August 5th, 2018

Perhaps the Hardest Part . . .
Part 4 of 4: Discerning God's Will
Psalm 130

Phillips Brooks was one of the most popular preachers of the 19th century. Perhaps you remember him as the one who wrote, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Anyway, Brooks was especially known for his great patience, but even Brooks had his times of impatience. One day a friend saw him feverishly pacing back and forth across the floor like a caged lion.

"What's the trouble, Mr. Brooks?" the friend asked.

"The trouble is this - I'm in a hurry, but God isn't!"

I don’t know about you, but I can really relate to that. So often, when I’m trying to figure out the will of God, I get tired of waiting. I get tired of waiting to know what God wants me to do. I get tired of waiting to see how God will work in my life. I get tired of waiting on God.

That’s why my sermon title for today is, “Perhaps The Hardest Part. . .” You see, perhaps the hardest part of discerning God’s will – is the waiting.”

Over the last three weeks I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on “Discerning the Will of God.” On the first Sunday, I talked about the importance of discerning God’s will by using divine faith instead of using human logic. On the second week, I told you that in order to discern God’s will, you had to be open to change in your life. Last week, I suggested, that if you want to discern God’s will, you can do so by asking, “What would Jesus do?”

Today, as we finish this series, I want to suggest that knowing God’s will almost always necessitates waiting. Rarely, does God reveal his will to us on our schedule.

The phrase “Wait upon the Lord,” is found all throughout Scripture. In fact, one of the most memorized verses of Scripture is that famous “wait passage” in Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

While we love to imagine ourselves mounting up with wings of eagles, the first 5 words of the verse underline our problem - “They that wait upon the Lord.” Yes, waiting is the hardest part.

But the Bible is very clear. If you want to discern the will of God, you must develop the art of waiting.

The text I’ve chosen for today’s sermon gives us some clues in developing the art of waiting. Listen as I read, for you, the 130th Psalm.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

I love the Psalms because they’re so filled with passion. In this 130th Psalm, I can easily relate to the feelings passionately expressed in verses 5 and 6. The Psalmist cries out. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Obviously, these are the words of someone like me, someone who understand how hard it is to wait for the Lord. But this week, as I took a closer look at this Psalm, I saw two clues emerging from it that give us some help in this matter of waiting on God. And the first is this: We learn to wait by hoping expectantly.

As the Psalmist talks about waiting, he talks about hope. In verse 5, he states, “In his word I put my hope,” and in verse 7 he writes, “Israel, put your hope in the Lord.” For the Psalmist, “hope” and “waiting” are the opposite sides of the same coin.

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “wait,” is “kaw-vah.” Sometimes it’s translated “wait,” but often it’s translated “to hope expectantly.” Waiting is not simply bidding one’s time until something happens. Waiting, in the biblical sense, carries with it the idea of sitting on the edge of your seat expecting something good to happen.

It’s the kind of waiting you do before the curtain opens for the show, or before the team runs out onto the field. It’s the kind of waiting children do early Christmas morning. Or as the hymn writer so aptly describes it, it’s “watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.”

Waiting is not simply bidding one’s time. Waiting is a time of anticipation, a time of hope, a time where we’re straining to look at God’s horizon, waiting to see the first light of his new dawn.

In verse 6, the Psalmist uses a wonderful metaphor describes this kind of waiting. He says, I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.

In biblical days, watchmen were stationed on top of the city wall. It was their duty to keep watch and to warn the people within the city if some enemy was approaching.

The hardest time for watching was that time in between dusk and dawn. Unlike in our day, the watchmen had no radar, no night-vision goggles, so he had to strain his eyes and ears to determine if the enemy was approaching.

After an entire night of the eye and ear strain, the watchman started longing to see that first ray of light dawning over the horizon. Yes, he started waiting expectantly, because when that first ray of light appeared, he realized things were going to change. He realized that soon, he would be able to see clearly those things he had not seen in the dark.

That’s the kind of waiting we need to do in discerning the will of God. Instead of bemoaning the fact that we’re sitting in darkness, we need to look expectantly, almost holding our breath to see what God is up to next.

Yes, we need to wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “it’ll be worth the wait?” Sometimes my wife will use that phrase when she’s preparing a meal. When I start getting hungry and ask about dinner she’ll tell me. “Just hold on. It won’t be long, and when dinner is ready, it’ll be worth the wait.” And if you’ve ever sampled my wife’s cooking, you know that the meal will be worth the wait.

That’s the way we need to approach waiting for God’s will. We need to wait, not as those who are tired and weary, but as those who are hungry to see what God is cooking up next, knowing that whatever it is, it’ll be worth the wait.

It’ll be worth the wait because God loves us.

It’ll be worth the wait because God has good plans for us.

It’ll be worth the wait because God knows exactly what we need and exactly when we need it.

You see, we learn to hope expectantly when we realize God’s timing is, often, not our timing. In the end, God’s will is always connected to God’s timing. What is good tomorrow might not work today.

Remember what the writer of Ecclesiastes said? To everything there is a time and a season, a purpose under heaven. Yes, God’s will is always connected to his timing, and God, alone, knows the right time and the right season.

Suppose you’ve just finished eating your Christmas dinner and you get up from the table saying, “That was good, but I’d really like some fresh corn on the cob.” So, in order to get your fresh corn on the cob, you go out to your garden, push away the snow and start planting several rows of corn.

What will be the result of your efforts? Obviously, the corn will not grow, or if by some miracle it does happen to sprout, a mid-winter freeze will kill it before it produces anything you can eat.

You see, we all know better than to plant corn out of season. We know that corn only produces when it’s planted at the right time. So even if you’re hungry for fresh corn in the middle of December, what will you have to do? You’ll have to wait. For only in waiting will you reap the reward of your labor.

The same is true with the will of God. Often we must wait because due season has not arrived. We must wait, because God knows, not only what we should do, but when we should do it.

So we wait, knowing that God’s will will be worth the wait if we can wait by hoping expectantly.
But there’s a second lesson about waiting we find in this passage. Not only must we learn to wait by hoping expectantly.

We must learn to wait by trusting implicitly.

Can I let you in on a secret? Do you know why waiting is so hard? Waiting is so hard because we don’t know what is coming and we have no control. Just think about it. Why is it so hard to wait on the lab results after we’ve been to the doctor? It’s hard to wait because we don’t know what is coming and we have no control.

Why is it so hard to wait after a job interview? It’s hard to wait because we don’t know what is coming and we have no control.

Why is it so hard to wait when our loved one is undergoing serious surgery? It’s hard to wait because we don’t know what is coming and we have no control.

You see, we don’t like being in situations that are beyond our control. We like being in situations where we can do something: where we can fix what is broken; where we can take charge and have control.

But then comes the time of waiting, the time when we don’t know what is coming and we have no control. So how do we cope with the time of waiting? We do so by trusting, by trusting that the one who loves us will do what is best for us in His time.

Perhaps, you’re familiar with the old hymn written by Stuart Hamblen and made famous by Elvis Presley. It’s entitled, “Known Only to Him.” The line that means so much to me is this one.: “I know not what the future holds but I know who holds the future.”

Yes, those words contain the secret in learning to wait. We can wait, even though we know not what the future hold. We can wait, because we have trust in the One who holds the future.

So what can we do in those times of waiting? What can we do when God has not yet revealed his will to us? We can hope expectantly, straining to look at that first beam of light from God’s new horizon, knowing that when God’s will comes, it’ll be worth the wait. And we can trust implicitly, knowing that he who loves us will not fail us.

Perhaps B.B. McKinney said it best as he wrote about waiting. He writes,

Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered.
Your earnest plea He will never forget.
Wait on the Lord, trust His Word and be patient.
Have faith in God, He’ll answer yet.
(Sing it with me)
Have faith in God. He’s on his throne.
Have faith in God he watches o’re His own.
He cannot fail. He must prevail.
Have faith in God. Have faith in God.

Yes, even though it’s the hardest part, we must learn to wait. Learn to wait by hoping expectantly. Learn to wait by trusting implicitly. And when you learn to wait on the Lord, I guarantee, it’ll be worth the wait.