Previously I wrote how churches need to be patient: that even after God shows them the direction to take they should then wait on His timing. Sometimes when God tells us what He wants us to do it may be His expectation that we do it then. For Jonah, the command to “arise” meant right then.
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2, KJV).
Other times, God may give us instructions for the future but tell us to wait. Take Noah, for example. He knew that God expected him to take his wife, his sons and his daughters-in-law, and two of each kind of land and air creature (as well as seven of each clean animal), and board the ark so that they would be spared from the worldwide flood (Genesis 6-7). But Noah knew that he would be expected by God to board the ark many years before he was actually supposed to do it. Did he just sit there, idle, waiting for the next thing God had commanded him? No! There was an ark that needed to be prepared.
“And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood […] Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Genesis 6:13-14,22, KJV).
Likewise, Jesus commanded the church in Jerusalem to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit before beginning to fulfill the Great Commission (Acts 1:4-5). Did that mean that they were simply supposed to sit there and do nothing until taking that next step? Again, no. There was, in this case as well, preparation to be made.
If they were going to be obedient to Christ and wait in Jerusalem, they had to first get to Jerusalem. They left the mountain outside the city where they had listened to Jesus’ farewell message and returned immediately to Jerusalem.
“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James” (vv.12-13).
In other words, they made sure they prepared themselves to do God’s will for the future by making sure they were in the center of His will in the present. Then they prepared themselves through prayer
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (v.14).
Through their prayers they demonstrated their continued reliance on God and their earnest expectation that He was about to do great things in and through them. This spiritual discipline kept them prepared for God’s work ahead because it allowed them to maintain constant contact with the One on whom they depended for power and guidance.
Then they made sure that the church was prepared with godly leadership. Peter addressed the church’s need for another apostle to replace Judas Iscariot.
“For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection” (vv.20-22).
They replaced Judas with a man named Matthias. Now, before anyone accuses them of impatience because they made a decision without consulting God, notice that Peter says this situation was prophesied in the Psalms, and that God had already told them, through David, to fill Judas’ position. They prepared themselves by making sure that the church had the godly leadership it needed and would be ready to go when God said the time was right.
We need to wait on the Lord for direction and timing, but we should not use our patience as an excuse for inaction and lack of preparation on the things we are already supposed to be doing. Are you waiting for God’s timing to move into a new area of ministry, or to take a major step of faith? Good, but don’t think that means you have to stop everything in order to wait (unless God tells you to, of course).
Are you waiting for the right time for a major outreach effort? a new ministry? a new class? a major life decision? Keep waiting on Him. But stay prepared by continuing in the things you know you’re supposed to be doing now. Prayer, study of the Word, fellowship with other believers, sharing your faith, etc. are things God has already said we should be doing, and these we must continue.
By all means, wait on God, but keep yourself spiritually fit and prepared while you wait so that you will be useful to Him when the time arrives!