Waiting on God

by Todd Fisher

Senior Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK)

I enjoy traveling because I like seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, trying new food, and meeting new people. The part of traveling I don’t like, however, is the waiting. You wait on the shuttle in the airport parking lot. Then you wait at the counter to check your bag. Then you wait at security. Then you wait to board the plane. Then you wait on the jet way. Then you wait on the plane for the person in front of you to put up their carry-on bags. Then you wait on the tarmac while the captain says you’re number seventeen for takeoff. When the plane lands you wait to unload and then you wait on your bags. Lots and lots of waiting.

Most of us hate to wait. In my pastoral counseling, I encounter many people who discover one of the most difficult things they will ever do is wait on God. Some of us are waiting for God to provide a spouse. Some of us are waiting on God to save our spouse and bring him/her into a right relationship with him. Some of us are waiting for the purpose of why something bad happened. Some of us are waiting for God to perhaps give healing to some disease. Some of us are waiting for God to show us what career path to take or give us wisdom about a big decision. Some of us are waiting for prodigal children to come home. Some of us have lost a loved one and are waiting for God to reveal His purpose and fill us with hope. When you think about it, many of us are waiting on God.

One of the most common ways we fail to wait on God is by getting impatient. We can be like Abraham and Sarah in Gen. 16 and try to take things into our own hands. God had promised the couple they would have descendants, but ten years after the promise and at an advanced age they were still childless. So Sarah, thinking God needed “help” to fulfill the promise, gives her husband her slave Hagar to have children. Their actions were sinful and caused a great deal of pain to their families and future generations.

So, how do we avoid making mistakes while waiting on God? Here are some lessons we can learn from Abraham and Sarah:

  1. We have to be willing to abide by God’s timeline, which is often different than ours. We have a tendency to get very myopic in waiting on God. We want what we want when we want it, which is immediately! Remember that God’s promise to Abraham was culminated in the birth of Jesus nearly 2,000 years later! God is about shaping and transforming lives, which means the process is very important to Him. Our culture today doesn’t like the process – we want immediate results. I sometimes used to dread long car trips with my kids because of the incessant, “Are we there yet?” and “He’s bothering me!” statements that came from the back seat. I often wanted to tell my children to just be patient and enjoy the ride. I wonder if there aren’t many times when God would like to say something similar to us.
  2. We must evaluate selfish motives while waiting on God. Being barren was a social stigma in Sarah’s day. Perhaps she got tired of waiting for God to fulfill His promise because of the personal toll it was taking on her. Also, Sarah may have had some sense of entitlement concerning God giving her children. After all, it was ten years earlier that she left her home, friends, and comfortable surroundings to leave for a foreign land and live in a tent. She could have said to God, “God, after all I have given up these past ten years, the least you could do is give me a child!” We must always be wary of ever thinking God owes us anything. In fact, if we got what we deserved from God, none of us would like it! If God chose today to give you nothing else again, you would still have a lifetime of giving Him thanks for all He has already given.
  3. Failing to wait on God often produces painful consequences.  Because Abraham and Sarah stopped trusting God and waiting on Him to fulfill His promise, they jumped the gun and brought Hagar into the picture. As a result, Ishmael was born and the family was fractured – a familial tension that still has consequences today. The mistakes we make while failing to wait on God can be disastrous. Many of us have enduring painful conditions in our life today that stand as testimonies to the times we failed to wait on God. We may have a bad financial situation because we got ahead of God’s will in our financial dealings. We may have a bad relationship because we failed to wait on God in the past. Failing to wait can have damaging repercussions.
  4. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God that means He is working within us. Abraham and Sarah were arguably at their lowest place in Gen. 16. But they pulled through! The pinnacle of Abraham’s faith is yet to come when he obeys God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. The good news is that if we have made a mistake while waiting on God we can still receive his forgiveness and grace. We must remember that if we find ourselves waiting on God it isn’t because He is too busy or has lost interest in us – it’s because He is working in our lives. God puts us in a place of waiting because he is transforming us.  That is cause for rejoicing and makes the wait very much worth it all.

One time a mother in our church called the office to notify us that we would find play money in the offering plates from the previous Sunday. She wanted to explain its significance. This mother’s child has autism and for many years she struggled with coming to church because his behavior could be distracting. Yet, she made the commitment to come to church every Sunday regardless of what her son did or what others thought. On that Sunday, as they awoke and got ready for church, her son was excited and eager to attend. In the worship service, as the boy saw the offering plates approaching, he pulled out his pretend money that he loves to play with and put it in the plate. He wasn’t told to do so, he just did. The mother’s eyes filled with tears as she realized God was working in his life and hers. Here is a mother who has been waiting on God for many years to reveal His purpose. That Sunday she got a glimpse of what God is doing and the waiting was worth it. That is true for all of us as well.

Dr. Todd Fisher has been the Senior Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church (Shawnee, OK) since 2003. Born and raised in Ft. Worth, Todd made his way to Oklahoma to attend Oklahoma Baptist University where he met his wife Jamy, whom he married in 1994. They have three children and love serving together as a part of the amazing things God is doing at IBC. As our pastor, Todd is committed to encouraging and equipping people to grow as disciples through his ministry at IBC, blogging, and speaking opportunities. Todd is passionate about preaching/teaching the Bible and serves as an adjunct faculty member at OBU and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd loves spending time with his family and attending his children’s activities. He also enjoys running as well as rooting for the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and OKC Thunder.

Matthew Emerson
Dr. Matthew Y. Emerson, Dickinson Associate Professor of Religion, earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. in from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Emerson joined the OBU faculty in 2015. He previously taught at California Baptist University, where he served as Chair of the Arts and Sciences Department in the OPS Division. Emerson has authored or co-authored over 20 publications. His research interests include the Old Testament’s use in the New Testament, early Christian interpretation, and theological method. He serves as co-Executive Director of the Center for Baptist Renewal, co-editor of the Journal of Baptist Studies, steering committee member of the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar, and Senior Fellow for the Center of Ancient Christian Studies. He is also a member of a number of scholarly societies. Emerson grew up in Huntsville, AL, where he met his future wife, Alicia. Married in 2006, they have five daughters. He and his wife are both members at Frontline Church in Shawnee.