We live in the age of the instant. Our information is delivered to us in real-time, nugget-sized bites. An earthquake rumbles in Virginia, and the information arrives in Washington D.C. before the tremors do. The birth of a child is instantly blasted onto Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all to see and rejoice. When I have a bad customer experience I can do an instant, cathartic venting session to all my online friends. If a YouTube video takes more than six seconds to load, I stop watching it. I mean, seriously, who’s got that kind of time to spare?
I. Hate. Waiting. With a zealous passion that probably borders on the psychopathic.
I would rather drive the long way to get somewhere than sit in stand-still traffic, even if sitting in traffic will get me to my destination faster. I would rather have a sharp stick to the eye than wait in the DMV. Don’t tell me the video needs to buffer. Don’t tell it’s going to be an hour until we can get a table. Don’t tell me my item is back-ordered and will be shipped in six weeks. Waiting grates against every high-speed, now, now, now fiber in my body. And this is a problem.
Why is it a problem? Because God does some of his deepest, most profound, most heart-changing work in times of waiting.
Moses was approximately eighty years old when he met God at the burning bush (Acts 7:30). Eighty! By the time most people hit eighty they are getting ready to sink the last putt on the last hole. Their life is winding down, literally and figuratively. They’ve accomplished just about everything they’re going to accomplish. They’re not going through an end-of-life crisis. And yet God saved Moses’ greatest public work for the last third of his life.
For the first forty years of his life, Moses was a big man about town. He was a Prince of Egypt. He was a public figure doing important things. Then Moses killed a man and was forced into hiding. Moses spent the next forty years in the desert doing nothing. Well, not nothing. He was a shepherd. But he certainly wasn’t doing public ministry of any sort. He wasn’t writing books or going on a speaking tour or leading people. He didn’t have a popular blog or podcast. He was shearing sheep and fighting off predators and cleaning up sheep poop. Not too glamorous.
What was God doing in Moses during those forty desert years? He was doing heart work.
As Moses tended the sheep, God tended Moses’ heart. He taught Moses to lead the people of Israel by first teaching him to tend sheep. As Moses worked with sheep, God was preparing his heart to work with people. Faithful in little, faithful in much. Faithful in waiting, faithful in moving.
Forty years is such a long time! I haven’t even been alive for forty years. And yet that’s how long it took God to get Moses ready. God seems to be like that. His time frame is so much longer than ours and he works so much slower than we would like. Which I guess is appropriate given the fact that he’s God and he has the appropriate perspective. It’s just that most of the time I wish God could move a little quicker. My time frame is usually in hours, days, and if it’s a really long wait, months. God’s time frame is millenia.
Slowness seems to be God’s preferred method of operation. It was years between God’s promise of a son to Abraham and the birth of that son. During those waiting years God pressed and shaped and molded Abraham’s faith. It was years between David’s annointing as king and his ascension to the throne. As David was hiding in caves and dodging spears God was doing heart work on David. He was making David into a man after his own heart.
We tend to chafe when it comes to waiting. We want God to move and we want him to move now. We want him to save our child right now. We want him to provide financially right now. We want him to open a barren womb right now. We want him to deliver us from illness right now. We want him to provide a spouse right now. When God doesn’t come through quickly, we start to complain and challenge God.
I’m not trying to minimize the pain or challenge of waiting in any way. Waiting is really hard and emotionally taxing. But as we wait let’s embrace the heart work God is doing in us. What is God teaching you as you wait? Is he teaching you to trust his promises more fully? Is he teaching you to rely on provision more heavily? Is he teaching you to rest in care more completely?
As we wait let’s remember the words of Peter regarding the coming of Christ:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God may move slowly but he knows what he’s doing.
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Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, where his main duties include leading worship, preaching, and working with youth. He also has written a number of worship songs that have been included on Sovereign Grace Music albums. Stephen is the author of the book Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes, published by Crossway Books in September 2008, and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, published by Crossway Books in April 2011. When not shining his dad’s shoes, you can find Stephen drinking coffee or playing video games.
Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.