This morning, we’re starting a new message series entitled, “Waiting on God.” Yeah, everyone’s on the edge of their seats and thrilled for this one, right? I’m going to be honest, this is not exactly the most exciting of topics for any of us. Waiting is not one of the things that we enjoy doing. We live in an “everything instant” culture and we expect instant results wherever we go. We don’t exactly leap for joy when sitting at a construction stop sign or standing in the only line open at Walmart or being put on hold while on the phone.
Waiting on God, however, is very much a part of His plan for us. In fact, we all are currently in a state of waiting on God for something. Not a single one of us has yet to receive the fullness of our salvation nor every promise of God. We are all waiting on God for something.
We may not like the thought of it, but God intentionally prepares seasons of waiting for us. God’s plans for our seasons of waiting are not to irritate us nor to cause us to become discouraged nor to lose hope. Rather, God’s plans during these seasons of waiting are usually to prepare us to receive His blessed promise. These seasons of waiting are not to steal away our hope, but to grow our hope and create within us an eager expectation of receiving His promises. They are intended to grow and mature us, and especially, to develop our character.
We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus last week. For us, it was a time of tremendous joy and excitement. For those who had chosen to follow Jesus, however, it brought just about every emotion which opposes joy. It was a confusing and frightening time for them. When they met together, they locked their doors for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). They didn’t understand why Jesus had died, what was going to happen next, and especially what was going to happen to them. If they had just murdered Jesus, what were they planning to do to those who were following Him?
The women who were following Jesus went to His tomb and encountered two angels who explained to them that Jesus had risen from the grave; He was alive! Jesus appeared to them as well. When the women explained this to the eleven apostles, it seemed like nonsense to them. They just didn’t understand it all, even after seeing the strips of linen and empty tomb themselves (Luke 24:1-12).
Even when Jesus appeared to them together, He asked them why they doubted and were so troubled (Luke 24:36-49). Matthew records that some of the disciples who were literally looking at Jesus face-to-face after His resurrection still had their doubts. Any of us who lost a loved one understands just how unreal it seems that they are gone. How much more difficult it must have been to have lost Jesus, but to receive Him back from the dead, but to also lose Him again as He ascended to Heaven. It was a very confusing time for many following Jesus!
Although Jesus spent time with those following Him after He rose again, He didn’t physically hang around on the earth for very long. Even after His resurrection, He still spoke those two little words to His disciples, “Follow me.” (John 21:19). This had to have given His disciples faith that things weren’t over and that Jesus still had plans for them following His resurrection. However, Jesus now added one little word to that phrase informing them what the next step was in following Him. That little word was, “wait.”
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Of course, even in this instance, the disciples still weren’t getting it. They were still clinging to their old idea that Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom in order to save them. Jesus knew that they would eventually come around to a place of understanding. He told them simply to wait. They were to wait on the gift the Heavenly Father had promised, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told His disciples to wait in a very dangerous and uncomfortable situation; literally life-threatening. Jesus wasn’t very clear how long they would need to wait. A few days was vague and it was forty-nine days after His death that they actually received this gift. Jesus did not tell them how they would know when they received the gift. Jesus didn’t explain to them what they should do until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus simply told them to wait until they received it. Luke also records Jesus reminding them of this waiting period in his gospel account.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
What is it supposed to look like when we’re waiting on God? How does God want us to respond while we’re waiting on Him? After all, Jesus left His disciples with more questions than answers. Well, there are several things that we’ll cover throughout this series, but we’ll start right where His disciples started: Praise!
Though our circumstances aren’t good, God is. Though we don’t know what tomorrow holds, we know Whom holds tomorrow.
Focusing on the unknown fills us with worry, anxiety, and fear. Focusing on the known fills us with hope, joy, and eager expectation! Focusing on the unknown causes us to shrink back and quiet down about God. Focusing on the promise causes us to praise and shout loudly how great our God is!
The disciples knew that Jesus was alive and they had gotten to know Him very well during their times together. They knew also that Jesus had a plan. They knew that Jesus made them a promise to bless them with a gift. They knew that despite their overwhelming circumstances and dangers, that God would fulfill the word that He had spoken. What they knew anchored their hope in Jesus despite the many unknown attributes during their season of waiting.
Praise is a very general action. The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: to express a favorable judgment of or to glorify. Biblically speaking, there are 10 Hebrew and Aramaic words in the Old Testament and 9 Greek words in the New Testament that are all translated into our one English word praise.
To express a favorable judgment of or to glorify God can be defined by countless acts. God is a creative God and we were created to be creative when we were created in His image. Praise can be expressed in countless ways.
Most commonly, we express our praise to God through word by proclaiming and declaring how awesome He is, by testifying of some of His awesome deeds and by thanking Him. The other common expression of praise that comes to mind is through song by writing music, playing instruments, and singing. There are countless other expressions of praise, though.
We praise God with art through buildings, paintings, sculptures, monuments, altars, etc. Some church buildings are absolutely breathtaking as I’m certain the first temple was as described in the scriptures. We praise God by kindness shown to a stranger. We praise God by raising our hands, clapping, kneeling down, laying prostrate, standing up, walking, running, leaping, dancing, etc.
We praise God through acts of service. We praise God by generous giving. We praise God by being water baptized. We praise God by participating in communion.
We praise God by working hard and diligently for our employers. We praise God by raising children to love and adore Him. We praise God by loving and respecting our spouses unconditionally. We praise God by forgiving those who hurt us. We praise God by encouraging those who are downcast. We praise God through prayer and studying His word together.
We praise God together as a church, as families, with thousands at concerts and conferences, in small groups, individually wherever we go. We can constantly and continuously praise God!
It could simply us thinking and meditating on how awesome God is or some specific act or attribute of Him, that’s praise! It could be us singing and dancing in the car to our favorite hymn or worship song, that’s praise! It could be us buying someone’s groceries for them, that’s praise! We can praise God constantly and continuously wherever we go!
We literally praise God anytime that we think or do anything that lifts high the name of Jesus and bows anything else down before Him. Praise is as powerful as the God that we exalt through it. Praise transforms atmospheres and circumstances and lives. Praise enthrones God and dethrones anything else in our lives that has taken His place.
While we are waiting on God, we praise Him. Though our immediate circumstances may not be praiseworthy, God still is. Though we may not understand why God is permitting hardship in our lives, we can praise Him because we know that He is going to work it together for good. We praise Him because nothing is too hard for our God!
While we are waiting on God, we praise Him. Consider the impact of praise via music. Just about anywhere that you go where there is a wait involved, there will be music. In a doctor’s waiting room, in a restaurant, in the grocery store, while you are on hold on the phone, there is music. Music has a way of calming us and easing our anxieties that are quick to arise while we wait. If this is true in all of these places, how much more of an impact will praise music that lifts high the name of Jesus have on our souls while we wait on God?
Put some praise on around the house. Have praise playing in your earbuds while you work. Turn up the praise in the car on your way to wherever you go. Sing praise even if only in your mind when fear, depression, or anxiety try to steal away your joy. Praise transforms atmospheres wherever we find ourselves!
We wouldn’t have enough time in the day to quote all of the scripture references that call us to praise God.
1 Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever—
he issued a decree that will never pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.
1 Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Praising the Lord is powerful! Praise puts our problems in perspective.
We have a framed quote in the church office that reminds us, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is, tell the problem how big your God is.” The elders here can testify that I certainly need that reminder from time to time.
We all go through challenging circumstances, but God is always proven faithful through them all so long as we follow Him alone. All throughout the Psalms, psalmists wrote songs and poems explaining the great challenges that they were facing, but they nearly always ended on a reminder to praise God in the midst of them. We need that reminder!
Praise puts our problems in perspective.
There are many awesome testimonies found in the word of God and from our lives today, but the one that really sticks out was a time that Paul and Silas found themselves in pretty bad shape.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
Paul and Silas endured severe persecution for telling people about Jesus and delivering the slave girl from the spirit. However, God allowed this all to take place to bring about the salvation of an entire household. They were severely flogged, then shackled in the inner part of a jail cell. How did they respond to all of this? Praise! We probably would have called Jay Sekulow, started a campaign storming Washington DC, fought for our freedom and for justice to be served on our behalf. Paul and Silas chose to praise God.
As a result, God shook the foundations of that prison and set not only Paul and Silas, but also every criminal in that prison free. God delivers the jailer from a suicide attempt and saves him and his entire family. Isn’t that just like our God? Praise is powerful! Like Paul and Silas, while we’re waiting on God, let’s praise Him.
Let’s remind ourselves of how awesome our God is, of the good things that He has done in the past, and for the good that He is going to do in our future. While we’re waiting on God, we praise.