Waiting....

A couple decades ago, I had a job driving taxis and one of my biggest struggles was having to wait. I'm not talking about waiting for customers, I'm talking about wanting things to happen, but I had to wait! I was in an "in-between" stage in my life; I had just finished Bible College and wanted to get into ministry, but I had no money and no doors had opened for me at that point. I had to wait! I had to be patient. 

This wasn't an easy time, in fact, it was one of the darkest times of my life. I saw and experienced a lot of pain and heartache. During this time, I was often threatened, bullied, robbed and was even a victim of aggravated battery a couple of times. Looking back, the hardest part of driving a taxi wasn't when I was stuffed in the trunk of my car or beaten by a bunch of young gangbangers; that was terrifying, but it wasn't the hardest. The hardest part about that time was how I felt so alone, things weren't working out the way I wanted them to go and I wanted to give up! I wanted to run away, I was left wondering where God was and when or if He'd come and rescue me. I had hope and dreams, but in my mind, those hopes and dreams were fading to black. 

A couple decades later, I look back at that time through a very different lens. Even though it seemed like God had forgotten and forsaken me, the truth is, He never left me. He was right there. In fact, now I realize, God loves me so much, that He used that time and those robberies to prepare me for what I do now. I wasn't ready yet. I believe God wanted me to wait. I believe God needed teach me some valuable lessons. When I look back now, I'm glad I went through what I went through, however dark and depressing it was, because that's where God needed me to be at that particular time!

I'd be lying if I didn't admit: even though God taught me this valuable lesson, I still find waiting hard, because it means I'm not in control of my destiny! It's mysterious, it's confusing and can be downright frustrating. I still don't want to wait, I want to rush ahead, quit or go down my own path. 

There are stories throughout the whole Bible, where God calls His servants to wait, and if they wait, if they persevere, if they trust in God, God promises to use them mightily and for His glory. Abraham had to wait decades for His promised son to be born, David had to wait a long time after being anointed to become king and the Apostle Paul also had a time of waiting after His conversion before he went out on the mission field. These 3 men all waited and it wasn't easy for them. It may have seemed like God had forgotten them or a good outcome seemed impossible, but God hadn't forgotten them and He ended up using them mightily for His glory and His kingdom. 

Even though the road gets hard, even though it may look like there's no light at the end of the tunnel and even though time seems to be slipping away, God does call us to wait. God needs us to surrender our way to His way, so He can teach us and make us stronger in the faith. Waiting isn't easy, because there's mystery, and it takes a lot of perseverance and faith. By waiting, we come to realize how much we need God, how much God truly does love us and how he'll strengthen and empower us for whatever journey we need to endure! 

In Isaiah, we read these words; it's a promise made by God, He promises that He'll travel down our paths with us, that he'll also lift us up and strengthen us along the way....
"He gives strength to the weary, 
And to him who lacks might, He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired, 
They will walk and not become weary." (Isaiah 40:29-31) NASB

When we wait for the Lord, God promises to be with us and to give us new strength. His strength! We may not think we can get through what we're going through, we may feel weak and weary, but God tells us that if we wait for Him, the road may still be rough, but He'll give us the strength to walk it!

God loves us so much that He takes us in our weaknesses and struggles and transforms us into conquerors! In fact, Romans 8 proclaims that, in Christ Jesus, we can be transformed into "more than conquerors."

When people come to stay with us at Cornerstone, a lot of them are obviously hyped up, they want to get out of the shelter and move into their own crib as soon as possible. That's obviously a good thing, they want to move out of homelessness and into housing. Yet quite often, there's a problem, in their hyper-ness, they end up rushing around so much and end up missing many opportunities. They, unfortunately, end up staying homeless longer, because they didn't slow down and wait! 

Let me explain, let me tell you about a friend of mine, named Jackson, who struggled with this; for years, he'd struggled with homelessness, addiction and rotating in and out of prison. Whenever he'd get out of the Joint, he'd be on fire for the Lord and wanted to do right, he had dreams, but the trouble was, he'd never slow down, he didn't know how to wait! He kept rushing around, would end up using again, and then finally, while still on parole, he'd wind up downstate, in prison, once again. It was sad to see, it happened time and time again, because he thought rushing around and grabbing any temporary solution was the answer.

The last time Jackson got released, he started doing the same routine. One day, we sat down and I told him, "slow down, if you stick around and wait; good things can happen, but you got to be patient and stick with us!" He did just that, he listened and slowed down, he met with the right people and did what he needed to do. By waiting, he starting overcoming his obstacles one by one by one.

Waiting was hard for Jackson; he wanted to quit, he wanted to grab the temporary things all the time, he wanted to make quick money, he wanted to jump into any bed he could, but he knew he needed to wait, so he kept on praying, he stayed with us and he persevered. Today, I'm happy to say, Jackson has been out of prison for 5 years, has had an income for about 4, has been housed for 3 and a half and has been off parole for 3. Jackson waited, he overcame and reaped the rewards. 

When we need to wait, pray that God will strengthen you and give you "wings like eagles". God knows waiting is hard for us, that's why He promises to empower and strengthen us. When I was impatiently driving a taxi and needed to wait, God strengthened me and helped me move on. When Abraham needed to wait, he patiently waited, and God strengthened him, he obtained the promise and he became "more than a conqueror". When Jackson needed to wait, he waited, and God strengthened him and he also has become "more than a conqueror". 

If you're in recovery tonight, wait for the Lord, stay away from triggers, from those people, places and things that can bring you down. Know your weaknesses and pray to the One who can give strength. Don't rush things. Don't take shortcuts! Wait on Him, the One who can make you "more than a conqueror!"

If you're on parole tonight, be patient and wait. Do what you need to do and rely on the One who can give you strength. Pray! He knows what you're going through, He knows how trapped you feel, but He also promises to give you strength to travel down that road. Wait on Him, the One who can take you and make you "more than a conqueror!"

If you're in a period of waiting tonight, if you're feeling weary tonight, pray to the One who can give you strength. If you're feeling weak, pray to the One who can increase your power! Pray for His strength. Wait on Him, He loves you dearly and wants you to become "more than a conqueror!"

As we leave out tonight, I encourage you all to wait for the Lord, I encourage you all to pray for God's strength, because no matter what we're going through, we all need Him and He wants us all to rise up with "wings like eagles" and become "more than conquerors!" 


*A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
 
This was a sermon preached on 12/1/15, in response to this question;How Do I Keep Going?"
When things take too long, and they're too hard, and things aren't working the way I think they should, how do I keep going? And how do I know when it's time to give up?
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