As the classic 80’s rock anthem declares, the waiting is the hardest part.
In life and in ministry, it feels like we are always waiting on something.
Waiting on our big break.
Waiting on that book contract.
Waiting on a call-back.
Waiting on help to arrive.
In the midst of our waiting, it is so easy to become frustrated and impatient.
I think the hardest waiting is when we know exactly what we are waiting on … when God has instructed us and confirmed in our heart what is to happen next, and we are just waiting for him to make it so.
Time’s a-wasting, God! Let’s get a move on!
But God taught us a lesson through Samuel and Saul about what happens when we get tired of waiting and try to rush ahead of God.
In 1 Samuel 13, Saul is at Gilgal with his army. They are surrounded by enemies. Samuel had told Saul to wait for him to arrive. Samuel would make a sacrificial offering to the Lord and then they could go into battle.
But Samuel did not arrive when he said he would. Saul’s army was afraid, and began to hide and scatter. So Saul took matters into his own hands and made the offering himself.
As soon as he finishes, Samuel arrives and asks Saul, “What have you done!?!?” Saul has a whole bunch of excuses and reasons, but Samuel is having none of it. He gets right to the point.
You have done a foolish thing. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. If you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now, your kingdom will not endure.” 1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NIV)
Saul did not wait well, and it was all downhill for him from there. He went on to win some battles, but descended into madness and eventually lost his family and his kingdom.
What can we learn about waiting well from this story?
Withstand the pressure to “do something”
Can’t you just imagine Saul’s army captains coming to him?
The men are afraid. They are hiding in caves and cisterns. Some are even running away! DO something, Saul!
As leaders, we feel the pressure to “do something.” We may even fear that continuing to wait makes us look weak, ineffective, or unwilling to make a decision.
Deciding to wait IS a decision. When we are confident in what God has instructed us to do, waiting is a courageous choice, telling those around us “I trust what God says more than what you see.”
Doing the right thing at the wrong time is still wrong
Making a sacrificial offering is a good thing, right? When Samuel did not show up after seven days as he said he would, Saul says he felt “compelled” to make a burnt offering and seek the Lord’s favor.
Actually, what he felt was out of control. How well I know that feeling. I’m positive I know exactly what to do to manufacture whatever God has said is coming. So why wait?
Oh friend, wait. Wait because the way God will do it is spectacular compared to what we would do, even if our way looks like a good thing.
God’s answer may be right around the corner
I can cut Saul a little slack here. Samuel said he would be there in seven days, but he wasn’t. How was Saul to know if Samuel would arrive in one more day, one more week or one more month?
We don’t know why Samuel was late. He could have been delayed for a hundred reasons, not the least of which may have been God wanting to see how well Saul would wait.
If God hasn’t done your thing in the time frame you expected, perhaps God is seeing how well you will wait. Will you trust him? Will you obey him? Will you spend the time preparing for his blessing? Or moping about what he hasn’t done yet?
Don’t waste a minute of the waiting. Samuel arrived as soon as Saul had made his offering, but Saul’s actions could not be undone. He wasted the waiting by listening to his fear instead of God’s instructions, when God was on his way.
We will miss God’s best if we refuse to wait
Imagine what may have happened if Saul had waited. God was willing to establish his kingdom for all time, but only for a man who was willing to obey. If that man had been Saul, perhaps we would know Saul today as a mighty king who conquered the enemies of God, lived to a ripe old age and peacefully turned the kingdom over at his death.
But no. Saul would not wait, so God found a man after his own heart and for the rest of his days, Saul would be overshadowed by that man. And we remember him today as an insecure, jealous madman.
Your legacy may depend on how well you wait on God. No matter what vision of the future God has given you, wait for it. Wait patiently. Wait courageously. Wait well.
What are you waiting for?