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WAITING: THE MOST STRENUOUS EXERCISE OF ALL?
by Philip Owen

Most of us find few things more difficult than waiting.  Even the lazy and lethargic among us find ourselves suddenly antsy and itching to do something when in the midst of a difficult trial, when wanting to make a decision, or when looking for an answer to prayer.  Sadly, we find ourselves having all the patience of a typical five-year-old waiting to open a birthday present.  To our flesh, doing is always better than waiting.  Doing results in something tangible and measurable; waiting seems only to produce a void, a gaping, empty hole.

While it is true that the Bible has much to say about “doing” (the instances are so obvious and numerous that we do not need to cite examples), it has much to say about waiting as well.  A few examples should suffice to make the point.  “Indeed, none of those who wait for you will be ashamed” (Psa. 25:3a).  “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psa. 27:14).  “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes” (Psa. 37:7).  “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him” (Psa. 62:5).  “They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert” (Psa. 106:13, 14). 

Other verses contain similar, though not identical ideas.  For example exhortations to “listen,” often imply, if not specifically denoting, acts of obedience, but the focus, nevertheless, is first on waiting to hear God’s words and God’s will so that they might be obeyed.  “Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth” (Psa. 78:1).  “Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!” (Psa. 81:8).  “But my people did not listen to My voice, and Israel did not obey Me” (Psa. 81:11).  “Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psa. 81:13).  Then, of course, there is the dual command both to “meditate” and to “be still,” both of which require waiting in some form:  “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.  Selah” (Psa. 4:4).  (The word selah may be an additional admonition to meditate.)  Furthermore, it is no stretch to suggest that for most of us, praying, though it is certainly an activity, is also a profound form of waiting on the Lord, so we could expand the list to include verses about prayer as well.

The irony of this sort of waiting that our flesh wants to define as doing nothing is that it is one of the most strenuous of all activities in which we as believers can engage.  Waiting involves seeking the Lord and searching out His direction in the Word.  It includes sometimes strenuous, sometimes lengthy sessions of prayer.  It requires conscious, deliberate meditation (lit., “to say in one’s heart,” “to think”) on the concrete, specific words of God.  It exercises faith and patience.  It requires humility and demands temperance.  Steadfastness, diligence, and perseverance are called for as well.  In short, this kind of waiting actually exercises every part of our being—body, soul, and spirit.  It is an all-encompassing effort to rest in and to wait on the Lord.  It requires the focus of our thoughts, emotions, desires, and will toward one objective:  knowing the Lord and His will.  No activity, however impressive, can suffice or supplant waiting on the Lord if we want to be godly, if we want to be faithful, if we want to glorify the Lord, and if we want His blessing.  May we learn to wait.

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