What Good is Waiting Without Obedience?

waiting

Being a single, currently-jobless senior in college means I’m waiting on a lot of things. Let me list some of them for you:

  1. Graduation
  2. Spring semester to begin and end
  3. Getting a job after college
  4. Finding a girlfriend, then fiancée, then wife
  5. Having kids
  6. Developing a career
  7. Settling down in a town/city
  8. Reaching heaven to be with Jesus forever

But I’ve learned this: to follow Christ, waiting is obedience. Waiting on the Lord, that is.

We would be foolish to think that waiting on marriage if you’re single or waiting on a job if you’re unemployed won’t get you very far if that’s all it is, especially if you think about what waiting is. Waiting is sitting and being patient. A waiting room in a doctor’s office or corporate building is simply a place to sit and wait for your name to be called or something big to go down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, or at least what I’m thinking:

But the great part about waiting on the Lord is that it gives us an opportunity to be obedient to our Father in heaven, if we’re waiting on Him.

Waiting is Obedience

There’s simple obedience in the fact that we’re waiting on Him. In Psalm 37:34, David instructs, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.” There is benefit to us in waiting for the Lord, waiting on His plan and His purpose.

That’s the whole crux of what it means to be waiting “on” or “for” the Lord. We’re waiting “on” the Lord to do what He must do or waiting “for” the Lord to accomplish what He must. In that same chapter of the Psalms, David writes, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way” (v. 23). When we actively seek and delight in God’s way, which is “the path of life” (Psalm 16:11), God will be the one establishing our steps. He’ll be the one plotting out our way.

God is sovereign over all, but I’d be willing to bet that He never desires us to sin, never directs us in that way. He might let our hearts wander that way, our minds think those things, but that is never His ultimate purpose. It might be His will that we fall into patterns of sin so that we might grow to understand the error of our ways and the goodness of Jesus, but He never desires that we sin, I think.

I think of Romans 1, where Paul writes of men who, “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). The chapter later goes on to say that God “gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24). He “gave them up to dishonorable passions” (v. 26). He “gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (v. 28). And why? Verse 28 reveals: “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God.”

Our ultimate heart’s direction must be waiting on God and His purposes. We must not be like those who do not honor God or thank Him. We must not be futile in our thinking and give ourselves to sin. We must be patient and trusting in God and His plan. That is obedience in itself.

But waiting on God doesn’t mean we sit around and do nothing but avoid sin. We must also be faithful to seek the Lord in obedience while we’re waiting.

Obedience While Waiting

There’s a strong connection between waiting and “keeping” the way of God. Matthew Henry describes it this way in his commentary on Psalm 37:34 —

Duty is ours, and we must mind it and make conscience of it, keep God’s way and never turn out of it nor loiter in it, keep close, keep going; but events are God’s and we must refer ourselves to him for the disposal of them; we must wait on the Lord, attend the motions of his providence, carefully observe them, and conscientiously accommodate ourselves to them.

We are called to be living our whole lives, every piece, to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). That means being obedient to His law, His way, found in the Word of God. It is not a law of drudgery and no fun. In fact, God’s law brings life! In Psalm 119, the writer cries out, with joy it seems, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” (v. 97-98).

While we wait on whatever it is that we are waiting for, we would be foolish to stand around and do nothing. We must press forward in our obedience of the Scriptures. And there is no lack of joy in it! Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

So not only does keeping the way of God while waiting fulfill the command to serve God, but it also brings joy! When we obey God, we draw closer to Him because we’re actively seeking to live the way He commands us to.

Nowhere does it say that this is easy. That’s another thing I’ve been learning a lot about recently: the Christian life is not easy. It’s hard to deny the flesh and live for Christ. It’s counter-cultural. One of my favorite Bible teachers, Mark Driscoll out of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, said this in a sermon:

Everyone is sinning, so it’s no longer rebellious to sin. You’re just a conformist if you’re drunk; and naked; driving around in a loud motorcycle; smoking cigarettes; breaking commandments; getting pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone’s done that. That’s so tired!…If you really want to be a rebel get a job, cut your grass, read your Bible, and shut up. Because no one is doing that.

Cultural rebellion is now following Jesus. Obedience while waiting is hard because it’s human nature to freak out and worry while waiting, or simply turn to sin while we’re waiting for something. God is glorified in our lives when we say, “No, God is worth trusting while I’m waiting, so I’m going to be obedient and live for Christ while I wait.”

While I’m Waiting

Perhaps the best picture I’ve seen of this was in the film Fireproof. The main character Caleb, played by Kirk Cameron, and his wife Catherine, played by Erin Bethea, had been on the verge of divorce when Caleb accepted Christ. He began living his life for two purposes: 1) live for God and His glory, and 2) love his wife and pray that she would believe in Jesus. There’s a montage in the movie where you see Caleb doing things that show his love for his wife, who wanted the divorce in the first place, and his newfound faith.

The song played during that scene is “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller:

You see even in those brief clips from the music video what Caleb does for Catherine while he’s waiting for her. He washes the dishes, he takes care of her while she’s sick, he buys her beautiful flowers. He also continues with his job as a firefighter.

I won’t tell you how she responds, but it’s a great movie you should see.

The point is this: no matter what the outcome of our waiting is, our responsibility is to be obedient in our waiting and while we’re waiting. We must simply take God as our refuge:

The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD, he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

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