Have you ever heard that phrase before? “Hurry up and wait!” Not sure where the term comes from but I certainly know why it exists. All of us have experienced this from work to family and every other area in between.
Recently my wife and I were driving to a tagging event that we were doing to raise special missions and a very expensive SUV whizzed past us at about 25-30 miles over the speed limit. Guess what happened? You bet, they ended up being right in front of us at the stop light on the other side of the off-ramp. Funny how we can be in such a big hurry to get somewhere and do all we can to get there faster, only to wait in the same line as everyone else or to get stuck in another place on our way.
We are all too familiar with what this looks like on a physical level, but what about spiritually? Can you make the connection? Maybe you want to get married, or overcome in a certain area of your life and you are just not seeing progress! Has frustration kicked in? Have you started to get bitter at God for not “keeping his promises” to give you a hope and a future? Have you been arguing with yourself like David did in Psalm 27:14:
14Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Notice that the Psalmist connects waiting with the need to be strong! I do not think that waiting comes easy for many of us, especially in an instant society. We have fast food, we have microwaves, we have instant messaging and all sorts of other technological advances to keep us from waiting. Yet, in many cases, we still must wait and man, does it get under our skin!
I believe that while it’s hard, there is something good in waiting. That sometimes God puts us in the position of having to wait for things for our good, to help us grow!
My evangelist, Jason Dimitry, preached a lesson to the staff of our church this past week where he talked about the idea of surrender. The fact that many of us struggle because we have not let go of this or that; given it to God and said; as Jesus commands us to: “Your will be done…”
Waiting, I believe, is an act of surrender and it requires us to deal with the uncertainty of our lives and take our fears of the unknown, of our dreams and our dilemmas to God. In this way, we get Him, which is ultimately what we need, but many times, we get what we want in the process!
This, I believe is the context for which Jesus is teaching his disciples in Luke 18. How to wait for God to move, in the midst of unanswered prayers, in the midst of ambiguity, in the midst of the struggle. How to wait in a way worthy of the calling of a Disciple of Jesus. How to wait with strength!
Today I want to look at 3 qualities that we need to possess if we want to wait with strength.
Live with Expectancy
1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’4“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
What I love about Jesus, is that in many of his stories, he gives us the point; the moral of the story before he starts, and this is not exception. In verse one he says that the point of the parable is “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Here is how waiting with strength plays into this passage.
First, we have a judge who neither fears God nor cares what people think. What is funny here is that he has broken the first two commands in the Jewish law! Right out of the gate we know we are not going to get what we want because this is a Godly man who, because of his relationship with God wants to do what is right. We also see that he couldn’t care less about what people think so by means of basic human decency we are not going to get very far. That is, until he came up against a woman of great faith!
Reading a bit further we see that the widow keeps coming to the judge to get justice and at first glance we can assume that the point of the passage is to just pray and pray and pray, over and over and over again until we wear God down with our incessant prayers! It works because he just finally gives you what you ask for! Is this the point? Not a chance!
Jesus goes on in verse six to tell us that God isn’t anything like the judge (though many people view God in this way)! That is why you can pray, and wait with strength! God is willing to bring justice, and quick justice to those who cry out to him! The point is not to keep praying over and over again to wear God out, but to pray with expectancy that God is going to act and act quickly; believing that He will answer!
I find it rather interesting that Jesus would ask the question in verse eight: “…will [the son of man] find faith on the earth?”
The question at hand isn’t will God do his part, the question is will we do ours? Will we pray and not loose heart, will we pray with expectation that our loving father in heaven will move on our behalf? Will he find faith on earth?
Now, let’s look at our second character trait that one needs to have in order to wait with strength.
Live with Humility
In our second story, which also opens with its point, we read:
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
We are hit right out of the gate with verse nine and we know right away that these qualities are not what we are looking for. Not only that, they are not going to help us wait with strength!
How many times did you read the word “I” in the Pharisee’s prayer? Mark this, if I am the center of my universe and God exists to give me what I want, in my time, then I am most certainly not going to be very interested in waiting for him to do what I’ve asked him to do. After all, God is pretty lucky to have me on his team! I’m not like other people, he says. I tithe, I pray, I fast, so let’s get going God, work your magic! Prideful people do not wait with strength! By the way, are you waiting well right not? If not, maybe you have a bit of this Pharisee in you? Just sayin’!
Contrast that with the tax collector. His prayer was all about his state before God. Pleading and falling on his mercy! You can bet that his prayer ended with the heart of: “On whatever timetable you want, Lord! Your way! All I want is mercy…”
People who live in humility will leave the details and the timing up to God. “Lord, I’m just fired up to be a part of your team! I don’t need a wife, I don’t need to have this or that role, I am just happy to be here!”
People who live in humility know that God has a reason for not answering right away, for making them wait. Why has God not answered your prayer for a new job? Maybe it’s because he is wanting you to show grace and love to that boss you hate. Why hasn’t God given you that leadership role you’ve asked for? Could it be that he loves those who would be under your care so much as to not let you hurt them with your current leadership style? God has a reason for not answering and we need to have the humility to see that it’s not God who needs us on his team, it’s us who need God!
Ok, so we have Live with Expectancy, Live with Humility and our final character trait is: Live with Focus!
Live with Focus
18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’21“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Right out of the gate again we get a guy who asks the wrong question of Jesus! There is nothing that anyone can do to inherit salvation! But that is the rut that the Jews of that time were in, and the rut that many religious people are in today. But this guy wasn’t ready to hear that, so Jesus takes another road.
Jesus statement in response about being good is a funny one. First, why would the guy come to him and ask him the way to eternal life if he didn’t see Jesus as the Son of God, and in so being, being good…in fact, the ultimate good in the universe next to God himself!
Jesus goes on and tells him to keep the commandments. Pretty simple, right? Well, not so much. Can one inherit eternal life by keeping the commandments? Not at all, that is the whole reason why Jesus came to earth wasn’t it? So where is Jesus going here? The man responds with; “All these I have kept since I was young…so I’m good, right?” “Nope”, Jesus says. “You’ve kept the law 100? “Well, let’s test this out! You have not coveted, right?” “Right!”, the man responds, “Ok then, go sell all you have!”
The point is not that in selling all his possessions that he will inherit eternal life, its to help him understand that, not only does he have his perspective wrong about salvation, but that not considering parting with his possessions demonstrates that he has a covetous heart, which he does have, therefore he cannot inherit eternal life by keeping the commands and needs Jesus!
We read that he went away sad rather than looking to Jesus and being honest with where he was at and asking for his help to do it!
Here is the application of the story to ourselves. Sometimes Jesus allows us to wait is to see what our focus is on. To clarify what we truly want, what we are really asking for. Is what you are praying for, what you are truly asking for going to give you the outcome that you want? Will you be truly happy being married? Not that marriage is bad, but is that really what you want? That role in the kingdom, is that going to bring true fulfillment? Or is it something deeper that Jesus is driving at?
God allows us to wait to clarify what we really want. To refine our focus on what really matters!
Now here is the hard question. You know that thing that you are waiting for? What if you never get it in this life? Can you still find joy, fulfillment and be fired up in just having a relationship with God?
This is the entire point of the chapter:
28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
I wish I had time to dive into the next story; where Jesus heals the bind man. Go ahead and read it on your own. After you read it, consider this:
A man or woman who lives with expectancy, who lives with humility and who lives with focus are those who will wait with strength! And you will see that the blind man that Jesus heals is an example of that! He came to Jesus and his prayer was full of expectancy. The very fact that he came to Jesus was an act of humility and he was focused; he knew exactly what he wanted: To see!
As we close out, the question before us is this: As Jesus watches the way that we wait, will he find faith? If he does, he will find someone who is waiting with strength, someone who doesn’t mind to hurry up and wait!