A Look at the Long Road
It is the word that can stir the deepest fear in the bravest heart. Never.
“I’ll never find a job.”
“This will never get better.”
“I’ll never be respected.”
“She will never respond to me.”
“I’ll never get married.”
“I’ll never have the child I long for.”
“He will never come home to me.”
It’s the lie that originates with our sinful nature—it insists on putting a decisive end to all our hopes. Don’t bother to dream, it whispers cruelly. You don’t deserve it. Stop wishing for what can never be.
And so we continue to drive the nails into the coffin of our dearest longings.
“The Lord will never answer my prayers.”
But this is 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.
If the nevers of life are discouraging you, if you’ve waited for the Lord to fulfill His promises to you, if you wonder why God has allowed such a lengthy delay in answering the deepest cries of your heart—if this is where you are, friend—then this is the right book for you. There is meaning and hope in these times of waiting on the Lord to respond. Though you don’t see Him working, you can know for certain that He is because He guarantees that He “acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Isa. 64:4).
Not only that, but the Father has an awesome plan for you—purposes that are fantastic, perfectly suited for you, and that will give ultimate meaning to your life. However, God also has a very specific schedule—one that is often vastly different from what you’d expect. One that may have you wait far beyond what makes you comfortable. One that will most likely make you feel that all earthly hope is gone so that you will rely solely upon Him (2 Cor. 1:9).
The only never you should focus on is that God will never let you down.
What I intend to show you throughout these pages is that the only “never” you should focus on is that God will never let you down (Deut. 31:6, 8). So whatever it is you yearn for—no matter how long you have to wait—you can trust the Father to lead you and know for absolute certain that He has your very best interests in mind. The key for you is to remember Whom it is that you’re really anticipating.
MY GRANDDAD’S LONG ROAD
That was certainly the case for my grandfather, George Washington Stanley. The first time I ever heard him preach was when I was nine years old—and to me, he looked like Moses because he seemed so very old and wise. He was tall, lanky, and he would get completely fired up whenever he proclaimed the gospel. I had no doubt that’s what he was created to do. But I was surprised to discover that there was a time when he truly doubted he would ever be able to serve God.
You see, although Granddad knew the Lord had called him, churches in the area wouldn’t allow him to fill their pulpits. One after another, they rejected him, causing him to doubt the calling he had received. Likewise, he felt very inadequate because he didn’t have much education. In fact, he learned to read by studying the Bible. And he picked up how to preach by crying out to God and asking Him what to say.
A long time passed for Granddad with no open doors. One night, he became so distraught that he fell down on his knees on an unpaved road and cried out, “God, this seems impossible! If You’re really calling me to preach and You’re going to show me what to do, I need some evidence. Please, let me see a star fall.” So he looked up and just about that time, one shot across the night sky like a blazing arrow.
But it wasn’t enough. He was desperate—his fears went deep, the pressures overwhelming, and the memories of rejection were too real. So he said, “Lord, please, just one more time. Would You let me see one more falling star? Just to be sure?” Again he looked up. And again, a bright light rocketed across the celestial expanse.
He had his confirmation, but he still did not have a pulpit from which to speak. So he kept seeking God. After a time, the Lord showed him he could hold his revival meetings in a tent as others had done. So he did what any of us would do—he got a job to earn money so he could buy one.
Without much in the way of schooling and no training, he did the work that was available, which was as a tie hacker—someone who cut railroad ties for the local lines. He would chop down the trees, trim them to size, and earn twenty cents for each eight-foot tie he created, which was only a few each day.
There was a saying back then—and it was certainly true—that hacking ties was “a hard way to serve the Lord,” even for turn-of-the-century laborers who were accustomed to putting their backs into their work. But my grandfather persevered, asking God to help him and staying open to His direction.
After several months of grueling labor and saving every penny, he had only forty dollars—a far cry from the three hundred dollars he needed to purchase the tent. Obviously, it would be a very long time before he could afford one. My grandfather told me that at that point he felt he’d never get around to preaching if he kept hacking ties.
If God was calling him to preach, why was the road so long and so difficult?
I couldn’t blame him for being discouraged. After all, if God was calling him to preach, why was the road so long, so filled with obstacles, and so difficult?
But Granddad didn’t give up. Instead, he kept praying. “Lord, You called me to preach and know how much money I need for a tent. This is the best I can do, but I know You can help me. Father, please show me what to do.”
Then one night, he was walking along a road and, again, was moved to his knees in prayer. But after he arose, he saw a house in the distance and knew that if he went there, God would provide for his needs. So Granddad went up to the house and knocked on the door, unsure of what he was supposed to say.
To his surprise, the lady who answered exclaimed, “Why Mr. Stanley! I’ve been wanting to talk to you. I have something for you.” She invited him in and went to retrieve a small brown-paper sack. She handed it to him and said, “God told me to give you this.” He thanked her, conversed with her for a while, and then left.
But when he opened the sack, he found three hundred one-dollar bills—exactly what he needed to purchase the tent. He told me that’s when he learned to always trust God, pray to Him, wait for Him to work, and know for certain He will intervene.
The Lord used my grandfather in an awesome way because he obeyed Him and waited for His provision. In fact, Granddad didn’t just preach, he went on to plant many churches in Virginia and North Carolina—including the church where I was saved in Danville, Virginia.
Did the Father use that time of waiting to teach my grandfather? Absolutely. Was it necessary for Granddad’s spiritual growth? There is no doubt in my mind that it was.
Waiting is sometimes necessary for you and me as well. Learning to be directed by God’s timing and wisdom—not our agenda—is one of the most important lessons we ever learn as believers. Of course, abiding by the Lord’s schedule always takes faith and courage. But it is absolutely essential for living the Christian life, walking in obedience to the Father, and receiving the best of His blessings.
How do I know this? Because of all Scripture has to say about it.
• “O my God, in You I trust . . . Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed” (Ps. 25:2–3).
• “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).
• “Don’t be impatient for the LORD to act! Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing” (Ps. 37:34, TLB).
• “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction” (Ps. 40:1–2).
• “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (Ps. 62:5–6).
• “The LORD favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness” (Ps. 147:11).
• “The LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him” (Isa. 30:18).
• “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isa. 40:31).
• “You will know that I am the LORD; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame” (Isa. 49:23).
• “From days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Isa. 64:4).
• “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD” (Lam. 3:25–26).
• “The vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Hab. 2:3).
• “Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom. 8:24–25).
Time is one of God’s most effective tools for teaching us to rely upon Him.
These are only a few of the verses, but you get the point. Time is one of God’s most effective tools for teaching us to rely on Him. This has been true throughout history—seen often in the lives of the greatest saints such as Abraham, Joseph, and David. And it will be true until time itself is no more.
WAITING ON GOD: A DEFINITION
Of course, no one likes delays. None of this diminishes the pain we feel as the days pass and we continue to struggle with our hopes and fears. Whether it’s the hours that throw off our plans, caused by late planes and unyielding traffic jams; the days and weeks that cause us uncertainty, waiting for medical test results or decisions made by those outside our sphere of influence; or the years and decades we suffer through wondering if God will ever fulfill His promises—it is human to feel frustrated, anxious, and even as if our hopes are dying within us.
Why? Because we lack control over our circumstances. Someone else seems to be impeding our progress—deciding how the scant moments we’ve been given in this life will be spent and preventing us from enjoying the one thing we think will truly make us happy.
Like David we cry out, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Ps. 13:1–2).
Now, I don’t know what it is you’re hoping for, but I do know that you’ve picked up this book for a reason. I also know that waiting on God is one of the most difficult lessons to learn. I imagine that, like David, there is a lot of pain in your heart. You may fear the Lord has forgotten you or that He’s found you undeserving of your dreams. Perhaps you feel rejected, confused, or even betrayed because He still hasn’t given you what you’ve been trusting Him for. All the while, He is freely bestowing that job, that spouse, that child, that recognition, that promotion, that prosperity, or that blessing to people around you who don’t even seem to realize or appreciate the amazing thing God has done for them.
Waiting on God is one of the most difficult lessons you and I will ever learn.
You wonder, Why not me? What makes me so unworthy? Friend, I know it hurts more deeply than words can express. But please be assured, there is always hope with our heavenly Father.
So let’s begin this journey with a definition of what it truly means to wait on God, because this will help clarify where our hearts and minds should be. We often make the mistake of thinking that His delays are just a waste of time—we do nothing, miss opportunities, and wish our lives away while He ignores us. However, that’s not the case at all.
First, the Lord is not neglecting you and has not forgotten you.
Your heavenly Father is working in the unseen on your behalf (Isa. 64:4)—every single moment. You may not perceive Him, and you could not possibly conceive how He is working out everything for you (Eph. 3:20–21)—nor would you understand it all if you saw it. This is by design so you will honor Him as God and abandon yourself to His care. Your responsibility is to set your heart on Him and trust that your life is safe in His all-powerful, wise, and loving hands.
Second, you are not just waiting around, doing nothing.
People who anticipate the Father’s instruction and intervention should continue serving Him and carrying out their daily business. You must keep seeking, obeying, and having intimate fellowship with Him. You must persist in building your relationship with Him, even when circumstances don’t seem to be going your way.
Your responsibility is to set your heart on Him and trust that your life is safe in His all-powerful, wise, and loving hands.
Third, you are not missing worthwhile opportunities.
It may seem as if you are. It may truly appear as if there is no better option on the horizon for you. But if God says, “No” or “Wait” about some possibility before you, trust Him. Don’t try to “make it happen.” Rather, count on His faultless wisdom to protect you from choices that would ultimately harm you.
Fourth, you are not alone.
Everyone you know is facing a delay in some area or another. Yes, you may look around and see people enjoying the blessing you desire. You may think you are the only one struggling with your particular issue—the only one the Father has not provided for. And such thoughts may stir up feelings of shame, disappointment, and despair because you wonder what’s wrong with you. But friend, realize that those thoughts of humiliation and defeat come from your enemy, who is always trying to isolate and destroy you.
First Peter 5:8–9 reminds you, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” In every nation, there are people just like you, waiting for similar blessings and experiencing the same feelings. In fact, throughout Scripture, you cannot find a man or woman whom God used in a powerful way who did not first face a long and difficult time of waiting. So do not despair. Rather, take it as the Father’s special favor and guidance in your life.
What we can draw from all this is that waiting on the Lord signifies an expectant endurance that is demonstrated by a directed, purposeful, active, and courageous attitude of prayer. Let’s take a closer look at this. Expectant endurance is exhibited in this way:
• Directed—Rather than concentrating on what we’re waiting for, we persevere with expectant endurance when we focus on the Father, whom we know has the best plan for our lives.
• Purposeful—As we practice expectant endurance, we find meaning in the delay because we look with anticipation for God’s perfect direction, preparation, and provision.
• Active—As we wait with expectant endurance, we trust that the Lord is working in the unseen; thus, as we discover His will, we claim His promises and continue obeying Him step-by-step.
• Courageous—Expectant endurance also means we are willing to face adversity and forgo good opportunities in order to take hold of the Lord’s very best for our lives.
DAVID’S LONG ROAD
In other words, we don’t become impatient—making our own way or running ahead of the Lord’s plan. Instead, we are patient, optimistic, and hopeful. We remain in our present circumstances until we receive further instructions and His intervention. This is never easy, of course. But I—along with many whose lives have impacted God’s kingdom—can testify that the Father makes our wait worthwhile.
Throughout this book, we will discuss the directed, purposeful, active, and courageous aspects of waiting on the Lord. But let’s take a minute now to look at the life of David and discover the valuable principles the Father teaches us as we wait upon Him. Like many of us, David went through some very long and perplexing trials. In fact, if anyone had a right to be confused and disappointed about how life was turning out, it was David.
Waiting on God means remaining in your present circumstances until you receive further instructions and His intervention.
First Samuel 16 tells us that David was a mere teenager—probably around sixteen—when the prophet Samuel anointed him to succeed Saul as king of Israel (v. 13). At first, everything seemed to be going very well. Almost immediately, the Lord provided a way for David to become an important figure in Saul’s court, making him the king’s personal musician and armor bearer. Saul proclaimed, “Let David now stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight” (v. 22), and Scripture testifies that “Saul loved him greatly” (v. 21).
Likewise, David had many great successes in those early years. He beat the mighty Philistine warrior-giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17), which proved him to be a worthy soldier. He became like a brother to Saul’s firstborn son, Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:1–3). He was promoted to a high rank in the army because of his many victories (1 Sam. 18:5, 14, 30). He married Saul’s daughter, princess Michal (1 Sam. 18:27). And David was absolutely loved by all of Israel (1 Sam. 18:16). Life seemed to be right on track for the fulfillment of God’s promise.
At this point, I wonder what David thought about. No doubt, he dreamt about how the Lord would give him the kingdom, as any person in his position would. Both Saul and Israel adored him, after all, and the Father had promised David the throne. Perhaps he envisioned a dying Saul calling him to his side and quietly transferring power. Or maybe he prayed Saul would just humbly step aside someday, happily acknowledging that God had anointed David to be monarch. Scripture doesn’t say what hopes were hidden in this young man’s heart.
What we do know, however, is that one day, all of David’s circumstances changed dramatically—and not for the better. We’re told, “When Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David . . . Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually . . . . Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death” (1 Sam. 18:28–29, 19:1).
And just like that, David’s life took a radical turn for the worse. For years, he struggled with devastating losses, attempts on his life, demoralizing injustices, and excruciating heartaches (1 Sam. 19–30). Instead of enjoying life in the kingdom he’d been promised, he was eventually forced to flee from Israel altogether. And 1 Samuel 23:14 (TLB) reports, “Saul hunted him day after day, but the LORD didn’t let him find him.”
You can imagine the absolute hopelessness and rejection David felt. He had been so close to having his heart’s desire. Not only was the fulfillment of his dreams further away than ever, but overwhelming problems mounted against him even though he was trying to do everything right. Saul sought to destroy David and persecuted anyone who tried to help him. The very friends he’d fought next to as a military commander now sought to execute him. He was far from his home and loved ones. He continually faced attacks from enemy armies and was forced to seek shelter in foreign lands. Under such circumstances, David must have wondered if he would even live to be king.
And to add insult to injury, Saul was acting in an extremely ungodly manner—viciously killing the innocent priests and people of Nob (1 Sam. 22:6–19) and sinfully consulting the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28:5–20). Why was the Lord tolerating Saul’s wickedness?
David was a person just like you and me—with physical limitations, failings, emotions, fears, and dreams—and he faced many of the same pressures and heartbreaks you and I experience every day. Read that last sentence again. Really think about what David had to endure. Of course, not many of us will understand the terrible stress of someone seeking to assassinate us or having to flee to another nation for safety as David did. But we know what it is to have enemies, to be targeted unfairly, to be despised as outcasts, to have our hopes crushed, to have our security stripped away, to foresee only bleak and uncertain futures, to watch the wicked seemingly flourish as we despair, to feel utterly alone, and to wonder where the Lord is in our situation.
Of course, finding himself in such a disheartening condition, David could have questioned the discipline he was experiencing—as many of us would. He could have been tempted to call the Lord unjust. He could have said, “God promised I would be king. I should raise an army and take the throne from that evil Saul.” He could have taken matters into his own hands. But he didn’t.
Instead, he kept seeking and obeying the Lord. In fact, David had two opportunities to kill Saul (1 Sam. 24; 26), and he refused to take them, saying, “Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6). He demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that he honored God’s timing above all else.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).
This doesn’t mean David didn’t struggle. In fact, he did—terribly. He wrote, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13). As I said, he felt all the same pain and anxiety we do. And if he hadn’t had the Father to hold on to, he would have been absolutely devastated.
But because David strengthened himself in the Lord, he was able to make it through—clinging to the hope of a better day ahead and willing to learn all God was teaching him. This is why he was able to counsel, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD” (Ps. 27:14).
So what did David discover in the delays? Why was it wise for him to wait for the Lord? And why is it important for you? What lessons did David learn while he expectantly waited on God?
1. TO ACCEPT GOD’S DIRECTION
First, David learned how important it is to listen to the Father and receive His clear direction. The Lord separated David from the king’s court and from his friends so he would have only one place to go for counsel—to the all-knowing God of creation, who is perfect in His wisdom, understanding, and insight.
Do not ever underestimate how absolutely crucial this is. You see, whenever we come to important decisions in our lives, we often go to our earthly sources of guidance—our friends, advisors, and even the Internet. But these sources are extremely limited and often very faulty places to receive assistance. However, when we trust Jesus as our Savior, we have a much more informed and effective Source of instruction and direction, who provides everything we need as we obey Him. And in order to receive the very best He has for our lives, we must listen to what He says.
We can see the importance of seeking God’s guidance when David finally became ruler over all Israel and the Philistines engaged in two campaigns against him (2 Sam. 5). Of course, the Philistines had been enemies of Israel for almost two centuries—since the time of the judges (Judg. 3:31)—and had been responsible for the death of Saul (1 Sam. 31:1–6). So when King David conquered the city of Jerusalem and made it his capital, they took the opportunity to attack. And David did what he had been accustomed to doing; he asked God how to proceed.
Second Samuel 5:19 reports, “David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.’ ” It shouldn’t surprise anyone to discover that David quickly claimed the victory.
However, when the Philistines gathered for a second time in the Valley of Rephaim, they came with reinforcements—the historian Josephus reported, “with an army three times as numerous as before” (Antiquities of the Jews VII, 4:1). So when David asked God what to do, the Lord changed His instructions. “He said, ‘You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the LORD will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines’ ” (2 Sam. 5:23–24).
In other words, instead of standing between the Philistines and Jerusalem and attacking the enemy army from the front as they were accustomed, the Israeli troops were to move around to the outside of the Philistine camp—where the enemy wouldn’t expect them to be—and wait for them to flee.
Militarily, this made no sense, of course. No earthly general or strategist would have suggested this. But David trusted God and patiently awaited His march across the tops of the trees. And the Lord Himself drove the Philistines out from the Rephaim Valley, allowing David to pursue the enemy all the way back to their border. This victory ultimately secured Jerusalem, and 1 Chronicles 14:17 reports, “The fame of David went out into all the lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him on all the nations.”
When you cannot see your way clear, stay where you are until God answers you and trust Him to teach you the way you should go.
Likewise, you need to learn that even when the Father’s instruction seems unreasonable or illogical, His plans are good, right, and in your best interests (Prov. 3:5–6). And waiting on Him teaches you how to avoid operating by the world’s limited perception of your circumstances and how to rely upon His far wiser, supernatural, powerful plan. So when you cannot see your way clear, stay where you are until God answers you and trust Him to teach you the way you should go.
2. TO VALUE GOD’S TIMING
The second lesson David learned was the importance of walking in step with the Lord’s schedule. In other words, he realized that time was a tool God was using to effectively carry out His will and build dedication to His plan in David’s life and throughout Israel.
Perhaps the best example of this was exhibited in the two opportunities David had to execute Saul (1 Sam. 24; 26). Both times, David’s men urged him to kill Saul, and we can only imagine the pressure David felt to take matters into his hands. How would not killing Saul look to those who faithfully followed him? Would they understand his dedication to God? Would they tolerate more months and years on the run from Saul’s forces? Or would they abandon him—thinking him too cowardly to take the kingdom promised to him?
David could have been driven by what others thought. But he wasn’t. He did not dwell on Saul’s harshness toward him or how to maintain popular support. Rather, he was patient and determined to wait until the Lord gave him the kingdom—seeking wholeheartedly to serve God rather than man.
He said in faith, “As the LORD lives, surely the LORD will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down into battle and perish. The LORD forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed” (1 Sam. 26:11). David knew God would take care of the situation in His perfect time. So he did not need to wrestle with his circumstances, make a way for himself, or figure out how to turn the situation to his advantage. He simply waited for direction from the Father.
And because he did, the Lord blessed David with great support and cleared the way for him to become king—just as He had said He would (2 Sam. 5).
You see, what we desire is often what the Lord has purposed and will provide for us. But timing is everything, and key puzzle pieces are falling into place as we wait. God is changing hearts and engineering circumstances we have no idea even exist. Therefore, the delays we face are not a denial of His promises; rather, they are an integral part of His strategy to arrange all the details and get us positioned for His excellent plan.
Therefore, when the pressure is on and everything around you is pushing you to move, move, move, and God says, “Don’t even think about budging”—listen to Him. Like David, stay where you are and trust Him to work on your behalf. Do so with the understanding that when you run ahead of Him—taking matters into your own hands or forcing your way into opportunities you have no business partaking of—you undermine and even destroy the good things He’s designed for you. But when you accept His schedule, you know for certain you will receive His very best blessings.
3. TO PREPARE FOR HIS BLESSINGS
Third, as David waited for the promise to be fulfilled, God was preparing him to be the godly, wise ruler Israel needed.
This doesn’t mean David never faltered or failed as king—we know he did. But through it all, the Lord “testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will’ ” (Acts 13:22).
Likewise, the Father does not expect you to be faultless. That is why He sent Jesus to be your sinless, all-sufficient Savior—to justify you and be perfect for you. But the Father takes every opportunity to prepare you for His blessing so you can enjoy it fully.
God lingers, develops you, and matures your character so that you are fully equipped to receive all He has planned for you.
As I stated before, many times what you most desire is what God wants for you as well. However, the gift that would be completely wonderful for you tomorrow may be absolutely destructive to you today. So He lingers, develops you, and matures your character so that you are fully equipped to receive all He has planned for you.
For example, when my son Andy was just a small boy—around three or four years old—he saw my pocketknife and was absolutely fascinated by it. He asked me to give him one. Although it was a gift I would eventually provide, I realized how unwise it would be to hand such a potentially dangerous tool to such a young child—he just wasn’t ready. And I loved Andy far too much to endanger him that way. But when he was mature enough to handle it, I was glad to buy him the pocketknife he wanted. In the same way, the Father waits until we grow spiritually so that the blessings He’s planned do not harm us, but are a source of great joy to us.
The greater the blessing, the longer God will have you tarry, in order to fortify your resolve to glorify Him with it.
But there is a second way the Lord prepares us. Not only does He cultivate your character for protection, but He also does so to increase your commitment. I’ve experienced this principle throughout my life. The greater the blessing, the longer God will have you tarry, in order to fortify your resolve to glorify Him with it.
You see, every gift comes with responsibilities and challenges. Whether you desire a particular occupation, relationship, ministry, or what have you, when the difficult times arrive and you are in the thick of battle, you may be tempted to run. But if you wait on God for that blessing, you will never forget the process of attaining your heart’s desire. In fact, you will treasure it more and seek to honor Him as you nurture and care for it. You won’t question whether you made the right decision. You will refuse to let go of it regardless of how hot the fire, how deep the water, how black the storm clouds, or how thick the fog. Rather, your heart will be absolutely set to trust the Lord no matter your circumstances.
4. TO STRENGTHEN OUR FAITH
The fourth benefit David received from this waiting time was that his faith grew greatly. Why? Because you cannot wait upon God without learning to truly trust Him. And you cannot exercise your hope in Him if you are always given everything immediately (Rom. 8:24–25). But when we have only His promise to rely upon—with absolutely no visible evidence of answered prayer—then our faith is put to the test and can grow (2 Cor. 5:7).
For this purpose, the Lord will intentionally put adverse conditions in our path so we will choose to believe Him rather than focus on our circumstances—which is what usually gets us in the most trouble.
We know from Scripture that David had to remind himself of God’s promises and renew his faith in the Lord often because of the adversity he was experiencing. Psalm 57 chronicles his lament as he fled from Saul to En Gedi. You can imagine his loneliness, fear, and dejection as he laid his head on a rock in a dark cave—rather than on a pillow in a palace—knowing that his life was in imminent danger. David wrote, “My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword” (v. 4). Alone, in peril, pursued by those who sought to execute him—how could he possibly hope to be king? Too many obstacles remained in his path. It seemed impossible.
But David intentionally set his focus on God and expressed his faith:
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah.
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.
(vv. 1–3, emphasis added)
David fixed his thoughts on the Father’s faithfulness rather than his trials, and he remained certain that the Lord would fulfill all He had promised (v. 2). In that way, his faith was strengthened.
Likewise, any time you choose to trust God even when circumstances appear contrary, you are exercising and establishing your faith.
I’ve had many times in my life when the Lord spoke to my heart about what He was going to do. But then, as troubling obstacles and challenges arose, I would look around and think, “How in the world can this happen?” Then the Lord would say to me, “Are you going to believe what you see or will you trust Me?” So, as difficult as it was, I would make the decision to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). And I am so glad I did! Because each and every time, I was blessed to experience the Father’s astounding presence and provision (Heb. 10:35–39).
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you will never go wrong waiting on God.
Friend, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you will never go wrong waiting on God. You will never be disappointed when you trust Him to make a way for you regardless of how your circumstances may appear. And when you make the choice to believe Him, He will grow your faith in awesome ways.
5. TO SIFT OUR MOTIVES AND DESIRES
Of course, one of the most important reasons God allows us to experience seasons of waiting is to sift our motives. Why is it that we feel such distress when we are denied our heart’s desire? Is it because we love it more than the Father? Are we somehow avoiding obedience or seeking to replace Him with something or someone else? Is there some sin the Lord is seeking to purge from our lives before He answers our prayers?
Your request may be well within God’s will for you, but if your motives are wrong or your tactics are sinful, He will work to align your heart with His purposes. This is not to punish you; rather, this is for your good—so that you can experience the greater freedom, more meaningful success, and deeper joy that are found only in Him.
Certainly David witnessed the dangers of seeking anything other than the Lord by observing King Saul, whose jealous desire for power destroyed him. The question was constantly before each of them: As king, will you remain submitted as a servant of the Lord? Or do you seek to make God serve you? Will you rule Israel on His behalf or for yourself?
Saul made his choice—which was to seek after his own agenda and glory rather than God’s (1 Sam. 15). And because of it, he lost everything. Samuel informed Saul, “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king . . . The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you” (1 Sam. 15:23, 28).
On the other hand, God took a great deal of time to sift and purify David’s heart. And David proclaimed his choice in Psalm 86:12, “I will give thanks to You, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.” He learned that there is a vast difference between genuinely seeking the Father and merely pursuing His gifts, intervention, and benefits. And because he chose to serve God wholeheartedly, the Lord accomplished many astounding achievements through David.
First, “the LORD gave him victories wherever he turned” (2 Sam. 8:6, TLB)—no other king gained as much territory for Israel as David did. Not only did he conquer the exceedingly important city of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6–10), but God also worked through David to fulfill His covenant to Abraham: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18).
Second, the Father promised David, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Whereas Saul’s kingdom had been torn from him, David’s would be eternal. How? Through the Messiah—the Lord Jesus our Savior, who was often called “the Son of David” in the New Testament (such as in Matt. 1:1; 9:27; and 21:9—to name a few).
Finally, God allowed David’s profound, comforting, and beautiful words in the psalms to become part of the enduring canon of Scripture. How many of us throughout the years have been consoled, instructed, and encouraged because of his faithful testimony?
The truth of the matter is that our goals are generally very small and unsatisfying compared to the awesome, eternal plans the Father desires to accomplish through us. So what I would like you to see here is that when God allows us to wait, it is for our good. If we—like Saul—are only focused on what the Father can do for us, we’ve missed the point of having a relationship with Him. We exist for His glory—not the other way around. But if He sifts us as He did David, then there is no telling what wonderful, exciting, energizing, and fulfilling things He’s purposed to do through us. As Jesus said, “I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16, NIV, emphasis added).
Of course, this is a constant struggle we all face—the challenge to keep God on the throne of our hearts instead of ourselves. It is so easy to become absorbed in our own concerns that we forget that we belong to Him. But nothing teaches us so effectively as a prolonged difficulty. Unable to handle it on our own, we turn to Him out of desperation and ultimately realize how truly loving, wise, and good He really is.
NEVER GIVE UP
“Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; rather, it polishes His instrument.”
—VICTOR RAYMOND EDMAN
The fourth president of Wheaton College, Victor Raymond Edman, summed up the discipline of waiting in David’s life like this, “The delay seemed to be interminable and intolerable, but was indispensable in preparing David for his long career as king of his people, to which office he had been appointed many years before. Delay never thwarts God’s purpose; rather, it polishes His instrument.” You can be certain the same is true for you—in your waiting, the Father is refining you and fitting you for His awesome purposes.
Dear friend, are you unsure of your way? Do you have needs only He can provide? Is your path blocked on every side? Do you wonder if God has forgotten you? The nevers of life can discourage you and rend your heart if you don’t focus on the One who ultimately holds your future in His hands.
Your heavenly Father isn’t driven, limited, or intimidated by seeming impossibilities or complex earthly circumstances. Rather, He is motivated to act on your behalf out of His unconditional love and the wonderful plans He has for you. He is working powerfully to teach you to listen to Him, transform your character, strengthen your commitment, establish your faith, and free you from bondage. And in the next chapter we will look at the reasons you can trust Him to do so.
Therefore, don’t despair and never give up! This season of waiting is for an excellent purpose. And if you will remain in your present circumstances until you receive further instructions—seeking His face, obeying Him, and walking by faith rather than sight—you will certainly not be disappointed.
Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow
Waiting on God
Strength for Today and Hope for Tomorrow
Are you waiting for God to answer your prayers? Do the days, weeks and years go by without evidence that your deepest longings could ever come true? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, you are facing a common faith-building challenge in the Christian life, and this book has the guidance you need to endure victoriously.
God has very special plans for your life, and the way He most often prepares you for them is through times of directed, active, purposeful waiting. So through timeless, biblical teaching, Dr. Stanley gives you the practical wisdom you need to make the most of the delays and follow God’s lead to the blessings you long for.
With counsel for staying on track when the tunnel is getting dark, claiming God’s promises, and finding purpose in the waiting, Dr. Stanley draws on personal experience and biblical principles to offer you encouragement and guidance no matter where you are in your spiritual journey.
- Howard Books |
- ISBN 9781476794082 |
- October 2015