I am not good at waiting. I multitask with a smartphone or tablet while programs are loading on my laptop. I fidget and pace when I’m ready a few minutes before it’s time to leave the house for an appointment. I mentally squirm when there’s a “big reveal” moment, just wanting to hear the results. (As you might imagine, my wife is a very patient person, having put up with my impatience for many years.)
Imagine that you were one of the apostles who had walked with Jesus in the first century. After the emotional rollercoaster of Jesus’ death, followed by proof of His resurrection, more of His plan was becoming evident. If you were like me (or, I suspect, Peter), you would want to get – as quickly as possible – to see the victory of the Kingdom of God. For those who expected Jesus’ reign to be a military victory over the Roman Empire, they might be sharpening their swords and getting fitted for a crown, just waiting for the order to charge (and then reign victoriously over their previous conquerors).
However, during one of Jesus’ appearances to His apostles, we find the following instructions from Him:
Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.
Acts of the Apostles 1:4 NLT
God’s plan to spread the Good News about Jesus was already underway. However, if the disciples had run out and tried to create the Kingdom of God on their own, I expect that they would have failed. The day of Pentecost was the right time in God’s plan for the church to be born (see Acts 2), and its introduction to the world was guided by the Holy Spirit. If the apostles had tried to start establishing God’s Kingdom in other cities and countries too early, who knows what disaster they might have created. (After all, others had tried to make something happen on their own, but things didn’t work out so well. See Acts 5:34-39.)
While I am sometimes frustrated by this fact, God does not need – nor ask – us to do everything that we want right away, even when a particular outcome is part of His plan and His promises. Jacob had to spend some time in prison. Moses had to herd sheep, and so did Jacob. I’m fairly certain that if any of these people had tried to skip steps in the process (trying to circumvent God’s timing and force His promises), they would not have succeeded. Just look at Abraham, who created millennia of conflict by trying to help God with His timing.
Despite my preferences, sometimes we need to wait for God’s timeline, not our own. Maybe He is investing in us to get us ready for the next opportunity. Maybe it’s the next opportunity that isn’t yet ready. Maybe God has something amazing planned, and we’re not only going to miss it if we rush, but more than that, we are going to mess up His plan if we get ahead of Him. (While God can work with our mistakes, even when they are wrought from our pride and impatiences, isn’t it better to just follow His plan in the first place?)
It’s not easy to wait, though. I can cite examples and proof of God’s faithfulness in His own (perfect) time, but when I’m in the “waiting room” of God’s plan, I still fidget and grumble. It is often only when the plan comes together, and God gives me a peek at what He was having me wait for, that I appreciate His gift of waiting.
I hope that you can do better than me, though. Logic tells us that if God has always been faithful, and can be trusted to always be faithful in the future, then the time we are waiting is part of His plan. Let’s see if we can get that thought from our head to our heart!
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the LORD.
Psalms 40:1-3 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.