Tagged ‘Patience‘

Waiting for direction

When I left the airport it was already past 10:00 p.m., and I was looking forward to getting settled into the hotel for the night. The day had been long. I was tired from leaving home, driving to Tampa, parking the car, taking the shuttle to the airport, navigating security, boarding a flight, switching planes in Atlanta, boarding another flight, arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire, and getting my rental car for the ride to the hotel.

In the parking garage at the airport, I pulled up the map app on my phone and typed in the address to the Motel 6. It took a moment for the GPS to load, but soon the directions to the hotel were displayed on the screen. I set the phone to start navigating, and in the darkness of the car I heard the automated voice say, “Turn left onto Airport Road.” I turned out of the parking lot and onto the road exiting the airport.

That was when it happened the first time. I had set the phone where I could see the map of the road as I was driving. The little navigation arrow is supposed to show you where you are on the map and let you know where your next turn will be. But as I looked at the screen, nothing was happening. The little arrow was frozen still. The map was not refreshing. I was quickly coming to a roundabout and I could only guess which direction I was supposed to go without the aide of the GPS. I turned right, hoping it was correct. But a few moments later the GPS came back to life and told me to turn around at the next possible opportunity. I was going in the wrong direction. I turned the car around and drove back to the traffic circle. This time I exited the proper road and followed it along, still trying to make my way to the motel.

Unfortunately, this scenario was repeated over and over again. Clearly something was wrong either with my phone or the map app. Every mile or so I would hear an automated voice drone, “GPS signal is lost.” I had no idea where I was going. I would pull off the road, reset the phone, get the GPS to connect again, and start back on my journey. This happened over and over again. Frustration grew with every delay. I was helpless without the directions. I was tired. I just wanted to get to the hotel, but I was completely lost without some guidance along the way. Finally, I sat in the car on the side of the road and in exasperation I spoke to God.

“You know, God, this is great,” I said. “This is exactly how I feel in my relationship with you. I keep coming to you for direction, and I am not talking about the motel. I’m talking about my relationship with you. I don’t know the way I should go. All I keep hearing is, ‘GPS signal is lost.’ I keep feeling like I am disconnected. I try to reconnect with you, but the next thing I know I feel lost again. All I want is direction, so this is perfect, just perfect.”

As I sat on the side of the road with the engine idling, I imagined somewhere in the heavens, God smiled, not in a mean way, but in an all-knowing kind of understanding of my situation. You see, this is not the first time he has heard this prayer. He has heard it for centuries.

In fact, if you look back about 5,000 years you can hear a similar prayer spoken by Moses as he led the people of Israel through the wilderness. They were following God. God even made the path extremely clear by providing a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night to hover over them. When the pillar moved, they moved. When the pillar stood still, the people stayed put. This is how Moses describes it:

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22, ESV).

But even with this dramatic display of the presence of God directing them, Moses still got frustrated with God. Moses didn’t just need physical direction; he needed direction on how to lead the entire nation. You may remember that Moses and the Lord used to speak face to face as a man speaks with a friend. It was a remarkable relationship. But even with this kind of connection with God, Moses still gets frustrated. On one occasion Moses said to God, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people” (Exodus 33:12-13, ESV, emphasis added).

Can you hear the frustration in his voice? I can. Because sometimes that is how I feel as well. I believe God has shown his favor on my life. I believe he has given me the gift of his presence so clearly in my life. I relish my relationship with him. Yet sometimes I feel frustrated and cry out, “Please, show me now your ways! Show me the path. I need your direction.”

Look also at the final phrase in Moses’ statement. “Consider too that this nation is your people.” When I read that, I nearly laughed out loud. It is as if Moses is saying to God, “Oh, and by the way, this whole ‘Nation of Israel’ thing, that was your idea, not mine.” That’s funny!

I think it makes me laugh because at the core of it, sometimes that’s how I see my life and ministry as well. It may surprise you to know that I could gladly quit the ministry, buy a sailboat, and sail off into the sunset. Really. I do this ministry thing only because I believe it is what God has called me to do. So in times of waiting, I tend to want to say with Moses, “Oh, and by the way, this whole ministry thing was your idea.”

Gratefully, God understands our weaknesses. I am thankful for his patience when mine is failing. God patiently listens to Moses’ complaint and then answers with a simple phrase.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14, ESV).

Moses replies, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Moses said, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:15-18, ESV).

I am aware that I am quoting a lot of text from this passage. But I have shared this for a reason. A subtle shift happens here in this dialog, and if we are not careful we can miss it. But it is very, very important.

In the beginning of his conversation with God, Moses cries, “Please, show me your ways. Give me direction!” God patiently reminds Moses that his presence will go with him and that he will give him rest.

Upon understanding the presence of God is with him, Moses changes his request. This time he asks God to show him his glory. It is an understated but important shift. Moses was reminded that the presence of God was with him. When he remembers this, he no longer cares where he is going or how he is going to get there. He only cares about who is going with him. He only wants to see his glory. “Please,” he says, “show me your glory. Show me who you are. I want to know you.”

Friend, it is possible that God leads us to wait in order to bring us to the place where we long only to know him more, to see his glory unveiled in our lives. We desire to know his direction for our lives. But instead of giving us direction, he leads us to the place where we care less about where we are going and instead focus on who is going with us. In reality, where we are going really doesn’t matter, only that he goes with us.

I am reminded of Jesus. Remember that he was God in the flesh, the same God who sat and talked with Moses face to face, who walked among us and breathed the air that we breathe.

Thomas, one of the disciples, was speaking with Jesus. “Lord,” he said, “we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way…” (John 13:5-6, ESV).

This, I believe, is the conclusion to the matter. In our moments of weakness when we feel like we are sitting on the side of the road waiting for direction, God comes to us and reminds us that he is near. In our awareness of his presence, suddenly the direction we are going becomes unimportant. He himself is the way. He is enough. He is sufficient. Because I know him who is The Way, I no longer need to know the way.

My friend, God knows exactly where you are. In his wisdom, he sees the entire landscape set out around you. Better than that little arrow on the GPS, he knows where you are. He is not disconnected from you. In fact, it is quite the opposite. He is with you. It is possible that he has allowed you to be in a place of waiting so that you will find that his presence is enough. When you find his presence is near, then you know he is there with you in the waiting. Find him to be enough. Find that his presence is more important than anything you could be doing. Rest in him. Come to the place where you cry out for his glory instead of his direction.

I eventually made it to the hotel. What should have taken 20 minutes to drive took me almost an hour. But I did finally make it. Along the way I did learn an important truth. When you’re waiting for direction, where you are going is less important than who is going with you.

This article was originally published in the August 2014 Newsletter.

Patiently waiting on God

As I write this, it is the beginning of the second week of July. I am about three weeks behind in getting the newsletter devotional written. Every month I write the devotional for this newsletter and then send the completed article to my friend Carl DuBois, who edits it for me. Then he sends the article back to me, and I forward it on to my Administrative Assistant, Jackie Schaa, who formats the newsletter for the website and prepares the email version of the newsletter to be sent out at the beginning of the month. All of this takes time, and all of it is dependentLuke upon my getting a devotional written in a timely fashion.

So why is this month’s devotional so long overdue? It is because I have been in a holding pattern for the past few weeks. I’ve been waiting on God for direction on what he would have me to share. But it is not just the newsletter devotional that has been in a holding pattern. It seems like many areas of my physical life and ministry life are in the waiting phase as well. It is frustrating at times. I am a type-A, get-it-done kind of guy. I don’t like to sit still. But that is where I feel I have been for the past few weeks. I’ve been waiting on God and feeling like I’m sitting in a fog in the process.

All of this leads me to today. This morning I was reading in Luke’s gospel and came upon what we commonly know as the parable of the sower. In this parable, Christ compares different types of people and the impact of the word of God in their lives to different types of soil into which seeds are sown. This is what he says:

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, ESV).

I like everything but the last two words in that verse! I like the idea of hearing the word. I like the idea of holding it fast in an honest and good heart. I like the idea of being the kind of person who is productive and bears fruit. But with patience? Not so much!

Here, I think, is where many of us struggle. We are trying to follow God. We are trying to live our lives according to the word of God. We are in relationship with him. We cry out to him for needs in our lives and the lives of those we love. We rest in his promises. We expect him to intercede. We anticipate the moment when God moves heaven and earth to answer our prayers.

And then we wait.

And then we wait some more.

And if you are like me, you have moments in the waiting when you wonder what is really going on.

Gratefully, we have many examples in Scripture of others who waited patiently on God. Over the past few days, God has been bringing to mind other figures in Biblical history that waited on God. Joseph comes to mind, languishing in a prison for years before God finally raised him up as the second highest ruler in all of Egypt. Or consider Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. At the time God made the promise to him, Abraham had no children. So he waited for God to fulfill the promise. And he waited. And he waited. And he waited. In fact, he waited 25 years for God to fulfill the promise! Can you imagine? I cannot.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells the story this way:

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:13-15, ESV).

Abraham patiently waited on God for 25 years. Now, when you read the entire story, Abraham does mess things up quite a bit during the interim when he tries to figure it out on his own. But in the end, his faith in and patience for God are still acknowledged.

What is also interesting in the passage in Hebrews are the few verses that precede this statement about Abraham. This is what they say:

“For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:10-12, ESV).

I found it interesting that he used the phrase, “so that you may not be sluggish.” Isn’t that often how we feel when we are in the waiting mode? We feel tired and unmotivated. We feel like we are dragging our feet though endless desert sand. It is as if the writer of Hebrews understands our humanity, the physical side of waiting on God. He acknowledges this tendency but gives us the remedy for it. We have the full assurance of hope until the end. We imitate others who through faith and patience inherited the promises made to them. We do the same things they did. We chose to live by faith. We chose to be patient.

I write this today knowing that many folks reading this are likely in a similar position. I hope that you will be encouraged to know that you are not alone. Many great men and women of God go through similar circumstances. Find your hope in God alone. Chose to have faith in a God who is bigger than your circumstances. Even when it does not make sense, wait patiently for him. You and I are not alone in our waiting. We are not the first to find ourselves in that place of waiting. More often than not, God’s timing is different than ours, but do not lose hope. Find your full assurance in him alone. Wait patiently for him. Imitate those who have gone before us in this journey with God.

I continue to learn and grow in my relationship with God and am grateful for the way I can see him at work. For now, I am finally going to get this devotional sent off to Carl, and it is about time to start thinking about what I will be writing for August! Pray with me that I will have patience in the waiting. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting with you.

Have faith in God. Wait patiently for him.

This article was originally published in the July 2014 Newsletter.