Be Still and Know that I am God

Psalm 46:8-11 (NKJV) 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

We have been looking at the way we wait on the Lord this week. During the course of this study, we have pointed out that waiting for God and waiting on God mean essentially the same thing. We have also learned that the term waiting on God adds the idea of serving and listening. When we wait on God, we renew or exchange our strength with his. We literally bypass our strength and tap into his strength. How then do we wait on God?

We have looked at a number of definitions for waiting and aspects of how we wait on God and it has boiled down to one basic idea. To wait on the Lord effectively requires that we wait in relationship. There is no formula for waiting. There are no steps that we can take that ensure we will be successful. To wait on God we must believe that He loves us and that he will do what we need.

I want to restate a very important key that will enable us to wait. We must realize that waiting on God is not something we do when there is a crisis or a need for information alone. We must make waiting on the Lord a lifestyle. If we do not, when we come to a time when waiting is mandatory it will be awkward, frightening and difficult. Although we can no more limit this to a formula than we can limit love in marriage to a formula, there are some things we can do that will help.

The first involves today’s scripture. We usually quote verse 10 alone, but I wanted to put this verse in context. Verse 10 tells us to be still so that we may know that the Lord is truly God. Yesterday’s verse from Isaiah 41:1 connects the idea of silence with the renewing of strength in Isaiah 40:31. There is something about silence or quietness and waiting.

I grew up Catholic and later became a Baptist. When I was 17, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. For me this opened the door to another dimension of Christianity with which I was unfamiliar. Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity tend to emphasize the experiential aspect of Christianity far more than other branches do. As a Catholic, when I went to church all was quiet. I remember hearing muted coughs in the congregation and the echoes created by any movement in the sanctuary. People spoke in hushed whispers except for the patterned responses dictated by the form of the mass.

The Baptist church was less quiet than the Catholic Church I went to as a child. We sang congregational hymns and we might occasionally say “Amen.” We recited the Lord ’s Prayer aloud and we might greet one another, but quietness was still a major sense of what was appropriate in church just as it was in the Catholic Church.

If you come to Living Word Christian Center in Greene, NY today, quiet is not how you would describe us. We sing loudly, we shout to the Lord with a voice of triumph. We greet one another with no sense of a need for hushed whispers, but openly and enthusiastically. The preacher, usually me, tends to be a little loud and the congregation will shout amen or clap in response to points that bless them. We do, at times, get quiet in worship, but the proportions between quiet and shouting are just the opposite to the other churches of which I have been a member.

Personally, I like the way we are now as opposed to the Catholic Church. However, I think that the balance has yet to be reached. I believe the bible clearly speaks of shouting, singing and dancing. I believe that too much quiet tends to drain the vibrancy from our relationship with God. I believe we should even shout and rejoice in our private time. Where there is no shout there is usually no victory. Nevertheless, the bible is just as clear about a need for stillness. Today’s verse says that when we are still, we will know that he is God.

Stillness or quiet is a key component of waiting on God. We can go back to our waiter illustration. A waiter cannot hear the order of the customer if he or she does not spend some time listening. We cannot hear God if we do not listen to him. We have the sense that our prayer time must be filled with our voice. If I am not talking, I am not praying. If you treat communication with your husband or wife in the same way, your marriage is going to have a problem.

Communication is a two way street. If I do all the talking and God cannot “get in a word edgewise,” we are not communicating. I do not know about you, but I suspect God has much more of value to say than I do. As I said yesterday, there is a reality to simply sharing our heart with the Lord. Sometimes we just need to unburden ourselves. However, that is for our benefit. God does not need our insight into the situation. When we ask God for a solution, we need to let him speak.

You may say, “But pastor I try and I cannot hear him.” Hearing him takes time and practice. God is not a physical being. He does not speak into our physical ears. He speaks to our spirit and we are not used to listening at that level. We must learn to hear our spirit. One of the most important things we must learn is how to quiet our soul, our mind, so that we can hear the voice of our spirit.

When the prophet Elijah was hiding in a cave, God let him know that he was going to speak to him. An earthquake, a fire and a rushing mighty wind came upon the cave in succession but Elijah did not move. He knew that God was not going to speak through any of those things. Finally, there was a still small voice. Immediately, Elijah went to the entrance of the cave because he knew that was the real voice of God. Most of the time we expect the earthquake, fire or rushing mighty wind to be how God speaks to us, but his voice is none of these things. We want the “supernatural manifestation,” but his voice is heard deep in our spirit in the place of stillness.

Be still and know that he is God. In our culture, this is difficult. We are a society of noise. “Dead air” is a broadcast term that means the station is not sending anything over the airways when they should be. We fear “dead air.” We fear stillness. However, if we never cultivate stillness how will we hear the still small voice of God?

Stillness in our relationship with the Lord is not just about hearing his voice. Psalm 46 says that in stillness we will know that he is God. We come to know him in times of stillness. When I am traveling for ministry and I find myself in a car with someone I do not know, I feel compelled to talk. When I am traveling with my wife, we spend hours sometimes saying nothing. We are in close proximity but we do not feel the need to talk. I am not talking about a lack of communication. I am talking about a communication deeper than words.

In Psalm 46:8 God tells us to come and behold his works. In Verse 11, he assures us that he is with us. In quieting our mind, we come to a place where we begin to see what he has done in our lives. We get our focus off what we need and onto whom he is and how much he has blessed us. We come to realize that he really is with us whether we are in a trial or just in everyday life. In stillness, we know him. When we know him, we can wait for him as long as we must. If we know him, we know he will never fail us. We know he will never leave us and he will never forsake us.

Building a Waiting Lifestyle

Isaiah 41:1 (KJV) 1 Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

As we close our study of waiting and how it relates to favor, we have been looking this week at how we wait on the Lord. We have found that the definitions of the two words translated wait give us some important insight. One gives the picture of being “twisted together” with the Lord. The idea is that his strength becomes our strength as we are entwined together. The other means to stick to the one you are waiting for. We must stick like glue to the Lord no matter what happens while we wait.

Both of these words lead us to the heart of how we wait. We wait in relationship. We wait on the Lord. We do not wait as a matter of religion or practice. We wait confident in the truth that we can trust the lord and lover of our souls to do what he promised to do. When we wait in relationship, we will never be persuaded by the devil that God does not care or will not meet our need. Even if there are delays and setbacks, relationship will supersede them all. We will wait in confidence until we see the results of our faith.

Today I want to spend a little time talking about the techniques of waiting on the Lord. I do not want to leave you with a formula. The emphasis must remain on simply waiting for someone you love and trust to do what he said he would do. There are some things that will help that become more real to us. Remember, the Lord is a person. He is real, alive and active. Look at this verse in Hebrews.

Hebrews 4:16 (KJV) 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

This is a very familiar scripture but we need to understand the full implication of what it is saying. If we come to the throne of grace, we are coming to the person sitting on that throne. If the throne is unoccupied, it cannot help us. However, it is occupied. The God of the Universe who is also our Father occupies it. Our elder brother who is also our Lord and savior stands at the right hand of the father making intercession for us. When we come to the person on this throne, we obtain mercy that will help in the time of need. We should maintain this picture as we wait.

Our interpretation of waiting usually implies wasted or empty time. I hate to wait. I do not like to get ready to go somewhere until just before we leave. On Sunday morning, I prepare my heart. I go over my message and only then, do I take my shower and get dressed. I do not want to have any time after I am dressed to wait to leave. It just feels like such a waste to me. I dress and then I leave for church. When we speak of waiting this wasted time is what we usually expect. That is not the picture of Isaiah 40.

When we are waiting on the Lord we do not simply “kill time” until something happens. One popular illustration is the idea of a waiter in a restaurant. If the person who waits on you is not attentive to your needs and does not pay attention to your order, you will not give them a good tip. Likewise, waiting on the Lord means that we spend the time attentive to what the Lord wants. We listen for his “order” and then we obey that to the fullest of our ability.

This is a good picture of what this means but not a perfect one. It leaves us with the impression that waiting on the Lord is the time we spend waiting to hear what God wants us to do. However, that is only part of waiting. There are times when we are not waiting for instructions or direction. There are times when we are simply waiting for God. We have talked about many of the reasons we may have to wait.

We may be waiting for God to deal with people. We may be waiting for the right time or the right intersection of circumstances. We may also be waiting for God to work in us so that we will be ready to do what God wants us to do. If we limit the idea of waiting on the Lord to receiving instructions or orders, we will get very discouraged when we do not get any orders.

The process of waiting on the Lord is also not limited to those times when we find ourselves facing circumstances beyond our control and we are waiting for God to move. Waiting on the Lord is really a lifestyle we must cultivate. The Hebrew word translated wait in Isaiah 40:31 is the word that means to bind together. The word implies that this binding is by twisting and it is where I get the idea of waiting being like a rope.

A rope is not a rope only when there is a problem. A rope does not rush to gather all its strands together when there is a challenge. A rope is a rope all the time. It remains twisted together. If we only wait on the Lord when we need help or when we are faced with things we cannot solve, we will not be successful. The process of waiting on the Lord must become a lifestyle.

Once again, we come back to the thing that makes Christianity different from any religion. We are talking about relationship. Yesterday I used my wife as an example. I said that if you told me my wife was having an affair I would laugh in your face. That is not possible. I know her and she would never do such a thing.

I can hear some of you now. “Well, the spouse is usually the last to know. Can you really be sure?” Absolutely! There is usually a specific thing that we can point to when a spouse cheats. Most of the time the husband and wife have not been waiting on one another. They have not spent time together. They have not spoken regularly or been intimate. Paul warned of this in 1 Corinthians 7. Husbands and wives should not withhold intimacy from each other because it will lead to sexual immorality. Although sex is the main emphasis in these verses, intimacy is not just about sex. All of the things I have stated are a part of intimacy.

I know my wife would never have an affair because I wait on her and she waits on me. I do not mean getting breakfast in bed or doing some chore for your partner. I mean that we spend time together. We talk about everything. There is no person either my wife or I confide in at the level we confide in each other. Moreover, although my grandchildren cringe at the thought, we still enjoy sexual intimacy.

We recently took a trip to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful time for us to focus on each other with no children, no work and no worries to get in the way. However, if we had not talked or shared our life together for the six months prior to that, our time of “waiting on one another” in our anniversary trip would have been awkward or worse.

This is what we do with the Lord. We spend no time with him. We give him no attention. We are not intimate with him or with his word, but when we need direction or help, we try to wait on him. We spend the time in religious prayer where we try to convince God of what he already knows. You really do not have to inform him of your problems. It is good to share our heart with the Lord, but that is for our benefit not his. Then we end up sitting in awkward silence. We do not know what we are trying to hear and we are not familiar with his voice.

What must we do? We must wait on the Lord every day. To wait on God and to wait for God do both carry the same basic meaning, but waiting on God adds the idea of serving and listening? We must spend time in his presence and in his word. Then when we need to wait for him to move or wait for instructions, we will not be coming to a stranger or to GOD. We will be coming to the Father who loves us. We will be coming to the Lord who died for us. We will be building on an intimacy that already exists instead of trying to create one because we need to hear. Think about that.

Waiting is a Matter of Relationship

Matthew 8:8-10 (NKJV) 8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

This week we are looking at how we wait on the Lord. This study has been eye opening to me. When the Lord first spoke this to my heart, I really did not expect there to be so much to the subject. As I have studied, I have found that waiting is a very important part of our spiritual and faith life. Over the last few weeks, I know that I have covered much of what we will say this week. However, I believe it is important to end our study by defining a few “how’s” when it comes to waiting.

Yesterday we looked at definitions. Two words in the Hebrew language are translated “wait” in English. One means to be twisted together with God. The picture is of a rope. A rope is many strands wound together to make one thing. When we wait, we must recognize that we are entwined with God. We are one and his strength is our strength. The other means to stick to God. We must “stick like glue” to the Lord as we wait on him.

Today, I want to point out something else that I may be obvious to some but is of great importance. Very often, when we look at biblical principles we tend to turn on our “religion” switch. Religion involves rituals that we usually do not understand. We do them because that is what we do. When I was growing up as a Catholic, I went to mass and followed the religious “choreography” of sitting, kneeling and standing at appropriate times in the service. There were reasons why the congregation did those things but I had no idea what they were. I just did them because the program said to and everyone else did.

When I first heard the word about the principles of faith, I was thrilled with the power and revelation within them. It was very popular to teach the principles of faith in “steps.” Teachings like “7 steps to the highest faith” or “10 steps to a deeper prayer life” were common. People tend to like clear, concise instructions. The problem with both a religious approach and a “steps” approach is that they discount the most important truth of anything we do with God. Christianity is a matter of relationship and relationship cannot be boiled down to either steps or religion.

Waiting is no different. We cannot wait effectively by following a set of steps or by “doing our religious duty. If we are going to wait successfully, we must realize that we wait within the framework of our relationship with God. Isaiah 40:31 is very specific. Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. It does not say those who follow certain steps renew their strength. It does not say those who do certain rituals will renew their strength. It says those who wait for the person of the Lord will renew their strength.

We like steps and religion for the same reason. They are clean, straight forward and simple to understand. If we do these certain things, corresponding results will follow. There is a truth to this where the principles of God are concerned. For instance, the bible says that if we give it shall be given back to us. This is a principle and if we follow it, there will be predictable results. There are innumerable such principles that cover every area of life in the bible. However, these principles function within the framework of relationship.

The outworking and application of these principles vary from person to person. God knows you and he sees your heart. In the area of giving, Jesus taught that a “widow’s mite” was of far greater value than a large offering given by a rich person. How can that be true? If I give a dollar I will receive according to the gift. If I give a thousand, I must receive more back, right? Not within the framework of relationship. Jesus saw the widow’s heart and understood that the “mite” was all she had while the large offering was a fraction of what the rich man had. This does not make sense in either the religious approach or the steps approach to the principles of God. It makes perfect sense in the context of relationship.

Another example is the case of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The Law was clear. This woman had to be stoned to death for her crime. That was the religious thing to do. It was one of the “biblical steps” to a pure society.” Yet Jesus adjusted the principle’s application to match the hearts of both the woman and her accusers. He did not excuse her sin, but he also kept her from being stoned.

Allow me a more modern illustration. Have you ever known a couple who wanted to have children but were having problems conceiving? Sometimes they will do all sorts of things to make sure they have intercourse at the optimum time and in the optimum way to maximize their chances of becoming parents. Conception is something that involves rather intimate relationship! When you try to boil it down to times and position the results range from comic to tragic. I wonder if the Lord looks at some of our religious and mechanical attempts at faith and waiting in the same way.

The man in today’s scripture had an innate understanding of this truth. He was not a religious person in the Jewish sense. He was a foreigner who was in Israel as part of a conquering army. As with any such situation, he was part of group that was generally hated by the native people of the land. He probably did not ask to be in Palestine. It was not a choice posting in the Roman Empire. In his time there, he heard about a man who did wonderful things. When his beloved servant fell ill, he sent word to this man.

Jesus, upon getting word of the Centurion’s situation immediately decided to go to the man’s house and help. We do not know why Jesus did this. The man was not a Jew. Surely, there were plenty of Jewish people who needed him. Why would he go to the home of a “non-believer?” I believe it is because he sensed that the man understood relationship.

The man sends a second messenger to Jesus telling him there was no need for him to come to his home. He assures Jesus that he can wait without having to have Jesus present. There is much in what the man said that we could learn, but for today let me say that the man understood whom he was asking for help. This was not a matter of religion to him. He was not following a procedure. He understood who Jesus was and without ever meeting him, had a type of relationship with him.

When Jesus heard the man’s message he said, “I haven’t seen this kind of faith in all of Israel.” We might put it this way. “In all the people who approach me religiously and all the ‘faith’ people who follow their steps, I haven’t seen this kind of faith.” In that moment, the servant was healed.

If we wait as a matter of religion or procedure, the devil will challenge our faith and our patience. However, when we know whom we are waiting for and understand he is worthy of our trust, our faith will not be subject to challenge. You might say to me that my wife is having an affair. I would laugh in your face. I know my wife. I have deep relationship with her. I simply know that is not possible.

Wait on the Lord. Cultivate relationship with him not just during the time of waiting but every day of your life. If you wait in the power of your relationship with him, you will see him move on your behalf. The Centurion did not have to wait very long. On the other hand, I do not believe it would have mattered. He knew Jesus’ integrity. His relationship with Jesus was not physical. Neither is yours. Nevertheless, just as the relationship the Centurion felt with the Lord enabled him to wait in faith and patience, so will your relationship enable you to do the same.

Waiting by Definition

(We had a great week at Living Word Christian Center in Greene, New York. My son and daughter-in-law with their team of youth ministers hosted what I believe is our 8th annual back to school youth camp. Joining them in the ministry here were Pastors Matt and Rachel Holcomb. They all preached challenging words that, along with dynamic praise and worship, brought the young people into a true encounter with the Lord. In a day when too much ministry to our next generation revolves around entertainment it is very important that we prepare them to be the leaders that the church and the nation will need in a very short time. I am so proud of everyone involved with this camp and I highly recommend that you mark the third week in August 2014 as a time to join us either with your youth or as youth yourself. You will not be disappointed.

We also had Pastor Matt Holcomb minister in our church on Sunday Morning. He brought a powerful word concerning the need to walk in the spirit and not be guided by the flesh. Normally I would share some thoughts on his message in this space but because I will be leaving for Kenya next Monday, I feel I need to “tie up some loose ends” concerning the message I have been sharing with you over the last few weeks. You can hear all the messages from last week on our website You can also find information about our youth ministry, music and other events coming up here at Living Word.)

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

The last few weeks we have been looking at another aspect of walking in the favor of God. That aspect is the necessity of successful waiting. We all must wait in life. Faith in God requires waiting. Walking in the favor God wants to bring us from others is tied to waiting by nature. We must wait for circumstances or people to respond to the moving of God’s Spirit because that is the channel through which favor comes. Last week we spent time studying the most well known scripture in the bible concerning waiting, Isaiah chapter 40 and especially verse 31. We learned things that hinder our waiting as well as the benefits that we can expect from waiting. This week I want to look at how to wait on the Lord.

As we begin, I believe that it is very helpful to understand the definitions of the words used in the bible. Many times, we think we know what words mean but we really do not. In addition, there are shades of meaning in the Greek and, in this case, Hebrew words used that do not come through in the English translation. Understanding what the words God uses really mean will release the revelation in God’s Word to our understanding.

In studying waiting, I found that there are two basic Hebrew words that the English bible translates as “wait.” I also noticed that sometimes the bible uses the phrase “wait on the Lord” and sometimes the phrase “wait for the Lord.” I fully expected that I would find that one of the Hebrew words would be translated “wait on” and the other would be translated “wait for” the Lord. This was not the case. Both words were, at different times, translated both ways.

Both words carry the idea that we have to wait for the Lord to do what he says he will do. We are waiting for God to bring something about that we cannot rush or bring about on our own. We are waiting for his timing. We are waiting for him to work out circumstances or deal with people. We may also be waiting for God to work in us so that we will be ready to receive. Both words give us insight into how we must wait on the Lord.

The word used in Isaiah 40:31 is a a primitive root meaning; to bind together (perhaps by twisting), i.e. collect; (figurative) to expect :- gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon). There is much in this word to help us understand how to wait.

I like the idea that to wait on the Lord means to be bound together with him. The thought of being twisted together with him is very important. The picture is that of a rope. A rope is made up of many fibers twisted together to form a whole. We were recently visiting Mystic Seaport in Mystic Connecticut. This historic town reenacts the elements of an 1800’s seaport. One of the displays was how they made rope for the sailing ships.

The process begins with very small fibers twisted together to make cords. The cords get larger and larger until they become very thick, very strong ropes capable of holding giant ships against the force of the sea. The small strands that the rope maker begins with could not stand up to much strain at all, but the finished rope is nearly impossible to break.

This is what it means to wait on the Lord. We must become entwined with him until we disappear into the great whole called the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 tells us that we are strong when we stand together as one with each joint supplying its strength to the whole. (Eph. 4:16) Of course at the center is the Lord. To wait on the Lord means to be so entwined with him that our life and his are not separate things but one whole that is much stronger than we could ever be alone.

One of the first scriptures we looked at in this study was Isaiah 8:17. In this verse a different Hebrew word is used. This word is a primitive root that carries the idea of piercing]; properly to adhere to; hence to await :- long, tarry, wait.

This gives us another insight into how we wait on the Lord. This word implies that we need to “adhere to the Lord” in order to wait on him. We use an idiom that is very similar. We say, “He stuck like glue” to mean someone who stayed with a person or a thing through adversity. What a powerful picture of waiting on the Lord.

When we are faced with struggles and problems in life, we need to stick like glue to the Lord. The devil wants to pull us away from him. Often our emotions fight us and try to draw us to other solutions for our problems. This is always true but it is especially applicable when we must wait. This word tells us what we must do in these circumstances.

When we are tempted to think that God will not come through for us this time, we need to “stick like glue” to our faith. When the devil tries to tell us that God is not concerned about us or that he has forgotten us, we need to “stick like glue” to our trust in God’s love for us. When our emotions want to rage and draw us away from our confidence in God, we need to be like David and stick like glue to our trust in the Lord and his inevitable provision.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NKJV) 1 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:

When faced with the necessity of waiting on the Lord, keep these two ideas in mind. My life is entwined with God and my strength is now his strength. I will “stick to the Lord like glue” no matter what comes and in the end, I will be victorious. With these ideas firmly entrenched in our thinking, we will never fail to be successful in our times of waiting on, or for, the Lord.

He Gives Power to the Weak

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NKJV) 29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

In Isaiah chapter 40, we have found many things that relate to waiting on the Lord. In the first 26 verses, we come to understand that the Lord has forgiven and paid for our sin so we can be sure that it is his will and desire to bring good things to us. He also reminds us just who it is that we are trusting. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He is almighty God. He knows everything and can do anything.

In verses 27 and 28 we find some of the reasons we will not be able to wait successfully. When we must wait for God to move it is easy to think that God does not understand our need. The devil wants us to think he does not really care. If we are not careful, we will allow the thought that God is not being fair to us to enter our minds. We must not allow this kind of thinking. It will cripple our faith and make our waiting ineffective. We must instead remind ourselves that it is God our Father that we are trusting. He lacks no ability or knowledge, and he will never fail us.

Yesterday we focused on two words that appear again and again in this chapter. They are the words “weary” and “faint.” Weariness is one of the main things that keep us from waiting successfully. Weariness comes when the pressure of a thing weighs on us for a long time. We come to the place that we feel we cannot carry the burden any longer. When we are weary long enough, we may faint. If we faint, we quit fighting. We give up our faith and simply resign ourselves to the lie that God will not meet our need. Fainting leads to depression.

What is the solution to weariness? The Lord tells us in this chapter. He says that he will give power to the weak. To those who have no might he will increase or multiply strength. There are a number of things here that can help us overcome weariness.

Power can mean ability. Weariness is characterized by the sense that we simply cannot do what we must do. We have all said this at one time or another. “I just can’t do this.” This verse tells us that God will give ability to us. We cannot wait on our own. Our ability is simply not enough. This verse is a promise that there is another ability to which we have access. That is his ability. My “can’t” can become his can.

It also says that he will give strength to those that have no might. A weary person is a weak person. There is a strength available to us that has nothing to do with own strength. Our weakness can and will be fortified by God’s strength. These are powerful promises.

Let me highlight the subtle difference in these two things. A person may have all the strength they need but that does not mean they have the ability to do a task. Sometimes we lack the knowledge. Sometimes we simply do not have a particular gift or skill to do a job. I am a musician. However, I cannot play some instruments. I have tried to play drums. I am strong enough but no matter how hard I try; I cannot make sense out of a drum set. I am not able to play drums.

I can play both piano and guitar. However, if I am weak or extremely tired I may not be able to play. I know how to play. I have the gifts and skills to play, but if I am weak, I just do not have the strength to play. Both conditions may affect a weary person. We may be weary because we have no solution to the problem we face. We really cannot fix it. We may be weary because we have been standing for so long that the burden has simply worn us down.

The promise of verse 29 covers both of these conditions. Whether we need ability or power to wait or we need the strength to wait, we are not limited to our own resources. We can have his power and ability and we can have his strength. There is a condition we must meet. Look at this verse in the Amplified Bible.

Isaiah 40:29 (AMP) 29 He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength [causing it to multiply and making it to abound].

He gives power (ability) to the faint and weary. Many of us have a hard time admitting we are faint or weary. We believe we are compromising our faith if we admit to being weary. However, if we do not accept the fact that we cannot wait effectively in our own strength we can never receive his strength. I am not talking about a “negative confession.” I am talking about letting go of one thing so we can take hold of another.

I am reminded of people I have seen who try to carry too many things at once. They think they can handle the load so they do not ask for help. If help is offered they say, “That’s OK I’ve got it.” The next thing that usually happens is that whatever they were carrying clatters to the floor. If we refuse to admit we need help, we cannot take hold of what is offered. This is not faith it is foolishness.

Paul was a man who faced major pressures and difficulties in life. There is no doubt that these pressures involved times of waiting. When he went to the Lord about the burdens he had to carry, God answered him this way.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul understood the truth of Isaiah chapter 40. He could not fight the things he faced in his strength. He had many gifts. He was a strong willed man. However, none of that was enough to deal with what he had to face. He needed God’s grace. To access this grace he had to accept the fact that he did not have the personal strength to overcome. He found the truth that in our weakness God’s strength is made perfect.

What must I do to access God’s strength? I must let go of my own strength. I must recognize that my weariness is a product of the inherit lack in my physical and emotional strength or ability. I am not weak because I need God’s strength and power to wait successfully. I must recognize that I always need His power. When I begin to feel weary or faint I must recognize that the cause is that I have not been accessing his strength or power.

How do I access his strength? I wait on the Lord. Verse 30 has much to say and we will look at it in length. Today I want us to see one basic truth. When I wait in impatience and fear, I am not waiting on the Lord. If I wait on the Lord, I will renew my strength. One meaning of renew is to bypass. I will bypass my strength and go straight to God’s strength.

I must wait in faith. I must wait in worship. I must wait in the Word of God. When I do, I will run and never get weary. I will walk and never faint. Like the eagle, the storm of life will cause me to fly higher and higher until I am not longer looking up at the storm but down at my enemy.

Why we Cannot Wait

Isaiah 40:27-28 (NLT) 27 O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? 28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

This week we are looking at Isaiah chapter 40. This is probably the most famous scripture that speaks of waiting in the Bible. Yesterday we looked at the first 26 verses of this powerful chapter. It is important to understand the context of the 31st verse if we are going to understand the full impact of what this verse has to say.

In verses 1-26, we find that the Lord is revealing to his people that their sins have been forgiven and that good things are coming to them. God also reminds them of who he is and of what he is capable. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He understands all things and he can do anything. He wants to make sure they remember that as they hear what comes next.

The language in Isaiah 40, like much of the prophetic language in the bible, is not speaking to Israel alone. It is messianic language and it points to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This means that everything said in Isaiah 40 applies to the church as much as it did to Israel.

After reading all of these wonderful statements revealing God’s strength, wisdom and power, we come to today’s verses. In these two verse the Lord shows us two of the main reasons we cannot wait. The first thing he says to them is, “How can you say the lord cannot see your trouble?” When we are faced with a time of waiting, we can be sure the devil will tell us that God does not understand. He will bombard us with thoughts that God has somehow forgotten us or that he does not understand the severity of our problem.

We do not think these things overtly. If you are a believer, you know better than that. However, that is the way we tend to feel when things are delayed. We may know it is not true but we feel like it is true. If we are going to wait successfully, we cannot allow that kind of thinking in our minds. We must be on the lookout for it and cut it off as soon as we identify it.

That is why God spends the first 26 verses reminding the reader who he really is. When you think about it, it is silly to think that God does not know about your problems. God knows everything. When we are under pressure it is common to all of us to feel that he must not know or understand what we need. If you feel that way in your time of waiting, use the first 26 verses of Isaiah 40 to remind yourself that God knows everything including exactly what your need is and exactly when it must be met. He may not do things when or how you want them done, but he is completely aware of your situation and his love will not let you go comfortless.

The second thing in verse 27 is also very descriptive of how we can feel when we are waiting. I quoted the NLT because it is so clear. “How can you say God ignores your rights?” We might not say it that way. We are more likely to say, “It just isn’t fair that I have to wait for things to change.” The meaning is the same. We feel we have a right to see God move and when he does not move in our time, we become indignant. There are two things we need to know in order to eliminate that thinking from our waiting.

First, we have no rights. We gave them up to receive Jesus. We had a right to spend eternity in hell. We had a right to the wages of sin, which is death. We had a right to sickness disease and trouble. That is what Genesis 3 tells us. When I received Jesus as Lord and savior, I gave up those rights and instead I received what Jesus has a right to according to the New Covenant.

The second thing we must remember is that, although we have no rights in ourselves, we have a covenant in Christ. God has made an agreement with Jesus and we are part of that agreement. That is why God specifically uses the names “Jacob” and “Israel” in this verse. They are covenant names. God sees us through his covenant with Jesus. He will not violate that covenant.

The devil loves to accuse the Lord of being unfair. He is never unfair except in the fact that he extends grace and mercy to you and I, neither of which we deserve. He told Eve in the Garden of Eden that God was being unfair by withholding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He ignored the fact that he had given them the tree of life, something far better. The devil will play the same game with you.

He will tell you that you should not have to wait for God to move. “God has forgotten you. He doesn’t understand what you are going through. He is being unfair to you. He is ignoring your rights.” All these things are lies. Remind the devil that Jesus came to earth to die for you. Remind him that God has done wonderful things in your life. Remind him that you part of the covenant between God the Father and God the Son and as part of that covenant, you are a joint heir with Jesus. God cannot violate that covenant. Therefore, he cannot forget your need and he certainly will not be unfair to you.

If we are going to wait successfully, we have to stop that thinking immediately. If we do not we will break down before God is able to move for us. We will not see the need met and our waiting will be in vain.

Verse 28 is a wonderful verse. In some ways, it is a bit humorous. “Haven’t your heard? Didn’t you understand this?” God reminds them directly of all that he has told them in the first 26 verses. During our waiting time, it is important to continue to remind ourselves just whom we are dealing with. This same God created all we can see. This same God knows everything.

When you face a problem and you must wait for the answer, look around at nature. Look at the sky, the stars, the mountains or the trees. Look at the birds and the flowers. Jesus tells us the same thing.

Matthew 6:26 (NLT) 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

As I was waiting for God to meet a financial need in my life I read this verse. He said, “Every time you see a bird with a worm it should guarantee that I will make sure you do not lack for anything you need.” That is the kind of thing that will help us wait successfully in our time of trial.

I want to point out one more thing it says in the 28th verse. God does not get weary. I believe weariness is one of the main things that will sabotage our waiting. We all get weary. God does not get weary and he does not faint. Tomorrow we will look at these two conditions in depth.

Who is the Equal of the Lord?

Isaiah 40:25-26 (NKJV) 25 “To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.

Over the last number of weeks, we have been studying the idea of waiting. Our focus has been on how waiting relates to receiving favor. We know that both faith and favor will require that we wait. Waiting successfully determines our overall success in most areas of life. This week we will look at the most well known waiting scripture in the bible, Isaiah chapter 40.

When we study this scripture, we usually go directly to the last verse. This verse is certainly rich enough to warrant a whole message on its own. However, one of the rules of bible interpretation is that you should always look at a verse in its context. I teach that you should at least read the whole chapter and will usually look at the chapters before and after to be sure they do not alter the context. As I was preparing the message for Sunday morning, I followed my usual routine and found that understanding the context of this verse supported what I have been talking about in relating waiting and favor.

Today’s verses sum up the first 24 verses in this chapter. The first verse sets the tone for what the Lord wants to say to Israel.

Isaiah 40:1-2 (NKJV) 1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. 2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’S hand Double for all her sins.”

The message of this chapter to the people of God is comfort. Once again, sin has caused hardship to come into the life of God’s people. The Lord wants them to know that their sins are forgiven and he is about to bring great blessing to them. As we continue into this chapter we find that much of the language is messianic. The Lord is not just speaking to Israel. He is speaking to all who trust in Jesus as Lord. Our sins have been paid for and we are forgiven. Now God is able to bring blessing to his people.

This chapter reveals some of the things God want to do for us. The New Living Translation makes them particularly clear.

Isaiah 40:4 (NLT) 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.

It is not God’s will for us to live in a perpetual cycle of highs and lows. He is going to level our lives. This does not imply that we will not have times of happiness and times of sadness. That is inevitable. It does mean that they do not have to be extreme. God is going to enable us to live stable lives.

He also says he will straighten out the curves. Life can have many twists and turns and often they are not good things. The Lord promises to straighten them out to the degree that we can go through life without spiritual “motion sickness.”

Finally, he says that he will smooth out the rough places. I have been to some places where the roads were rough. That is putting it kindly. I do not like riding on roads that cause you to be jostled and thrown about continually. There will be rough places in life, but the Lord wants to smooth them out so you can deal with them.

Verses 6-8 make some statements that might not seem like blessings but if you understand what God is saying, they are blessings. He points out that all that is of this world is temporary. These things can be changed, but nothing that comes from the Lord changes.

In verses 9-11 he cries out that the Lord is coming to rule in power. They also tell us that when he comes he brings his reward in his hand. To whom does this reward belong? It belongs to his people. That is you and me.

From verse 12 to the verses we quote for today, God begins to remind us of just who he is. The imagery speaks for itself. I encourage you to read it. Again, the New Living Translation helps me to clearly see the pictures the wants us to understand.

Isaiah 40:12 (NLT) 12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?

Isaiah 40:14 (NLT) 14 Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice?

Isaiah 40:18-20 (NLT) 18 To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him? 19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold, overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains? 20 Or if people are too poor for that, they might at least choose wood that won’t decay and a skilled craftsman to carve an image that won’t fall down!

Isaiah 40:22-23 (NLT)
22 God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. 23 He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing.

That brings us to today’s two verses. Who is like our God? No one can be compared to him. Why is looking at the whole chapter so important to understanding the famous 31st verse. It is important because if we are going to wait successfully it must be in the knowledge of who we are waiting for. We are waiting on the LORD! We are not waiting on a person who may not be able to do what we are waiting for him or her to do. We are not waiting on someone who lacks wisdom, knowledge or power. We are not waiting on someone who might forget us, misjudge us or fail to understand our real need.

We are waiting on the God of the universe. We are waiting on the “only wise judge.” We are waiting on the Lord and he will not fail us. Israel tended to forget that. We tend to forget it as well. As you wait on the Lord, consider who it is that you are trusting

Preparing to Wait Through Trials

Daniel 6:20-22 (NKJV) 20 And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”

This week we are looking at another incident where a person of faith had to wait through trial before a manifestation of favor in his life. Daniel was one of three governors that the king placed over the land. He was doing such a good job that the king was considering putting him over the whole realm. This made the other officials very jealous and they planned to catch Daniel in some transgression against the king so they could discredit or even kill him. They realized that the only way they could make Daniel compromise his service to the king would be to make that conflict with his service to God.

They deceived the king into passing a decree that for thirty days no one could pray to any god or ask council of any person but the king. If they did, they would be thrown into a den of lions. When Daniel heard of the law, he immediately went to his room and prayed. He did not wait to think about what he should do. He would not compromise his relationship with the Lord even to preserve his own life.

In Daniel’s case, the king wanted to give Daniel favor. He tried to find a way around the law but he could not. He was forced to send Daniel to the lion’s den. God is always predisposed to give us favor in life. Sometimes he must work out situations and deal with people in order to get hat favor to us. That is why we sometimes have to wait. The important thing is to remember that God, unlike the king, is not hindered from bringing favor to us. He will bring it if we are faithful in our waiting.

When we studied the three Hebrew children and the fiery furnace, the emphasis was on the attitudes they developed as they faced the trial. We must have those attitudes working in us if we are going to be successful in our waiting. Daniel is different. There is very little said from Daniel’s point of view. This story is primarily told from the point of view of the king.

The key to Daniel’s success in waiting is not so much in how he responded. The fact that he put his faith into action is important. He did not talk about praying. He did not make a public statement about how the law was wrong. He simply prayed.

It is easy for us to talk about what we should do. If we want to be able to wait through trial, we must learn to do not just say. All of us have said things like, “I should really pray more.” “I know I should study the Word of God.” “I know I should be a better testimony at work.” It is fine to say those things, but the “proof is in the pudding” as they say. When you hear those kinds of things coming out of your mouth, stop yourself and make plans instead to put some actions to the thought. Then make sure and do it. That is how Daniel responded to the need to wait.

There is something else in Daniel’s story that we must understand if we are going to wait effectively. That is the fact that Daniel was prepared to wait long before the trial. In today’s verse, we see that the king wants Daniel to succeed. He makes a very important statement in verse 20. “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”.

The king recognized something about Daniel. He served his God continually. Many times, we find it difficult to have faith when faced with a time of waiting because we have not cultivated faith before the trial. I heard an illustration once that went like this. There was a man whose house was broken into. He wanted to fight off the intruder. He said to his wife, “Where are my barbells! I need to get in shape!” It was a little late to start working out. The trial was already there!

Daniel did not try to put something in practice because he heard of the king’s bad law. Daniel simply did what he was already doing regularly. He was prepared by his spiritual lifestyle to wait successfully through this trial. He prayed daily. He spent time with the Lord before the trial. In the words of the king, he served God continually.

I believe we must do the same if we are going to wait successfully through a trial. I have seen people faced with financial challenges try to build their faith to receive from God. Many times, they fail because they have not served God in that area continually. They cannot wait in faith because they have not practiced godliness I that area. We should cultivate a lifestyle of giving and receiving. Then when the trial comes, we will be ready. The God whom we serve continually will move for us and we will have the faith to wait for him.

Spiritual preparation is the most important preparation we must do, but it is not the only kind. I want to point out another verse.

Daniel 6:3 (NKJV) 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.

Daniel was not only prepared in his spiritual life, he was prepared in the natural as well. There is much talk about the physical condition of many American’s. We eat too much and exercise too little. We are flabby and physically weak. It is very difficult to face a physical challenge in that condition. I am concerned about our mental and emotional conditioning as well.

We are a country of media and stars. People know all kinds of details about sports figures and singers, but they do not know anything about history or geography. We know how to operate computers, tablets and smart phones but the more we use these devices the less we understand mathematics. We take advantage of technology but forget ingenuity in the process. I love my bible program but I find that I do not remember some scriptures I used to know by heart because it is so much easier to look them up on the computer.

Daniel had an excellent spirit in every area. He worked hard at his job. I believe he developed his mind. He solved problems and directed those under him to do the same. With apologies to all blonds, the rash of jokes at the expense of those with blond hair is symptomatic of what I am talking about. Unfortunately. hair color has nothing to do with it. The problem is preparation and lifestyle not hair.

I see the same thing emotionally. It has become normal to need counseling. I believe we often do need help. We give it in our church. However, the idea that you cannot get through life or problems without it is wrong. We need to learn to cultivate emotional strength not celebrate emotional weakness.

When trials come and we are forced to wait for God, we need to be emotionally and mentally strong as well as spiritually strong. How can we cultivate this kind of strength? Read some books that have nothing to do with sports or entertainment. Read the news or something about history. Exercise you mind. Do the same with your emotions. Do not let them rule you. If you tend to get flustered easily, learn to go to the Lord and pray.

There is not space here to go into more detail, but I think you understand what I am trying to say. Daniel was victorious in his waiting because he served God continually and he cultivated an excellent spirit in his daily living. If we want to succeed in our waiting, we must do the same.

Waiting, Trial and Favor

Daniel 6:10 (NKJV) 10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Everyone must wait in life. Often our waiting occurs in times of great stress. The story of Daniel does not involve protracted times of waiting. However, when we are under stress a few days can seem like a very long time indeed. One of the most important faith skills we can develop is the ability to wait successfully. Faith requires this skill but if we expect to walk in favor, we must master it.

The case of Daniel is a little different from the last story we studied, that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Whereas the king who ruled in their time had no predisposition to favor them, the king in Daniel’s day did favor him. In fact, the favor is what brought the trial into Daniel’s life.

The background for the lion’s den incident is that the Medes and Persians had conquered Babylon. The new king had divided the region into 120 areas and placed rulers, called satraps, over each one. He then placed three governors over the satraps. Daniel was one of the three governors.

The king recognized that Daniel was doing a better job than his two colleagues were. The bible says there was an “excellent spirit” upon him. The king was thinking about putting Daniel over the whole region. Needless to say, the other governors and 120 satraps did not like this idea one bit. They began to try to find some way that they could accuse Daniel to the king.

The more they looked the more they understood that there was nothing with which to accuse Daniel. He was loyal to the king, he did his work very well and he did not say anything they could use against him. He rose higher and higher in the king’s estimation. Finally, they realized that there was only one way they could trip up Daniel.

Daniel 6:5 (NKJV) 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”

They reasoned that if they could find some way to make the will of the king go against the law of Daniel’s God, Daniel would obey God rather than the king. The king would have no choice but to condemn Daniel and remove him from office. It might even be possible to cause the king to put Daniel to death. They went to work on a plan.

All kings are weak in the area of pride. They decide to approach the king with a proposal.

Daniel 6:6-9 (NKJV) 6 So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the written decree.

King Darius heard their words and liked the idea very much. He signed the decree, which meant that for 30 days he could not change it. For the next 30 days, no one could pray to any God other than the king. The enemies of Daniel put in a very clever provision. Anyone violating this decree would not simply be put into prison. They would be thrown into a den of hungry lions. If they made it out alive they would be considered innocent, but if not they would be considered guilty. Of course, they would also be quite dead.

Now, we are talking about successfully waiting. Daniel is about to enter into a very stressful waiting period. In our study of the three men in the fiery furnace, we learned that they won the battle of waiting before it even began because they “closed the back door” by saying, “King, no matter what happens, we will not bow to your idol.”

Many times, we cannot wait successfully because we allow the possibility of compromise to weaken us. We must realize that compromise never produces victory. Compromise always results in failure. The devil will make it seem that a little compromise cannot hurt but it always leads to more compromise. The only way to wait on the Lord successfully is to eliminate the possibility of compromise immediately.

We have all had these thoughts. “What if God does not heal me?” “What if I don’t get the money I need?” “What if I lost the house…..the car… marriage?” You can put in whatever thing you may be facing. The devil loves to play the “what if” card. I like to turn that card around on him. “What if I do get healed? What if God does a mighty miracle in my finances? What if I win such a great victory that you never recover?” I find that this tends to slow down the devil’s “what ifs” quite a bit.

The way to stop the “what ifs” entirely is to simply tell the devil, “It does not matter if “what if” happens or not, I am not going to compromise. I am going to serve God anyway.”

Daniel closed the back door just as the three young men did. We read about it in today’s scripture. As soon as he heard about the decree, he went into his room, opened the windows toward Jerusalem and prayed three times as was his custom. He did not close the windows. He did not try to cover his disobedience. He immediately went and prayed openly, knowing it would get back to the king. He did not use words to say it, but he was declaring the same thing the three young men had said before him. “No matter what happens, I will not compromise my relationship with my God.”

I want to point out something. This law was only for thirty days. It would be easy for Daniel to say, “God will understand. I will just compromise for the thirty days and then I will go back to my prayer routine.” Many times the devil tells us that what we want to do is just a small compromise. Surely, God will understand.

I believe there are times while we are growing that God will certainly understand our failings. However, we need to be willing to grow up in the Lord. If we will not make a stand against the small compromises, we will not make a stand against the big ones. If we compromise once, the devil will give us more opportunities. The second is easier to justify than the first. Eventually we will come to a compromise we know we cannot submit to but we will be too weak and too used to compromise to resist successfully.

Daniel knew that if he gave in to his enemies for 30 days, they would do something else until he could no longer serve God and the king. He decided to draw the line right then and there. He probably gave his prayer time a little extra gusto on that day. He was not hiding. He wanted everyone to know that he served the living God first and foremost and whatever happened as a result was in God’s hands.

As you and I face times of waiting, we must close the back door just as Daniel did. We must make a quality decision that we will serve God not matter what. This is not a compromise of faith. If we do not make this decision the devil will use every tactic to delay the answer to our prayer. He knows that if he puts enough pressure on our emotions he will cause us to stop waiting and then he can defeat us. Do not give him that opportunity. Tell him today, “I will not compromise because of a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. I will serve the Lord!”

We are Responsible for the Ground

Hosea 10:12 (NKJV) 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

(Pastor Wayne Holcomb spoke to our church Sunday morning concerning the need for fruitfulness in our lives.)

I have never had a garden. My wife tried to grow tomatoes a couple of times in our 40 plus years of marriage. Once she actually succeeded. Most of the time, our attempts at fruitfulness have resulted in nothing more than weeds or empty dirt. As a result, I am convinced that fruit comes from the fruit department at the grocery and vegetables come mostly from the frozen food section of the same store.

In our culture, we are not programmed to fruitfulness. We go to the store and buy what we need. The fact that the things there are a product of someone else’s fruitfulness does not enter our thinking. Many times, we go to a restaurant where we do not even have to cook the food. We wait a short time until someone brings us our meal. Then we eat it, pay the bill and are on our way.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that we meet the instant need but we have nothing for the next need that arises. I remember the talk around the year 2000 concerning the vulnerability of computers entering the new century. I never believed that the disaster that many predicted would come. However, it did get me to thinking about some things. One of the things predicted was the collapse of the system that provides food to our stores. Many were planting gardens and even keeping animals in anticipation that the shelves at the grocery store would be bare. What would I do if the frozen food section, meat section and dairy section had nothing to buy?

Fortunately, that was not the case. Nevertheless, when we talk about fruitfulness we also need to consider our relationship with God. God did not create the supermarket. God created the earth and everything that grows from it. God is a God of fruitfulness not a God of instant gratification. For many of us who lack an understanding of natural fruitfulness, we have a difficult time understanding spiritual fruitfulness.

This thought goes right along with what I have been talking about concerning waiting. Fruitfulness requires that we wait. We must plant the seed, water the seed, weed the seed and wait. After a time the seed will produce if it is cared for. However, you cannot rush this process.

Mark 4:26-29 (NKJV) 26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4 is one of my favorite scriptures. Jesus is explaining a parable to his disciples. He likens the seed to the Word of God and the ground to the heart of men. If the seed goes into good ground, it will grow. Fruitfulness in the life of a Christian is a result of sowing the seed of God’s word into the ground of our heart. The process takes time but if we allow the process to work, fruit is inevitable.

There are many kinds of fruit that we should produce as Christians. One type is the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Another kind of fruit is the fruit of the ministry we do in the earth. If we allow the process of fruitfulness to work, we will see people touched and changed by our works and our words. Philippians 1:11 says that we should be filled with the fruits of righteousness which will bring glory to God. When we are fruitful believers, our personal life and our public life will be such that we both please God and touch the hearts of men.

The thing about fruitfulness in the kingdom of God is that there is never anything wrong with the seed. The seed of Godly fruitfulness comes from God himself. The seed is the Word of God and it is the same seed that causes the new birth in our hearts.

1 Peter 1:23 (NKJV) 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

If the seed is the same for everyone, why do some achieve fruitfulness and some do not? The only variable is the ground. We are responsible for the ground the seed goes in. If the ground is good, the seed will produce fruit. If the ground is hard, it will not. It is just that simple.

Mark 4 is all about the ground. I do not want to take the time or space to talk about that chapter but you should read it. Instead, let me comment on today’s scripture. There are a number of things in this verse that will help us prepare the ground of our heart for fruitfulness. First he tells the reader, “Sow to yourselves righteousness and you will reap mercy.”

We will never be fruitful in God’s kingdom if we do not sow righteousness. There are two kinds of righteousness spoken of in the bible. One is the position we have because of the ministry of the Lord Jesus in salvation. We cannot earn that position. We must receive it by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says Jesus was made sin so we could be made the righteousness. If something is made it has not hand in its own construction. I was made right with God. I did not earn or work “right with God.”

The other kind of righteousness is the acts of right living we do in life. Matthew 6 says we should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. This is not speaking of the positional righteousness of salvation but the acts of righteousness. In other words, we should seek to live as God would live. Our actions should be what his actions would be in any situation. If we do that, we will be preparing our ground to respond to the seed of the Word of God and we will be fruitful.

Then it says that we must break up the fallow ground. Fallow ground is unproductive ground. We have many areas in our lives that we allow to lie fallow. That means they are not producing for the kingdom. This fallow ground needs to be “broken up.” What does that mean? It means that we need to allow the Holy Spirit to deal with us so that our hearts are ready to receive the Word.

When we have hard, fallow ground, we must yield to the dealing of the Holy Spirit. No one can do that for us. We must also be willing to judge ourselves and make changes that we know are necessary. There are times when God will break our ground for us but it is much better if we do it ourselves. We must prepare our soil to receive the Word. Some things we need to do to break up the ground are accepting when we are wrong, rejecting ideas that go against the Word of God and repenting of known sin. There is much more to this, but I am sure you get the idea.

Finally, he says we need to do this because it is time to seek the Lord. God wants to rain righteousness upon us. I am convinced that God wants to do something special through our generation. It is the time for the rain of God. When that rain comes, God expects us to be fruitful. If our ground is not ready, the rain will come but the Word in us will not produce. Fruitfulness cannot come from hard ground.

So break up the fallow ground, plant the Word in your heart, receive the rain when it comes…..and wait.