Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Growing up, my favorite dessert was angel food cake. My mom used to make it from scratch and serve it with whipped cream and strawberries. When my mom would announce she was going to make an angel food cake for dessert, I could hardly contain myself. In fact, I couldn’t contain myself. Our oven door didn’t have a window through which to watch the cake bake, so my mom, knowing my impatience, would warn me not to open the door because it was easy to jar the cake and cause it to “fall”—losing its fluffy sweetness. When my mom wasn’t in the kitchen, I would open the oven door to see if the brown crown of the angel food cake had peeked over the top of the baking pan. Unfortunately, no matter how careful I was, I always seemed to close the oven door too hard and it always ruined the angel food cake. When I didn’t wait, I was always disappointed; when I waited, I was always rewarded. Little did I know how much learning to wait would later deeply impact my life.
The Bible overflows with rich promises about waiting on God. However, to people shaped by this incredibly busy, distracted world in which we live, the idea of waiting, period, much less waiting on God, can seem foolish, a frustrating waste of time. I hope to offer you a different perspective. I want to explain what it means to wait on God and show you a few of the rewards that come to those who wait. Let’s start by looking at Psalm 40, where David testifies to the rich benefits he experienced as he waited on the Lord.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
David described waiting “patiently” for the Lord. Any kind of waiting often serves to create focus. The word for “patiently” here meant to twist together or bind things together. David was saying when he waited on the Lord he was binding himself to God, looking for His help alone. Patience doesn’t mean passivity. Patience often includes perseverance and endurance almost to the point of wrestling. So, when we begin to wait on God, we are bringing all our focus on Him, all our attention, placing all our expectations on Him.
Next, as David waited on God, he described experiencing God “turning to” him. This was a phrase used over and over in Exodus when Moses or Aaron “stretched out” their staff to perform signs and wonders in God’s name to deliver Israel. In the midst of his dire circumstances, as David waited on God, he encountered divine intervention, like Israel did in Egypt. When God turns towards us, things begin to happen.
David describes being trapped in “mud and mire,” in a pit of despair. David experienced difficult times while waiting on God. It’s a picture of someone who has lost hope, who is overwhelmed by troubles of many kinds. Probably the last thing one would think to do in such circumstances is wait on the Lord. Yet, that is exactly what David did. And look at the outcome!
David experienced God completely reversing his circumstances. Instead of helplessly sinking, he found himself being rescued, being lifted up out of overwhelming circumstances to a place of security and safety. This filled him with joy. It inspired him to pen a new song of praise to God. David learned the lesson I learned as a young boy: When I don’t wait on God, I am always disappointed; when I wait on God, I am always rewarded.
When God rescued David, others took notice. David’s story became a testimony to God’s mercy and faithfulness. David’s patient faith was a powerful witness to his community. An unexpected by-product of waiting on the Lord is often a moving story testifying to God’s active presence in the world. People are hungry for the hope of a reality greater than themselves. Our stories, born out of waiting on God, have the potential to satisfy that desire and point them to faith in Jesus.
In summary, as we wait on the Lord, binding ourselves to Him in patient faith, we will experience Him turning to us, rescuing us from our dilemmas, filling us with such surprising joy that it gets the attention of all those around us.
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who wait upon the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.’” Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV “Yet, the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:18 NIV
If you want to learn how to wait on the Lord, you are more likely to wait on God patiently when under pressure, if waiting is already a regular habit. It’s the fire drill principle. Here’s what has helped me get started. When I carve out time to wait on the Lord, I begin with this prayer: “Father, you’ve made me your beloved son. You deserve all I have, including my time. I am creating this space just to sit with You, not asking you for anything, except to be in Your presence. If You want to say anything to me please do. You have my full attention.” Then, just quietly wait, brushing aside the inevitable mental distractions in order to keep your focus on Him. Get ready. He will “turn to you.”
Waiting always brings a rich gift of deep fellowship with God. Over the years, it’s made all the difference in my life. I learned as a young boy, eagerly anticipating my mom’s angel food cake: When I don’t wait, I am always disappointed; when I wait, I am always rewarded.
Hungry, I come to You For I know You satisfy I am empty but I know Your love does not run dry
So I wait for You, so I wait for You
Broken, I run to You For Your arms are open wide I am weary but I know Your love does not run dry
So I wait for You, so I wait for You
I'm falling on my knees Offering all of me Jesus, You're all this heart is living for
(“Hungry” by Kathryn Scott, Vineyard Records UK, 1998)
Senior Pastor, Vineyard at Tuttle Crossing
John Lieb attended the University of Houston, Discipleship Training Institute and the Spiritual Formation and the Art of Spiritual Direction program at Healing Care Ministries. John has 41 years of pastoral ministry and currently serves as senior pastor at Vineyard Church at Tuttle Crossing in Columbus, Ohio. He has been married for 41 years and has three children and three adorable grandchildren. John enjoys reading, cooking, bicycling, movies and he is an ex-surfer. He has been on a healing journey for 35 years!