WAITING ON THE LORD
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinJune 25, 1995
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. (PS 130:5)
Patience is one of the most challenging disciplines to develop. When we desire something, we want to enjoy it now. In fact, the more we value an object or an achievement, the more impatient we tend to be if we do not have it. It is not easy to simply wait to obtain or possess the objects or goals that we yearn for.
Not only is it difficult to wait for things we presently do not have, we are especially anxious for our personal trials to end. We can easily identify with the story of the Israelites which we read in our lesson from the Second book of Kings. The Israelites were surrounded by the Syrians in a city in Samaria. A famine soon gripped the Israelites who were within the city walls. Finally, hunger had arisen to such a height that the king heard of a woman who boiled her son and ate him. When the king heard this, he said, “Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (II Kings 6:33) Things appeared hopeless at this point. But Elisha, the prophet, promised that the following day the Syrians would flee away, and the cost of food would return to its normal price.
There are events or disturbing things that enter our lives that can bring about a sense of hopelessness. Like the king of Israel, we may wonder why we should wait for the Lord. We are strongly tempted to take matters into our own hands and do what appears to be right in our own eyes. We are no longer concerned if our approach is consistent with the Lord’s Word.
The expectation for immediate results is especially perpetuated by the instant gratification philosophy within our modern day culture. We are living in an age where we want conclusions without delay. The more we want instant gratification, the more we are frustrated when our physical or spiritual infirmities are not swiftly healed.
The Writings for the New Church is clear that spiritual growth is a long and gradual process. It is not instantaneous. We will have to deal with corrupt affections and delights that will not immediately go away. There will be many adversities that we want resolved, but they seem to linger with us, with no visible signs of their removal or correction. Despite all our attempts, the problem remains just as strong as at the beginning. There may be bad habits or a sicknesses that we can not break free from. It is while we are dealing with these difficulties that we must cope with a sense of hopelessness that we will never be free from our troubles. There may even develop a significant doubt that the attitude that the Lord teaches us will not work for our own set of circumstances.
The Word does refer to waiting on the Lord many times. The words of our text is one of many places in the Psalms that speaks about waiting for the Lord. We must wait with an assured confidence that eventually the Lord will deliver us from our troubles. Certainly, the Psalm, in which this passage is taken, speaks of being in a great deal of affliction, yet, maintaining the hope that allows us to remain receptive of the Lord’s guidance. The Hebrew word for “wait” implies an expectation. We are to wait upon the Lord, not with an attitude of a gamble that things will be cured, but with the expectation that He will come and deliver us. Just as the Israelites had the assurance from Elisha that their troubles would end, we must have the same confidence in the Lord’s wisdom and love that He will conquer our troubles. The Lord will bring the greatest possible good from any troubling situation. If this is the attitude we have, it will become far easier to maintain our allegiance to the teachings that the Lord set forth in the Word.
In the short Psalm, from which our text was taken, we read of four components that will allow us to remain steadfast in the Lord’s teachings. First, there must be a genuine desire of being united with the Lord, whereby the Lord can hear our supplications. Second, there must be repentance. We must have the acknowledgement that our deliverance is solely of the Lord’s mercy, not from our own power. Third, we must have a desire for the Lord’s guidance. The goals and direction that we have are designed to bring forth a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love and power. And fourth, we must have the expectation that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come.
First, we must genuinely desire that we have a personal bond with the Lord. The most fundamental desire that we should have is to be united with the Lord. This desire becomes the inspiration to remain faithful to the Lord’s teachings in His Word. At times of temptations, our commitment to comply with the Word is attacked and may appear to become weakened. However, there must always be the firm resolve that regardless the troubles we are called upon to face, we will always have the devotion to apply the Word in all aspects of our lives. No matter what we are called upon to face, we will never abandon our desire to obey the Word. When we do have a personal bond with the Lord that is unshakable and unwavering, we will have the joy and the assurance that we can present our supplications before Him. Like the Psalmist, we cry these words when we are in the depths of despair, “Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” We know that the Lord is with us, fully aware of what we are going through, and supplying us our daily bread to effectively endure and eventually overcome the difficulties that we must face.
Second, we must have repentance. This not only speaks of times when we do fail and stray from following the Lord’s teachings, but also speaks of our constant attitude that without the Lord’s active presence, we would indeed be hopelessly lost. We agree with the words of the Psalm, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (PS 130:3&4) This confession is heartfelt and without doubt. When we lay our afflictions before the Lord with a repentant heart, we are sincerely acknowledging that our deliverance is only from Him. If we have an active repentance within us, we will never abandon our effort to apply the Lord’s Word in all areas of our lives.
Third, we are constantly open and receptive of the Lord’s guidance in our lives. This means that the vision we have for what we would like to become and what we would like to have happen, involves a greater visibility of the Lord’s mercy and power. In other words, we want deliverance not just so we are more comfortable, but that our deliverance will bring a greater manifestation of the Lord’s love to everyone. We want release from our afflictions so we are better able to share the life of heaven with others.
And fourth, we have the expectation that the Lord will bring the greatest possible good. There is nothing that ever happens that the Lord, in His providence, can not bring some positive result from it. We must have this unshakable trust that if we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, our deliverance will surely come, and some good will come from it. These words to Israel can have a personal meaning to us, “O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (PS 130:7&8)
Conversely, we are taught of improper ways of waiting that can bring ill effects upon ourselves and upon others. Sometimes we can wait for the perfect time and opportunity to inflict some harm on someone else. We can be very patient, while we plot and plan revenge upon our enemy. It is not difficult to wait for the opportune moment to exercise our wrath upon our opponent.
Also, we can be disorderly patient with a false belief. For example, there may be a mystery or some aspect in our doctrinal beliefs that we are willing to accept and tolerate. We are willing to maintain the belief, even though it may lead to contradictions and irrational conclusions. The doctrine that the Trinity consists of three separate Persons is one example of such an occurrence. Many sincere and devout Christians are patient with the doctrine of three separate Persons and are willing to hold to the belief and wait until they can understand it after they leave this world. However, we are to pursue a study of doctrine that we can understand and apply to life. If any aspect of our doctrinal beliefs are contradictory or does not make sense, we are to prayerfully make the effort to resolve the issue, through study and reflection. We are meant to know and apply the fundamental beliefs of an angelic life, while we are living in the natural world.
Also, patience can be a disorder when we merely hang our hands down and await influx from the Lord. This is not taking an active part in trying to deal with our challenges. This is one of the dangers of faith-alone. If we have the attitude that the Lord can bring our salvation, regardless of the manner of our lives, it can discourage us from taking an active role in co-operating with the Lord in our spiritual growth. The Writings make clear that it is of order that we make an effort to deal with our problems as best as we can, yet always acknowledge that our victory and accomplishments are from the Lord.
When we properly wait upon the Lord, we will receive heavenly blessings that we can sense, even if our problems remain with us. We wait upon the Lord simply by keeping the Lord’s commandments. This involves trying to deal with our problems that is consistent with the Lord’s Word. If we do this, we will be taught, on a continual bases, more and more truths and their applications in life. We will have a greater depth of awareness of our quality of life. Especially by exercising patience during times of temptations, we will have a greater understanding of ourselves and the use that we are best able to perform. Also, we will be in a continual hope towards the Lord. There will always underlie within us an assurance that the Lord will raise us up from our oppression. When we obey the Lord’s commandments, that ability to obey is from the Lord in us. This will give us the ability not to be swayed from the course we are taking despite the successes that the wicked are enjoying.
When we are able to effectively wait upon the Lord, there will be significant results. We will have a positive impression upon others. Other people will see the strength and contentment as we patiently wait for the Lord’s coming and guidance. This could very well leave a meaningful impression upon them. Also, Our strength will be renewed. At times, the Lord appears to be hiding (though in reality He never does) so that we can be stronger in the end. By becoming stronger, we can increase our understanding of truth and have a deeper resolve to fulfill the Lord’s teachings. Also, anxiety about the future will be lessened. As we read in our lesson from the Arcana Coelestia, when we have a confidence in the Lord’s providence, regardless of what we must deal with, there will be an underlying assurance that there is nothing that is beyond the Lord’s control. This confidence will enable us to endure our challenges and not be anxious about them. And our freedom will be protected. While we wait, we will always have the opportunity to abandon the Lord’s commandments. But when we choose to remain faithful to the Lord’s instructions, we will enter into a greater state of freedom whereby we will think about the Lord and abstain from evil practices and delights. Therefore, let us place our full confidence in the Lord’s providence and mercy. If we do, we will experience joys and the assurance that no matter what disorders we are confronted with, we are safe in the Lord’s loving hands. It is then we can say these words with a personal conviction, “The Lord shall preserve [our] going out and [our] coming in form this time forth and even forevermore.” (PS 121:8)