I believe the Lord would have me speak to you these two Sunday evenings on 'Waiting on God'. It's a vast subject that we couldn't exhaust ever, let alone in two Sunday evenings - but, I suppose there are two slants I want to bring it to you from. The first tonight is more a personal aspect of the individual waiting upon God, and then next week I want to look at what it means for a church to wait upon God.
So tonight we're going to turn in our Bibles to Luke's Gospel chapter 10, Luke chapter 10. We'll be flicking through quite a number of verses, so I hope you have a Bible with you - if not, just listen or share with someone. Luke chapter 10 and verse 38 - I suppose if there was a title for tonight's message, it would be 'Sitting at the Feet of Jesus' - so Luke 10 and verse 38. Let's just pause for a moment's prayer before we read, and could I invite you please to pray for yourself. So often the chap up in the pulpit or behind the lectern prays, I don't know whether folk take a wee doze or think about what they're going to do when the guy stops speaking and they go home - but I would ask you to pray with me now for yourself, that God might speak to you tonight through the ministry of the Word: that you may know an encounter with the Lord. So let's pray to that end.
Abba Father, we come to You in that name that is above every name: Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You, Lord, for the theme of our song already, we thank You that we can say: 'Worthy is the Lamb' - the Lamb that was slain, He that was crucified for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. We thank You that He has ascended to Your right hand, Father, a Prince and a Saviour. We thank You that because He is glorified, You have poured out the Holy Spirit upon Your people. Lord, we want to have evidence tonight of signs following the preaching of the Word that You promised. We pray, Lord, that this would be Your Word, right from Your heart, and that it would come effectually and penetrate and pierce people's spirits. Lord we need You tonight, we thank You, we believe that You're with us, You promised to be with us - but, Lord, we want to, by faith, right now, invoke the actual, objective, real presence of God. We want to encounter You Lord. We don't want to know You intellectually, we want with the eyes of our hearts to see You, we want to feel Your touch upon our lives, we want to be transformed from glory to glory into the image of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, Lord, we invite You to come. We give You permission to deal with us, to handle us - You are the Potter, we are the clay. Come Holy Spirit, come Lord Jesus. We thank You that we can proclaim tonight into heavenly realms that Jesus has been victorious over the devil, and over the demons of darkness, and over the forces of hell. Lord, we would just stand on that victory tonight, and we want the enemy to know, Lord, that the blood avails for us this evening. We want You to set people free, Father, in our midst. We want those who have never known what it is to truly wait on God, and even this fellowship, to learn a little bit more about what it is to wait on God. So Lord, as we wait on You now, we pray that You will come to us, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Let's read together verse 38 then: "Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me'. And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her'".
Sometimes when this portion of Scripture is preached upon, you'd think 'work' was a dirty word. Often what happens is, there is this contrast between Martha's working and slaving away in the kitchen, and Mary's devotion at the feet of Jesus - but that is not the case at all. The problem in this story is not the concept of work. I know the thought of work might be a dirty word for you, but work in fact was ordained by God before the fall into sin. I hope you know that, that work was something that was given to mankind before depravity. Now, of course, after the fall into sin, work became much more painful and less productive - it was laborious as a result of man's sin. But, nevertheless, work was meant to be pleasurable, it was meant to be productive and satisfying - and we, of course, are made in the image of God, who is the great Creator, and we have been made as creatures, as little 'creators' ourselves, with the ability to make things and do things.
The problem here is not work, the problem that Jesus is citing is when work is disassociated from devotion. If you like, when there is a disorder in the relationship between the two, between work and worship, or between work and waiting upon God; when there is an imbalance - or in the most severe cases and, I would have to say, generally speaking in evangelicalism this is more the case than not: there is a complete divorce between activity and waiting on God. For many of us, Christian existence is characterised by what we could call a frantic activism, where we're continually on the go doing things. Now don't misunderstand me, as I'll explain as I go through: it's good to serve the Lord - but much of our Christian existence is marked by this frantic activism that has not been conceived in the presence of God. We didn't get it from God! We got it somewhere else! Maybe from a tradition, maybe from a weekly church programme, maybe from the expectations of others - I don't know - but it wasn't birthed in the presence of God, and so largely it becomes unproductive.
As I said, I'll be speaking mainly to the individual tonight. So let's look at what the fruit of this frantic activism is in the life of an individual, and we see it in Martha here. If you look at verse 40, we see that she was distracted. This is always the fruit of activism - verse 40: 'Martha was distracted with much serving'. Now I have been a pastor, so I can speak about pastors without too much guilt. There is a condition that I believe actually exists, I'm not sure psychiatrists and psychologists coined it, but it is called 'pastoritis' - and you can get also in other full-time Christian professions. Maybe you have even seen it in some of the folk in your own church - I don't know you, so I can talk like that!
This is the condition, or at least here are some of the symptoms of it: you're talking to the person and they're not listening, and they're trying to make you think they're listening, but they're not listening. They're looking at you, but they're actually looking right through you to the next thing that they're going to do on their agenda. Do you recognise this condition? Or they're casually looking out the corner of their eye at their watch or the clock the back of the room, and you know that they're not with you. Now it's not restricted to pastors, but so often in the Christian life people get into what I call this 'hamster wheel', where they just keep going round and round and round, and they get into such a momentum that they actually couldn't survive without going round and round on this wheel. If, perchance, they should step off the wheel for a little while - whether through ill-health, or through vacation, or whatever - they just cannot wait, like the little hamster, to jump back on the wheel and keep going round, because they don't know how to do anything else.
If you're on that hamster wheel, which many Christians are - and it might not just be in Christian work, it might be in your secular employment - you will become distracted like Martha was. She was distracted by many things. Is that a description of you tonight? You're just distracted, you can't focus on anything in particular because there is so much going on in your life. The irony of Martha was that her activity was to gain the Lord's favour, she wasn't just doing this for the sake of it, she actually wanted to gain intimacy with the Lord Jesus - but, you see, here is the whole punch of this story: frantic activism is not the way to gain the Lord's attention! Intimacy with the Lord Jesus does not come out of serving, in fact it will lead you to stress and fracture - and indeed you will get into such a disposition that you will be too distracted to hear the voice of God.
That's were Martha had got to, and her distraction led to something else: disillusionment. First of all, if you look at verse 40 again, she approached Jesus in the middle of the verse and said: 'Lord, do You not care?' - imagine that! She's serving the Lord, or she thinks she is anyway, and she so distracted with much serving that she is led to disillusionment actually with God, and she comes to the point that she feels Jesus doesn't care about her. I know you might think this is a bit drastic, but this is often where serving the Lord leads. I have written a little note in my Bible above this verse: 'When you're distracted with much serving, you get out of touch with the Lord's affections' - 'Lord, do You not care?'.
You see, the only way to get intimate with the Lord Jesus, and God our Father, and the Holy Spirit, is to spend time with them waiting on God that does not come from frantic activism and constant serving Him - that will actually lead to a fracture between you and the affections of the Lord Jesus. You will become disillusioned with God. Something else will happen, if you read on in this verse: 'Lord, do You not care', Martha said, 'that my sister has left me to serve alone?'. Not only will you become disillusioned with God, you will become disillusioned with others. Here you are doing all this work, putting all this time and effort in, and there's other people that you feel could be doing a wee bit more. Now, don't misunderstand me, there are always folk who could be doing a wee bit more - but we must all beware of this danger of disillusionment with God and with our brothers and sisters. 'Lord, do You not care', Martha said, 'that my sister has left me to serve alone?'.
So this distraction and this disillusionment brought a general sense of frustration into Martha's life. Are any of you frustrated tonight? Frustrated with what you're doing for God, the lack of productiveness, effectiveness. Are you frustrated with being disillusioned with God, or with others who aren't pulling their weight as far as you think? Can I tell you: if you're like Martha, do you know where you're heading? You're heading for burnout. If I was the Lord Jesus here, I might not have been as hard on Martha - I don't know about you. Maybe if Martha had come to you or me, and said: 'Lord, do You not care that I'm doing all this work, and in distracted state, and my sister's doing nothing and here I am doing all this?' - how would you have dealt with Martha? We probably would have been trying to be really gracious and understanding, and say: 'Martha, don't worry, I do see what you're doing, and I really do appreciate it all - but Mary's just doing something else at the moment, and that's acceptable, and what you're doing is acceptable - we're not making judgements on anybody' - isn't that the way we would get on? Jesus didn't do that, in fact He was quite harsh on Martha - do you know why? Because it was imperative that she learned the lesson of how to gain His attention, how to hear His voice. He didn't indulge Martha, because this was one of the greatest lessons that she could ever learn in her life: the necessity and the vitality of waiting upon God. I dare to say that many of you here tonight have not learned that lesson.
Another individual, this time in the Old Testament, if you want to keep your finger in there at Luke 10 and come with me to 1 Kings 19, another who had to learn the hard way, so to speak, was Elijah. In 1 Kings 19, if you're familiar with the story, he's just had a great victory. He threw down the gauntlet to the prophets of Baal, and God - Jehovah, the true God - answered by fire, and consumed the sacrifice with fire from heaven. So there was this great triumph, this great clash between darkness and the kingdom of God - and so, victorious, Elijah leaves that scene, but then he falls into deep dejection and despair. He hears a threat on his life from Queen Jezebel, and he was able to face all these great prophets of Baal, and yet he runs from Queen Jezebel. He runs for his life, and he runs and runs and runs into the wilderness. Where we meet him here in chapter 19, he's under a broom tree, and in verse 4 this is how he prays - just about the middle of the verse: 'He prayed that he might die, and said, 'It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!''.
I think it's safe to say that the tank was empty for Elijah - what do you think? He had been running on empty, as he was running from Jezebel - and often this happens straight after spiritual victories: we go from the mountaintop into the valley, and we are running on empty. Then all of a sudden there is a crash, and we hit a brick wall. Elijah had this 'I alone am left' mentality, we see it in verse 10, he said: 'I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life'. He was burnt out.
Now, what did God do for old Elijah? Do you know what He did? He put him to sleep. You read the story, I'll not take time, but He put him to sleep, and then He fed him, and then He put him to sleep again, and then He fed him again. Some of you might say: 'Typical man, eh? Just feed him and put him to sleep and he'll be alright!' - that's not what God was doing, why did He do it? Well, first of all, in verse 7 it says God spoke and said: 'Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you'. Maybe that's where you are tonight: the journey has become too great - frantic activism, distracted in serving God, maybe for many years or maybe for a short period, but you feel like you're getting nowhere. You're disillusioned with it all, you're frustrated, and you've hit a brick wall - what God wants you to do is realise that He understands, but you need to take some time out. You need to stop, and allow Him to cause you to rest, allow Him to feed you - rest again, and let Him feed you again. In verse 8, look at this: 'So he arose', Elijah, 'and ate and drank', as God said, 'and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God' - I would love a slice of that cake, wouldn't you? Forty days and forty nights on the energy that that cake gave him. This is what happens when we feed on God. One moment Elijah's tank is empty, the next minute he's going forty days and forty nights on one cake, because God gave it to him.
Can I remind you of something the Lord Jesus Christ said? Do you remember He was with the woman at the well, and then He went to that Samaria area where she came from, and there were many believed. The disciples then implored the Lord Jesus to eat something, 'Rabbi, eat!', and Jesus said: 'I have food that you don't know anything about'. They started to talk with one another, and say: 'Has somebody bought Him food, and we don't know about it, where has He got this food?'. This is what Jesus says: 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent me'. Now think about that for a moment. When you were getting your Sunday dinner dished up to you today, were you thinking: 'Oh, I've got to eat this now, what a chore'? Maybe your wife or your mother is not a great cook, and you were thinking that, I don't know - but hopefully you weren't! Very few of us, when there is a slap up, beautiful meal put in front of us, frowns or groans - because we enjoy eating, it's pleasurable. What Jesus was saying was: 'My pleasure, what gives Me pleasure, what sustains Me, what thrills Me is to do the will of My Heavenly Father'. Now, is that how you serve God? If you have got distracted and disillusioned and frustrated, and you've almost - maybe have already - hit burnout, the likelihood is that the most displeasurable thing is serving the Lord.
What happened next to Elijah? Well, if you look at verses 11 to 13 we see there is a whole lot of pyrotechnics going on, I suppose, in verse 11 God said: ''Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD'. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?''.
The voice of God was in the still small voice, verse 12, Wiseman translates that, 'the voice of a gentle whisper'. Now here's the point: God had to get Elijah still, He had to get him into a place where he could hear the voice of God. Maybe God is saying to you: 'What are you doing here...?' - put your name in there. 'What are you doing here? How did you get where you are now? How did you get so distracted? How did you get so disillusioned with Me?', God says, 'and with your brothers and sisters, and with the work of God? How are you so frustrated? Why have you hit this brick wall?'. Maybe it's your time - and I would urge all of you to do it, because I need to do it on a regular basis - to take time out, to be still, for if you won't be still you will not hear the still small voice.
Can I just say to you tonight that this is the way all men and women of God operated, and still operate in their ministry. Anybody who's really in touch with God and blazing a trail for the Lord Jesus, this is how they operated: they waited on God, and they listened for the voice of God. I was asked to preach these two weeks on 'Preaching the Word', and I felt more led to do this - but it has to be said that this actually fits in. You see, we can be preaching the Word on a regular basis, we can be expounding Scripture, and people are not being fed in their spirits. Their heads are getting bigger, but in their heart they're not being sustained. I mean, our country, whilst it's on the decline spiritually, is probably the most dense as far as the preaching of the word is concerned - apart from the United States, North America. Yet there is a spiritual famine of the Word of God in the land, because we have assumed that the Word of God is simply preaching the scriptures, when it's not.
One of the most quoted verses in the Bible and in meetings is Isaiah 55, you know: 'My word shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish...' - I mean, you hear it ad nausea in prayer meetings, but it's misquoted because that's not what it says. God says, you go home and read it in Isaiah 55: 'My word that comes out of My mouth, shall not return unto Me void'. You say, 'Oh? What difference does that make?'. This is not just the Word of God, this is the spoken Word of God, the prophetic Word of God for a specific moment in time, for a specific people in a certain circumstance. That's what we need today, and that only comes from waiting on God, from being still enough to listen to what God is saying. Listen to Jesus quoting Deuteronomy in the wilderness to the devil: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God' - is that what He said, 'But by every Word of God'? 'But by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God' - this is the proceeding Word of God, I would call it the prophetic word of God for a specific moment of time in history, to a particular people in a circumstance.
Another one that as evangelicals we love quoting is Romans 10:17: 'Faith comes by the Word of God' - is that what it says? What does it say? 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God'. Faith does not come by the Word of God, faith comes by hearing - and hearing doesn't just mean some preacher up there blattering it out, and you get it in your eardrums, and faith comes. It means a hearing of your heart, it means a hearing when you know God is speaking to you - faith comes. Can I say - I don't know if there are any preachers here, there might be some young men and others here who are aspiring to preach - well, this is the secret, if ever there was: men and women of God who were used in the past, they heard from God, and then they did. Their doing came out of their being with God. Their doing came out of their being with God.
Look with me at John 5, and we see this in the life of our Lord. John 5 verse 19: 'Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner''. Now, think about this: Jesus is saying: 'I do nothing, but what I see My Father do'. What the Lord Jesus did was: every day He went to God, and He asked God what He was meant to do. Every moment of every day, His ear was cupped to heaven, and He had that intimate relationship with His Abba Father, so that He was listening for the direction from heaven over what to do and what not to do. Now that's the reason why Jesus wasn't run ragged, that's why you never see Him exhausted to the point of breakdown. Now there were days, of course, that He was toiling as He was ministering to many needy folk - but He was never, as we would say, 'distressed', He was never in a frenzy, He was never distracted because He was going about His Father's business.
The disciples were apprentices, you do know that with the word 'disciple' means. Just like in a shipyard or aircraft factory, or whatever your trade may have been, or your father's or grandfather's - at maybe 14 or 15, a young fellow would come alongside an old hand, a skilled tradesman. What he would just do as an apprentice is, first of all, he would just watch - he wouldn't lift a finger, he would just watch how the old man did it. Then after maybe a while watching, the old fellow would let him have a go. He would make a couple of blunders and mistakes and all the rest, but that's the only way we can learn. That's what an apprenticeship was, and that's what the disciples were: they were with Jesus for three and a half years, they were watching, and Jesus would send them out ministering and so on to have a go themselves, with authority and with power - but Mark chapter 3 tells us Jesus called them to be with Him, and then He sent them out. That's the order: first to be with Him, and then He sent them out.
Now here's a principle, and if you have a pen and paper it would be good to write this down: to have a fruitful life, and to have a fruitful ministry, we must make sure that what we are doing is what God has appointed for us. To be fruitful we need to know that what we are doing is what God wants us to do. This might be shocking to you: but God will not bless or support a non-commanded work. William MacDonald once said: 'God always pays for what He orders' - I like that! But you see, if God hasn't commanded a thing, we might find ourselves paying for it with our own resources - and that's when we become bankrupt and burnt out, when we're doing things that God hasn't asked us to do. Being in non-commanded work is the reason why there is so much failure in ministry. We're trying to live up to our own expectations, maybe things that God never asked of us in the first place; or we're trying to live up to the expectations of others that they have set for us as a bar.
What has God asked you to do? Do you even know? Turn with me quickly to Acts chapter 6, as I said we will look next week at this in more of a church context, but let's have a little peek ahead to Acts chapter 6. This was the emphasis in the early church, verse 1: 'Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word''. That was the emphasis of the early apostles: they appointed what may have been deacons to serve tables, to do practical things - not that all they ever do is practical, they had to be filled with the Holy Spirit, very spiritual men, one of them was the first martyr, Stephen - and yet the apostles wanted to devote themselves continually to praying to God and to ministering the Word of God, and they did not allow themselves to be distracted by any other thing.
I think the evangelical church has probably turned that completely on its head - where it's the leaders of the church who are distracted with the practical things, not the spiritual - who's doing the spiritual? Well, that's a good question! You see, this will show, as a diagnostic question, how much any of us value waiting on God. We need to be prepared to be drastic in making room for it, just like the apostles were.
Recently I heard a story about a man called Johannes Facius, who was from Denmark - he's now with the Lord. He was the director of an international intercessory ministry, labouring on the emphasis of prayer in the church. A while back he was invited to go to Australia for three weeks of waiting on God. The invitation letter just said that this was not preaching conference, it's not even prayer meetings as such, it's just three weeks set aside to dedicate to waiting on God. I think he lived in Germany at this time, and he thought to himself: 'I can think of three weeks doing better stuff than just waiting on God. I have so much to do, so many engagements, so many commitments - three weeks just sitting about waiting on God?'. He was being honest, and then the Lord said to him: 'Oh, you think there are better things that you could be doing than just spending time with Me?'. He felt so challenged that, counterintuitively, he packed his bags, and he agreed to go, and he went. There he arrived, and he says: 'You just imagine pastors, and Christian workers, people who are instinctively busy, all met together in one place but told: you're not allowed to speak, you're not allowed to do anything, we're just waiting on God'. Imagine what it would be like! It was like purgatory for most of them! 'Pastoritis' that I talked about - they had to sit there, and they just were waiting on God. He said there was a convener, but the convener wasn't really doing anything except to oversee that everybody did what they were meant to be doing, which was just nothing but waiting on God. He said it was quite humorous, because they would be sitting there in the quietness of that first week, and all of a sudden you would hear rustling of pages, and someone was getting a little word to share; then from the back there would be singing, 'I love You, Lord' - and each time there was an interruption like that, the convener would get up and say: 'Excuse me, we value the word of God, we value singing, we value prayer, but that's not why we're here. We are here just to wait on God'. The first week was excruciating. The second week they began to break through and, I suppose, various issues came to the surface of each of their lives that they had been suppressing - many of them had been suppressing it with Christian activity. But in the presence of God, and in the stillness and quietness - which is very hard to find in this world in which we live, with all the social networking, it's almost impossible to get alone - but when they got alone in the presence of God things started to rise that needed to be dealt with and brought to the Lord. That's probably what happened in the second week, but Johannes Facius said that in the third week there were great revelations into people's lives about where their ministry needed to go, what needed to be challenged. Even in his own life, he said that he had revealed to him in that third week more things about the future of his ministry than he could have ever imagined - but, you see, he had to prioritise those three weeks.
Now do you value it? If somebody said to you: 'I want you to take a week out of your schedule, I want you to take week out of your ministry in the church, whatever you do, I want you to take a week out and I want you to do nothing but wait on God' - how much would you value that? Would you consider it as imbalanced? Would you consider it sitting around wasting time? Well here, let me direct you back to Luke chapter 10 - what did Jesus say to Martha? What did Jesus say to Martha? Verse 41: 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her' - one thing is needed.
I should have brought a slide on PowerPoint, but I have it as a bookmark, I made it myself on time when I was meditating on this - and it's just Mary at the feet of the Lord Jesus, and I just wrote at the bottom of it: 'One thing is needed', just to remind me that that's all that really matters. It will not be taken away, it will not come to nothing, it will not be unproductive. Maybe I'm challenging some of your concepts here. Listen to what Oswald Chambers - you know, of 'My Utmost for His Highest' fame - this is what he said, now this is a staggering statement, listen: 'The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him'. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him! 'It is never 'do, do' with the Lord, but 'be, be', and He will do through you'. Now this next statement is radical, listen: 'The only way to keep true to God is by a steady, persistent refusal to be interested in Christian work' - a steady, persistent refusal to be interested in Christian work - 'and to be interested alone in Jesus Christ'.
Now, that might clash in your mind, that the two should be in some way contrasting - but, you see, this is where the problem is: a lot of our doing is not coming out of our being, and it's empty. The reality is: you would do much more with less effort if it come out of your being, than do-do-do. I was sort of brought up in the circles where - and I believe in giving out literature in evangelism, don't get me wrong - but there were some good, good godly people, but they sort of had it drummed into a few of us that, you know, you should try and give out maybe three Gospel leaflets a day. One person in particular, you know, if it was 11:55 at night, midnight, and he had one leaflet and he hadn't given it out, he'd have had to go down to the petrol station or somewhere and give it to the petrol attendant. I'm not decrying that, I give out leaflets, and I seek as much as I can to evangelise, but I found that if I choose that one thing that is needful - spending time with the Lord - if I'm at the feet of Jesus, what I do, even if it's a little bit, is far more effective than if I ran myself ragged.
As I've said, you never saw Jesus troubled, distressed, or in a frenzy - because He only accepted assignments that His Father gave Him. Let me leave you with something practical to do before I finish: make yourself available. Make yourself available. Now I know churches have to keep on doing their work, but we sometimes have people so locked into activity that if they wanted to spend time with God it would be almost impossible with a work commitment, and maybe family as well, and then whatever else they're doing in the church. If you really want to make space for the Lord, you're going to have to deal with the distractions in your life. They might be distractions that are worthy, but if they are distracting you from time with the Lord you need to be drastic with them. Jesus wasn't easy on Martha, and you might go through a wee bit of cold turkey - you know, withdrawing from some of these things - you can sit, maybe waiting on God, and it's like holding your breath under the water in the swimming pool, you don't know how long you can stick it, because we're not used to doing it. We are used to working, we're used to listening, we're used to talking - but we're not used to just waiting on God. It might happen that like Johannes Facius, there will be issues that will rise to the surface that need healing, things you need to deal with in the Christian life that have become blockages from you hearing the Lord. You know what Psalm 66 says: 'If you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you' - and you won't hear Him either. Maybe there are things the Lord needs to bring to light, but you can't do it because you're not waiting on Him. I would encourage you to take some time, no matter how short it is, this week - just take maybe an hour or two in the morning, or in the afternoon some day, set it aside just to wait on the Lord, and let Him rise to your consciousness. Don't suppress, don't push down those things that He makes apparent to you, don't drown them in noise and activity - but practice the presence of God, and allow Him to pinpoint issues that might be there that you need to deal with.
Maybe you need to assess how much of what you do flows out of being with the Lord, and what is just frantic activism - that would be good to assess. How much of what you do flows from being with the Lord, and what is frantic activism? Another thing is to ask yourself: are you compensating for an absence of being? Is all you're doing because there is an absence of being, and your doing is substituting for that being? It's not coming out of being, it's instead of being. Ask yourself: how can you personally redress the balance? How can you make yourself available to hear from God? Thomas Manton, the puritan, said: 'To serve God is one thing, but to seek Him is another. Many hover around the palace, but few speak with the Prince'. Do you know what it is to wait on God? Isaiah said: 'They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength'.
There was once a little girl who lived with her father who was now elderly, the mother had died. They lived a very frugal existence in a little cottage. They had everything they needed and they had each other, and they had a very special bond. Each night, before they retired to bed in the evening, they would sit by the fire and enjoy one another's company and reminisce about the day. One day the old man noticed that the girl was going to bed earlier, his daughter was disappearing earlier and wasn't talking to him as much and spending that cherished time. It hurt him a little, but he didn't like to say. It went on and on for weeks, and then on Christmas Eve the girl came down the stairs where she had been hiding all those weeks evening after evening, and she came down with a little box and set it on her father's lap. He opened it, and there was a beautiful pair of handmade leather slippers. A tear flowed down his cheek in grateful thanks for what she had done, and he realised then the time and the effort that she had taken to do this with her own hands - it meant a great deal, and he thanked her. But he turned to her and he said: 'Thank you for what you did for me, but I would rather have had your company all those evenings'.
Let us pray. Let's bow our heads, and let's be real with God. I don't know if you did pray before I preached that the Lord would speak to you tonight, I do hope that He has. Is the Lord saying to you, your Heavenly Father: 'I know what you do for Me, I'm not ignorant of your work, and I know it's for Me - but I'd rather have your company, and I'd rather that what you do for Me comes out of being with Me'. Is there anyone here tonight that will say to the Lord: 'Lord, I'm sorry, I didn't realise' - or maybe you did realise, and you just don't know how to do anything different - do you need to say: 'Lord, please teach me, teach me to slow down, teach me to stop'? Now, though He might teach you, you will have to be drastic - Jesus said: 'If your eye offend you, pluck it out; if your hand offend you, cut it off' - do you see in the world that we live in that is shuttling at breakneck speed 24/7? You're going to have to make a drastic change to bail out of that. You know the way people say: 'Stop the world till I jump off for a minute' - you're going to have to do that. You know there's a great emptiness in the church that just reflects the emptiness in people's lives: people are running on empty; preachers are preaching on empty; activities are going on, programmes, on empty. 'One thing is needed, Mary has chosen that better part that will not be taken away' - talk to the Lord now.
Father, I thank You for being with us tonight, and I do trust that this has been the prophetic Word that has fed spirits, and has enlightened and brought revelation to folk who need to hear from God. But Lord, we must have the receiving of the Word mingled with faith, and faith without works is dead - so, Lord, help us to believe what You've taught us tonight from Your Word, that this is vital, this is the priority of spending time worshipping You, waiting upon You in private, waiting for Your voice - not doing all the talking, but waiting to hear what You say to us. Then out of that, doing what You've taught us to do, and how You've taught us to do it. Lord, may there be people here tonight in this gathering who will transact with You now and make a decision, not in a legalistic way, but in a loving way, to say: 'Lord, I'm going to make myself available somehow, somewhere, I'm going to draw aside. I need You'. O Lord, may there be somebody here tonight that will be so desperate - maybe they are so distracted and disillusioned, at breaking point - may there be that desperation to say: 'I need You, Lord, I need to wait, I need to hear Your voice, I need to know Your presence, I need to be fed by You - I need You, Lord'. So Lord, may You lavish Your grace on anyone who will meet You on those terms tonight, and may this be a different night for them, a different week for them, and a new starting point as they learn to walk in step, not run ahead, not chase their tail, not be like the mule that is digging its heels in, not being like the stallion who is running ahead - but just the horse, guided by the Master, walking in step. May Your blessing go on us all, Lord, now, the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Don't miss part 2 of this message: “Waiting On God, Part 2 - Ministering To The Lord”
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This sermon was delivered at Bethany Church in Finaghy, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Waiting On God, Part 1 - At The Feet Of Jesus" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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