Monday, April 28, 2014

The Need to Wait on God - A Personal Testimony

Psalm 37:3-5 "Trust in the Lord and do good;Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it."

These past several posts have been dedicated to showing the need to wait on God.  We have been focusing most of our attention upon those final instructions Jesus gave to His disciples prior to His ascension to "wait" in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8.  We thus far have discovered that the reasons why God has us to wait are due to the following:

1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise. Luke 24:49a & Acts 1:4

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49b & Acts 1:8a

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. Acts 1:8b

I thought in today's post I would get a bit more autobiographical and speak from personal experience of the seasons wherein God has had me to wait, what I learned and how I saw such seasons benefit me. Hopefully what I write today may aid readers a little bit in their own Christian walk. 

Personal lessons learned from seasons of waiting on God
This writer has went through three extended seasons of waiting and numerous occassions of smaller periods of time wherein God has put the proverbial brakes to things. Through them all it seemed God was oftentimes silent and I wondered whether He was going to ever use me again.  

In the first such season of waiting my wife and I were in our mid-twenties with our two oldest children being toddlers at the time.  I had served as an Assistant Pastor on staff and had finished that ministry with a deadly combination of pride and anger in my heart.  Without going into all the details - I felt like I had gotten the short end of the stick on many things in my life at that time and felt like God "owed me".  Perhaps you have been in such places - its not a good place to be.  At the time my wife and I moved.  I enrolled in Seminary, beginning my studies in the Fall of 1999.  I can recall telling God that I had no interest in preaching ever again, and that I had my own plan and was going to go to Seminary to achieve that plan (which at the time entailed being a Professor).  

Needless to say after a year or so of working through my classes, a time came when God broke me, some people confronted me over my arrogance and self-pity, and perhaps for the first time in nearly two years I felt the fog of confusion lift.  By 2001 I was serving with some other wonderful Christian people in a ministry outreach and by 2003 led my family to a wonderful little church where I got ordained.  God was every so gentle in His Fatherly discipline of me. 

As Hebrews 12:5-6 notes - "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”  God taught me in that first season of waiting and that long dark period of silence that He was and will always remain my Heavenly Father, and that I by the Spirit of adoption am His son (Romans 8:16). 

So in the first season of waiting, which lasted for roughly four years, God had to sift out pride and anger.  The second season entailed God teaching me about following and serving.  Interestingly enough that season followed on the heels of the first one - although the two were clearly distinct.  Often when you are going through something, you cannot discern its rate of progress or purpose until after you have completed it, and not until some time has passed. 

Thankfully this second season, which lasted for a year, occurred at the very church where I was ordained.  My wife and I knew God was calling me to pastor, and God had me to serve under a wonderful man who is to this day still my friend and serving at a church in the North East.  I learned the ropes of pastoring from Him, went on visits and did whatever it took to advance the cause of Christ at the church.  The eagerness to preach and pastor was growing in my heart, but I knew that if I was going to get anywhere in ministry or life, being prideful and taking up offenses (i.e getting bitter) was not going to work.  If I were to assign a verse to this second season of waiting on God, it would be: 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  

As only God can do, the time had come for my family and me to answer a call to a place, which we did and which God gave us some instructive years of ministry.  It was challenging, at times blessed and even along the way God gave us some dear life-time friends. Ultimately though it ended in sadness and dissapointment but through it all - God showed Himself to be good.  It was in 2009 that we moved out to Oklahoma, where God would take me through my third major season of waiting.   

The third major season of waiting on God entailed about 20 months of time.  In some ways it was the most spiritually uplifting and deepening time of my life.  However in otherways it was the most spiritually challenging, humbling and at times frustrating time.  By this point we had two more children - equalling four in all.  When we moved to Oklahoma, I didn't have a job, no money and no church to go and pastor.  God provided friends who worked with us to aid us in making the transition from where we had been to Oklahoma.  As this new season of waiting had begun, my heart was filled with sadness and dissapointment.  All my wife and I knew was whatever God was going to be taking us through - His whole purpose was going to involve healing our hearts.  We had come to Oklahoma broken, anguished and having more questions than answers.  During our third season of waiting, further lessons about service, as well as the deepening of my prayer life and honing my ability to hear God were learned.  God placed people in both of our lives who were intercessors and who had been places with God that you read about in books but rarely ever meet.   

At the time such seasons of waiting are not fun - however they are essential.  After each season I have found God brews forth a message.  Waiting on God serves the purposes of working forth whatever message from the Word God would have you and I to tell. As that third season was coming to a close - God called us to the wonderful church where I am serving and pastoring in South Eastern Oklahoma.  The one passage that guides me through that third season was Psalm 37:3-5, quoted at the beginning of today's post.  

Closing thoughts
I'll admit that the message He poured into me during those 20 months is still unfolding.  I know healing has occured - and like broken pieces of metal that are welded back together, the seam where the welding takes place makes the overall metal stronger than what it was before the break. I'm a different man today (2014) than I was in 2009. God the Father always knows what is best.  It is always worth waiting on God. Truly whatever gifting or calling or message is worked in and through you - it always exceeds you.  Why is that so important? Because the Lord Jesus Christ who gives you and I our giftings, callings or message always exceeds those things - Thus Jesus Christ is Supreme in all things.