Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

The following is part two and three of “Waiting on the LORD”…6/3/2021

My prayers seem to go unanswered. Do you ever feel this way, or feel like giving up on prayer while waiting on the LORD for answers to your prayers? Sometimes our prayers are not answered in our preferred manner, or in our timing. When we feel this way, we may need to reset our thinking and our calendar to God’s ways and His timing. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God’s timing is always perfect. God’s perfect timing does two things: It grows our faith as we are forced to wait and trust in God and it makes certain that He, and He alone, gets the glory and praise. “My times are in Your hands …” (Psalm 31:15).

You’ve probably heard this saying, “A time of waiting is a time of testing.”

Before we delve into the testing of our faith, I’d like to testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I personally have had many answers to prayer over my lifetime, now sixty years plus. Some specific, while others have been answered in ways that I could have never imagined or even thought possible. In both instances, God has been faithful and has used His timetable, not mine, to answer prayers in ways that are in my best interest and in the best interest of others. (spiritual, physical, emotional, etc.)

When we pray, the Bible says, we should not pray for selfish desires.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

Selfishness is worshipping self rather than God. Selfishness is living apart from God’s law. And let’s face it, whether you are a Christian or not, “…we all fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23).

Right now, you may be thinking, aren’t we supposed to pray about our own personal needs? Yes, the Bible teaches us to pray for ourselves as well as others. (A few examples: The LORD’s prayer, Matthew 6:9-15; 1 Timothy 2:1; Romans 10:1; 2 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7) I also believe that God does want to bless us with the desires of our heart…but only “IF” our desires align with His.

Before going any future, let’s look at the Scripture “Ask and you shall receive…” which unfortunately has often been taken out of context.

Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). Similar statements are found in Matthew 7:721:22Mark 11:24Luke 11:9; and John 15:7. Is this a blanket promise with no conditions? If we ask for three hundred pounds of chocolate delivered to our door, is God obligated to give it to us? Or are Jesus’ words to be understood in light of other revelation?

If we assume that “ask and you will receive” means “ask for anything you want and I’ll give it to you,” then we have turned the Lord into a cosmic genie who serves our every whim. This is the problem of the prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings.

The above was taken from Got Questions. To continue reading:  https://www.gotquestions.org/ask-and-you-shall-receive.html

Kaufman Memorial Garden, KC, MO

I love to travel and see various places of interest and beauty, even it’s just a short distance from my driveway. For instance, we live on the outskirts of Kansas City, and one of my favorite places to visit is Kaufman Memorial Garden, just 40 minutes away. It’s a delight to the gardener’s eye, me included! I simply love the beauty of flowers and green plants. And, if I had my way, I’d travel all the time, to every destination that displays God’s handiwork. Of course, then I’d have very little time left over to enjoy the beauty of my six grandchildren, who all live within a 30-minute drive. And they far exceed all other beauty!

Some people crave food, while others may crave the pleasure of sight-seeing like me, or others may desire to become famous. Whatever our personal desires are, God created us with hearts to be fully satisfied in Him first. This begins by inviting Jesus to become your personal Savior. (See tab above. Private: Receive Jesus) All other desires we experience are secondary in value. Sadly, at times, we intentionally or unintentionally strive to replace an intimate relationship with Jesus with selfish desires. “We all fall short.”

In ancient Israel, stone and wooden images were a substitute for the One True God. Today, meaning, purpose, success, power, prosperity, career, possessions, pleasure, fame, peace, security, and happiness are the social norm and attempt to take priority over God.

Whatever the substitute (for God) may be, it grows into a matter of ultimate concern around which people organize their lives. From a biblical perspective, one’s ultimate concern is the object of one’s worship. Although the supreme and only proper object worthy of worship is God, throughout the Bible we see human beings regularly creating substitutes — idols — instead of worshiping the true and living God. But these idols can never fully or permanently satisfy the restless heart of fallen humanity, and we continue to thirst for that undefinable “something” that is missing.

The following Scripture instructs us to keep our number one priority aligned with God and His desires.

 “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exodus 20:3-5).

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). – (Read all of Romans 8)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20).

“Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-32).

Did you see that? God promises to meet all our needs. But as my husband often preaches: “There’s a premise that proceeds the promise.” In other words, God fulfills His promises only after we meet his requirements. For instance, God instructs us to store up treasures in Heaven, and He reminds us not to worry about the necessities of life. God desires us to keep our focus on His eternal kingdom, not on all the bells and whistles this world has to offer. God wants us to learn to trust Him. The premise before the promise: We must seek God and His righteousness first (through the study of His Word, and by the power of His Holy Spirit). The promise: God will then give us the desires of our heart–(“all these things will be added unto you”).

Ultimately, God’s desire is for us to be in a right relationship with Him through salvation in Christ. And secondly, God’s desire is for us to become “like Christ” as we surrender daily to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our born-again lives. (Galatians 2:20)

God’s desires are clearly specified through His Word. “What would it look like if our desires aligned with God’s desires?” Do you think it would make a difference in the life we live? I believe so. Romans 10:1-13 reveals the preferred desires of God and the results. From the Apostle Paul:

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites (you) is that they (you) may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).

What does “every need of yours” mean in view of Philippians 4:11–12? It means “all that you need for God-glorifying contentment.” Which may include times of hunger and need. The Apostle Paul’s love for the Philippians flowed from his contentment in God, and his contentment flowed from his faith in the future grace of God’s infallible provision to be all he needed in times of plenty and want.

It’s obvious then that covetousness is exactly the opposite of faith. It’s the loss of contentment in Christ so that we start to crave other things to satisfy the longings of our hearts which only the presence of God himself can satisfy. And there’s no mistaking that the battle against covetousness is a battle against unbelief in God’s promise to be all we need in every circumstance.

Part Three:

Now let’s examine the testing of our faith.  “A time of waiting is a time of testing.”

Why would God want to test our faith? After all, He is omniscient, “all knowing.” If God knows how much faith I have or am lacking, why the test? I’m glad you asked!

David, who is known as “a man after God’s own heart” realized that his heart was not to be trusted. In Psalm 139, David declares that God knows all about him: “Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1-2).

And at the end of David’s prayer, he declares:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
(Psalm 139:23-24)

The prophet Jeremiah also realized he couldn’t trust his own thoughts.

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

God tests our faith not for his knowledge, but for our own personal discovery. And in doing so, God reveals our weaknesses and gives us the opportunity to strengthen our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells within each believer’s heart.

At the end of Paul’s ministry and life, he declared:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…” (2 Timothy 4:7).

When Abraham was tested by God, regarding the sacrifice of his son Isaac, he proved to himself and to the world that his faith was real. Like Abraham, we are tested by God, to affirm to ourselves and to those who know us, that our faith is real, and that we are truly God’s children, and that no trial has the power to overcome our genuine faith in Christ, who is our Redeemer and LORD.

Abraham had to wait 25 years before He became the father of Isaac, the promised heir. Abraham was 75 when he first received the promise of God and he was 100 years old when Isaac was born.

You say, “wait a minute!” Didn’t Abraham first have a son with his wife, Sara’s maidservant, Hagar. Correct! You know your Bible.

Here’s some encouraging news to those of us who get impatient and at times, jump the gun, racing ahead of God, to answer our own prayers. God is always just and faithful despite our human frailties and unfaithfulness. He is not looking for worldly perfection, but for hearts who desire to be conformed into the image of His Son…day by day, in the midst of struggles, trials, setbacks, and even our mess ups.

God didn’t give up on Abraham. Just like God doesn’t give up on us when we choose not to wait on God’s perfect timing and best plans. Rather, God can and often does use these times of testing, to refine our faith (purifying it, like a fire refines gold).

“I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God'” (Zechariah 13:9).

Too often, I believe we depend on human wisdom, rather than on God’s wisdom. For instance, when we are waiting for a difficult season or circumstance in our lives to turn around or get better, we tend to focus on ways that “we” can fix or change the circumstance. But, instead of fixing the problem we become exhausted and forfeit the peace God desires for us. May I suggest the following (to myself first).

Rather than focusing solely on the problem, try and use this time to fully trust God and focus on developing a more intimate relationship with God. Imagine (by faith) how God can use the difficulties in our lives to work out His good and pleasing will for us. (Romans 8:28) And think of these temporary trials as opportunities for God to transform our lives into the image (character) of His Son.

As in the refining process of gold, God uses his refining power to bring our weaknesses to the surface so that his consuming fire can burn away all the impurities in our lives (self-sufficiency, idolatry, selfish desires, etc.). And in this process, we will begin to look more like Christ, reflecting his righteousness to a lost and dying world.

The times of testing come in various ways. Being a Christian will often require us to wait upon the LORD with great faith. Perseverance in testing results in spiritual maturity and completeness. Therefore, James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). The testing of faith may come in small ways and daily irritations; they may also be severe afflictions (Isaiah 48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows.

Concluding words of comfort: We know that God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to handle by His power. His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Romans 12:28-29).

Concluding thoughts: As we wait upon the LORD, for answers to our prayers, let us enjoy His presence above all, and receive the peace that envelopes our anxious hearts. My lifelong go-to Scripture:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Waiting on the LORD

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Part One of Three

Part 1: A brief look at three women and one man who experienced great loss and the raw emotions they displayed during their pain. In this three-part reflection, we will begin to answer these questions:  Is there purpose in waiting on God?  Does God love me and care about me? Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?

Waiting for the LORD to act on our behalf or answer our prayers can seem unbearable at times. And I believe even more so in this high tech, instantaneous world we live in.

I’ve been studying the life of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widowed and experienced feelings of abandonment, great loneliness, poverty, and an uncertain future. Any one of these emotions can evoke fear and a sense of hopelessness, let alone the combination of multiple struggles and hardships.

Possibly you can relate to some of these emotions or others that seemingly hit without much warning, or at other times, seem to linger much longer than we’d prefer. I know that I can relate to most.

It became clear to me that Naomi’s deep grief stemmed from not only the death of her husband, but also the death of her two sons. I personally can’t fathom the intense sorrow and pain of these multiple losses. I’ve been told from close friends who have experienced a death of a child, that this is the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced, even more so than the death of a spouse or parent.

Marriage of my mom and dad. Rev. Alvin Mueller, pastor who led my mom to Jesus during her battle with cancer.
My grandmother, grandfather, and me

I do know that the pain of losing my mother at age seven was severe, but as I look back, I realize that my pain paled in comparison with that of my paternal grandfather. He experienced the death of his only child, (my father), the death of his wife, his parents, and my mother, all within seven years.

Me and my grandfather

Being raised by my grandfather following the loss of my mother, I observed what I thought to be peculiar behavior in my grandfather, especially around certain holidays. At the time, I didn’t understand why my loving and doting grandpa would often remain in bed on Christmas mornings. Much later, as an adult, I realized that my  grandfather suffered intensely during Christmas, as he recalled cherished and happier memories of his deceased son and wife. This time of the year was also a trigger for his pain, with the birth and death dates falling during the holiday season. I now look back with great love, compassion, and empathy for my tenderhearted grandfather.

I suppose this is why I can relate to Naomi. Her anguish was intense and the way she responded was real. The following is Naomi’s response to her hometown, as they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Her Hebrew name means “pleasant.”

Returning to Bethlehem, after being gone for ten years, and following the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi expresses her heartache to the crowd and to God.

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Mara in Hebrew means “bitter.”

Some who haven’t experienced the same type of suffering may be quick to judge Naomi for her direct response, and this is understandable. It’s often difficult to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have worn the same shoes.

For me, it’s easy to relate to Naomi’s raw emotions because of my personal experience and the observation of my grandfather’s response to great loss.

It’s amazing how God helps us to identify with those who have experienced the same or similar losses. I believe He does this so that we can offer hope and encouragement to those who He brings into our lives.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Throughout this fascinating love story filled with a plethora of drama and suspense, we learn a lot about two women who learned to wait upon the LORD… for His divine and providential plans to unfold in their lives. From the account of Scripture, Ruth possessed a humble and faithful spirit of servanthood and obedience. Observing these attractive character traits first in her mother-in-law, Ruth began to emulate Naomi’s genuine faith. Doing so, Ruth placed her faith in the One True God, which ultimately led her to her kinsman redeemer and future husband, Boaz.

Over a relatively short time span, we see how Naomi’s trust in God revitalized as she passes along words of wisdom to Ruth.

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). This refers to Ruth waiting to hear back from Boaz, to learn if he could legally purchase Naomi’s land, and in doing so become Ruth’s husband. (Ruth 4 describes this God-ordained transaction.)

Waiting on the LORD for answers to our prayers and for a much-desired miracle can seem like “forever” in some instances. And there are times that we may feel like giving up and even blaming God for not “coming through” for us. If you’re human, you have probably felt like Naomi at one time or another. And this is perfectly okay! God understands our heart, even more than we do. He created us with a full range of emotions, and He is big enough to handle our outbursts resulting from inner strife and pain.

God also knows that waiting on answers to our prayers can be a true test of our faith. In fact, God often uses the time of waiting to strengthen our faith. Here are a few examples from the Bible of those who found themselves in a time of waiting on the LORD.

  • Jesus had to wait until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23) to fulfill His mission on earth, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then 3 years later, Jesus completed His mission on the cross, for the redemption of the world. (John 3:16)
  • Jesus then waited 40 days after his resurrection from the grave before He ascended to the Father. (Acts 1:3)
  • The apostles had to wait 10 days after Jesus ascended before they received the promised Holy Spirit in the upper room. (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Moses, at age 80 (Exodus 7:7), had waited in the desert for 40 years (Acts 7:30) before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from Pharoah.
  • The Israelites waited for 430 years before God delivered them from the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:40)
  • Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac. (Genesis 21:5)
  • Noah had to wait for 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time of the flood. (Genesis 6:3)
  • And Mary and Martha waited a gut-wrenching two days before Jesus came to heal and ultimately raise their brother Lazarus from the grave. (John 11:5-6)
  • An invalid for 38 years waited by the Pool of Bethseda to be healed. (John 5:1-16) (See link to The Chosen, “The Perfect Opportunity”)

When hardships and new obstacles come our way, do we instantly turn to God for guidance and provision, or do we fret and worry, and try to fix problems with our own means and within our own time schedule? Scripture teaches that our trials teach us to trust in God and strengthens our faith in Him. It also teaches us that our trials produce a deeper intimacy with the LORD (1 Peter 4:1-2). When we accept that hardship is a part of the Christian life, we can lean on God and grow closer to Him.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

When, (not if) we find ourselves in a time of waiting, God promises to be with us and to give us His power and wisdom to navigate through these difficult seasons of life. All God asks of us is to take hold of His outstretched hand of mercy, grace, and unconditional love, and rest assured of His perfect timing. The following passages of Scripture are encouraging to me, and I hope they will be to you as well.

“For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.…” (Romans 8:24-26).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Romans 8:35)?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

As we wait upon the LORD and trust that His way is better than our plans and desires, and that He understands our needs better than we do, we will be able to rest in His perfect love and provision. Our heavenly Father sees what lies ahead and knows what He wants to accomplish in every situation of our life. And as we spend time in His Word, we will discover that our trust in God is growing as we discern His ways and plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Chosen TV Series (Season 2, episode 4) “The Perfect Opportunity” – offers a heart-wrenching rendition of someone waiting on the LORD for healing thirty-eight years, and the dance of victory he receives through Christ alone.  (The link below will give you directions for watching The Chosen.)

May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'The CHOSEN SEASON2 WATCH NOW ON THE "CHOSEN" APP ANDROID APP ON Google play Download the App Store'

https://thechosensupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045859754-How-Do-I-Watch-The-Chosen-On-My-TV-

Watch for the next blog post: Part Two: Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing