Charles Stanley - God Acts On Our Behalf
I don't know of a more important lesson that God's people ought to learn than what we're going to talk about in this message. It's one of the most important lessons in the Scripture. Every believer needs to understand it. And I think about how many people go through life and never understand this simple principle of the Word of God. And as a result, they don't experience God's best. They experience His second best because they violate a very, very important principle.
Now, it's stated in the Scripture in one single verse, but it's illustrated many times throughout the Word of God as God works and deals in individual people's lives. And so, when I think about how important it is, I want to encourage you to take notes. You will not remember all this. I'm going to put a lot of notes up on the mag screen so that you'll be able to copy them down. Because it's not just a matter of saying it, I want you to hear it, to record it, to apply it to your heart because God can make a difference in your life if you'll just practice this one simple principle. It isn't difficult sometimes. And it's simple, but sometimes challenging.
So, I want you to turn to Isaiah sixty-four. And I want us to read these first couple of verses or so here. Isaiah sixty-four and I want us to read verse four primarily, but let's start with beginning in verse one. He says, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence. As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil to make Your name known to all Your adversaries that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence".
Now, listen to this fourth verse, "For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him". Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him. One of the most valuable lessons you'll ever learn in the Christian life is learning to wait upon God. And oftentimes people are too busy, too much of in a hurry. And if you'll think about today we have credit cards so you don't have to wait. You just pick up the phone and tell them what you want, give them a few numbers and it's all over. I wonder how much you would purchase if you had to pay cash.
There's something about waiting we don't like. In other words, we don't like long lines to wait in and when somebody in front of us sits for ten seconds and the light's been green ten seconds, they haven't moved, we don't like that very much. And so, we naturally become impatient because we're living in a world where not only do we want it now, we can have it now. Most of the things we can have now. But that's not the way it is with God and the violation of this principle can be very, very expensive.
And so, I want you to listen carefully what that Scripture says. The Bible says that, "God acts in behalf of those who wait for Him". That is, God is a God of action. He does act. He works. He operates with a sense of direction and purpose in mind, not only for individuals, but universal purpose. But, for example, when I think about the fact that He is sovereign, that He can create by simply speaking a word. That He is in control of all things and that He knows all things. God is this awesome God who has a desire to work in your life and my life. And that's why He works personally in our lives, not just universally in creation, but He works personally in our lives.
And you say, "Well, how does He do that"? Well, first of all, He has a plan and a will and a purpose for your life. He's willing to reveal that purpose and plan for your life. And, in order to make it all personal, He decided to come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, taking upon Himself the form of humanity, and living among us to reveal to us exactly who God is and what He's like. Not only did He come to reveal the Father, but He came to die on the cross and to atone for our sins. And the Scripture says He's given us the gift of eternal life. He is a God who is personally involved in our lives.
And so often people say, "Well, I believe in God, but God is just out there doing something. No, God works in our lives in a personal way. So, I want you to listen carefully because one of the reasons that some of you are in the situation you're in is because you fail to keep this principle. That is, "He acts in behalf of those who wait for Him". Now, the question becomes what is God trying to say to us in all of this? Well, not only does He become personally involved in our life, but the question is, is what ways does He become personally involved? In other words, we know He saves us and so forth, but think about this, these are some of the ways this God who tells us to wait upon Him becomes involved.
First of all, He reveals His will to us. Secondly, He gives us clear direction when we need it. Thirdly, He guides us to do what? He guides us to make wise choices in our life. All through our life, He's encouraging us all along the way. And what is He doing? He protects us. He protects the outcome of our obedience to Him. He shields us from situations and circumstances we're not even aware of. And I think about how He heals us, He comforts us, He teaches us, He answers our prayers. That's one of the ways you and I know that He's a personal God. He answers our prayers. If you didn't believe He was personally involved in your life, you wouldn't pray.
And so, when I think about how He empowers us, whatever God calls you and me to do, He's there to empower us, to enable us, to strengthen us, to give us that guidance we need in order to do that in a fashion that's pleasing and honorable to Him. And not only that, when I think about all the music we hear and so forth, does He not rejoice our hearts? What is the source of our joy and our happiness and our peace? But it is God. And he says, "Don't be anxious about all these things, but in everything by supplication and prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God". And our God will grant us what? Peace. He will garrison us about in such a way. He will protect us in such a way that we'll have peace that is so awesome it's past our understanding because He's personally involved in your life.
Now, think about this: He's a God who is awesomely all-powerful. That is, He doesn't have to ask permission to do anything. He doesn't have to go to someone and ask, "May I do this? Or may I not do that? He's a God who is not only sovereign, but personally involved". And so, because He's personally involved, here's what He's looking for: He's looking for what's best for your life. That is, how can He work in your life personally? What's the best thing He can do? He always has our best in mind. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we make choices that are devastating. Sometimes we make choices.
We say, "Well, I made a mistake here". I do understand that. But God is a God who's working in our life in many different ways. And because He is and because He's personally involved, He has the right not only the wisdom and the power to say to us, "Not now. This is not the time. That's not the direction. I want you to wait. Just wait, I have the best in mind if you will wait for me". So, I want you to think about some things that are so very important. Because there are some things that God wants to do in our life. There are some actions that He wants to take in our life. He wants to work in our behalf in some things that requires us to wait. It doesn't mean that God has forgotten. It doesn't mean that God's not doing anything. He requires us to wait.
And so, I want to talk about why and what it is we wait for and this whole idea of waiting. Because this is a major principle of the Word of God, to wait for God's timing and to wait for God's direction. Those two things we must learn to wait for. So, when we think about waiting, let's answer this first question. First of all, what does it mean to wait upon the Lord? What does it mean to wait upon God? Well, when you think about what patience is, waiting upon the Lord means I'm being patient with Him at this time because He's not seen fit to answer my petition, to grant me what I want.
And so, I'm being patient with God. And patience is simply what? It's the will to wait. If I say I'm going to be patient about it, I'm saying I'm willing to wait. It also means to pause for further instruction. If I'm going to wait upon God for something, I'm going to pause where I am in this situation and I'm going to wait till He gives me further instruction as to the timing or the direction. Will He always tell me why I'm waiting? Not necessarily.
Are there some specific reasons why we have to wait? Yes, there are, and I want to talk about those in a few moments. But I want you to think about that thing in your life that you want. Those things or relationships, whatever it might be, and you're tempted to go ahead and make it happen. But think about this verse, God, in all of His sovereign power, "Acts in behalf of those who wait for Him". And waiting means to be patient, to pause, as we say, waiting for further instruction. It doesn't mean to do nothing. Because, listen, waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is specifically and deliberately doing what? Pausing and waiting for God to do something, which is an action.
Now, it means also that I am willing to have a calm acceptance about whatever God's doing in my life. And what we do oftentimes, we get very anxious; we get upset, why aren't You doing anything? But a calm acceptance says, "I'm willing to wait for God's timing. I'm going to trust Him that He knows better than I do". And it also means that I am waiting for God to intervene in my personal circumstance to bring this about. Because we've said in the very beginning, "He's personally involved in our life". And He's always acting in righteousness. That is, God is not going to ever do anything that is not righteous.
So, you and I don't have to worry about God making a mistake. God doesn't forget anything but our sins after we've confessed and repented of them. So, He hasn't forgotten our requests. And He's so busy doing something else that He can't remember what you asked Him for. And so, we're to wait for His intervention. That is, if I'm willing to wait upon the Lord, I'm just not just waiting. I'm waiting for God's intervention in my life to bring to pass what I've believed and what I'm convinced and persuaded of is the will of God for my life. So, this waiting business is very important because, you see, it's God's way.
So, the question comes: well, why do I have to wait? What's the reason for waiting? So, think about it for a moment in your own life, this particular thing that you want or whatever you have in mind. What's the reason for waiting? Why doesn't God just give it right now? Well, there are a number of reasons. First of all, He asks us to wait because He's readying, He's getting the circumstances ready for us to receive it. Remember this, you never go wrong waiting on the Lord. He knows the future. He knows the details of everything about our life. He knows what the enemy's like. He knows what we're like. He knows what you want. He knows whether that's good for you or not. He knows if this is the right time or the wrong time. He knows that you will regret the day if you disobey Him. And so, He says, "Not now. Wait". Is there purpose for God when He tells us to wait? It's always for our good. Remember He's a righteous God, doesn't make mistakes and always works in our behalf. Here's what he says, "God acts in behalf of those who wait for Him".
So first of all, He's readying the circumstance. Secondly, He's purifying our motives. If your motive is lustful, if it is greed, if it is because you want to retaliate on someone else; in other words, what's the motive for this this thing or this person that I want? Is it because I deeply love this person? Or is it because of lust? And I think a lot of times we miss God because our motivation's not right. When the motivation's not right, what does He do? He waits. He waits for specific reasons.
One of those reasons is He has to get the circumstances right. And secondly, He has to get the motive right, purifying our motives. And a third one, which is rather evident, He's teaching us to trust Him. If God gave us everything we asked for as soon as we got it, we wouldn't trust Him. We wouldn't have to trust Him. It's when He says, "Here's what I'm going to do for you. Here's what I'm going to give you. I'm going to give you clear direction at this point. Trust Me. Just trust Me and wait". You say, "Oh, I trust God". No, if you trusted Him, you'd wait. "Well, I do trust Him, and I have waited. I've waited, I've waited a whole month". Well, so what? Listen, if a month was all you needed, God would say, "This is the time".
So, what happens? I must get things ready. He must purify my motive. I must learn He's teaching me to trust Him. But He's also doing something else. When He says wait, He's protecting us from something oftentimes we don't see. And sometimes we'll never see it, but He saw it. Do you not want God to give you what He has examined totally? He sees what's under here. He sees every aspect. So therefore, I can trust Him. And when I'm unwilling to trust Him, I'm simply saying, "You know, I got to have it my way".
Another reason is this: we make our greatest impact in our Christian life when we choose to wait upon the Lord and watch God give or provide or promote or whatever it might be in His timing. Then those who watch you, then those who are your friends, then those whom you work with look at you and think, "Look what he got, and we used to wonder why he didn't do this and why he didn't do that, or why she didn't do this and why she didn't do that". In other words, "Well, now I see". You know what? It sends an awesome testimony, listen, of the reality of God, the truthfulness of God, the trustworthiness of God. You, listen, you win and the people around you win. God has specific reasons for asking and for telling us to wait upon Him.
Well, so when I think about that, I think about what are the requirements? If I'm going to wait for God, what is required of me? Well, the first thing that's required of me is faith. I have to trust Him. And it's real easy to sing, "Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey". Was that right? Are you trusting Him? So first of all, I've got to trust Him. Secondly, I have to be patient. I have to be willing to wait. I have to be patient. And the third thing is required of me is I have to have humility. I have to say, "Lord, I'm willing to wait no matter how long it takes. I'm willing to do it Your way. I know people may criticize or laugh, but Lord, I humble myself before You. And I am going to wait no matter how long it takes".
Do you think God would ignore that kind of commitment? Would He ignore that kind of faith and patience? No, He would not. And then, of course, it takes courage. It takes courage to stand still and wait for God to work when you do not see anything happening. It takes faith. It takes patience. It takes humility. It takes courage. Now, it takes courage specifically in two or three areas. Number one, we have to resist it, listen, we have to resist the temptation not to go ahead and do it our way. You have to resist that temptation. Second thing is this: we have to resist the pressure of other people who are saying to us, "Well, if you don't do it now, you're going to lose". Isn't it interesting how easy it is for other people to give us this awesome advice about what we ought to do and what they would do? You know what, they'd probably tremble if they had the same test that you have. And yet, they're telling you to go ahead.
So, we have to resist the temptation, the pressure. And we have to resist the fear of failure. There's always, listen, Satan's always there in the middle of God's good things. And so, if we don't wait, we're going to get ourselves in trouble. And we have to remember this, He saves the best for those who are willing to wait for Him. Not sometimes, every time. And I think about the consequences of not waiting on Him. The first one I'd mention is disappointment. There's always disappointment when you step ahead of God. I can guarantee you that.
You say, "Well, I've married this rich, beautiful whatever". You know what? You're going to get disappointed if you're out of God's will. I don't care how rich, how beautiful, how powerful, how meaningful, what position he has, doesn't make any difference. You're out of God's will, you're going to get disappointed. Not only is there disappointment, but you've stepped out of God's will. When you get ahead of Him, you've stepped out of His will. You've manipulated circumstances. You've gotten on with it. You're out of God's will. That's always a dangerous place. Then what you've done is this.
A third thing I'd mention as far as the consequences, you lost God's best. Why does anyone want God's second best? Somebody says, "Well, I don't want God's second best, but I believe" Mmm, mmm, mmm. No, if you trust Him, you can trust Him for His best. God's way's always the best way. His plan's always the best plan. And here's what He says, "He acts in behalf," that is, He's in it with us. "He acts in behalf of those who wait for Him," trust Him. And I'm going to give you a statement that I want you to write down. Our willingness to wait for whatever it is reveals the value we place on the object we're waiting for. Look at that. Our willingness to wait tells something about us. Our willingness to wait reveals the value of that which we're waiting for.
You want to get married? Are you willing to wait for God's choice? Do you value God's choice enough to wait? You want children in your life? Are you willing to wait for God's choice? His timing? You can never go wrong. Does that mean that I'm going to always get everything in life I want? Not necessarily. Here's what it does mean: when I wait for Him and I want something that's not His will, here's what He'll do: He'll change my desire. And because He knows that maybe I don't know all the details that I think that's what I want, here's what He'll do: He'll gently move me from what I desire to what He desires for me. And then, when He gives me what I want, it will be what I really want, not what I thought I wanted. You can't lose being obedient to God.
He says, "He acts in behalf of those who wait for Him". And I trust you'd be wise enough. Don't let somebody push you, shove you, pressure you, intimidate you, embarrass you. You just wait for God's timing. God will grant you the desires of your heart that fit His perfect will for you if you'll just trust Him. Now, I know one thing about your life, though maybe I've never met you. I know one thing about your life that's the will of God. And I don't know whether you've asked Him about it or not. But this I know is the will of God for your life.
You say, "Well, what's that? You never saw me before". The will of God for your life is that you confess your sins, ask the Lord Jesus Christ into your life, surrender your life to Him, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, begin to follow Him as the Lord and Master of your life. I know that's His will. It is the will of God for you that you walk in His will. The will of God for you that your lifestyle would be a lifestyle of obedience. I know those things are true.
And if you're willing to accept Him into your life as Lord and Master, what you've done is you've sided up with the best. You've sided up with the most powerful. You've sided up with the Righteous One. You've sided up with eternal life. You've sided up with life at its very best. And that's my plea for you whoever you are, no matter where you are. It works, whatever your language, whatever your culture, whatever your place in life, it works every time you're willing to ask Him to cleanse you.
Maybe you're already a believer and you think, "Have I messed it up badly? Is there any hope for me now that I've jumped ahead of God and I can't ever go back where I was"? Listen carefully, the will of God is like this: there is His ultimate will for your life, which is what He had in mind to begin with. Then there is His circumstantial will in your life. You blew it badly. You say, "I can never go back. Now what"? The grace and love and goodness and mercy and forgiveness of God provides for His circumstantial will. And that is where you are now, the circumstances which you have created partially, what does He do? He forgives you. He cleanses you. And then what does He do? He sets you in the direction that He wants you to walk now, having acknowledged your failure, acknowledged His lordship in your life and your willingness to follow Him. That is the grace of God. That's who He is. And that's what you can have no matter who you are.
Father, how grateful we are that Your forgiveness is eternal and that all of us have gotten ahead of ourselves, gotten ahead of You. All of us have been places, Lord, that weren't necessarily Your will in our life because it wasn't where You wanted us to be in life. And so, we thank You for Your forgiveness and Your cleansing. Thank you for the new starts You give. And thank you for the new start You're going to give somebody who is listening to this message right now upon their confession of faith in Christ, the newness that begins is the newness of the blessing of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. He makes it all new. And we thank You for that in Jesus' name, amen.