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Waiting Patiently

Lisa Barry: If you're like me, it's easy to pray about a problem in your life. It's easy to yell "help" when there's no other place to turn. My difficulty comes when I don't hear any divine direction or read some Bible verse that tells me exactly what I should do. I want instant answers. But usually the only answer I get is wait. How to respond to that is the focus of Elisabeth's message today on Gateway To Joy, so let's get started with this Wednesday edition. Here's Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Elliot: It's not my nature to be patient or quiet or still. I come from a very nervous family. Everybody in our family has nervous twitters and twitches, and we're all the kind of people who race around and do everything fast. And there's no natural patience in any of my genes whatsoever.

But time after time after time, God has put me in a situation where I had to learn to be still--to wait patiently for Him. Not for somebody else, but for Him. Because in His time, if somebody needs to do something, God is the One to move that person, not me to shove them. That's what it means to wait on God.

Now what is it that I am waiting for? For what do I trust Him? Well, we could come up with a hundred illustrations from the Bible, couldn't we? But think of Daniel, as one example. When the edict of the king went out that no one was allowed to pray to any God except his, we find that steadfast, pure young man, Daniel, making not the slightest alteration in his daily habit of prayer.

He might have thought of praying in a less conspicuous place. He might have thought of not opening his window, at least. He didn't have to be there in broad daylight so obviously where he could be detected and betrayed. But nothing interrupted the smooth harmony of life. His habitual prayer time was carried on without a ripple.

And what happened? He was found. He was reported. And he knew what the penalty was going to be. Just imagine the interval between the time when he was betrayed and brought before the king and when he actually reached the bottom of the lions' den, the pit. What eternity of agonies of soul he might have experienced!

If you were going into a lions' den, would you be thinking, as I would be, where does a lion start on you? Where does he begin his appetizer, you know? But then what? How does this feel? I mean, I can just imagine. I have a very vivid imagination, and there was that waiting period. There was an interval of some minutes, I would assume anyway, if not hours, before Daniel actually was face to face with the hungry lions.

But his trust was in God. And the trust of his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, when they were about to go into the fiery furnace, you remember the king's asking them, "Do you really think that your God is able to deliver you?" And there was no question in their minds that He was able to deliver them.

But there was another question. Was He going to? And they didn't know the answer to that one. But they said: "Be it known unto you, O king, if not, we will not bow down to you or serve you." "It doesn't make any difference to us whether our God will save us--we know He can--but we want you to know that we are not going to bow down. We will not capitulate." That's trust.

God's action, God's will is made known to you and me by events. That's the way He does it. Now of course, that's not the only way He does it. He can make known His will through the Scriptures, sometimes through very specific Scriptures. If you're agonizing over some sort of decision about which God has spoken the final word, then all you need to do is obey that word.

My son-in-law happens to be a minister. And he received a phone call one time from a man who said he had a big problem that he wanted to talk to him about. Could he come over? And so he came, and he started in on his story. And it took him not more than five minutes before my son-in-law knew what the whole story was going to be. But he listened patiently through the whole hour of this man's recounting of this tale.

And the situation was that he was in love with somebody else's wife. And this man had his own wife and he was in love with somebody else's wife. So finally when he stopped talking, my son-in-law said to him, "Is that all?" And he said, "Yeah." "Well," he said, "didn't you tell me on the phone you had a problem?" And he said, "Yeah." And Walt said, "What's the problem? "You know what God has to say about that. You didn't have to come and ask me." "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Period, case closed. What is there to discuss?

So when God's will is that cut and dried, there's no need for any waiting around or agonizing in prayer over what you're supposed to do. You know, if you suddenly find that the toilet upstairs is running over and leaking through the living room floor, you don't drop to your knees to pray about whether to call the plumber or go up and do something about it yourself. You know, there are a lot of things which are perfectly clear.

But when I say God's will is made known to us by events, sometimes His Word is perfectly clear. The event in this man's life was that he had fallen in love with somebody else's wife. God's Word is clear as to what you do about that. But we can't thumb through the Bible and find an answer to: Shall I buy this car? Shall I take that job? Shall we try to sell this house? There are principles there.

But it's amazing how when we are still before God rather than trying everything else first (which seems to be a human propensity), just stillness before God clarifies things so often. And for you young mothers, when you find yourself in a very seemingly hopeless tangle with your children, and you just do not know what to do about it, it's amazing what just maybe 30 seconds of stillness, just stop and look up and say, "Lord, show me." You know, He can show you in ten seconds, five seconds. But His will and His action are made known to us by events.

To go back to the story of Jim Elliot and his belief that possibly God was asking him to remain single for the rest of his life, it took his experience of going to the jungle, living there for a year with a single man, assessing the situation, doing the kind of work that he knew God had called him to do. He began to realize that there was a woman over on the other side of the Andes in another area of the jungle doing almost exactly the same kind of work. And he put two and two together. He figured it's not going to be a hindrance to be married to that particular woman, because she's prepared for this kind of work. So events clarified for him the will of God, his jungle experience.

Well, then after we got engaged, we thought, Jim said to me when he asked me to marry him, he said, "You know, we may have to wait about five more years before God gives us a green light to get married." And I said, "Why in the world do we have to wait five years?" He said, "Because I've already committed to build two other houses for two missionary families." Well, that just infuriated me. I thought: What's the matter with these missionaries? Why can't they build their own house? Jim's not a construction engineer. He had majored in architectural drawing when he was in high school. And that was about the sum and substance of what he knew. But he had volunteered to do this. And so that was that.

Well, Jim said to me, "Unless something cataclysmic happens," and it was about eight months later that something cataclysmic happened. The entire station on which Jim had been working, including the foundation of one of these new houses that he was going to build, was swept down the Amazon in a flood. And a few weeks later he and I got married. The will of God is made known through events.

After Jim died, I prayed what seemed to be an incredibly rash prayer. I said, "Lord, if there's anything You want me to do about the Aucas, I'm available," feeling quite safe in praying such a prayer. There would be no remotest possibility that God was going to ask me to do anything about those people.

But one day I happened to be in an unusual place when two Indians arrived at the front door, and they said, "We've got two Auca women at our house. Would you like to come and see them?" Just an utterly unimagined event. And that's what opened the door to our going in to live with the Aucas. Events reveal to us the will of God.

I'd like to close with one of Amy Carmichael's lovely poems, referring to the story of Jesus asleep in the boat during the storm. "Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow. Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea. What matter, beating wind and tossing billow, if only we are in the boat with Thee. Hold us in quiet through the age-long minute, while Thou art silent and the wind is shrill. Can the boat sink when Thou, dear Lord, art in it? Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?" God bless you.

Lisa Barry: It's hard to admit, but the times I've learned the most are the times I've been forced to wait. I can remember one time in particular when some action of mine was totally misunderstood by some coworkers. I was mortified. There was nothing I could do to rectify the situation but sit back and wait. I remember praying to the Lord and asking Him to go to bat for me, to be my advocate. He said yes, but that meant waiting. He did come through. Not as quickly as I would have chosen, but He did it in the best way, the most prudent way and the most timely way.

Maybe there is a situation you find yourself in now and you have to wait. Remember that He knows your pain, and He also knows the hearts and minds of everyone else involved. So if you have doubts about His ability or willingness to do something, lay them to rest and then think about purchasing a copy of this series about waiting on God. That's what it's called. The cost is $13, and you can send that, along with your request, to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Be listening tomorrow when Elisabeth gives us practical ways we can turn our lives over to God. Find out more next time on Gateway To Joy.

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