Luke 2:25-32, 23:50-53
We live in a noisy, restless day when no one wants to wait on anything. The symbol of our day could be a picture of a person running up an escalator — too busy to wait for the escalator to reach the top. Or the symbol could be the cartoon which showed an American couple dashing up the steps of the Louvre in Paris. As they approached the guard at the door, they were shouting, “Quick! Where’s the Mona Lisa? We’re double-parked.”1
We hate to wait — elevators that stop at every floor tax our patience. “Cars waiting for the light to change to green poise like rockets on the launching pad. Jets fly the Atlantic so quickly that it’s possible to get mugged in London and New York on the same day.”2
Whatever else can be said about our day, we are in a rush. We do not like to wait. Waiting runs counter to the spirit of our day. It runs counter to the spirit of our lives. And yet ….
I. Waiting Is a Necessary Part of Life.
It always has been. Early in Jesus’ experience, His life crossed the path of one who had been waiting for a long time. In fact, Jesus was just forty days old when it happened. His parents had carried Him to the temple in Jerusalem to present a sacrifice to God for Him.
As they entered the temple courtyard, they met Simeon.
The “consolation of Israel” was a reference to the coming of the Messiah. This old man had spent all of his years waiting. He had prayed a thousand prayers to God to send the Messiah. He had had a thousand false hopes. Life was now winding down for him. You could sum his life up in the word “waiting.”
Then, at the end of Jesus’ life it happened again.
All of Joseph’s life had been spent waiting for the Messiah to come to establish the kingdom. This had been his hope and dream. He had waited and waited.
Anytime you dare to dream a big dream, you are setting yourself up to do some waiting. If you never have to wait, if all of your plans can be completed by sundown, you are not planning enough. Your dreams are too small.
The size of your dreams measures the greatness of your soul. What do your dreams say about the size of your soul?
Simeon and Joseph chose to dream dreams of the kingdom. They longed to be part of God’s enterprise in this world.
That’s what you need to do. Be part of something big. Invest your life in the kingdom of God. You won’t finish the job by this afternoon. You will do a lot of waiting. But you will have a sure conviction that you are participating in something big and of lasting importance.
What’s important to you? What are you waiting on? Got any prayers you have been offering to God that have not been answered yet?
God has not promised to answer every prayer by sundown. Here’s old Simeon who has been praying all of his life for the Messiah to come. Watching, waiting, and praying.
Some of you are waiting on children. Rearing children is like planting seed. You plant the seed. The seeds are out of sight for a while. You don’t know if the seed will ever sprout, grow, and produce fruit. You have to wait.
You plant the seeds in your children’s lives. Then you wait.
A guide who has helped many groups ride rafts down swift rivers said that a guide has to always be thinking “down river.” He has to know where the white water is. He has to plan for crisis times. Those riding the raft just look at the scenery, but the guide must always be thinking “down river.”
And parents must always be thinking “down river” as they relate to their children. Parents often must pray and wait.
I thank God that a lot of people waited on me. I’m glad they didn’t write me off on the numerous occasions when I deserved it.
How about you? Are you a good waiter?
What are you waiting on today? Are you waiting for the door of opportunity to open on your job? Are you waiting for the right person to come along to marry? Are you waiting until graduation? Are you waiting until retirement?
Are you a good waiter?
II. Waiting Is Demanding.
Waiting is not easy. Waiting may bring pain.
Simeon was waiting for the “consolation of Israel”; that is, he was waiting for the “comfort of Israel.” That is the way the people of Israel thought of the coming of the Messiah. It would be a time when the Messiah would bring “comfort” to Israel.
Israel had known days of sorrow and suffering. They longed for the coming of the Messiah. Waiting for Him was a painful experience.
Waiting will try you and test you. Life has a lot of bumps and bruises along the way.
Slowing down and waiting is not always easier. Sometimes it is harder. A cartoon showed two dogs. One of the dogs had a huge, swollen nose. The one with the swollen nose was saying to the other, “If you stop to smell the roses, be sure to check for bees.”
Slowing down and waiting is difficult. Waiting makes great demands of you.
Waiting demands patience. Patience has been defined as “the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”3
That’s a good definition. Patience is needed in life. Patience is a mark of maturity in the Christian life.
Children are notoriously impatient. “When will my birthday be?” “How many more miles until we get there?” Next month seems like an eternity to a child. One of the surest signs of growing maturity in a child is greater patience.
It works the same in the Christian life. The more mature a person is, the more patient that person will be. Patience means getting in step with God’s timing for our lives.
Margaret Deland wrote a novel in which a father and a son owned a ship. The son was eager to put one of the new steam engines in the old sail ship. The old captain had some reservations about doing that. He said to his son, “The wind, that’s God’s engine.” The boy replied, “I like steam best. God is tejious.”4
That’s our problem. We find it difficult to wait on the winds of God. We had rather go churning across life’s sea at our own rate of speed. But waiting demands patience.
Waiting also demands obedience. If things don’t go our way in life, we want to take our ball and go home. When God doesn’t move on our time schedule, our tendency is to grow disinterested or even bitter toward Him. We get discouraged and tired.
As long as things are happening, we stay interested and committed. But when we have to wait a long time, we want to drop out.
Not Simeon. This old man had prayed a lifetime for the coming of the Messiah. He had seen a thousand prayers go unanswered. But after all these years of waiting, he was still at the temple — faithful, obedient, and committed. As a result of that, he was in position that day to see his dream fulfilled.
Anybody can serve on exciting days. But God needs us to be faithful and committed in difficult days.
Did you know that some of this world’s greatest literature has come from jails? John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Alexander Solzhenytsin’s Gulag Archipelago, and half of the New Testament — all were written in prison. These persons remained committed, even in difficult days.
If things are not going well for you, don’t drop out on God. Don’t get bitter. Some wait, but they are not good waiters. They have a bad spirit. How about you? Are you a good waiter?
Waiting is difficult. Waiting demands God’s help. How can you continue to wait in the midst of your pain? How can you continue to travel down what appears to be a dead-end street? How can you stay in the marriage or stay on the job when it does not appear that it will get any better? How can you wait?
God can help. He has promised to do that for you. A prominent man was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter. The reporter said, “I understand, sir, that you are a self-made man.” The man turned to the reporter and said slowly, “Yes, I guess I am what you would call a self-made man.” Then he added, “But if I had it to do over again I think I’d call in a little help.”5
My friend, don’t try to live life by yourself, call in some help. Don’t bear your burden alone, call in some help. Don’t try to just “tough it out,” call in some help.
Call in God! He has promised that His grace is sufficient. His grace is sufficient for the moment of crisis, and His grace is sufficient for the long days of waiting.
Waiting makes demands. Waiting demands faith. God is always looking for faith, trust, and commitment in our lives.
One of the reasons He causes us to wait is to test our faith and commitment. If He delivered us immediately from every problem, if He immediately opened every door, then I doubt we would ever trust Him very much.
Trust is tested in the difficult moments of life. I heard about three fellows who were talking about prayer. In the course of their conversation, they got into a debate about the best position to be in when you are praying.
One of the men said the proper position for prayer is kneeling, because that shows humility and a desire to be obedient. The second man said the best position for prayer is standing, because when one stands it shows adoration and praise to God.
The third man did not agree with either of these. He said, “I’ll tell you about my praying. The best praying I ever did was hanging upside down in a well.”
And I believe that God will work in our lives to get us into a position where we must rely upon Him. Maybe that is why we have to wait so often and so long. Waiting demands faith. And without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Are you a good waiter? I want to encourage you today to wait because ….
III. Waiting Brings Its Rewards.
Simeon and Joseph, two men who were waiting for the kingdom. I wonder if some thought they were crazy? I wonder if some thought they were empty-headed idealists? I wonder if Simeon and Joseph ever entertained the same thoughts about themselves?
Simeon waited and waited. Then there came the day when the Spirit of God moved on his heart, and he knew that the waiting was over. Simeon saw the baby Jesus in the temple, and he knew that this was the Messiah. He stepped forward and fulfilled his role in the drama of the ages as he took the baby in his arms and pronounced a blessing upon Him.
And Joseph of Arimathea was waiting — waiting for the kingdom. There came the day when the Son of God was nailed to the cross. The sky turned dark, the earth quaked, and rocks were rent in pieces. At three o’clock in the afternoon, it grew deathly quiet, and the Son of God died upon that barren, skull-shaped hill.
Joseph knew that this was the Son of God. The kingdom was coming. Not like he had expected, but the kingdom of God was coming by way of a cross.
Joseph stepped forward and claimed the body of Jesus. He wrapped it and laid it in his own tomb which had never been used. What a sacred moment! This body, which shortly would be resurrected, was saved from the garbage heaps in the Valley of Hinnom. Here within sight of the cross, the resurrection would occur. The most significant event in history, and Joseph had had a role in that event.
When you are willing to wait on God, God can use you. Who knows all the ways that God wants to use you? Who knows what tasks He has for you if you are willing to wait on Him and be available to Him?
A missionary couple went to Brazil. In one of their newsletters which they mailed to friends, they included a calendar of events in their lives. At the top of the calendar they had written “Our Schedule.” Under that heading they had placed goals for their ministry, and out beside each goal they had written a projected date for attaining it.
They had then crossed out the word “Our” on “Our Schedule” and had changed it to read “God’s Schedule.” Out beside each of the goals was a date when it had been met. Some still did not have dates by them. The couple concluded by saying that they had learned a lot about God’s timing and the importance of waiting on Him.6
I want to challenge you to do something. I want you to take your schedule for life and turn it in. In its place I want you to take God’s schedule.
Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to wait?
1. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1986), pp. 344-45.
2. Leslie B. Flynn, Holy Contradictions (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1987), p. 34.
3. Paul W. Powell, I Like Being a Christian (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1983), p. 130.
4. Halford E. Luccock, The Acts of the Apostles in Present-Day Preaching (Chicago: Willett, Clark, & Co., 1938), p. 126.
5. Charles L. Allen, Home Fires (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), p. 40.
6. Flynn, p. 42.