Faithful Waiting

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Today’s devotional written by Andrea Poppleton.

Hebrews 11:8-12

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Waiting can sometimes be a rather passive practice.

You wait for an appointment at the dentist’s office. You wait in line to purchase your groceries. You wait in the pickup lane to get your child after school. Maybe you think of some way to pass the time—scrolling through social media, eyeing the candy in the checkout lane, returning a phone call—but mostly you just wait… in that same spot… until what you’re waiting for comes to be. You wait until the hygienist calls your name, until the grocery clerk greets you, until your child opens the car door.

But waiting on the LORD is different. It’s not a passive activity. Rather, God calls us to be quite active in our waiting, living faithfully as we wait.

Take Abraham and Sarah’s story, for example. When God chose Abram and Sarai (what they were named at the time) to be the patriarch and matriarch of God’s people, God detailed a plan that included renaming, relocation, and reproduction (see Genesis 12:1-3). But the new names, new land, and new son did not come instantly. Abram and Sarai had some serious waiting to do.

When Abram first heard God’s plan, he was seventy-five years old (Gen. 12:4). It wasn’t until Abram was ninety-nine years old that God gave him his new name (Gen. 17:5). Sarai was ninety when God changed her name to Sarah (Gen. 17:15-17). Their first son, Isaac, was born when Abraham was one hundred years old (Gen. 21:5)!

In between God’s promise and its fulfillment, Abram had a choice to make: how would he wait?

Abram could have waited passively, whiling away the years with whatever distraction suited him in the moment. He could have given up on God’s plan all together and tried things his own way. Or he could have waited actively and faithfully, living as God intended for him to live as he was waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

I wish I could say that Abram’s story was as heroic as the author of Hebrews makes it out to be. I wish I could say that Abram was 100% faithful as he waited. The truth is that sometimes Abram was faithful in his waiting and sometimes he was not. There were multiple times when Abram tried things his own way. When an heir did not come quickly, Abram took Sarai’s slave as his wife to bear him a child (Gen. 16:1-4). When Abram and Sarai needed help in the midst of a famine, Abram lied about Sarai’s identity to gain favor with the Pharaoh of Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20). He did this a second time in a land called Gerar, to gain the favor of the king there (Gen. 20:1-2).

Abram did not always wait well, but there were enough occasions when Abram was faithful for the author of Hebrews to laud his faithfulness: there was the time when he obeyed God and left his homeland, traveling to a land God “would show [him]”(Gen. 12:4); there was the time when Abram treated his nephew, Lot, with kindness and generosity, allowing Lot to choose the land where he would settle (Gen. 13:8-12); there was the time when Abram rescued Lot and his family from invader kings (Gen 14:15016); there was the time when Abram believed God’s reiteration of God’s promises, despite the lack of evidence (Gen. 15:6); and there was the time when Abraham (newly renamed) obeyed God’s call to circumcision (Gen. 17:23-24).

Abram had a long time to practice waiting as he lived between God’s promises and their fulfillment. He waited both faithfully and impatiently. What can we learn from Abram/Abraham in this? Perhaps that faithfulness in waiting brings wholeness and life and blessing while unfaithfulness brings trouble and dysfunction and heartache.

We, too, are people living in the in-between. We have been called by God and named as his people. We have been promised a Kingdom inheritance. But in the meantime, we have some waiting to do.

So what do we do in the meantime?

God calls us to wait actively, with faith. God calls us to faithfully be the things he names us: beloved children, salt and light, new creations, chosen people, citizens of heaven, heirs of the Kingdom, reconcilers, healers, temples of the Holy Spirit, image-bearers, friends… And God calls us to do the things he commands: love God, love neighbor, show mercy, make disciples, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow and orphan, share the Good News…

Will we be faithful 100% of the time? No. We are like Abram. It’s hard to wait! But the good news is that we have a God who is faithful 100% of the time! When we fail, God is steadfast. When we break our promises, God keeps his. When we fall short or get distracted or try things our own way, God forgives.

We are waiting for Christ to come again, as he promised. How will you wait?

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