Waiting on God

WaitingonGod2Waiting on God (Howard Books, 2015)

Waiting on God: Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow is the latest book from Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA since 1971.  He opens his book with the assertion that the word never can stir the deepest fear in the human heart.  Thus, the challenge of waiting on God is “the ability to keep hoping when the nevers of life bombard us.”  Dr. Stanley’s definition of waiting on the Lord provides the basic outline for this book.  Waiting on the Lord manifests an “expectant endurance that is demonstrated by a directed, purposeful, active, and courageous attitude of prayer.”

Our focus must be directed toward God, our Provider, rather than the object of our desire.  We need to center our thoughts less on our questions and more on the Father’s ability to answer them.  Even though we are tempted to figure out God’s plan and speed it along, we are to demonstrate confident trust that God is committed to seeing us through every trial we face and is raising up an answer to our prayers.

The second characteristic of godly prayer in waiting is being purposeful in pursuing the Lord’s plan.  When our main objective is a personal and intimate relationship with God, everything else will fall into place as the Holy Spirit directs us- bringing out the very best of who we were created to be.  God’s Word, prayer, and godly counsel are an integral part of this process.

Dr. Stanley notes that waiting passively is not what the Lord intended for us as believers.  While we are to be still in allowing the Father to work through our circumstances, we must be active in growing spiritually.  Perseverance is the key to receiving the very best God has planned for us and helping us endure the delay.

The fourth characteristic of waiting on the Lord, being courageous, is stretched and refined during our darkest times.  Yet, it is when we feel most unworthy and defeated that the Father is closest to us.  We are in a spiritual battle with Satan.  Our weapon is the sword of the Spirit- God’s Word.  The Father is “moving us toward the light on the most efficient and effective route possible.”  Confidently wait on the Lord, for the best is yet to come . . . always.

 

 

The path for your victory

In Chapter 6 of Waiting on God, Charles Stanley offers these words of support when we are especially disheartened during times of delay:

“As you submit to the Father during this difficult time, He provides for you, makes you all you need to be, bends other people’s hearts toward you, and sets the path for your victory.”

At this point, Dr. Stanley notes that we question why God doesn’t change our circumstances, allowing us to suffer and wait.  After all, we know that God is with us in our darkness and is all-powerful, but things seem to be at a stalemate.  Here we need to remember this second point as difficult times persist:  The Lord has an important purpose for the seasons of adversity you face (author’s emphasis).

Especially when we see a glimmer of hope, a way out of our land between, postponement of that hope can make a normal person question everything.  Disappointments can plunge our soul into despair.  Dr. Stanley notes that these are times when we decide whether we truly believe in the Lord or whether He’s simply an idea we cling to.

Dr. Stanley offers five reasons why the Lord allows us to experience dark times.  The first is presented today.

1.  To firmly mature and establish your trust in Him when there is no visible evidence of His activity.  As our faith progresses from little to maturing to perfect, we become confident that the Lord already has accomplished what He has promised.  The wonderful blessing we’ve eagerly anticipated will be even more meaningful because we’ve clung to Him through every trial and setback.

Today’s question: What has strengthened your trust in God during your time of adversity?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “My Lifesong”

Courage and determination

In Chapter 6 (“Staying on Track: When the View Becomes Dark”) of Waiting on God, Charles Stanley states that it certainly is true that our wait can continue to be absolutely disheartening, especially when events don’t go our way or our burdens increase.  To our finite vision, it may appear as if the Lord never will come through for us.

When our emotions leave us raw and fragile, the smallest criticism or words of unbelief from another person may leave us reeling with hopelessness because those words confirm our worst fears rather than being a support to us.  We feel it is futile to go on and that there is little or no reason to try.  We are plunged into the darkness of despair because our problems and pressures persist.

This brings us to Dr. Stanley’s fourth and final requirement of waiting on the Lord, courage.  Dr. Stanley defines courage:

“Courage is a quality that enables us to endure suffering, danger, opposition, and the challenges of life steadfastly, fearlessly, and with confidence in God’s provision and protection.  It is this attitude of courage that is stretched and refined in these painful times.”

Joseph faced his dark time in Egypt with courage and determination, even though conditions increasingly worsened for thirteen years before God raised him up to be a great leader.  He stayed on track with God’s purposes and took hold of the truth that God would take care of him.

Today’s question: What Bible verses have bolstered your courage following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “My Lifesong”

God’s workmanship

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”- Ephesians 2:10

In Chapter 4 (“Discerning God’s Will: Finding Purpose in the Uncertainty”) of Waiting on God, Charles Stanley states he’s found over his lengthy pastoral ministry that believers are most concerned about God’s will during times of waiting.  We desperately want to know what God is planning and whether He will answer our prayers.  We would be greatly comforted if we knew with certainty that we were waiting for something definite- that God’s answer to our fervent prayers isn’t an outright, “No!”

Dr. Stanley assures us that the Father wants us to know the path He has designed for us.  However, in order to accomplish the good things God wants us to achieve, we need to know what He has called us to be and to do.  Just like a shepherd lovingly guides a lamb that is prone to wandering, Jesus trains us to listen to His voice, protects us, and even disciplines us to keep us on the right path.

We can be exceptionally confident, Dr. Stanley asserts, that God is working all things together for our good during our delay- that everything He does to lead us is for our ultimate benefit.

Today’s question: What Scriptures have been most meaningful in helping you to discern God’s will following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Lost in Your beauty”

The lie of “never”

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.”- Isaiah 64:4

Charles Stanley’s latest book is titled Waiting on God: Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow.  Dr. Stanley begins Chapter 1 (“How Long, O Lord?”) with the observation that the word never can “stir the deepest fear in the bravest heart.”

1.  I’ll never find a job.

2.  This will never get better.

3.  The Lord will never answer my prayer.

Dr. Stanley asserts this is the lie that begins with our sinful nature, a lie designed to decisively put an end to all our hopes.  When we buy into the lie of “never” it’s like driving nails into the coffin of our deepest hopes and dreams.  The author goes on to describe the challenge of waiting on God:

“It’s the ability to keep hoping when the nevers of life bombard us- when the minutes and hours, days and years, tick away without any answers to our most passionate pleas at the throne of grace.  It’s the faith to hang on to the Father on the long road, when human reason tells us to give up.”

Dr. Stanley adds that we can know for certain that God is working, even though we may not see it.  Furthermore, the Father has an awesome plan for us.  But He also has a very specific schedule.  Dr. Stanley concludes the only “never” we should focus on is that God never will let us down.

Today’s question: What “nevers” have characterized your thinking following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God’s timing and wisdom”

Joyful confidence in God

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 16 of Soul Keeping, he notes that Walter Brueggeman speaks of “psalms of disorientation.”  The are psalms in which the soul is disoriented, God appears to be absent, and darkness is winning.  The psalmist vents and boils over at God rather than demonstrating a polite piety- an honest faith.

John speaks of his own darkest time some years ago, when his greatest disappointment was deep and unfixable.  He questioned his calling.  John contacted Dallas Willard, eager for his answer.  Dallas responded:

“This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God.”

Pastor Ortberg cites nineteenth-century writer Frederick Ferber (Growth in Holiness, 1854), who described the patience that leads to joyful confidence:

“In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness.  He is slow; we are swift and precipitate (rushing headlong or rapidly onward).  It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity. . . . Wait and He will come.  He never comes to those who do not wait.  He does not go their road.  When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly; fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours.  But when He slackens, slacken at once; and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God.”

As John concludes, “the soul is a ship that needs an anchor.”

Today’s question: How have you developed joyful confidence in God following your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dealing with conflict”

Indicators of soul-fatigue

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”- John 14:27

John Ortberg concludes his discussion of sustaining grace in Chapter 11 of Soul Keeping by listing six indicators of soul-fatigue.

1.  Things seem to bother you more than they should.  Personal peccadillos become massive character flaws.

2.  It’s hard to make up your mind about even a simple decision.

3.  Impulses to eat, drink, or crave are harder to resist than they should be.  When facing temptation, we are more likely to give in than if our soul was at rest.

4.  Short-term gains are favored, with resultant high long-term costs.  Because Israel grew tired and impatient waiting on Moses and God, they ended up worshipping a golden calf.

5.  Your judgment is suffering.  Poor, hasty, or irrational decisions are made.

6.  You have less courage.  When Jesus was crucified, the disciples fled in fear.  Years later, they sacrificed their lives for Jesus.  The change was not in their bodies, but in their souls.

When hurry is the default setting for our lives, the soul is not well.  Resting, on the other hand, gives the soul peace.

Today’s question: Do you have any of the indicators of soul-fatigue?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Grace of Significance”

The Soul Experiment

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”- John 15:5

In Chapter 10 of Soul Keeping, John Ortberg references John 15:5, noting that when we make sure- through the power of the Holy Spirit- that we are with God, bearing fruit will follow naturally.  When the soul is right with God, social or vocational status is irrelevant.  The soul thrives through simply being with God, not through human efforts or accomplishments.

Pastor Ortberg suggests a little self-test he calls “The Soul Experiment.”  He describes the experiment as a simple way to focus our soul on God throughout our waking hours- to maintain a consistently conscious awareness of God and surrendering to His presence.  John then contrasts life “with God” with life “without God”:

The ‘with-God ‘ life is not a life of religious activites or devotions or trying to be good.  It is a life of inner peace and contentment for your soul with the maker and manager of the universe.  The ‘without-God’ life is the opposite.  It is death.  It will kill your soul.”

Today’s question: How have you been intentional in focusing your soul on God following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “God here in this moment”

 

Our Father’s face

John Ortberg dedicates Soul Keeping to the late Dallas Willard (1935-2013), noted Christian author and long-time professor of philosophy at USC.  Soul Keeping is based on what Pastor Ortberg learned over the years as he sought Dallas’ wisdom in understanding the human soul.

Dallas once gave the following advice when John expressed dissatisfaction with his outer world.  It is sage advice for us as well:

“You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.  That’s the most important thing for you to know about you. . . . God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.  Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies.  It’s the most important thing about you.  It is your life.”

When we think about how our life is going, most likely we think about our outer world, a world of reputation and appearance.  How much we have and what others think is of primary importance. We believe improving our circumstances will bring happiness.

Dallas once wrote about a tiny child who crept into his father’s bedroom because he couldn’t sleep without the knowledge of his father’s presence to take away his loneliness.  The tiny child would ask, “Is your face turned toward me, Father?”

Like Pastor Ortberg, we want to know that our soul is not alone.  We want to know that our Father’s face is turned toward us.

Today’s question: As you travel on your desert, transitional journey, are you certain that your Father’s face is turned toward you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Soul language”

Assertiveness and submissiveness

“I tell you, though, he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise up and give him what he needs.”- Luke 11:8

In Chapter 14 of Prayer, Timothy Keller states that there is a necessary balance between the two purposes of petitionary prayer:

1.  to put the world right (“Thy kingdom come”)

2.  to align our hearts with God (“Thy will be done”)

If either of these purposes of prayer should gain the upper hand, Pastor Keller asserts, our supplications will become (a) too shrill and frantic or (b) too passive and defeatist.  We must make our desires know to God, yet rest in His wisdom.

The first purpose of petitionary prayer is external.  God affects the circumstances of history through our petitions.  In Luke 11:8 Jesus says that we’re to pray with “shameless audacity” (impudence).  We are to spread our concerns before God assertively and confidently.

The second purpose of petitionary prayer, however, is internal.  As our petitions enable us to give up control, we can rest and trust in God to care for our needs.  So, at the same time, we pray not only with shameless assertiveness but also with a restful submissiveness.

Today’s question: Following your vocation loss, how difficult has it been to pray with shameless assertiveness, yet restful submissiveness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Great Silence”