Robert Jeffress - Waiting On God's Timing
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". In a world of instant meals and same-day shipping, waiting is unpleasant to us. Yet God often calls us to wait, not just for hours or days, but sometimes for months and even years or decades. Well, today, we're moving ahead in our series called "Choosing the Extraordinary Life" with the third of seven secrets to a life of success and satisfaction. God not only has a plan for your life, he's crafted a time-line in which he intends to play it out. My message is titled "Waiting on God's Timing" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Theodor Geisel really didn't like kids that much, but his literary alter ego, Dr. Seuss, which is the name you know him by, had a way of connecting with kids at every level. Through his memorable characters, The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch, The Lorax, Horton, he had a way of helping children navigate through the twists and the turns, the ups and downs of their everyday experience. One of his most interesting books is called "Oh, The Places You'll Go"! It's the story of a little boy who had a brain in his head and shoes on his feet and was ready to go anywhere. He had all kinds of different paths open to him. But whichever path he chose, the little boy would end up in the waiting place.
According to Dr. Seuss, the waiting place is that place where the doldrums extend over the horizon. It's a dreary place. The waiting place is the last place anybody would want to be. Unless you wanna be used by God in an extraordinary way. As we're going to discover today, the waiting place is a good destination to be at critical points in your life. And the waiting place is where you may be right now for God's specific plan for your life. And that's what we're going to talk about today. You know, Isaiah 40, the passage we read a few moments ago, talked about the waiting place being a good place. The writer said, "God gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might he increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who," what? "Wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary".
In our series "Choosing the Extraordinary Life" we're using the story of the Old Testament prophet Elijah to uncover God's seven secrets for success and significance. You know, Elijah was an ordinary person, James 5 says. He was just like us, no spiritual superman. And yet God used him in an extraordinary way. And today we're going to begin looking at the third secret for spiritual success and significance, and that is learning to wait on God's timing. Learning to wait on God's timing. If you look through the scripture, you'll discover the men and women God used in an extraordinary way had to learn how to wait upon God. I mean, think about it. God called Noah to a great assignment, to build the ark. And yet Noah had to wait 120 years for the first drop of the predicted rain to fall. Or think about Abraham and Sarah. God promised to make them the parents of a great nation, but they had to wait more than two decades for that child of promise, Isaac. God said to Moses, "I'm gonna use you to liberate my people out of Egypt," and yet Moses spent 40 years on the backside of the desert, waiting for that time to leave the Exodus.
Or think about the apostle Paul who would be the greatest evangelist and theologian in history, and yet he had to spend three years in the Arabian desert preparing for the ministry God had for him. There are some of you right now who are in the waiting place. That's always been God's plan for those who are going to have an extraordinary life. Author Steve Farrar writes, "In life, God will always work sovereignly, strangely and slowly. He will take time, but he will not waste time. God's delays are not necessarily God's denials. And when he delays, he often doubles the mercy". Pastor Rick Warren says it even more succinctly. He said, "When God wants to make a mushroom, he does it overnight. But when he wants to make a giant oak tree, he takes 100 years. Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering".
Why is it that God makes us wait? If you're in a waiting place right now in your life, why has God ordained that as a part of his plan for you? Let me mention three benefits on learning to wait on God's timing. First of all, waiting reminds us of our need for God. Waiting reminds us of our need for God. Do you remember in our series "Second Chance, Second Act"? We talked about how to recover from failure in life, and I used the analogy of life as a play. Many times we have some kind of failure in the first act of our life. It doesn't matter what age we are, we have a first act failure. Before we can move to that second act of life, God often calls an intermission. An intermission is a time out. It's that period of time between our failure and our future.
And again, you look throughout the Bible, God has always had an intermission for those who have failed, and at some point in all of our lives we're gonna fail. For Moses, his intermission was that 40 years after he killed the Egyptian soldier until God said it was time to leave the Exodus. For the Israelites, their intermission was that 70 years they spent in Babylonian captivity, after they turned away from God, before they would return back to the land. You know, we all have intermissions in life, but we hate those intermissions. We always wanna rush to the next big thing. But God says, "No. Especially after a failure, you need to take time. I'm gonna put you in a time out to reassess the causes of your failure and also renew your relationship with me".
Sometimes, waiting is a result of failure. But sometimes, God wants us to wait because of successes that we have experienced in our life. If we think we're responsible for the good things in our life and we keep racking up success after success, God sometimes calls a time out to say, "Remember who really is accomplishing all these things". He says, "Hey, all of these good things happening in your life, it's not because of you, it's because of me". As Paul said in Philippians 2:13, "It is God who's at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose". Waiting time sometimes is necessary to remind us of our need for God, not only through our failures, but also through our successes.
Secondly, waiting on God allows us to recharge our physical, emotional, and spiritual batteries. You know, success in life gives us a shot of adrenaline. We're like the Energizer Bunny and we feel like we can go on and on and on and on. But pretty soon, that adrenaline wears off, and we develop a case of what a hiker friend of mine calls dumb feet. Have you ever heard that expression before? I've never heard that expression, but this hiker friend of mine was explaining to me if you're on a rigorous hike and you don't take time to rest, your feet just start to stumble and if you're not careful you're gonna end up careening over a mountain. Hikers call it a case of the dumb feet. And he said if you ever get a case of the dumb feet, you know what to do if you're a hiker. You sit down, you rehydrate, you eat, and you rest before you try to hike again. I was reading this week in Mark 6:31, Jesus said after they told him all these great things, he said, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile". Jesus knew that his disciples needed time to recuperate from the great success they had experienced.
Thirdly, why does God calls us to wait? Because waiting can prepare us for an even greater mission. Waiting can be a time when God prepares us for an even greater mission. Many of you who have been around first Baptist Dallas for awhile know my story. I grew up in the church here, I was called to be a pastor when I was 15 years of age and knew that's what God wanted me to do, and Amy and I raced through college in order to get married, and after we finished college we got married and I began my work at the seminary. And when I did it, Dr. Chris wall, who was the pastor here at the time, invited me to come on the church staff and serve as the youth minister.
During that time I talked to various pulpit committees, but nothing ever really seemed to work out, nothing seemed attractive, and so I kept working here. And one day, the spring of 1985, I got a telephone call. And the guy on the other end of the phone call said, "My name is Lee Graham and I am the chairman of the pastor search committee for the First Baptist Church of Eastland, Texas". He said, "We wanna talk to you about coming to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas". I thought, "I'm not interested in doing this". So I talked to Amy about it, she said, "You know, Robert, I think we oughta talk to them". So we agreed and we met them out here between Dallas and Fort Worth at the First Baptist Church in Crowley on a Wednesday night, and I was gonna preach a sermon there that Wednesday night. And the pulpit committee, there were probably 40 or 50 people in the auditorium, the pulpit committee was lined up on about the third row.
I've been preaching about 10 minutes, and about 10 minutes into the service one of the pulpit committee members was... The whole sermon I watched him just sawing logs there while I was preaching. I thought, "This is not good, this just isn't good". So afterwards they wanted to meet with us, and so they arranged for us to meet in somebody's house there in the church in Crowley, and we sat in a closed-in porch area in the back. And they told me, they said, "We really believe God is calling you to be the pastor of our church". And I said, "Well, thank you very much". You know, I was nice. And Amy and I were walking out to get in the car. I said, "Boy, I'm glad that's over". And with tears streaming down her face she said, "Robert, I think we're supposed to go to that church". I said, "What"? She said, "I think we're supposed to go to that church". And then God began to work in my heart and I knew that was where we were supposed to go, and so we moved to the First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas.
I can't begin to explain to you the culture shock that was to me, to move from a big church in a thriving metropolis to a town of 5.200 out in the middle of nowhere. I tried everything I could those first two years to get out of there. I thought, "This is a tremendous mistake". But God said, "No, you're staying right there". And you know, over those seven years we were there, God did some tremendous things. It was one of the best experiences we ever had. But more importantly, God was teaching me some important lessons that were vitally important to the next mission he had for me in Wichita Falls and ultimately the mission to come back here. If I had missed those years and missed that experience, I wouldn't have been equipped to do what God had called me to do.
God many times has us wait in uncomfortable places in order to prepare us for a greater mission. That was certainly true with Elijah. You've probably thought, "Where's Elijah in all of this"? Here he is. Turn over to 1 Kings 17. Chapter 17, 1 Kings. You know, it's interesting. Elijah, early in his ministry, had a tremendous success. We find it in 1 Kings 17:1, now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word". Now that was big, folks, for Elijah to come and confront the king and the queen and say, "Because of your paganism, I'm pronouncing the judgment it's not going to rain". And he was getting started big in Samaria. But then God told him to go hide himself for three years. For three years, why? Because God had an even bigger mission for Elijah. That was a big thing, to stand before the king and the queen, but that was nothing compared to confronting 850 sword-wielding prophets of Baal who would try to take his life.
Now Carmel was still ahead. So between this experience and the next experience, God said, "It's time for pruning and preparation". And by the way, that is often God's plan. We need to be trained and prepared for the next mission. One popular author notes that marine corps recruits have to go through a crucible of testing to earn the title of United States marine and the coveted EGA, the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem. You can't imagine unless you're a marine what that training entails. It starts with a 13-week training session at Parris Island or at camp Pendleton where the recruits suffer through drill instructions, running, marching, and pushing them until they begin to think and function like marines.
Now that's hard enough, but really that's just the fun part. The real work is the next part. During a 54-hour marathon, these recruits, if they survive the boot camp, they are put through drills like 40-mile hikes, obstacle courses, all kind of training without any sleep, with little food or water. And only after they have gone through this second experience, which they call the crucible, have they earned the right to be called a United States marine.
You know, Elijah went through a similar process. He went through what one rider calls boot camp at the brook Cherith, but then he went through the crucible at a place called Zarephath. Look at verses 2 and 3 of 1 Kings 17. Now remember in verse 1 he's just confronted Ahab and Jezebel, but then verse 2, the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, "Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan". Why did God tell Elijah to hide himself? I read some of the commentaries and they said, "Oh well, that was God protecting Elijah from Ahab and Jezebel". Really? Did he have to hide himself to protect himself from Ahab and Jezebel? If God was worried about Elijah's safety, he would have never had him go to talk to Ahab and Jezebel in the first place. No, God was fully capable of protecting Elijah no matter where he was. I think there are two reasons that God said to Elijah, "Go hide yourself".
First of all, Elijah's waiting or hiding was a condemnation of Israel. That word translated, hide, literally means remove. God was actually saying, "Elijah, go remove yourself by the brook Cherith". One theologian notes that Elijah's temporary removal from the national life of Israel was God's judgment against the nation, because there is nobody left to preach God's word. Now remember, there were dozens and dozens of prophets of God, but they were all hiding in a cave somewhere. Elijah was the only who was willing to openly preach the Word of God, and now God was removing him so that there would be nobody for the next three years to preach God's word to the nation.
Just think what America would be like today if suddenly every true preacher of the Word of God were silenced and there was no preaching of the Word of God. This nation would crumble within days under the weight of its own sin. Fact is Amos prophesied of a time in Israel when there would be a famine in the land, a famine of the Word of God. That's what was going on here. There was not just a physical famine because of the lack of rain, there was a spiritual famine because of the lack of the preaching of God's word. So Elijah is waiting, his hiding was a condemnation of Israel, but secondly, it was the preparation of Elijah for a future mission. During these three years, God was gonna work with Elijah to prepare him for that future mission.
You know that word Cherith, the brook Cherith. We don't know exactly where that brook was in Israel, but we know what the name means. The name Cherith means to either cut off or to cut down. To cut off or to cut down. The Old Testament uses that word in both senses. Cherith means to be cut off from the blessings of God, but it also means to be cut down to size. And that describes what was going on with Elijah during his time at Cherith. He was cut off from those people familiar with him. He was cut off from any visible means of support, eating and drinking. But he was also secondly being cut down to size, learning the invaluable lesson of learning how to depend upon God and God alone.
I'm speaking to some of you right here listening to this message or watching this on our broadcast. You're in your Cherith experience. You're in your waiting time. Maybe right now you feel like you have been cut off from other people. Maybe you feel like you've been cut off, you've been cut off from your dreams. You're going through that waiting time in your life. Your Cherith experience, that dry time in your life, that waiting time, maybe the result of the loss of a relationship, an important relationship to you because of death or desertion of the other person. Your Cherith, your waiting time may be because of a moral failure in your life for which the consequences continue to pile up and you think they will never end. Your waiting time, your Cherith experience, may be because of a poor decision you made with your finances or your career choice that you think has cut you off from your dreams for the future.
Your waiting time, your Cherith experience may simply be because you're spending all your time fulfilling the mundane responsibilities of caring for your family, providing for your family. You feel like you'll never achieve your goals. Remember this. Waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time. Even though you wan to pull your hair out in frustration because you feel like God's clock is moving at a glacial pace, God knows exactly where you are right now and he knows exactly what he's doing. Elijah went through that Cherith experience. But during that time of waiting, Elijah learned three vital skills every one of us has to learn if we're going to be used by God in an extraordinary way. And next time we're going to discover what those three skills are for living a truly extraordinary life.