The Sanctifying Work of Waiting

If nothing else, my generation and those that follow are impatient to the core. We want fast food, fast cars, fast computers, and fast answers. Even those that are willing to cook at home just go to the store and buy food. We don’t have to plant crops, wait for them to grow, and trust that there will be enough to last until the next harvest season. We have what we want, when we want it. And it’s killing us.

This is something that’s been on my heart for the past few weeks, and I feel that now is an appropriate time to address this issue. The apostle Paul tells us of “many” who have made gods of their stomachs (Phil. 3:19). Many people will use this to address issues such as healthy eating habits and disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and over-eating. While this verse certainly applies here, it goes much, much deeper. This verse isn’t about our stomachs, it’s about all of our appetites, and our being enslaved to them. It’s about our worship of our own selfish desires and our enslavement to immediate gratification of those desires. It’s about idolatry.

The people of whom Paul speaks weren’t the first to be defined by this characteristic. God’s chosen people of the Old Testament, the Israelites, were like this as well. You see, the Israelites had spent over 400 years in Egypt. They had become accustomed to the Egyptian gods, many of whom probably fell into worshiping those gods because it had been so long since they’d heard from the one true God. Then God rescued them from the affliction and persecution of being enslaved to the Egyptians and their gods. But He didn’t lead them straight into the Promised Land. He led them around in the wilderness, in the desert, for a while. Why would a loving God lead His people out of Egypt, a land of plenty, into a desert?

The Israelites had made peace with false gods. They had made peace with idols. And in doing so, they had made peace with demons. God led them through the wilderness, before the 40 years after their disbelief in God’s abilities to give them the Promised Land, to show them that He was not only their Rescuer, but also their Provider. He wasn’t some white knight that charged into the rescue and then left the damsel in distress alone in a village where she’d be safe. He was going to be their God and they would be His people (Ex. 29:45-46). He took them through a period in the wilderness so that He could teach them to rely on His provision and power, so they wouldn’t simply make peace with the idols of the inhabitants of the Promised Land (and God commanded that all people in the promised land be destroyed later as well). So, they didn’t get to go straight to the Promised Land, they had to wait. They had to wait so they could see God’s provision, power, and sufficiency in their lives.

Fast forward to our time. If any of us think that we’d last more than five minutes really waiting on something, we’re lying to ourselves. We live in a culture that isn’t only surrounded by idolatry, but actually condones it. We live in a culture where “advertisement” is merely a clever disguise for giving people a reason to avoid waiting. Giving people a reason to worship themselves. At the most extreme, we live in a world where the average 12 year old is exposed to some form of sexual activity. We live in a culture where sex is simply viewed as “satisfying a natural craving,” and, when you don’t have a willing member of the opposite gender around, it’s perfectly acceptable to turn on your computer and take care of yourself.

When we look at the example of the Israelites, how did God teach them to trust His provision? By providing them food and water. It doesn’t get more of a basic “natural craving” than that. Like the Israelites, when we are unwilling to wait on God’s timing and for His provision (in all areas of life, not just sex), what we’re really telling Him is that we don’t trust Him. As Russell Moore says in his book Tempted and Tried, “We’d rather be fed than fathered.” So, we deceive ourselves, and others, when we say that the Christian life is easy, and that we’ll get what we want. The Christian life is hard, and God will faithfully make you wait for what you want so that you won’t be able to worship that idol when God fulfills that desire. Paul Tripp writes about Five Reasons God Calls Us To Wait, in which he says that “we are called to wait because everything in life and ministry exists not for our comfort and ease but for God’s glory. The whole redemptive story is written for one purpose and one purpose alone: the glory of the king.”

God makes us wait so that we’ll see His glory, His sufficiency, and His beauty above all else. He makes us wait so that we’ll become more like Him. He makes us wait for our sanctification. He makes us wait to save us, because the end of those who worship their appetites is destruction (Phil. 3:19).

So when we get frustrated about having to wait for something, the solution isn’t going out and getting another credit card or pulling up another porn site. The solution is falling on our knees and asking God why we don’t trust Him enough, and asking for help to trust Him more, because those who are in Christ have a Savior “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

The solution is gospel-driven repentance from our idolatry.

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