Theme: God’s Timing vs Our Timing. What does God sometimes make us wait?
Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 24:1-22
Preacher: Phil Swain
ONLINE only worship – 6:30pm, Sunday 23 August, 2020
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Tonight I want to talk about timing. Have you ever had an experience where you completely mucked up the timing? For example, cooking something and thinking that it needs just 5 more minutes in the oven and then forgetting as you watch another full episode on Netflix only to find your dinner very crisp and brown? (I’m speaking from experience). Or expressing your love to your crush a week after they entered into a new relationship with another person … (long time ago but yes, from experience again). Or you come out with a very witty and funny joke or pun but it just flops because the timing was all wrong.
Do you have a story of bad timing? If you’re brave, write it in the comment section
Timing is important. I asked a couple of people to explain how timing is important in different areas:
Timing is important. Even when it comes to our faith and spirituality … this concept of timing is important. You would have heard the wisdom of “trusting in God’s timing”, haven’t you? I did a google search and came up with these beautiful inspiration quotes on God’s timing…
And while I would affirm the sentiment … I don’t think that it is this easy. You see we live in a society where things have become so accessible and instantaneous that we think that we really shouldn’t have to wait anymore. If we have to wait more than a couple of minutes for a takeaway coffee we start to get twitchy. We don’t like to wait.
And this spills over into our understanding of waiting in our faith and spirituality. Years ago I found this very clever video … let me share it with you…
Video … Deep Thoughts from a shallow Christian.
Now that is satire … I am not suggesting we do that. But it does reflect how we sometimes feel. That line about how we believe that life would run smoothly if God did things when we demand it … that is truer that we would like to admit.
So tonight … I just want to share a few stories from the bible – one main one and a few others briefly – of people who had to learn to trust in God’s timing … and discovered the benefits of what I will call “active waiting”.
The main story I want to explore is the one from our bible reading tonight … the experience of David waiting to be king.
There is so much that I could share about the Old Testament character of David but let me give you a 90 second summary of what his life was like up to the point of our bible reading.
As a child he was the youngest of 7 brothers, David was always looked down because of his size and called a runt. But on one amazing day, the prophet Samuel came and said that God has chosen David, the little one, to be the next King of Israel. But there was one catch … David would have to wait until the current King Saul died. He had to wait for the right time.
Well while he waited he killed a few lions and bears and even had the faith in God to take on the Philistine Goliath and win. David was a hero and everyone loved him except the current King Saul. King Saul was very jealous and on numerous occasions tried to kill David. Eventually David decided that staying near Saul was unwise and took off into the countryside. David was a man on the run … hiding from King Saul while waiting out time … waiting for King Saul to die because when King Saul died then it would be the right time for him to be King.
Which brings us to today’s story. As a boy of about 10 this was one of my favourite stories from the bible. King Saul goes into a cave to “relieve himself” – as a ten year old this is about as good as it gets. But even more amazing was the fact that the cave that Saul decides to use as his bathroom just so happens to be the same cave that King David and his men were hiding in. Talk about getting caught with your pants down.
Ok, if we leave the 10 year old boy humour aside for one moment, David would not have believed his luck. Because Saul was king and would wanted a little privacy, he would have positioned all his body guards outside the cave. Here was the chance … David’s own men were saying, “Go for it. Kill him now and then you will be king”.
David must have been tempted. After all he had been waiting for a long time. Maybe this was God’s timing. This was too big of a coincidence that Saul would choose this cave. Besides, who cares how it came about, now is the chance to finish this period of waiting and finally become king. He must have been tempted.
But David didn’t. Instead of cutting Saul’s head off, he cuts a piece of his robe saying, “How can I kill the Lord’s anointed?” Or in terms of timing, “How can I kill the King before the right time.” He does that nice bit at the end of the reading when he confronts Saul with the fact that he could have killed him but didn’t but in real terms nothing changes. Saul continues to try and kill David and David continued to run, hide and wait …
Waiting on God is quite a common experience in the bible. It seems that God thinks it is a good thing to make people wait.
In Genesis God comes to Abraham when he is 75 years old and says, “Abraham, you’re going to become a father. You’ll be the ancestor of a great nation.” But it won’t happen today, it won’t happen tomorrow. You know how long Abraham had to wait before that promise came true? 24 years.
God told Israel, his people, that they’d be a nation, able to leave the slavery of Egypt and be independent, but they had to wait 400 years. And then God told Moses he would lead the people to the Promised Land, but they had to go to the wilderness and wait 40 years. Why does God make people wait?
But the longest waiting came when God gave the great promise that the Messiah, the Saviour from God, would come and save us, save the world. What a promise … and so God’s people waited. And they waited. 5 years, 10 years, 100 years.
They waited generation after generation, century after century they waited. God made this promise but then it seemed that God went silent. Then, strangest of all, when the Messiah came, he was only recognized by a few. He wasn’t at all what they thought they were waiting for. In fact, he was only recognized by a few like Simeon and Anna who were waiting for him.
So the Messiah came, Jesus lived and taught, and his disciples kept waiting for him to bring in the kingdom the way they expected, to right all the wrongs. But he was crucified. And then three days later Jesus is resurrected and he’s getting ready to ascend, and so they ask again, “Are you going to restore the kingdom? Is our waiting over now?” Jesus had one more command, in Acts 1. He says, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait.” So they did. They waited in the upper room, and the Holy Spirit came.
But that didn’t mean the time of waiting was over. Paul writes in Romans 8:23, “And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us.”
This waiting runs all the way through the Bible to the very last words. In the last chapter of Revelation, John closes by saying, “The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Behold, I am coming soon.'” It may not seem like it, but in light of eternity, it’s soon. Hang on. And then John writes, “Amen, even so … Come Lord Jesus.” All right. We will hang on. But come. We’re waiting for you.
Obvious question: why? Why does God make us wait? If God can do anything and if God is loving, why doesn’t he bring us relief and answers now? To be honest … I do not know. I get really frustrated with God’s timing. Sometimes it makes no sense what’s so ever why God would want us wait for an answer to prayer or for an issue to be resolved.
One person I was reading in the preparation of this talk said, “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we’re waiting for” and whilst somewhat agreeing, that still seems a very weak answer. David had waited years and years to be King. God had plenty of time to fit in what he wanted to do in David’s life … why did he need to wait anymore????
I just want to add at this point that waiting on the Lord is not just sitting round with your feet up waiting for something or someone to come along that will allow you to escape from your trouble.
People sometimes say “I’m just waiting on the Lord” as an excuse not to face up to reality, take appropriate action, or own up to their responsibility. That is not what waiting on the Lord is.
Waiting on the Lord is a confident, disciplined, expectant, active, sometimes painful clinging to God. Waiting on the Lord is the continual, daily decision to say, “God, I will trust you and I will keep following your way … even though the circumstances of my life are not turning out the way I want them to, and they may never turn out the way I want them to. I’m betting everything on you, God, and there is no Plan B.” That’s what waiting on the Lord means. In a way that we can’t completely understand, the timing is important.
I used this example last year in a sermon … but it is a good example to highlight this idea about timing. Henri Nouwen once wrote about some friends of his who were trapeze artists. They were telling him that there’s a very special relationship between the flyer and the catcher on the trapeze. The flyer is the one that lets go, and the catcher is the one that catches.
This relationship is especially important to the flyer. When the flyer is swinging high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he must let go. He arcs out into the air, and his job is to remain as still as possible and to wait for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air. This trapeze artist told Nouwen, “The flyer must never try to catch the catcher.” The flyer must wait in that timing in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him. Trust in the timing.
Some of you are in a vulnerable moment right now. You have let go of what it is God has called you to let go of, but you can’t feel God’s hand catching you yet. And you want to start clutching at anything around. Can trust in God’s timing? Can we be patient? It is hard but waiting requires patient trust.
As I said early, it can be an active waiting. We can continue to pray and call on God for action, but that has to be balanced with that patient trust. And as we wait we will find that God continue to minister to us. Sometimes it is even worth the worth the wait.
Isaiah describes it like this … “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).”
As I said before … we might not understand God’s timing, but we trust that the timing is important.
King Saul did eventually die and David became king. Abraham did have a child, the Israelites did enter the promised land, the Messiah did come. Waiting doesn’t always end in disappointment. It’s just that the waiting is hard.
I pray that we can all have that deep trust in God as we wait. Amen.