Waiting for the Gift – and His Timing

Acts 1

Acts 1 4

It is amazing for as much time this group of men spent with Jesus, they were still confused. Just as we long for the kingdom, the disciples were ready for it. And like us – they didn’t want to wait. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days popping in and out on the disciples. While he was with them he was calming their doubts and promising a future gift. When he left, they were preparing his take over to free them from Roman domination.

On one of his visits he gives one of the hardest commands – wait! Stay where you are and wait. This prompts multiple questions that have been on the minds of all the people: Has the time finally come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? How long do we have to wait?

His response: it is not for you to know – or in other words; none of your business! He then picks up where he left off – the promised gift – the holy spirit. Following his answer and promise, he was taken up before their eyes never to be seen again.

The disciples get the lesson of patience we all need. God is at work but is not working on our schedule. Christ was preparing his followers to join the work God was doing while they were distracted with their own plans.

We often face trials in life that are less than desirable and we long for the problems to be taken away. We know of God’s overall plans but want them to be done now! We want insight and details – the who, what, where, when, why and how – and often times the response is that is not for you to know. Stay in your lane, bro!

Like the disciples we are given what is needed to do the work that has been set up for us to do. They were given the same power that was at work in Christ and told go be a witness to the world. We also have access to that power and are given that same mission.

-John Wincapaw

Delayed Gratification

matthew 7 7

MATTHEW 7

One of the most famous experiments ever done to understand the human psyche is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  In this study, a marshmallow and a bell were placed in front of a preschool child. The instructions were as follows: if the child wanted to eat the marshmallow in front of them after the adult left the room, they only need to ring the bell to gain permission; however, if they waited for the adult to return to the room on his/her own, about fifteen minutes later, then they would receive an additional marshmallow for their wait, essentially doubling their pleasure.  A seemingly simple experiment became a tortuous endeavor for these children. Initially, almost all the children tried to wait, but the longer they watched the door and thought about the marshmallow, disbelief and displeasure began to fill their minds. The ones who were ultimately successful looked in a different direction, sang a song, or reframed their desires, all of which helped to ultimately endure to receive their reward in full. Conversely, some were overcome with their desire or doubt; they rang the bell and received a lesser reward.

 

Matthew Chapter 7, our reading for today, contains a handful of verses we will most likely wrestle with at some point in our lives when our metaphorical marshmallow is placed in front of us.  Yesterday’s devotion showed us God’s provision, but there is a distinction here that appears in times where we appeal to God for greater things, beyond bread or fish (Matt 7:9): the search for a spouse, selection of a college or career, the growth of a church or ministry, the health of a loved one, the birth of a child or wisdom in a difficult situation.  All of these have a biblical basis as blessings from God, the giver of “good gifts to those who ask” (Matt 7:11), so we might suspect for these to move up God’s priority list. The only requirements are we ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7:7). Initially, these three actions seems the same, but through my own appeals, I have come to realize these in fact may be steps of a larger process.

ASK

First, you must ask.   While our action and efforts show our faith, if we bring God in, we are no longer in control (or under the illusion that we are in control).  By making our request known to our Heavenly Father, we begin to have peace with the “marshmallow” that passes our comprehension of the situation (Phil 4:6-7).  We are settled knowing that if we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father will not only hear our request, but has already placed our desire within the scope of his will and eternal plan (John 14:12-14). You will receive it.

SEEK

Next, you must seek. We are to search for God’s will in our lives which is much larger than a single request.  It is so easy to be consumed with a single desire and measure your faith and relationship with God by it. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so we must look away from the “marshmallow”, and look towards God’s kingdom as the first priority for our lives.  By daily searching for God and His perfect and pleasing will, we will ultimately collide with the desire of our heart at the single most opportune moment which is mutually benefiting God’s kingdom and us. You will find it.

KNOCK

Finally, knock, which is by far the most difficult of the three.  You must patiently wait and trust God. As we wait, the rain will come down, maybe harder than ever, the floods will come up, maybe higher than ever, and the wind beat against the house, maybe stronger than ever, and the foundation of our lives will be exposed (Matt 7:24-29).  These are the moments that make or break a faith. To endure the storm, we must be persistent in our prayer lives, even when we are frustrated. We are to be fervent in our discipleship, even when our will is depleted. We must share our faith, even if we have moments of doubt.  We will not “earn” our reward, but they give us the strength to continue to stand at the door knocking, waiting for God’s perfect timing, the delayed gratification, the moment when faith becomes sight. And soon enough, He will open the door.

 

The children who participated in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment were later studied as teens and adults.  There were some startling correlations with the group that found their way to endure to the end, delaying their reward until a more pleasing moment.  They were better able to cope with stress, more likely to be fulfilled in the work, less likely to be impulsive or aggressive, and less likely to be addicted or become divorced.  As we wait for our good and perfect gift from above, God may be moving heaven and earth to bless us (2 Kings 20:1-11). The problem is He is on the other side of the door, and all we can see is the marshmallow.  It is so easy to become focused on this one thing and forget about the promise. There is so much blessing waiting in the waiting. Our focus changes, we become disciplined, we find ways to sing while stressed, we become fulfilled in God – blessing or not.  We are focused by and consumed with God, not the marshmallow. Then the door opens and we remember the promise, and we see our reward and how His plan was so good.  God delays our gratification, not to experiment or simply because He can but to show us He truly is the giver of the greatest gifts to those who ask, and he will double or exponentially multiply the reward.  Don’t give in and ring the bell – Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find it. Knock, and the door will be opened.

-Aaron Winner

Waiting – Patiently

psalm 37 7a

Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Waiting, especially for a response to prayer, is always hard. How often have you asked God for guidance, only to be met with silence?  It is hard to be patient when others around you are succeeding. How do you respond to the times the answer to prayer is “Wait”? God will always help those who call on Him, sometimes He is waiting for us to be obedient.

Often when we are unsure of the direction God has for us, we seek help from other Christian friends.

Reflect on a time an answer to prayer was “Wait.” How did you respond? Do you have a trusted friend or mentor to help you be patient as you wait for God’s direction? Take some time to pray for them. Work on being patient as you wait on the Lord.

-Susan Johnson

 

Actively Waiting

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11_6

Here it is – the faith chapter!  When I think of the book of Hebrews, this is the chapter that comes to my mind!  Because this chapter is pretty well known it can be easy to get in the habit of skimming.  We know most of these stories already, and their outcomes.  When you read today I challenge you to slow down and really think about each person mentioned here.  Maybe God will speak to you in a new way through one of these old stories!

Verse 1 starts us off with a great explanation of what faith is exactly.  Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something, in our case, faith is having complete trust in God’s promises!  As we go through and read about all of these people such as Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and so many others that are labeled as faithful servants who had complete trust in God and His promises, reflect on your own life.  What an honor to be commended for your faith and specifically mentioned in scripture as these “ancients” were!  If someone was to write your life story that people could read for years to come, would it include a sentence like verse 2?  Would you be commended for your faith and held up as an example for living as a trusting servant of God?

I’m going to finish this post off a little sooner than my previous ones, simply because I think this chapter should speak uniquely to each of you.  So, to wrap up I want to focus on the last two verses.

Verse 39 talks about how all of the people mentioned were not able to receive what was promised in their lifetime. Can you imagine how big their faith had to be for them to remain faithful through such intense and difficult situations, and yet not see what was promised?  Some of the people went through horrible persecutions and struggles, but here they are commended for their faith.  Despite all they went through, they kept an intense trust in God because they knew one day He would fulfill His promises.  I know I personally struggle to trust God in daily situations, even though I’m closer to that promise than any of those “ancients” were!  I think this chapter sets up a great example for us, however difficult it may be to follow.  And verse 40 explains why… because God has something better planned that is going to be made perfect.  As cliché as it may be, God’s timing is intentionally designed for perfection one day.

It can be discouraging to day after day wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and I think all of the ancients felt the same!  When we have something so good and perfect waiting for us, it’s hard to just wait.  But I don’t think God has called us to “just” wait.  I think we need to wait actively!  All of the people mentioned in this chapter weren’t sitting alone in their houses until they died waiting for a promise to come through, they were out living and serving a faithful God!  We don’t know how long we are going to have to wait, but we do know that there will be a day when God’s promises come true.  So, while we wait, what are we doing to showcase commendable faith to others?  Are we being good examples like the ancients?  Let’s be active wait-ers that excitedly look towards the day of Jesus’ return!

-Sarah Blanchard

Practice Patience

Romans 8_25

Have you ever prayed to God for something specific and you feel like he is just not answering you? Have you ever prayed for a specific relationship and just wondered how long you are supposed to wait? Have you ever gotten impatient with God? *currently raising my hand, because this is me* I have felt ALL of these things, and it is so hard not to be frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I feel like the things I want are pretty simple, especially for God who is all powerful and could do pretty much anything he wants. This year, I am trying to be more patient and be okay with waiting. I want to learn how to wait on God and trust in his timing, because the only time that I get disappointed is when I rely on my own timing. I am imperfect and so are my expectations, God already knows the plans for me, and I am pretty sure they are going to be pretty cool, so why wouldn’t I wait for them?

The verses today are Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18 and then Genesis Chapters 37, 39-41. (Not the entire chapters, just understand the gist of the story of Joseph son of Jacob.

Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18. These verses are about God’s promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were very old and they had no children, but God told them that Abraham would be the father of multitudes, and Sarah would be the mother of nations. These people wanted children, but they waited patiently for God and followed God’s will. They waited and waited, continuing to be faithful and righteous even when they had not received what they had prayed for and what they had wanted desperately. After they were patient for many many years, God gave them a son, for which they were extremely grateful, and they could hardly believe that they would be granted a child in their old age. We need to be patient with God, because he is very patient with us. We need to be willing to wait for what he has for us. Sometimes we do not get what we want because God has something different planned for us, but sometimes we do not get what we want when we want it because God already has that written in his plan for our lives and we will be given the answer in his timing. That is so hard to accept sometimes, but Sarah and Abraham are a great example of great patience and they were greatly rewarded for their patience.

The other example that you are reading today is the story of Joseph. When you have the time I encourage you to read the entirety of his story because it is one of pain and exhaustion and some truly intense waiting. Joseph was sold to slave traders by his own brothers because they were jealous of him. Then he was brought very very far from his home, and was eventually put in prison for something that he did not do. He felt very alone when he was in prison and felt like God was not answering his fervent prayers to be released or to at least gain some information about what would happen to him. Even in the lost and the loneliness, Joseph continued to wait. He waited to get out of prison, he waited to hear from God, he waited for something better and he never stopped listening for God. During his waiting he began to interpret dreams for people, and he was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. These dreams told them that the land was going to go into a famine, so they began to prepare to protect all of the people. Because Joseph helped Pharaoh and in turn helped the people of Egypt and the surrounding areas Joseph was appointed to the position of the vizier, which is the second most powerful man in Egypt. This was all because of Joseph’s patience. He waited on God and on God’s timing and was rewarded greatly for it, as was Abraham and Sarah.

Sometimes we may feel like God is just not hearing us, sometimes we may feel alone, but we need to remember to wait. There may be difficulties, and there may be joys in our periods of waiting in our lives. Let go and let God. He knows what he is doing, we just need to have the patience to trust that his plans are for a purpose, and that his plans involve something greater than ourselves. Thanks for reading today, join us tomorrow for the last day of the week.

-Jana Swanson