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“DARING TO WAIT ON GOD” - Daring Faith: Key to Miracles - Part 7

Rom.8:18-25 - Easter Sunday April 16, 2017

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, May 23-24, 2015)

RECALL this week’s memory verse: Eph.3:20 “With God’s POWER working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.” Eph.3:20

             Easter is a prime example of today’s theme – Daring to Wait on God. On Holy Saturday (the day after Jesus was crucified) the women who had followed Jesus for up to three years waited...They waited until the Sabbath was over to go to His tomb and anoint His body more thoroughly than the hasty job done before sunset Friday had allowed. They waited because they honoured God, and knew loving God translates into keeping His commands. In a way, their waiting was rewarded when they arrived at the tomb on the first day of the week and were surprised to find the huge boulder barring the entrance was rolled away!

             We are often called to wait on God. Few things make us more irritated than having to wait. Waiting in traffic, in a waiting room, waiting in line at an amusement park – we don’t like waiting. Yet waiting is an important part of life, and of character development. There are some things we only learn in waiting that we learn no other way. Would you agree that every child has to learn the difference between “no” and “not yet”? They’re not the same thing, are they? But an immature child doesn’t distinguish between “no” and “not yet.”

             Our inability to wait is the cause of many problems in our lives. Our inability to delay gratification is a huge cause of debt. So many social problems, even diseases, come from our inability to delay sexual gratification until marriage. Other problems come from this issue of “I want it! and I want it now!” – it causes broken hearts.

             Have you ever been in a hurry when God wasn’t? That’s the most frustrating of all. When you’re in God’s waiting room. You can’t rush God! And that’s frustrating. Some of you right now are in God’s waiting room. You’re waiting for God to open a door: to give you a job opportunity; for an answer to prayer; waiting for clarification, for new direction, waiting for God to remove a pain or heal a relationship. You may be thinking, “I don’t get this! I pray and nothing’s happening.” There’s a delay. Why does God delay things? When clearly he can answer every prayer instantly.

             If you had every prayer answered immediately, you’d be a selfish little brat. Because you’d USE God, treat Him like a vending machine: “God, I need this!” Pull the lever and, boom! I’ve got it instantly.

             God sometimes has to work on you before he works on the solution. Ecclesiastes 3:11 “God does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what he is doing.” Well duh! If you did understand everything God was doing, you’d be God! God is God and I’m not! So we don’t understand what is “just right”; and we don’t always understand what is “on time”. So today we’re looking at Daring to Wait on God. We’ll tackle this under two headings, two questions: What do I need to remember when I’m in the waiting room of life? And what do I need to do when I’m in the waiting room of life? Because this is an element of Daring Faith. First, five things you need to remember.

1) REMEMBER THERE’S A NATURAL DELAY BETWEEN PLANTING & HARVESTING! We talked about this in the message on the laws of sowing and reaping. Take the example of a garden: when you plant seeds you don’t go out the next day and expect to see full grown tomatoes; there’s always a delay between planting and harvesting. Ecclesiastes 3(1-5) “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… A time to plant and a time to harvest…a time to scatter and a time to gather…’ This is simply talking about seasons. You always get the results of what you plant in life in another season, not in the same season. You don’t plant and harvest in the same season. You reap in a different season than you sow. And during that season of waiting you wait quietly, expectantly, patiently in faith. Remember there’s a natural delay between planting and harvesting. When you’ve put in a request, it’s not going to be instantly fulfilled; there is always a delay.

2) REMEMBER THERE’S AN UNSEEN BATTLE GOING ON There’s a spiritual warfare going on in a realm that we don’t even understand or see. In the cosmic heavenlies (and extending right into your own thought-space, where you make your choices) there is a spiritual war between good and evil, between God and Satan, between angels and demons. You’re caught right in the middle. If you’re a child of God, Satan hates you: you have a big bullseye painted right on your back! And he wants to mess you up. Ephesians 6:12 “We are not struggling and fighting against human beings but against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm - the rulers, authorities, and powers of darkness.”

             When you send up a prayer there’s often a battle on how that’s going to be answered. While you’re in the waiting room, Satan starts throwing darts at you. The dart of doubt, of discouragement, of disappointment, of depression. And he starts throwing these darts at you. Scripture cautions us – we should be aware that he’s going to try to get us down.

             We get a glimpse of the warfare going on behind our prayers in Daniel 10. Daniel had a vision of an angel come to him who says: “Daniel, God loves you deeply... [And he loves *you* deeply too!] and God has heard your prayers since the very first day you humbled yourself, [God heard your prayer from the very first moment] I, [the angel] have come in answer to your prayer.But [here’s the interesting part] the (evil) angel prince of this kingdom opposed and blocked me for 21 days.I was opposed in this spiritual battle.So Michael, one of the archangels intervened to fight for me because I had been blocked from coming to you with the answer!”

             There’s a dimension beyond your prayers; we don’t have any more details than that in Scripture about it. Daniel had been praying and it wasn’t answered for 3 weeks and many people would have been starting to get discouraged. The angel shows up and says I’m here to give you the answer: we heard it and started out from day one but we’ve been in a battle over this, and it was such an intense battle that Michael the archangel had to come down and help me with this battle so I could come and tell you the answer is on its way.

             A delay is not a denial. When an answer to prayer is delayed, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be answered; it maybe just that there’s some kind of spiritual warfare going on behind it and you’ve got to keep praying. A delay is not a denial.

3) REMEMBER GOD IS PREPARING ME FOR HIS BLESSING When you have an idea and you ask God to do something in your life, God usually has a bigger / better idea and he’s going to have to prepare you to get you ready for a bigger better answer to your prayer. He first wants to get you ready; because God’s more interested in changing your character than he is in answering your prayer – because your character is what you’re going to take to heaven. 1 Peter 1:6f “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.[This includes the delays] These troubles test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure, just as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.”

             Some of you are going through the fire right now. Keep going! What do you do when you’re going through hell? You keep going, keep walking. These troubles come to test your faith, to sandblast the tarnish of complacency.

             Waiting is always a test. When you’re praying for something in your life and it hasn’t happened, and you’re in that delay, that season between harvest and sowing…waiting tests your character, your trust. It tests your faith, your endurance – all kinds of things in your life. Waiting is a test. The apostle Paul compares waiting in life to being pregnant. Romans 8:24-28 “Waiting does not diminish us any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.We are enlarged in the waiting.We don't see what is enlarging us, but the longer we wait, the larger we become, [Just like a pregnant woman! The longer we wait the larger we become <ha>] and the more joyful our expectancy.Meanwhile, when we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter.He [the Holy Spirit] prays in us and for us...He knows us far better than we know ourselves, and knows our pregnant condition...That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” What a powerful passage! He’s saying here that it’s just like being pregnant, like expecting. That’s what it’s like to wait on God: You know it’s coming – yet you’ve got to wait.

4) REMEMBER I’M IN GOOD COMPANY WHEN WAITING ON GOD Millions of saints before you have sat in God’s waiting room. You’re not alone. In fact if you’re in the waiting room right now, you’re waiting on a job, waiting on an answer, there are a lot of other people sitting around you right now who are in that same situation. You’re in good company. Hebrews 11:2 “People who lived in the past became famous because of their faith.” And every one of those people had to wait. Hannah had to wait years to have the baby that she was praying that God would give her. God gave Joseph a dream of being a ruler at a very young age; yet he ends up being put in prison for fourteen years for a crime he did not commit, falsely accused of rape – and he spends fourteen years in a prison and dungeon in Egypt...waiting. God knew exactly where Joseph was. God was preparing him to keep a servant attitude when suddenly elevated to be the most powerful man in the country, responsible for keeping everyone in Egypt (and several other countries) alive during a long famine.

             Moses waited forty years in the wilderness to know his purpose in life. Abraham waited a hundred years before he has Isaac, his first child through Sarah, promised years before. Noah had to wait 120 years before it rained. How’s that for a waiting spell?! You think you’re in a waiting period? And the whole 120 years you’re building an ark, to prepare for rain and a flood NEITHER of which have ever happened before.

             God waited thousands of years before sending the Messiah. We get in a hurry; God is not in a hurry. Hebrews 6:15 “After waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Waiting is essential to faith: trust has a time-component.

5) REMEMBER GOD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES! That’s what you need to remember when you’re waiting on God. Because unlike other people, you can count on God to come through. There are over seven thousand promises in the Bible that He’s staked his reputation on. So in the waiting room, you don’t focus on what you can’t do – I don’t have the money/talent/connections/opportunity – don’t focus on what you don’t have: instead, focus on what God does have, what God can do. The way to focus is through God’s promises, which direct you to focus on His unlimited abilities instead of your puny limited abilities. Anything is possible, according to the Bible, if you have faith. Habakkuk 2:3 “God says ‘At the time I have decided, my words WILL come true.You can trust what I say about the future.It may take a long time, but keep on waiting— it will happen!’” You could put that verse up on your refrigerator or at the corner of your bathroom mirror: God says My Word will come true. God is Spirit, and His verbal emission is powerful: you can trust it if He speaks it. It’s going to happen; it may take a long time, but keep on waiting – it will happen.

             There are over seven thousand promises in the Bible. When you’re in the waiting room, that’s a good time to memorize Scripture.

             Besides these FIVE things to REMEMBER in the waiting room, there are FOUR things to DO. They’re in an acrostic, WAIT. The W stands for this:

WRITE DOWN THE LESSONS I’M LEARNING Because waiting is always the season to listen and learn. God has some things he wants to teach you before he answers your prayer. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. But you will forget the lessons that you learn in the waiting rooms of life if you don’t write them down. And you know what happens when you forget them? He has to take you through it again! That’s no fun – that’s unnecessary pain.

                Moses led the children out of Egypt, across the wilderness to the Promised Land. It should have only taken a few weeks; instead, it took them forty years. God was giving them one test after another, asking, “Will you trust Me?” There were seven tests. Every time they’d fail the test, the Coach gave them another lap around the wilderness. Waiting in the wilderness has a purpose.

                The lessons that you’re learning in the wilderness – please write them down. Numbers 33:2 “At the Lord’s direction, Moses kept a written record of their progress.” Are you keeping a written record of your progress in the Christian life? A journal can really help when you’re waiting. It’s different from a diary: a diary is for events; a journal is for lessons.

                Deuteronomy 11:2 “Remember what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.”

Psalm 119:33 “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.” That’s the W: Write down the lessons that I’m learning.

                The A in WAIT stands for this...

ACT AS THOUGH I ALREADY HAVE IT That’s faith: not seeing it, but behaving as if it’s already reality. When you have deposited a seed – a seed of finances, a talent in service, of energy or reputation – when you’ve identified a need and you’ve planted a seed, what you do while you are waiting for that seed to grow is you act as though you already have it. A mother who is expecting starts decorating and furnishing a nursery, buying baby clothes and diapers: that’s faith.

             Most people in the waiting rooms and the wildernesses of life don’t do that: instead, we wonder and worry and whine. Why Lord? we wonder. Then we worry – How, Lord? How are you going to do this? Then we whine – When Lord? Are you going to answer my prayer?

             Instead of wondering and worrying and whining, you need to learn to ACT as if you’ve already got it, in faith. Mark 11:24 “Jesus said ‘I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Note the change in tense here: “Believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” What’s Jesus saying? Believe that I’ve already got it in order to get it. When you thank God after you get the answer to your prayer, that’s called gratitude; but when you thank God before you get the answer to your prayer, that’s called faith. When you act as though you’ve already got it then you’ll get it.

             A practical example: maybe you’re waiting on God to get a job. If you had a job, how would you act? Start acting in that way right now. If you had a job, would you lay around all day in your pyjamas and not take a shower? No! You would set an alarm and you would get up and you’d get ready and you’d put on work clothes. You need to start acting like you’ve got the job. You act in advance. Believe a thing is so even though it hasn’t appeared yet, so it becomes so. Romans 4:17 “God calls things that are not as though they were.” Having capacity to see spiritual realities, to perceive the unseen, is faith. Everything God created he spoke into existence. He calls things that are not as though they were. God said to Abraham, “you’re the father of a great nation” even when he didn’t have any kids yet: He’s speaking it into existence. He says to Gideon, “You’re a mighty man of valor” – when he was hiding threshing wheat in the winepress! He says to Peter, “You are a rock” – when Peter would deny Him 3 times before a rooster crowed just twice. God speaks it into existence: you do it the same way. Act as though I’ve already got it.

WAIT: W Write, A Act, I - IMITATE THE HABITS THAT GROW STRONG FAITH I need to imitate the habits particularly of people of strong faith. Find their skills, patterns, habits – and follow that. Use the time while you’re waiting to develop personal maturity. 1 Peter 1:6-7 “We do not want you to become lazy, but to IMITATE those who through faith and patience [That’s waiting: through faith and waiting, faith and patience] inherit what has been promised.” He says that’s the kind of people you ought to be imitating when you’re in the waiting room: imitate those who through faith and patience inherited what God has promised. Paul says it like this in Philippians 4:9 “KEEP ON putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing.” That’s imitation. So when you’re going through a period of waiting, look around and find a stronger Christian, a godly woman or a godly man and see what they’re doing and imitate their faith.

             When you’re in the waiting room of life, don’t put your life on hold. Waiting is not inactivity, idleness, laziness, passivity, or apathy: waiting is the time to develop habits and skills that you’re going to use later on. What are those habits? I’m glad you asked! Let me give you five.

A) KEEP ON PRAYING Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you WILL be given what you ask for.Keep on looking, and you WILL find.Keep on knocking, and the door WILL be opened!” That’s a participle in the Greek, a continuing verb – keep on doing/asking/seeking/knocking, and you will get your answer. Keep on praying.

B) KEEP ON SERVING Romans 12:11,“Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.” This sharpens your skill.There are no ‘great’ ways to serve God: there are only small ways to serve God done with a great heart. That’s true greatness. ‘Wait’ also means to serve: have you ever had a “waiter” at your table? Servers are called waiters, because they are waiting on you, attentive to fulfill your wishes. “Ladies in waiting” are women who serve the queen. When you’re in the waiting room of life, that’s a good time to practice serving, to find a ministry and just get involved.

C) KEEP ON GOING TO SMALL GROUP Hebrews 10:25“Don’t give up your habit [Notice: small group is a habit] of meeting with other believers.Instead keep on encouraging each other!” Some of you have been enjoying a Daring Faith small group. You’ve done it for 5-6 weeks. Then you go, “That was good; now I’m going to just drop out of group.” Why not keep enjoying the benefits? Keep on going to small group. You can even start a new group.

D) KEEP ON SOWING Ecclesiastes 11:6 “Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which ones will grow – perhaps they all will!” You’ve been giving of yourself, your time, your talent, your treasure – keep on sowing your seed. You never know which one will grow. Perhaps they all will.

E) KEEP ON BELIEVING 2 Timothy 3:14 “You must keep on believing the things you have been taught.You know they are true.” The point is stay active: waiting is not passivity. God cannot steer a parked car! Turn on the ignition and just start driving. Get involved in a ministry, in service, with small group, do what you can – develop skills and habits now to prepare so that when that baby arrives you’re not caught off guard. The delivery is a joy.

             W-A-I-T: Write down the lessons; Act as though I already have it; Imitate the habits to grow strong faith.Then T – We learn from Scripture in the waiting rooms of life to…

TRUST GOD instead of PANICKING God is never in a hurry; and, God is never late. God’s timing is always perfect.

What about those times where it appears that God is late?

             In John 11, Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus. Lazarus was one of Jesus’ best friends. Lazarus got deathly sick.They sent word to Jesus. Yet Jesus waited three days. When He finally arrives on the scene they say, “Too late, Jesus; he’s already dead.We’ve buried him in a tomb.You missed the timing on your best friend.”

             Jesus wasn’t late: because Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. His goal was not to heal Lazarus, but to raise him from the dead! Sometimes God lets a situation get so bad only a miracle will do. Don’t give up your faith. Hold on. Hang on. Do the things I’ve just taught you how to do. Because you’re getting ready for a miracle.

             Before Jesus called forth Lazarus from the tomb He prayed: “Father, I thank You that You’ve already heard Me.” He was saying that for the benefit of the people around Him. He already knew what he was going to do.

             God already knows what he’s going to do in your life next month, next year and next decade. And His plan for you is good. And you need to trust Him. And you need to relax. And when you’re in the waiting room you need to just say, okay, He’s not early, He’s not late. He’s always on time. And I will trust God and I will do these things. I’ll write down the lessons. I’ll act as though it’s already happened. And I’m going to keep on building the habits into my life, doing what a disciple does. I’ll keep on sowing. And I’ll keep on sharing and serving and believing and going to small group and praying. Because God’s timing is perfect: He’s not too late.

             Some bamboos grow slow, then fast. To grow a typical piece of bamboo, you cut a chunk of it in half and stick it in the ground. You water it for a year and nothing happens. You water it for the second year, the third year, the fourth and then the fifth year and nothing happens. And you fertilize it. And on the sixth year you water it and nothing happens. And on the seventh year it sprouts. But once it sprouts, it takes off. Some bamboo can grow a whole metre in 24 hours. Some bamboo can grow to nine feet in about four days. When it finally takes off, it sure takes off!

             Your life is like bamboo. And you may be thinking, “I have been working on this and working on this and working on this and I have been studying the Bible and I have been serving, I have been tithing, I have been believing, I have been planting seeds.” You may be in year six...Don’t give up. Because when that thing sprouts it can grow nine feet in about three days. And it just takes off. You go, “Whoa! What just happened?” God just did what He wanted to do.

             Galatians 6:9 “So let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while, at the RIGHT TIME we WILL reap a harvest of blessing [But here’s the condition] IF we don't get discouraged and give up!” As your pastor, it’s my job to not let you give up. We’re to “spur one another one to love and good deeds”. Don’t give up – you’re probably just in year three of the bamboo story.

             Psalm 56:3 even when I am afraid, I keep on trusting you.” That’s Daring Faith. Even when I’m afraid I will trust you. That’s Daring Faith. You don’t wait for the fear to go away, because it’s not! The only way you get through that fear is you must move against it, and do the thing you fear the most, while trusting and clinging to God for dear life. Jesus dreaded the cross – in the Garden of Gethsemane He was in agony, sweating drops of blood because he knew what torture He’d be enduring. But He moved against His fear and prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And because He trusted the Father, Easter happened – sinners forgiven, tombs busted, death overcome, heaven won for countless millions! Keep on trusting. Let’s pray.