Saturday, March 29, 2014

While We Wait

 (Re-post from Aug. 24, 2012)

If you read yesterday's blog post, then you know I was asked by my Worship Arts Director/Pastor, Bryan, to "share" last night with my fellow worship band mates at rehearsal. Bryan asked me to share what God has been teaching me recently, and it was hard to decide what to share since there are always so many separate things God seems to be trying to teach me, as He does all of us.  But the thing I feel God has been trying to drive home to me the most lately is patience, and this idea of, "waiting on the Lord."

Recently, God showed me in His Word that at the root of every personal struggle, battle, need, and prayer request, we have the issue of waiting on God.  Rarely do our supplications and prayers get a quick, "yes" or "no" from God (except for maybe our basic daily prayer items).  Most often, we just have to "wait."  Our patience is being constantly tested by God--sometimes for many years, perhaps even decades.  Personally, I have several prayer items for which I've spent over 20 years praying and petitioning God, and I still am.  But through this, we have to have patience to trust Him, and we need faith and hope to relinquish control so as not to worry about whatever things we're waiting on God to handle.  We also have to have faith, hope, and trust so as not to give up on Him while we wait.

We call people, "control freaks," all the time--it has become yet another derogatory catchphrase in our society (and we have so many in our quest for pointing out "other people's flaws").  But the truth is we ALL have control issues. We all struggle with trying to control our lives in different ways--this is why we all get impatient with things and people, and why we get stressed over things.  We try to take on our daily struggles and carry our burdens ourselves and "handle them."  We even get annoyed with petty things like other drivers and long lines, and the root of that annoyance is patience and control.  God has shown me that this issue of waiting on Him and trusting in Him began in the garden. Eve wanted to be in control of things, and was enticed by the enemy that God wasn't giving her full intellectual access to everything He knew. So essentially, she was the first ever control freak, and didn't trust God or have patience to wait on Him for any provision--intellectual or otherwise. She rushed ahead, and doubted God and what He'd told her (He warned her if she ate the fruit she would die).  In her quest for "control," she basically tried to, "be God."  She was impatient and wouldn't wait on God and just let Him be God.  This has been our root sin ever since--everything we do stems from this.  We basically want to be God.  We want what we want, and we want it right now.

So why does God feel the need to teach us to WAIT so often by testing our patience?  Perhaps because it is our biggest curse from that original sin. We proved to Him in the garden with our "sin nature" that we need to be taught some serious lessons on patience.  But we can all think of the basic reasons why God teaches us patience so regularly in life.
Some basic reasons I came up with initially are:

*so we don't become spoiled or entitled, always getting what we want when we want it (as children do when they get their way all the time)
* so we can strengthen our faith and trust in Him
* so we can learn gratefulness (you are more appreciative of answered prayers and needs that God meets for you when you've waited for them)
*AND, so that God gets the glory when the supplication or need is met (when we have to wait for something, we are much quicker to give God credit than when it comes easily to us--we know we had nothing to do with it because it didn't come easily to us).

But as I read different passages in the Word about "waiting" on the Lord, I found several other interesting reasons why God tests our patience so much in life.  Some of these weren't new to me, but I had forgotten them.  Some were "ah ha" moments. The passages are as follows:

*Psalms 27:14 says, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord."  (So gaining COURAGE is also a byproduct of having our patience tested.  This was a new idea for me.  I've never really thought of courage as being a complimentary virtue to patience.  But it does take courage to "wait," keep your cool, and relinquish control of your life for sure)!

*Psalms 25:3 says, "Let none that wait on You be ashamed."  (So we are taught to be UNASHAMED to wait on the Lord, having confidence in what He will do.  This verse could also reflect that we are to be unashamed to give testimony to others about what God is doing for us or how we know He will meet our needs.  We are told in Romans 1:16 by Paul to be, "unashamed of the Gospel."  Essentially, we are to be unashamed of Christ and giving Him control of our life.  This was a new thought for me--that in having my patience tested by God I am learning to be unashamed of Him, knowing He will take care of my needs).

*Psalms 25:21 says, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait for you." (So we learn OBEDIENCE and gain better CHARACTER from waiting).

*Lamentations 3:25-26 says, "The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (So, in testing our patience, God is also trying to get us to SEEK HIM, HOPE IN HIM, and prove Himself as our SAVIOR, yet again.  I think it is pretty cool that God wants to be our Savior every day--not just once upon coming to Him through Christ!  So He uses these times of "waiting" just so He can save us yet again.  He reminds us that we don't just need His saving grace once, we need it daily.  I love the idea that God makes us wait just so He can swoop in and rescue us)!

*Psalms 33:20 says, "Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield."  (So here we see that God wants to be our HELPER and PROTECTOR in times of need). 

*Is. 40:31 says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  (So here we see that God teaches us PERSEVERANCE and ENDURANCE through waiting, as well as, to HOPE in Him.  As a runner, I've always loved this verse since it speaks to "running and not growing weary"). 

*Is. 30:18 says, "Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; blessed are all those who wait for Him."  (So here GOD WAITS to respond to us just so He can be GRACIOUS to us in return for OUR waiting on Him--He is testing us to see if we are worthy of his graciousness.  He is also waiting along with us--this was a new idea for me, as well.  Reminded me of how any great coach gets involved in the coaching process--no one likes a track or cross country coach who stands along the sidelines yelling while you're running your rear off during practice.  If your coach ran WITH you, they were a great coach.  God WAITS WITH US.  What a great God!)!

*Is. 26:8-9 says, "...O, Lord, have we waited for you.  The desire of our soul is for your name."  (So in this instance, God teaches us to DESIRE Him.  We all say we "need" God or we "seek" God, but we rarely say we DESIRE or "want" God.  This was a new thought for me--to WANT God.  We want a lot of things.  But do we WANT God?  We need to want Him--He is really the only thing that is fully trustworthy in life and the only person Who we can know for sure will always be there for us.  He is worthy of our DESIRE).

*LAST, Romans 12:12 says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  (So here, we see God teaching us to be better PRAYER warriors when we have afflictions we are waiting patiently on Him to resolve.  Nothing makes you get on your knees faster than afflictions.  God knows this and He many times allows and uses struggles to come into our lives just so we will look UP and PRAY to Him).

So upon reading these and many more passages about waiting on the Lord (there are tons of them in the Word), God showed me lots of other reasons, besides my initial thoughts, as to why He tests and refines our patience so often in pretty much every area of life.  It's really no wonder "waiting" is such a trying and painful thing for us--there are so many things going on all at once that God is refining in us while He teaches us to wait.  It is also no wonder I wasn't sure what to share with my band last night that God is teaching me right now--God IS teaching me lots of things all at once, through this "waiting."  This is just how He operates with us.  The key is to recognize our great need for refinement in all these areas so that instead of shaking our fist at God when we get weary of waiting on Him, we can do as it says in Psalms 34:1 and, "bless the Lord at all times," and, "praise Him continually," no matter our circumstances, because we know He is working for our personal good.  We can trust Him that He has our best interests at heart.  He is the perfect example of patience--He is certainly patient with us. If He weren't, He would have smote the earth long ago.

In closing last eve, I shared with my fellow band mates last night how this idea of, "waiting on God," relates to what we do on Sunday mornings in music ministry.  We in the body of Christ are all waiting on things in this journey together.  We pray and worship together. We hope together.  I told them that every Sunday, our church is flooded with people who are all "waiting" on God for many things, just as we each are.  They are waiting on unanswered prayers for better jobs, health issues, financial issues, personal addictions, family struggles, broken relationships, battles with their kids--you name it.  Some people are patiently waiting, some are joyfully waiting, some are in great distress, some are angry, and some are totally hopeless.  You can see it on their faces when you are leading worship.  This is why I close my eyes so often when I'm leading--I just have to focus on God and not look out at the crowd all the time.  I feel like my fellow worshipers need some personal space to privately worship and not be looked at by the worship leader.  I need my own personal space to worship, too.  But many times, I really don't want to look out at their faces and see their pain.  It is hard to see people looking downcast in spirit or even totally broken. I praise God that I belong to a church where people feel safe and free to come to God wherever they are at spiritually or even emotionally, and they do not feel they have to put on false heirs about it.  But I find myself praying for those individuals in my church body who appear to be struggling while they "wait" on God.  I can so empathize--we've all been there.  I shared with my band mates that I think it is really important when we are scheduled to lead, that we are sensitive to this, and that we as a group pray each week for the people who will be there to worship with us.  We need to pray for God to move in their lives and in our lives, as well.  We need to just be there for each other.  We must also pray that we can be vessels of light and encouragement through our music for our fellow church body that is, "waiting on God," too.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fueled by Love

  "Do everything in love."
1 Corinthians 16:14

This blog post was, "fueled" by a few things--the recent debut of talk show host, Jimmy Fallon, on the, "The Tonight Show," an e-devotional I recently read by Rick Warren, and a recent conversation with my mother.  On his debut show, Jimmy Fallon shared humble, sincere sentiments about his new venture, as well as, why he thinks he has been successful thus far and how he hopes it will continue.  He said he believes the one thing that has been the reason for any success he has had, is the fact that he just loves people.  He said he has tried to make it his main purpose to love people and let that love, and his desire to make their lives better (which is, love, again), be the motivation in all his work.  When I think about how Jimmy treats each and every one of his guests, I can readily see this kind of love.  When I think about the kinds of questions he asks them and his reactions to their answers, I clearly see this kind of love.  He just cares about people.  He sees the best in everyone.  He is not partial.  He is not competitive.  He is a joyful, loving soul--and that bubbles forth from his very being nightly.  I was already a huge fan of the guy, and those comments certainly made me a bigger one. 

About a week later, I read an online devotional by Pastor Rick Warren entitled, "Bring Your Love and Work Together," and was reminded strongly of many things Jimmy shared in his opening speech.  The idea of, letting love be our motivation or, "fuel," rang true yet again.  Pastor Warren shared that if we make love our chief aim, our work will not only be done well and be enjoyable to us, but it will also be an effective and pleasing sacrifice and ministry to God and for God in the lives of others.  We all want our work and efforts to matter and make a difference--it is an innate, God-given trait and desire.  I cannot think of a better way for it to matter than for love to be the source of it all.  In his devotional, Pastor Warren fittingly quoted Mother Teresa:

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."  ~Mother Teresa


When I think about the people I love the most, I realize that the work or service I do for them does not come with expectations or conditions.  I serve them because I love them, period.  It is easy to do this for those we deeply love.  But how do we give this kind of love in our work and service to those who do not deserve it or who perhaps make it difficult for us to keep love as our goal?  1 Corinthians 13:7 says, "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."  Furthermore, 1 John 4:8 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God IS love," and 1 John 4:19 states, "We love because He first loved us."  So I deduce that since God IS love and He loved us FIRST, we are called to love others if we say we know and love Him.  His love for us is our motivation and fuel for loving others.  If we say we believe in Him and His Word, then we should be willing to truly give the kind of love that bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.  Some people in your life will test you on all four of those levels.  They do things that make it difficult to bear and endure them.  They say things that make it hard to believe in them or have hope where they are concerned.  But we are still called to love them.  Make no mistake--there are some people God removes from our lives (or desires for us to remove from our lives) and love them, "from a far."  But for those who enter and remain, love is the best answer.

When I think about my reasons for serving difficult people, at times I find myself more motivated by guilt and fear than love.  I guilt myself that God will be angry with me for withholding my love to them.  I am fearful He will be disappointed in me if I only love those who are easy to love.  I guilt myself that I won't be a good Christian example if I cannot learn to serve those who do not love or serve me back, or who perhaps do not treat me well.  But God does not want us to serve others in His name out of guilt, fear, or people-pleasing.  He wants us to love the difficult people because that is what He did.  We are all difficult, and He loves us anyway.  He wants to bless us for loving in the tough situations, not just the easy ones.  Not only do we miss out on blessings when conditional love, guilt, or fear are our motives, but we run out of fuel much quicker, too.  It's the same with serving God.  If we do so with conditions, guilt, or fear, we will be frazzled quickly.  We will be focused on the negatives.  We will not have passion in our work, and it will show.  But if we do our work and ministries as if, "unto the Lord," and in order to please Him out of our deep love for Him, only good pours out.  That is the kind of work that not only enriches your life, but the lives of others.  That is the kind of work that may wear you out physically, but it empowers and energizes you spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. When we operate with that kind of love, we can be dead-dog-tired...but deep down, we feel like a million bucks.

Shortly following the debut of Jimmy Fallon and reading Pastor Rick Warren's devotional, I had a conversation with my mother regarding my love of music and singing.  She said, "Boy, honey. You must really enjoy doing this to go through all the vocal exhaustion, physical exhaustion, rehearsals, constant learning of new music, schedule-keeping, and time away from home that it requires.  I worry about you sometimes, Steph.  You are always tired--I know you are working so hard, and that you have such late nights and long hours for little personal gain.'re also always so happy!  Your dad and I laugh because you beam the entire time you are singing!  You really love this, don't you?!"  We had a big chuckle at the hilarious impracticality and seeming imbalance of what I give to my music and what I get in return.  Mom was right--I am usually pretty beat and my work does entail a great deal of personal strain for little pay.  But I love serving God in the worship leading I do at my church, and in my band-work outside of church.  I take Him with me wherever I go and I serve Him wherever I go.  I just love music.  I love the people with whom I work and serve, and the people for whom I work and serve.  I love everything about it. is a wellspring of fuel for a weary soul.

Related Scripture:

Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

Ephesians 6:7, "Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
1 Corinthians 13:3, "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."