrenness even though she would be even older than she already was. Through that child of promise, Abraham would become the father of a great nation (Israel) and through his seed (Jesus Christ), all nations would be blessed (Genesis 18:10-18; 22:18; 26:4).
But nearly a quarter century passed since God made that promise, and Sarah was still barren. So she took matters into her own hands, as if God could not be trusted to deliver on His Word, and as if He needed her “help.” She persuaded Abraham to have a child by her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, and he too demonstrated his spiritual weakness by listening to his wife instead of to God (Genesis 16).
Ishmael, the resulting child, brought strife and heartache into his family’s life, particularly once Isaac, the child of promise, was finally born (Genesis 21). But the consequences of attempting to force God’s plan did not stop in their home, for Ishmael gave rise to the Muslim nations that continue to be at war with Israel to this very day.
We wait in lines at the supermarket; we wait for a birthday or special occasion, and we must patiently wait on God’s timing in all areas of our life, if we are to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), while we await His long-promised return. This waiting is not passive or slothful, but is actively spent in prayer, studying His Word, and doing His general will in areas where there is no question, such as witnessing to others about Him (Matthew 28:18-20), praying for others, giving (Philippians 4:10-17) and tithing (Malachi 3), and serving Him in a local church (Hebrews 10:25).
As Christians, we will be blessed if we hurry up to obey once God gives us a clear command, but wait to hear His voice before making any radical moves or decisions. May we listen for His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and be swift to obey it!
© 2019 Laurie Collett