The Divine Timetable: Learning to Wait on God

Some musings on the difference between my clock and God’s clock:

We are very impatient people here in the West. We want instant everything. We want everything and we want it now. Christians are not immune to this way of doing things. They too can demand that everything happens immediately. For example, they can expect instant Christian maturity or they can demand instant answers to their prayers.

But God is on his own timetable, not ours. He does things when they need to be done, not when we think they should be done. So we have need for some patience here, among other things. That means not always rushing around, but actually letting God set the timetable and not us.

And we need to learn how to wait on God – the gist of which is just that: waiting. Some famous passages come to mind here about this:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Psalm 40:1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Isaiah 40:31 But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Lamentations 3:25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Consider the issue of prayer and what seems like unanswered prayer, or a long delay in getting some sort of answer. I do not know about you, but I pray daily that the Lord would return quickly. Yet sometimes I wonder if he ever will return – at least in my lifetime. I just really want to see this evil world come to a conclusion.

I guess I am rather like those talked about in 2 Peter 3. There Peter discusses scoffers, and he says this in verses 4-10:

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…

I hate to say it, but sometimes I sorta think and feel the same way as the scoffers do: “All things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” It seems the evil and suffering and misery and pain just keep on coming – relentlessly. I just want it all to come to an end and I wish God would hurry things up a bit!

But plenty of prayers that we offer up to God may seem to be getting nowhere fast in terms of some kind of answer. Often we have to wait quite a while before we see God acting on our behalf. One passage which speaks to this and is rather mysterious (I will need to write a separate article on it one day), is what we find in Daniel 10:10-14:

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”

While a number of questions arise here, one thing is clear: there was a three week delay before Daniel got some kind of reply. His concerns were heard immediately, but it took a while before any divine response was given. Also consider what we find in Jeremiah 42. The first 9 verses of the chapter say this:

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him…

There we see that a full ten days passed before God gave an answer. Of course in this case, their request was really quite empty and in vain: they did not really want to hear from God and do what he would tell them to do. As we read in verses 18-22:

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: As my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an execration, a horror, a curse, and a taunt. You shall see this place no more. The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives. For you sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, declare to us and we will do it.’ And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.”

But the point remains that God’s clock is not like our clock. Indeed, recall what was said in the 2 Peter 3 passage I quoted above: “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. So learning to trust God and his timing is paramount. And that often involves learning how to be patient. It means trusting God even though it seems like he is not answering our prayers, or is not telling us what is going on.

I at least need to learn this lesson. As I mentioned, it seems like things are just getting so horrible and so diabolical. I wish that Christ would return NOW and put an end to all this. I even argue with God: ‘Hey, if you are trying to show the world what things are like when we turn our backs on you and think we can get by on our own, well it seems to me we have all the evidence we need of that by now thanks!’

But God certainly knows when is the best time for the culmination of this world, and the inauguration of the next, with the new heavens and the new earth. I am just too impatient. I really just want to go home now. And not in a selfish way: I do not want to leave this earth with everyone else still here. I want this life to end now so we ALL can call it quits in terms of the old, and embrace the new.

Some will respond by pointing out what I quoted above, the bit about God being “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish”. ‘Yes but,’ is how I always mentally reply. ‘Yes, every day he does not return is another day where some folks can get saved. But it is also another day where some more people will be born, or some others will die without salvation.’

So it seems to me that simply extending time on earth indefinitely is not really solving things: it just means more people will be born, live and die – some of them being saved, and some of them not. But at the end of the day my reasoning amounts to little here. What does matter is that God does have everything figured out, and he will not return a day too soon or a day too late.

That is good news. And it also applies to other things, such as when and how he answers our prayers, and so on. Our God is an on-time God. That is enough for us to know and to rest in.

[1782 words]

5 Replies to “The Divine Timetable: Learning to Wait on God”

  1. Hi Bill, I can really share in your frustrations. The other issue that I can’t get my head around, is that, because Heavenly Father lives outside of time as we know and understand it, He has already seen the world as we know it come to an end. He has already seen our time at the Judgement Seat of Christ, and He has already seen how we will act and behave on the other side of Glory. In the meantime we’re still stuck in this miserable “lefty dominated world” wondering what horrors the next 24 hours will bring!! Bill, I do take comfort that God is in total control, and we are not. The only reason “you” haven’t yet departed for Glory, is that HE wants you to “KEEP DISHING IT OUT” as you’re led by The Holy Spirit. And for that reason, I’ll keep supporting you and your family in Prayer on a daily basis. Bless you heaps Bill, and “KEEP DISHING IT OUT”, regards, Kel.

  2. Many thanks Kel. Yes, just yesterday I too was thinking about God’s knowledge of all things, including our past and future. But I was reflecting on it in relation to ME. He was fully aware long ago of all the times I would let him down, disobey, sin, rebel and blow it – AFTER my conversion. If I were God and knew all this ahead of time, I would not have been so keen to commit myself to Bill! Praise him for his amazing grace!

  3. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. (Even the purpose of conclusion of one world and the commencement of a new one!)

    I’m younger than you, last part of Gen X, and I too want desperately to go home. I want to be free of sin and temptation. I haven’t had a good life God graciously gave me certain mental disabilities that has kept me out of much sin. I learned over time that many times God says no to a prayer request because it is best for you not to have what you wanted. Other times I too have had a delay in receiving a yes though it could simply be that the initial answer was not now but because I wanted a yes I didn’t hear him. In one instance at least it took years to get a yes.

    I have for about the last 10 years reflected upon my life with a enlightened approach thankful for what God has done for me through the years. That is the one thing about age, even middle age, you can see your past more clearly you understand things that at the time made no sense or seemed wrong.

    As to your response to Kel if I were God I would have smited this world ages ago!!! I simply don’t have the patience to deal with all the sin and perversion ESPECIALLY when it comes to children!!

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