Waiting on God

Here is a link to my message at a ladies conference.  My notes are below the link.

Women’s Conference message

—Introduce myself

  • I grew up in Arlington. My dad’s from Pakistan, hence my name.  I trusted in Christ for salvation at the age of 12 but didn’t really understand what it meant to live my life fully surrendered to Christ until I was about 17-18.  A few months later, I met a young pastoral intern who had just gotten out of the Marine Corps.  His name was Trevor.  A year and a half later, we were married.  We served in various capacities at different churches until God called him to be a pastor here at Union Hill in 2009 and I taught at the local junior high school.  Right after our daughter was born, we moved to Latin America and moved back in 2014 after starting a church in our home in Cuenca, Ecuador.  At that time, Trevor began working for his best friend Preston who had started his own oil services company, and I stayed at home with our children and homeschooled.  It was a comfortable time in our lives.  A few months after our youngest son Boaz was born (he was number 5), the pastor here left and Trevor decided to apply after much prayer.  I was a bit concerned for his stress level in working a full-time job plus pastoring, but he absolutely loved it.  It was so special to see him again flourish in the role as pastor because God definitely gifted him with the ability and passion to preach and teach His word.  Not quite a year later, on a hot, sunny July morning in 2017, my 4 little ones and I went with Trevor and dropped him off at the airport here in Tyler.  Little did I know that everything was about to change.  Two hours later, my best friend delivered the news that his plane had crashed, killing both him and the pilot.  In a moment, my world was torn apart.  It’s been a little over a year since then, and God has been faithful to us to meet our needs.  It’s hard though, to be in a season I didn’t want to be in and to not know how it all turns out.  That’s what I want to talk to you about today – about waiting.

— Who in here loves to wait in line?  Have you ever waited so long in a line at Walmart that you realized you spent more time in line than on your actual shopping?  Have you ever had to wait in a doctor’s office with a sick child?  What about waiting at a restaurant to get your food?  Waiting’s hard.  No one likes to wait.

—But what about other kinds of waiting?  The kind that is actually painful.  Waiting for a diagnosis.  Waiting for a spouse to be faithful.  Waiting for a grown child to turn back to the Lord.  Waiting for God to heal you or someone you love.  This type of waiting isn’t just difficult.  It hurts.  Let’s look at what the Word has to say about waiting.

—Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

—Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

—Romans 8:23 says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait…”

 

—I could go on all day long quoting to you verse after verse in Scripture about waiting.  Why do you think the Bible has so much to say about waiting?  I believe it’s because waiting is hard, but it’s so very important.  You see, ladies, God can mold our hearts into what he wants us to be during these times of waiting, particularly during the kind of waiting that is painful.  It hurts to be molded and changed by God as he prunes away the things in our lives and our hearts that don’t belong there.  Rest assured though that this pain isn’t for nothing.  He’s molding us and making us into something so much better and so much more beautiful than anything we ever imagined.

—Turn with me to Jeremiah 18:1-6.  (Read it.)  God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house so he could see a visual picture of what God was doing in the nation of Israel.  Don’t you wish he would do that with us sometimes?  But you see, we have his word.  Therefore, we know that when our lives are difficult and we are waiting on Him to act, he is doing something in our hearts!  John Piper says that not one iota of our suffering is in vain; God is using it to achieve an eternal weight of glory for us.  When we are waiting for healing or for a relationship to be restored or for a husband or for a child…God is not silent.  No, sister, he’s acting.  He’s molding you and shaping you and working you into the vessel he has chosen especially for you to be.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy.  He may be molding you into a pitcher, and you’re like, “Lord, I wanted to be a little bud vase.”  Sometimes, we are so quick to settle.  We say, “Lord, I’m happy with where I am.  I’m happy with what I’m doing.  I’ll just stay this little happy tea cup.”  But God says, “No.  I have bigger and better things for you.  You want to be a little bowl or cup?  Well, I am shaping you into a large, beautiful crystal bowl that can be of service to so many more than a simple bowl or cup.”  You see, when we’re waiting on the Lord and life just plain hurts, God may be shaping you into something that he can use to reach so many more.  Our faith isn’t just for ourselves; it’s also for others so we can be a light, to testify to the gospel of Christ.

—C.S. Lewis said, “Courage dear heart.”  Sometimes, we must remind our hearts to be strong and to have courage.  Let me tell you a little bit about C.S. Lewis.

—He wrote many books both fiction and nonfiction, the most popular being the Chronicles of Narnia series, but he was also a man who had known deep suffering.  He lost his mother at the age of 10 and was shipped off to boarding schools afterward.  He served in WWI where he made a promise to his good friend that he would take care of his family if anything happened to him.  His friend was killed in action, and C.S. Lewis cared for his mother and sister afterward.  It wasn’t easy; she wasn’t grateful and appreciative of his efforts.  She was a nag and complained constantly.  His novels, his best works of art, were typically written in 15 minute increments because of her constant interruptions.  I know as moms, we have no idea what that’s like.  At the age of 58 he finally met the love of his life, an American English teacher he met while teaching at Cambridge University.  She died of cancer just two years later, the same thing that robbed him of his mother.  Lewis died just three years later.  He knew what it was like to lose.  He also knew what it was like to wait on the Lord.  How did he remain steadfast in his faith?  How did he keep on going?  He kept his eyes on Christ and he preached truth to his heart.

—In the midst of waiting and in life’s storms, Satan whispers lies in our ear in the dark of night.  He says things like, “God has abandoned you.”  “God doesn’t really love you or he wouldn’t have allowed this to happen to you.”  He lies to us.  But oh, his lies are so very convincing.  He knows our pain and he takes it and tries to use it as a weapon against us.  But when we turn our pain over to the Lord and turn our broken hearts to him, He can mold us and make us into the women he wants us to be.

—Lysa TerKeurst says in her devotional Embraced that “It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation.  Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for.”  Maybe God allows us to wait so often in our lives, even when it sometimes hurts, so that we seek Him for our ultimate fulfillment rather than the things of this world.  When we lose someone we love or we’ve been told we don’t have long to live or we don’t know how we will make ends meet today, then we start looking to our hope of eternity rather than the hope of tomorrow or next month or next year.  And having an eternal perspective changes everything about how we live our lives.  When we look to heaven, we are freed to trust God in the middle of our suffering, not knowing how it will all play out.  It’s how Joseph kept on hoping in prison, how Abraham lead his miracle son up a mountain to sacrifice him, how Paul sang hymns as he lay badly beaten in a prison.  In Daniel 3, before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in the fiery furnace, they told the king their God could deliver them, but even if he didn’t, they would not do what was wrong.  Ladies, when we have an eternal perspective, we can tell God in the middle of our waiting, we will trust you, even when it hurts, even if we don’t get what we want.  When we say “even if” to God, we are saying we trust Him no matter the outcome.  That kind of trust gives us hope and peace in the midst of our pain, and it can be a beacon of light to a dark, fallen world.

—James 1: 2-4 states.  (Read it.)  Lacking in nothing.  How many of us want to be imperfect or incomplete?  Nope!  Me neither.  But how many of you want some trials?  Especially trials of various kinds, which implies more than one trial.  Nope, me neither.  But you see, ladies, we can’t have one without the other.  If we want to be who God is shaping us to be, we must go through trials.  What value is a clay pot or bowl or plate if it doesn’t go through the fire of the kiln?  It’s useless.  SO it is with us.  God can mold us and shape us, but the fires of life make us steadfast and firm in our faith so that we can be a testimony to who God is and to His faithfulness.  Notice though, there are two things we must do.

—First, we must count it joy.  Sweet friends, we don’t wait for life to be good to be joyful; we find joy in simply taking a breath today.  The Greek word used here, chara, can also mean grace recognized.  Just think about that.  We can actually recognize grace in the midst of our trials because we know our pain is doing something – it’s molding us into the image of Christ.  Oh, ladies, it’s painful to be on the potter’s wheel with him pushing and prodding and remaking us, but when he’s done, we’re not just a lump of clay anymore.  Paul wrote from a prison cell for us to “Rejoice always.”  Why?  Because it takes our attention off ourselves and our pain and turns our attention where it should rightly be – on Christ.  Can we really do this?  Absolutely.  The night before Christ willingly went to the cross, what did he do?  He celebrated the Passover meal which he turned into the Lord’s Supper.  He took bread and he gave thanks.  He was passing bread out to his disciples, including the man who would betray him, and yet, he gave thanks.  We don’t wait for life to go well for us to give thanks.  We give thanks even in our pain, even in our waiting, even in the middle of our story…before we know how it all turns out.

—The next thing these verses in James tell us we must do is we must “let steadfastness have its full effect.”  We have a choice when it comes to difficulties.  We can “let” God mold us and shape us using the trials of this world, or we can shut ourselves off to his love and grace.  When we do that, we become angry and bitter and we wallow in our own self-pity.  Ladies, I don’t know about you, but that’s something I don’t want to do.  It’s not pretty.  We’re all going to go through difficult things.  Life is hard,  ladies.  But we can let God use those things to shape us into something beautiful.  When you’re struggling, spend time in prayer with the Lord.  Spend lots of time in prayer.  This keeps our connection to God throughout our days and nights.  It keeps our eyes focused on him.  It gives us strength to get through the day.  So what do we pray for?

We ask for strength while we patiently wait.  We ask him for help in living today.  In our waiting periods, we so often miss out on the joys and gifts of today because we’re looking to what we don’t have yet.  We pray that he would keep us from taking foolish shortcuts.  How many times have you tried to help God out a little?  Speed the process along, if you will.  Yep, me too.  How’d it end up?  Yeah, sometimes we need to be reminded that God doesn’t need our help and that we need to not get too hasty in our “helping” God to get what we want.  We need to pray that God would help bring the desires of our heart into line with what he has in store for us.  This is a hard one because what if he doesn’t want what we want?  Sometimes waiting takes time because he’s changing our heart so we want something better.

We must also spend time in his Word.  When life is really hard, it’s not easy to learn the truths of Scripture.  In fact, it can be downright impossible.  My husband always said that you can’t teach someone that God is good in the midst of their suffering.  It’s something they must be taught beforehand.  We need to spend time in Scripture so that when the storms of life hit us, they will not knock us over.  During the weeks and months following my husband’s death, the Holy Spirit would bring to mind verses that I already knew to speak to my heart.  Also, I could combat the lies of the enemy by preaching truth to my heart.

—When I felt alone, God brought Joshua 1:9 to mind, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Or when I was afraid, God reminded me of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.”  When I felt overwhelmed, I thought of Psalm 61:2-3: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”  When I thought, God, I can’t do this, he reminded me of Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  And again, in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Ladies, there is nothing more powerful in combatting sin or despair than the power of God’s word.  He even tells us that it’s our sword.  Use it!  You wouldn’t go into battle without your weapon.  Don’t go through life, especially the hard times, without your sword.

Besides that and prayer, we must not underestimate the power of others lifting us up – both through verbal encouragement and through prayer.  There’s nothing like knowing that there’s others in the world who are there for you when you need them most.  Turn with me to Exodus 17:10.  Read through verse 13.

Friends, God could have helped the Israelites defeat the Amalekites without Moses’ hands being in the air.  He had to rely on two friends to keep his arms up.  Talk about tingly arms.  Why did God do this?  I think as an example to us to show us that we can’t go it alone.  No matter how great a leader we may be, no matter how great our faith may be, no matter how strong we think we are, we all, at some time in our lives, will need other believers to hold up our hands for us because we just can’t do it on our own.  When we go through struggles and these waiting periods in our lives when we just want to hear a word from God, we need to surround ourselves with people who will speak godly truth into our lives, who will pray for us, and who will hold our hands up while we wait on the Lord.

Ladies, this assumes that you have a hope in the Lord.  Do you?  Have you personally trusted in Christ alone for salvation?  Have you put your full hope and trust in him to save you from sin and death for all eternity?  If you’ve hoped in your own good deeds or your church attendance or your Christian parents or your traditional Southern upbringing to save you, you’re spiritually wrong.  Christ alone can save us.  Christ alone can hold us up.  Christ alone can give us hope when we wait on him to act or respond.  But you can’t have hope in Christ without having trusted in him.  If you would like to speak with someone, there are a number of ladies, myself included who would love to talk with you more about your salvation and your relationship with Christ.

Sweet friends, as we wait on the Lord, trust that God is doing something in your life.  He’s molding you into the image of his son, making you into the woman he wants you to be.  Let him have his way in your life.  While it certainly is difficult, we will never regret the woman we will become.  Let’s pray.

Handout on my website

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