Tag Archives: Waiting

A Really Long Saturday

Dear Church,

Today is Holy Saturday, the day of anxious waiting between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The disciples waited in fear but, on this side of the resurrection, we wait with anticipation.

But this Saturday, things feel different. Instead of gathering together for a pancake breakfast, lively worship, and the warm company of friends and family, we will turn on your computers, watch a sermon, and maybe have a Zoom call. It will still be a celebration, but a muted one. This is a reason to grieve.

On this Saturday we find ourselves, again, in a period of anxious waiting, not only for 24 hour hours, but for who knows how long (at least through the end of April) when we can once again gather together as the body of Christ.

I’ve been thinking all week – and actually the week before that, too – about Romans 8:18-25. It contains within it the lens by which we can view this period of waiting, and not just this short period, but the whole of where we stand in history.

As I read over the text, I made four observations:

First, all of creation is groaning: For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For creation was subjected to frustration” and “We know that the whole of creation has been groaning.

Why is creation groaning? Why has it been subjected to frustration? Because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden. Their rebellion led to a curse upon the ground. The world, once perfectly suited to the well-being of mankind, was corrupted. While it retains much of what makes it hospitable, it is now also decidedly hostile.

We may ask, “why is the Coronavirus here?” And, while there might be more than one correct answer, at least one of the answers is this: We live in a created world that has been “subjected to frustration” because of the sin of humanity. This is part of what it means to live in a fallen and groaning world.

Second, we, too, groan: Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firsfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly.

The “we” in this passage is those who have the Spirit, who believe in and have been saved by Jesus. Christians are not immune from the sorrow, suffering, and sickness of this world.

I saw an interview where a woman was attending a large church service that was still being held despite calls to avoid social contact. When asked if she was worried about contracting the virus or giving it to others she said, “No. I’m covered in the blood of Jesus.” I love the atonement as much as anyone, but that’s not how the atonement works. Christians do not get a special immunity from disease. We live in the same fallen world.

In fact, being a Christian will open you up to another sort of suffering; suffering for the sake of Christ. When Paul talks about his “present sufferings” in 8:18, he’s probably talking about the troubles and persecutions he has had to deal with on his missionary journeys.

Third, we have hope in the redemption of our bodies: We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved.

We mourn and wait, but not as those who have no hope. We hope for the redemption of our bodies, an event described in 1 Corinthians 15, when our mortal bodies will be clothed with immortality, our corruptible flesh with that which is incorruptible. We hope for the resurrection when Christ returns. Our new bodies will not be subject to disease or decay.

How can we have this incredible hope? Because we have the firsfruits of the Spirit. That is, we have the immortal and incorruptible life of Jesus present with us through the Spirit already. Paul elsewhere describes Jesus as the firsfruits, the first among many who will be raised from the dead. Because we believe in the resurrection, and because we have the seal of the Spirit producing evidence of that resurrection life, we wait in hope.

Fourth, all creation, too, will be liberated: “Creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

The God who makes us new will make all things new. He will redeem, restore, and remake this fallen and decaying world. When he brings us who are his children into glory, he will set free his creation from the curse. The old will be swept away. If you think the present creation is beautiful – which it is – just imagine what is to come!

So, this Saturday, wait. Mourn if you must. That inward groaning that comes from seeing that things are not the way they are supposed to be, is both natural and appropriate. But wait in hope.

That sense of anxious waiting you feel right now is but a microcosm of where we have stood in history for over 2000 years. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit through the resurrection. Easter is not canceled because it has already occurred. But, we do not have the full experience of the adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For that, we continue to wait.

Do you long for the time when we can gather again for worship? Good. I certainly do. Now long – and wait expectantly – for the day when we will be gathered on the New Earth when Christ returns.

In hope,

Steve

How do I know if it’s time to act right now or wait?

In a few weeks I will be preaching on Acts 1:1-11. In this passage Jesus instructs the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and “wait for the gift my Father promised.” This command has a clear historical root: The disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit and so were not yet fully equipped to carry out the Great Commission. We should be cautious in applying this historical command to “wait” in our modern context. However, sometimes God does tell us to wait. Sometimes he has something for us to do, just not yet. Whether it’s going on a mission trip, changing your job, starting some new endeavor, taking care of an interpersonal issue, or something else, how do we know when the time is right?

First, don’t put off what you know you need to do now. I’m talking to myself here. Some other people may be more likely to “run ahead” of God’s timing but I’m far more likely to use “not yet” as an excuse to put off something I know I need to be doing now.

Some things just can’t wait. Jesus emphasizes the importance of reconciling to a brother immediately when he says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). When Paul calls people to be reconciled to God through Jesus he urges them by saying, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2 emphasis added).

Second, act in accordance with wisdom. God does not call us to be unwise. It may be controversial, but I would apply this to church debt. Should your church go into debt for a new addition? Would doing so be an act of faith or an act of foolishness? While I would leave a little ground for the former I think in most cases it would be the latter. Would acting now be foolish, for financial or other reasons? If so, wait. That new addition (or that new job, or getting married) may still be a good idea, but maybe God is calling you to wait.

Third, listen to the voice of the community. God has not left us alone. We are created to think and act within a community of believers. Your friends, families, and mentors can all provide a perspective broader than their own.

Fourth, balance the urgency with the situation with the sovereignty of God. Don’t panic. Don’t get lost in the situation. Don’t act out of knee-jerk reactions. Remember that God stands sovereign over history and time. There are very few “one time offers you have to take right now or it will be lost forever” kind of events in life. God does sometimes calls us to act right now (see point number 1), but those situations are rare. God is in control and has the ability to carry out his will in his own timing even if it doesn’t match yours. Don’t use this as an excuse to procrastinate what you know you need to do. But it’s just as unhealthy to carry around the feeling that everything is urgent. Such an attitude demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s timing.

I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive. What advice do you have for discerning God’s timing?