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As you wait in prayer, you often reach a place where you have to make a decision. Has God said, "No," and you've missed His cue? Or, has He said, "Wait?"
In Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Less Traveled," the narrator comes to a fork in the road. One branch leads along a well-worn path. The other lane heads in another direction, one choked with brush and briars. The obvious choice is the familiar avenue. On the other hand, if you take the debris-strewn trail, you'll view sights few have seen. You often come to the same junction in the road when you pray over a long-term request. And you must decide which way to chose.
Constrained at the Crossroads
There will be strong pressure to take the broad, well-marked way. Those who should be supportive--relatives, friends, parents and spouses--may urge you to get practical, to strike while the opportunity presents itself.
Yet, peril awaits those who miss God's timing. The Children of Israel attempted to force God's hand (Numbers 14:39-45). They tried to enter the Promised Land after the window of opportunity had closed. Instead of barreling forward, they were beaten backwards. Then, there was King Saul (1 Samuel 13:8-14). Saul couldn't wait for Samuel to arrive and do the sacrifice. As people began to scatter instead of staying together to battle the Philistines, Saul offered sacrifices to the Lord. He took matters into his own hands. Saul disobeyed God by offering the sacrifice, because only a priest like Samuel was supposed to do the altar work. As a result, Saul lost the Kingdom. Saul was unwilling to wait an extra day for God.
What a contrast we find in David. He was willing to wait on God twelve years or 4,380 days. On two occasions David could have gone ahead of God's timing. He could have taken God's will into his own hands. After Saul tried to kill David, he could have rationalized killing the king (1 Samuel 24:6; 26:9-11). David took the "Road Less Traveled." David didn't get ahead of God, and neither should you.
Your support network may also use emotional blackmail to dissuade you from waiting on God. Job's wife proved less than a fount of encouragement when she said: "'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:9).
At best, your support group may write you off as "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good." At worse, they may chime in with comments like Job's wife. A few words of criticism can become a barrage of constant barbs.
In addition, Satan plays mind games with you while you wait. He sponsors much of the inner pressure to quit. He'll invoke things like, "You're too small to matter in God's plan." Or he'll say, "You're too messed up to be considered by God." There are a number of ploys he'll take against you.
I believe satanic attacks increase as the potency of your prayers rise. The more you stand up for Jesus, the more the devil will push you down. We'll explore that topic in a later lesson.
Promises for the Favored Few
When you wait on God, you join an elite group. You are part of the favored few. I use the words "elite" and "few" for a reason. The line of Christians willing to wait on God thins and dwindles as time wears on. Yet, dozens of verses promise special provisions for those who wait on God.
I'd like to sample those promises as an encouragement to you. You may Also want to check other verses that speak of the privileges available to those who wait on God. The truths include:
First, God promises that those who wait on Him will not only inherit answers to their prayers, but also promotion, even in humble circumstances: "Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land" (Psalm 37:34).
We see this principle operating in the life of Joseph. When circumstances were difficult and Joseph had no where to turn, the Lord's favor lifted him up: "But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer" (Genesis 39:21). I have seen this verse in action up close. In 2004, I found myself again in a job I'd occupied four years earlier due to downsizing. To make matters worse, I suddenly found myself under a manager who'd once given me trouble. I expected that person to begin where they'd left off in 2000.
But I received a prophecy about that same time, which said: "I was getting the sense that things at work look like you're going backwards to places that you thought--I don't want to say that you graduated from, but places you don't want to revisit or things, I don't know what's up with this old boss. But I got a feeling that that's going to be a place of promotion. I don't mean in the natural, although that may happen-- There's something about those beginnings that God wants to redeem." Soon after this, I started working under that particular boss after several weeks of classroom training. Things were completely different than I had thought they'd be. I was cut loose from on-the-job training early. Not long afterwards, I was put in charge of two projects that allowed me to set my own schedule versus having to follow a weekly schedule of appointments.
The job still wasn't my first choice for how to make a living, but it was God's provision for the season. The way my one-time manager now treated me made things tolerable. God extended His favor though a supervisor who four years earlier had tried to get me fired. Indeed, God redeemed a bad chapter from my past. The Lord is no respecter of persons; He will do the same for you.
Second, God pledges to hear the prayers of those who wait on Him. His oath is better than most people's handshakes or when they swear on a stack of Bibles. This is a promise to hold in the enemy's face. Satan tells us that God has turned away from us. In contrast, our God promises to listen to us as we submit ourselves to Him and His means of fulfilling His promises: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1).
One key to this verse is that it requires "patient" waiting. I'm not one to wait patiently. But God has a way of coaxing endurance, even if I don't pray for it. Sometimes, God leaves you with no means to break down the door of opportunity. When a door remains shut despite your best efforts, and only a divine miracle will open it, you have two choices. One, you can get stressed. Chronic stress invites all kinds of physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. Or, you can follow David's prescription: "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes" (Psalm 37:8).
Third, God promises to strengthen those who wait on Him. In other words, He gives us the strength to endure what it takes to wait on Him: "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary" (Isaiah 40:31).
God's strength bolsters our resolve to say "no" when the enemy urges us to take matters into our own hands. He strikes us when we feel down and makes us wonder if God will ever show up. David knew about low times like that. When faced with waiting on God, David said: "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:13-14).
Our God helps us stay alert when doziness tries to keep us from prayer. Sometimes the Lord pours His presence to recharge your emotional and spiritual batteries. A car battery must be charged, or your car won't start. Do you know how many times a day you turn the key in the ignition of your auto? The car's starter has a daily need for battery power, or you'll end up going nowhere fast.
About three years ago, I worked as a manager, in a a semi-private cubicle, with no door and seven-foot high walls that didn't reach the ceiling. One day the Lord's presence came upon me while I sat at my desk, minding my own business. I hadn't asked for a fresh touch or anything. I forget now what was going on at that time, but something had been troubling me; I think it was over the uncertainty of whether I'd find a position in the face of a pending layoff. In fact, I was listening to secular music at the time.
For an hour and a half, wave-upon-wave of God's power rained down. I was a blubbering mess, tears and all. I had to stay put and try to keep quiet the best I could. Here's what I wrote right afterwards, when I finally could write something:
I want You to stand up inside of me. I want You to resonate in my being, and I want Your singular desires to be the driving song of my soul. I want You to burn as my inspiration. I thank You, for even though it hurt deeply, You have made within me a great capacity for delayed gratification. This has prepared me for where I am now and for what You are doing now in me and through me. You are a great mystery, oh Lord. Help me to embrace the mystery!
You may never experience the magnitude of His presence like this, except in the place of waiting. That outpouring may or may not be the answer to your prayer. But Jesus did say that it is available for those who ask (Luke 11:13). And for me, that fresh touch turned God's place of waiting into an oasis on the way.
Fourth, God promises to exceed our wildest expectations when He grants the request we've waited for: "For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him" (Isaiah 64:4). "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
What I call the "Overnight Principle" comes into operation in these promises. We sometimes forget who God is when we are faced with impossible situations. God is the God of impossibilities. He majors in turning the improbable into the probable. Your circumstances can suddenly change overnight. It does happen, and it's not always unpleasant, when the Lord originates it.
In a previous lesson, I spoke of how I had applied for a promotion that I didn't get in late 2004. After that, and hearing the Lord's word on the circumstance, I'd resigned myself to remain in a position I didn't particularly like, if it brought glory to God. I didn't want to retake the test the Lord had put me through. I hadn't had a chance for promotion since 1994. And I'd prayed over several applications, only to come up empty.
Well, I applied for a promotion and a new job one more time. I prayed for the application process, but I tried not to get so wired up over the results. One day several months later, I suddenly ran into the manager of the unit for which I had applied. He came to my cubicle, shook my hand, then went over to my current manager's office. As he left, I said, "It was nice to see you, for whatever reason you came by."
When I asked my manager what happened, I found out I'd been selected for the last position I'd applied for. Overnight, I had my first real promotion after eleven years of "lateral transfers" back and forth between positions of similar grades. Eleven years, then suddenly everything regarding that part of my prayer life changed.
These verses indicate that God has the same in mind for you.