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February 2015

SCHOOL OF PRAYER (Lesson # 3):

When God says, “Wait"

By Beverley Carter

How many of us like waiting in line at the supermarket, bank, post office or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office?  In this age of “instant gratification,” most of us don’t like waiting too long for anything. However, most Christians have spent time in God’s “waiting room.”
 
Let Us Look At A Few Reasons Why God Sometimes Says “Wait!”
 
1. We often ask God for things that are “not in accordance with His will.”
 
How can we seek and discover God’s will?
 
 A.  Firstly, we are to keep praying and reading God’s Word.
 
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2
 
(This verse tells us that to find the perfect will of God, we are to be living the truth that we do know while continuing to allow His Word to renew our minds.)
 
B.  It is true that we will not always find a detailed answer to our prayer requests, but we will find commands and principles by which the Holy Spirit helps us discern the will of God. For example, a new Christian might ask, “Is it alright for me to keep smoking tobacco?”  While the Bible does not say, “do not smoke,” it does give us the following principle: “What know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which belong to God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
 
(These verses are telling us not to place anything in or do anything to our bodies that would be harmful.)
 
2.  Another reason God sometimes makes us wait is because we lack the maturity to handle a quick “yes.”  It’s similar to when teenagers want to get their driver’s license before they are mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with driving.  Sensible parents will say no, wait awhile, not because the parents don’t love their children, but because they do love them.  In the same way, God seeks to protect us from ourselves, but we often fail to recognize His loving parenting.  I like what Ben Patterson says on this point: “What God does in us while we wait, is as important as what we are waiting for.”
 
3.  We must have faith that He hears us. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:6-8
 
Let’s look at some examples of God working with people of faith.
 
Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus’ three good friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  The story recounts that Lazarus got sick and his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent a message to Jesus to please come because they had faith that He could heal their brother.  The sisters expected that Jesus would send a message back to say He was on His way, but instead, there was only “SILENCE.” “Jesus stayed two days still in the same place where He was.” – John 11:6
 
We can imagine that the sisters wondered why Jesus did not immediately respond to their cry for help. (Perhaps you have had a similar experience.)  Wasn’t Jesus their best friend?
 
God’s silences are often a part of His answers.  Time is nothing to God.  He kept Mary and Martha waiting in His “waiting room” as it were, because He had a bigger plan.  The story tells us that Lazarus died.  Then, and only then, did Jesus begin to move.  (Sometimes God allows us to go down into the deepest valley to test and build our faith, and also because it makes His delayed intervention more meaningful and powerful.)
 
In his book, “If You Will Ask,” Oswald Chambers writes: “Did they get Lazarus back? They got infinitely more; they got to know the greatest truth mortal beings can ever know—that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.”
 
This Bible story, which has blessed believers for centuries, contains two great lessons:
 
1.  God delays so we will learn to trust Him even when we cannot see Him or understand His ways.
 
2.  This demonstration of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life gives all believers hope: ultimately, all who die in Christ will be resurrected at the Second Coming.  Hallelujah!
 
As we read about people in the Bible who were greatly tested by God, and who remained true, we see that it was because of their strong faith, which came about from hearing, believing and obeying God’s Word.  This was why Daniel did not spend the night walking around the lions’ den biting his nails, worrying about the hungry lions.  No, he made a pillow out of his coat, said a prayer that God’s will would be done, and went to sleep.
 
Then we read about Daniel’s three friends.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were about to be thrown into the blazing furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar because they had determined to always put God first before any earthly monarch.  They said to the King, “The God we serve is able to save us from the fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18.
 
Such faith was not born overnight, but rather resulted from a lifetime of trusting and obeying God’s Word.
 
Another amazing testament of God’s faithfulness as we “wait on Him” is the story of Joseph.
 
In Genesis 37, we read the story of how Joseph’s older brothers were so jealous of their spoiled 17-year-old brother that they threw him into a deep pit. From there, Joseph was taken to Egypt where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard.
 
Later in the story, we are told that the LORD was with Joseph, and prospered him.  Potiphar became so impressed with Joseph that he placed him in charge of his whole household (Genesis 39:2-4).  The story goes that Potiphar’s wife set out to tempt Joseph to commit adultery, but he did not.  “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)  Potiphar’s wife was so enraged by this rejection that she lied to her husband and blamed Joseph, who was then cast into prison.
 
Poor Joseph must have wondered why God was allowing such misfortune to come upon him.  First, he was thrown into a pit, and then he was sold into slavery, and now he was locked up in prison.  Hadn’t he been faithful to God?  Joseph knew the answer was “yes” because God had blessed him through many distressing situations.  I imagine that Joseph kept on praying that God would continue to bless him, no matter the circumstances.  And God was with him, so much so that after some years had passed, his honesty and astuteness reached the ears of the Pharaoh, who called him to come and interpret a dream that God had given him.
 
“And Pharaoh said unto his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?’” (Genesis 41:38).  Pharaoh then bestowed upon Joseph the position of Prime Minister of Egypt. (Genesis 41:40-41).  This wonderful and inspirational story can be found in Genesis 39-50.
 
Lessons we can learn from Joseph’s “waiting room” experience:
 
1.  At various times in our lives, we may have to spend time in God’s “waiting room.”  The duration of waiting may be different for each person and vary based on the circumstances.  For example, Joseph had to wait 13 years from the time he was thrown into the pit until God delivered him from prison. In contrast, Mary and Martha had to wait four days from the time their brother died until Jesus raised him from the dead.
 
2.  Why did God make Joseph wait all those years for deliverance?
 
We discover the answer in Genesis 50:19-20.  Joseph’s brothers said how sorry they were for all the wickedness and sorrow they had caused, to which Joseph replied: “Fear not: you brought evil against me; but God used it for good, as it is this day to keep many people alive.”  (For those who might not know the story, in short: Joseph was used by God to save Egypt from starvation. I encourage you to read Genesis 39 to 50.)
 
3.  During those thirteen long years, God took a spoiled 17-year-old boy and made him into a strong and fearless leader.  God reproved and refined Joseph (through trials and temptations) to the point where God knew he could be trusted to be placed in the high position of Prime Minister of all Egypt.
 
God often makes us “wait” for answers to our prayers because He wishes to refine us, not to become Prime Ministers, but to become faithful ambassadors to be used by Him to build up His Kingdom here on earth.
 
Faith in God’s Word, and obedience to God’s Word are two of the most important ingredients in our prayer life.  “That my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” – Hebrews 10:38 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” – Romans 10:17.
 
Once again, the Bible tells us that FAITH comes by HEARING, BELIEVING, and OBEYING God’s Word.
 
May God help us all to have a strong and living faith!
 
Next Time: When God Says, “No”

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