Posted in Faith, Personal Development

What Does Waiting Look Like?

waiting

I can be an impatient person, especially when I see in my mind the pieces needed to make a plan work, and then…for some reason…it takes time…for the pieces…to come together. More time than I want it to take. Waiting can put a huge strain on the fruit of the Spirit in my life. For example, we really need a nurse manager for the pregnancy center I direct. Last October I thought I had found the right person, someone that could move our mission forward with efficiency and expand the services we offer to our community. It seemed like a perfect fit. And at the last minute, the details fell apart. Now in February, there is still no nurse manager. I am waiting.

It’s not for lack of trying. We have posted the job everywhere we can think. It’s not for lack of praying. Hundreds of people have been praying for the Lord to bring His person to our ministry. And still…we wait. In the meantime, the Lord has graciously provided the medical staff coverage we need each week. Even at the last minute, when someone in charge mistakenly thought there was coverage and there really wasn’t. (Yes, it was my fault!) So I’m not complaining, but I just dislike waiting.

God’s Word talks a lot about waiting, though.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalm 130:5).

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 (Isaiah 40:31).

There are still more than 150 references to go. What the verses above have in common is the word “wait” means “to expect, hope, or be eager.” They also mention waiting “for the Lord.”

It isn’t passive. It isn’t sitting around, grumbling and complaining. It also isn’t allowing anxiety and fear to dominate. It is attending to the tasks at hand, while having an active expectation for what the Lord will do.

While I am waiting, I need to remember that this ministry is God’s ministry. I set aside my desire for control and trust the Lord to have His way with the organization that is dear to His heart. But then it gets even closer to home. My life is God’s life. When things take longer than I think they should, whether on an organizational level or in my personal/family life, I need to remember that it isn’t a reflection of me. Do I really trust that the Lord knows what is best for me? Do I really believe that He orchestrates the details of my life to build His Kingdom? Even more importantly, am I really convinced in the depths of my being that He loves me?

When I can answer “yes” to these questions, I wait in active expectation for the Lord. If I can’t answer “yes,” I need the Holy Spirit to reveal what I am believing and why, and to help me believe the truth. Then I can wait in a way that truly honors Him.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You know the situations I face that require waiting for You. May I be convinced of Your deep love for me. Teach me to trust in Your goodness and perfect timing. I believe. Please help my unbelief. Let me serve You faithfully with hopeful expectation for what You will do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Remember God’s Patience

traffic jam

My Grandpa Stiverson taught me how to drive. He was an excellent teacher and passed on his love for defensive and safe driving. One of the lessons I still remember is what to do when I am the first car at the stop light waiting for it to turn green. Count to three slowly and look both directions before proceeding. His advice has saved me from numerous accidents. I consider myself a careful driver. But some people would consider me an annoyance. Yes, I am the one trying to drive close to the speed limit. I am the one who switches lanes slowly, because I want to be certain it is clear. I am the one who causes people in a hurry to stumble by evoking various degrees of road rage. For that I am truly sorry.

I am bothered when someone, even a stranger, responds in anger. I try hard to avoid offending anyone, even in slight ways. I also know, try as hard as I can, it is unavoidable. A few days I did it again. My cautious driving triggered another driver’s anger. I cringed as he honked and gestured impatiently, and raced into the traffic. I asked the Lord to help him get to his destination safely, and then I thank the Lord for His great patience toward me.

It takes quite a lot for me to get rattled by someone else’s driving. I don’t mind following a slow poke. But I get triggered in other areas of life. At times I can be so critical of others’ behavior or performance. My thoughts can become brutally judgmental until the Holy Spirit nudges me. Most people would never know the extent of my negative thoughts, because I have learned to cover them over with right actions and words. Nevertheless, the Lord sees it all. He is so patient with me and doesn’t condemn me, yet He challenges me to allow His transformation in my hidden inner places.

Sometimes I compare myself to others. As a dedicated Christ-follower, my outward life looks pretty good. Before I start patting myself on the back, I have to remember that comparison to others is a flawed measurement system. First, I can only see the outward appearance; the Lord sees the deepest motivations. Second, the correct comparison is with the Lord Himself. How do I compare with His holy perfection? I fall dreadfully short.

That is where the Lord’s divine patience comes in. He extends grace—undeserved favor—on me. His grace covers over my many imperfections, allowing me to be in relationship with Him, the One true, perfect God. When I stumble, He continues to patiently administer grace, cleansing me and encouraging me to allow His Spirit to change me.

In which areas do you get impatient with others? Remember God’s patience with you. As we live with, love, and lead others, let’s strive for excellence while demonstrating patience and grace.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. ~Psalm 103:8

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your wonderful patience and grace. Through the sacrifice of Jesus and the empowering of the Spirit, You have given me so much more than I deserve. Help me to be patient with others and extend grace to them. Teach me to hold high standards, and also treat others with kindness and patience. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Living in The Middle Lands

Desert Land

The other day my granddaughters were dawdling at breakfast. As incentive I set the timer for ten minutes to see if they could finish eating before the time was up. They both finished with five minutes to spare, and the three of us watched the remaining seconds count down. It seemed like the longest five minutes ever!

I’m not a very patient person, especially when it comes to reaching goals. If I can see the steps needed to head in a direction, I want to speed through (with excellence) all the steps to the end and enjoy the fruits of my labor. We all know that life isn’t neat and tidy like that, but I like the idea. And, waiting doesn’t come easily for me.

We live in an awkward time in God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ has already finished the work of redemption. He won the victory against the enemy, defeating sin and death. The kingdom of God has already come. However, it will not be perfected until the coming of the new heavens and earth. It’s the age of Already But Not Yet. I call it The Middle Lands.

We live in The Middle Lands. Not just as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, but also as we wait for the fulfillment of our own goals and desires. Most of our lives are spent in various regions of The Middle Lands.

~Waiting for a loved one to trust Christ as Savior.
~Waiting to find that special someone with whom to spend the rest of your life.
~Waiting for the Lord to provide His healing touch for you or someone close to you, preferably this side of heaven.
~Waiting for strained relationships to be restored.
~Waiting for your organization’s strategic plan to gain momentum and succeed.
~Waiting to get well established in a meaningful career.
~Waiting to see the promises the Lord has spoken to your heart come to pass.
~Waiting for the prayers that you have sown with tears to be answered.

How can we thrive as we wait in The Middle Lands, during a tension-filled time between times?

Be real about where you are. I love the honesty of the Psalms, especially the ones penned by David. He didn’t pretend that his circumstances were great when they were not. He stated that he was fleeing from his enemies. He admitted that he felt downcast. But he didn’t stay in a mopey, negative state. He acknowledged the Lord’s faithful presence in the midst of his difficulties.

Cultivate an attitude of hope. Our trust must not be in our own abilities to perform or achieve. We place our trust in the Lord who is the Source of hope. We build a solid foundation of hope, as we humbly yield our own wills to God and meditate on His lovingkindness toward us. We remember the promises He has fulfilled in our own lives and throughout history, and believe that His timing is best.

Keep an eternal perspective. We choose to believe that what God says about Himself is true. We allow His truth to be expressed through our lives. Though our suffering and troubles may be long lasting, they are momentary in light of eternity. Our existence on this earth is temporary, designed to develop immovable trust in the Lord. One day we will be with Him forever, and there will be no more pain, sickness, sorrow, and death.

As Christ followers filled with His Spirit, we can experience joy, peace, comfort, and the wonder of God’s presence while waiting in The Middle Lands.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~2 Corinthians 4:17

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to trust You in the good times and the bad. I want to keep my eyes on You every day and in every situation. Remind me that the best is yet to come at the culmination of Your Kingdom. I hold onto hope, believing in Your lovingkindness. Empower me to thrive as I wait in The Middle Lands. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Wait for the Slow Work of God

WaitPatiently

We sat in a prayer circle, each of us sharing one request that was close to our heart. The elderly couple next to me took no pause to mention theirs.

“Our sons—all three of them—are not serving the Lord. We saw other family members come to Christ last year. We’re waiting and trusting the Lord for our sons.”

As we prayed together, my heart was moved with compassion for this couple. They had poured their lives into church ministry and had taught their children the ways of the Lord. Now in their mid-seventies, they continued to be faithful examples of Jesus. And they continued to trust Him to work in their sons’ lives. In that moment, I could sense His loving kindness toward them as they waited.

Ministry to people requires a great deal of patience and grace. It’s hard to wait. We do all that we can to point others to Jesus. We pray. We speak the truth in love. We encourage them to get back up when they stumble. We share the powerful promises of God’s Word. We pray more. We catch ourselves worrying, and then we turn it over to Jesus. With our entire being we yearn for people to experience the fullness of Christ. We just want it to happen quickly.

Gregory Boyle (the founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Los Angeles) refers to the slow work of God. Our Heavenly Father, who so loves His children, never stops His work of drawing them to Himself. Through people, circumstances, and inner promptings, He ceaselessly seeks their attention. He is eager for their fellowship and surrender, but He is patient.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Loving people is so much more than following a formula that leads to a specific outcome. Our human nature wants there to be a guarantee. We think, “If I pray and do and say the right things for the right amount of time, I should see people making the right choices.”

Sometimes I forget that only the Holy Spirit can change someone else’s life. He waits for permission, and it’s not my permission He needs. I find myself trusting in my own righteousness, which doesn’t change anything. I need to say “yes” to the Lord for change to happen in myself. Yet, I expect Him to operate differently with other people.

In the words of Boyle, “Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”1

As we wait, we are not doing nothing. We are still actively engaged. We shine the light of Jesus in the darkness. We love others, and speak to them with grace and truth. We trust God to use us to make a difference in this world, even when we may not see it. We don’t give up. We wait for the slow work of God.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You have given me a heart to serve people. Help me not to rely on my own strength and abilities, but rather trust You to work in their lives. May I cooperate with Your Holy Spirit and be Your representative in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 
1 Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (New York: Free Press, 2010), 109-128.

Posted in Character, Personal Development

Be Patient With Yourself

BePatient

Who are you more patient with—others or yourself? If you’re anything like me, I am harder on myself than on anyone else. I am a perfectionist. However, I can be flexible with other people, and brutal with myself.

Jesus has done so much in my life, and I desire to please Him. I want to reflect Him in every way. But sometimes I don’t change fast enough. I get impatient with my lack of progress and the times when I face a set back. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy.

I need to remember that transformation is a process, a consistent renewal over time. It’s not about arriving. It’s about becoming.

It would be crazy to expect a newborn baby to immediately start walking. We understand that it takes time to learn to roll over, scoot, crawl, walk, and then run.

The process from child to adult takes at least 18 years. Brain development experts say the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25-30!

It takes 10,000 hours of practicing a skill—the right kind of practice—before a person reaches an expert level.

So, why do I forget when it comes to my own personal and spiritual growth? Maturity is a continual process. Servant leadership requires on-going diligence to cultivate. There may be a growth spurt. Sometimes it will be three steps forward, two steps back. But over time I’m making progress.

What about you? Do you relate? Are there areas in which you need to renew your trust in the step-by-step work of God in your life? You may not be where you would like, but look at how far you’ve come.

“And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6, TLB).

We have God’s promise that He is always at work in us. Sometimes visible. Sometimes unseen. His work of grace continues to mold and shape us throughout our life time or until the return of Jesus Christ.

We thrive in life and in God’s calling as leaders when we stop beating ourselves up. Moment by moment, walk in His grace. Be patient with yourself. God isn’t finished yet.

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2, NLT).

Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank You that You see me as I am, imperfections and all. Thank You for not leaving me where You found me. You continue to work in me, transforming me into the image of Jesus Christ. Forgive me for my impatience and for the times I condemn myself. Help me to respond to Your conviction, to receive Your grace, and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.