I’ve read it a hundred times. OK maybe not a hundred, but a lot.
The Book of Acts, one of my favorite books in the Bible, full of drama, history, theology.
Chapter 17, one of my favorite chapters, where Paul delivers a powerful message in Athens.
Our adult Sunday School class is studying it. Paul fled to Athens because those Thessalonian rabble-rousers started to agitate the Bereans. Silas and Timothy stayed behind in Berea until Paul’s other travelmates came back for them.
And there it was:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. Acts 17:16-17
While Paul was waiting…. The 4 little words screamed for my attention.
How many times had I read the inspired sermon that follows these verses and missed the fact that Paul was alone as he wandered around the city, waiting for his fellow workers to join him to begin ministry in this new locale.
“God’s Waiting Room.” I’ve heard the term, even said the term myself. It’s that period of time spent waiting for our life to begin anew.
“When this happens, then I will…”
“When I get a job, get married, have a baby, then I will …”
“When the chemo is over, then I will…”
“When I discover my gifts, then I will…”
Years ago, I heard Elisabeth Elliot share, “We should wait on the Lord the way a waiter waits on tables.” How does a waiter wait? Serving. How may I help you? What can I do for you?
That’s what Paul did. “Paul was waiting . . . So he …” He was distressed with what he saw (idols everywhere) and “so he reasoned with” whoever was around. He didn’t lament that his companions weren’t with him. He didn’t wait until his team was in place. He saw and he served right where he was.
In my husband’s chiropractic office, we have what some call a Waiting Room. We don’t; we call it a Reception Area. There’s a tv monitor that has streams facts about our amazing bodies. The reading materials are about health or about the Lord. Our intention in that room is that while the patients are waiting, they are being prepared to meet the doctor or meet their Maker (not in the fatal sense of the phrase!)
The “waiting room” can be a place of worry or anxiety, a place of uncertainty not knowing what the future holds. It can be a place of preparation for that future. Or like Paul, it can be a place to (cliché alert) “bloom where you’re planted.”
In the allegory book, Hinds Feet On High Places, the character Much-Afraid is on a journey to her Shepherd. At a lonely severe rugged spot, she meets a tiny flower nestled among the rocks. It’s name: Acceptance-With-Joy. The Shepherd later tells her, “When you wear the weed of impatience in your heart instead of the flower Acceptance-With-Joy, you will always find your enemies get an advantage over you.” Her enemies are our enemies: Resentment, Craven Fear, Bitterness, Pride.
On Sunday, our dear friend Irene was in the Sunday School class. She spent most of last year alone in her apartment, exhausted from the chemo she regularly received. Now that her strength is slowly returning, she eagerly makes the long drive to church each Sunday. I asked her about her time spent waiting. Her answer: “It was so difficult, but I got so close to the Lord during that time, I wouldn’t change it for anything.” Irene faithfully leads our prayer ministry and fills the role of “prayer warrior” more than anyone I know, yet the Lord used that time of weakness and waiting to strengthen her in ways beyond her imagination.
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. (Is. 40:31 Amp V.)
Are you in “God’s Waiting Room?”
Do you wait as the Amplified Verse says – with expectation, looking for the Lord, hoping in Him? There lies the key to renewed strength and power, run and not being weary, walk and not becoming tired.
Dear Lord, I pray for those who are waiting. That they may sense Your indwelling power. That they will be strengthened to serve You right where they are. And that in the serving they would become more like You.