In ministry you will be both called to wait and also find waiting personally and corporately difficult. So it is important to recognize that there are lots of good reasons why waiting is not merely inescapable but necessary and helpful. Here are a few of those reasons.
Because We Live in a Fallen World
We are called to wait because the broken condition of the world makes everything we do harder. Nothing in this life or in your ministry really functions as originally intended. Something changed when sin entered the world, and in rebuking Adam, God summarized that change: “cursed is the ground . . . through painful toil you will eat of it. . . . It will produce thorns and thistles for you. . . . By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19). Sin brought friction and trouble and pain and sweat and a thousand other “thorn and thistle” complications to absolutely every aspect of life. We find ourselves waiting because everything in a fallen world is more laborious and entangled than it really ought to be.
Sin also put greed and fear and arrogance and jealousy and self-worship into the souls of all who live this thorn-and-thistle life. We must wait because, by being selfish, impatient, competitive, driven, anxious, and angry, we make life and ministry harder for one another in an endless variety of ways. This is why the seemingly easy leadership conversation becomes the full-blown conflict, why the once-sweet ministry relationship gets stained with hurt and acrimony, and why the church at times sadly functions as a tool of personal power rather than an instrument of worship and redemption.
Processes and people are all affected—everything and everyone has been damaged by the Fall. We must wait, because in a world that is broken, everything we do is harder and more complicated than it was ever meant to be.
Because God Is Sovereign
We must wait because we are not writing our own personal and ministry stories. Life does not work the way we want it to, in the time we want it to. You and I do not live in the center of the universe. That place is forever occupied by God and God alone. Our individual stories and the stories of our churches are part of the great origin-to-destiny story that he alone authors. Waiting becomes immediately easier when you realize God is sovereign (and you are not) and when you further reflect on the reality that he is the ultimate source of everything that is wise, loving, and good.
Waiting, therefore, is not a sign that your world is out of control. Rather, it is a sign that your world is under the wise and infinitely attentive control of a God of fathomless wisdom and boundless love. This means you can rest as you wait, not because you like to wait, but because you trust the One who is calling you to wait.
Because God Is a God of Grace
Waiting is one of God’s most powerful tools of grace. It’s important to realize in your ministry that God doesn’t just give us grace for the wait. The wait itself is a gift of grace. You see, waiting is not only about what you will receive at the end of the wait. Waiting is about what you will become as you wait. In calling us to wait, God is even rescuing those of us in ministry from our bondage to our own plan, our own wisdom, our own power, our own control.
In calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into a greater allegiance to his kingdom of glory and grace. Waiting is more than being patient as situations and other people change. Waiting is about understanding that you and I desperately need to change, and that waiting is a powerful tool of personal change. God is using the grace of waiting to change us at the causal core of our personhood: the heart. Now, in ministry, that’s a good thing!
So We Can Minister to Others
Waiting is central to any ministry activity. If you are truly committed to being part of what God is doing in the lives of others, you will be willing to wait. Personal heart and life change is seldom a sudden event. Usually it is a process. You and I do not determine when and how the winds of the Spirit will blow, and people do not often become what they need to become overnight.
This means that in ministry we are called to have the same conversation again and again. We are called to pick that person up after each failure, to be willing to forgive and forbear, to remind him or her once more of God’s presence and grace, and to be willing to have our lives slowed down and complicated in the process. People of grace and love are always people who are willing to wait.
For the Increase of God’s Glory
Finally, we are called to wait because everything in life and ministry exists not for our comfort and ease but for God’s glory. The whole redemptive story is written for one purpose and one purpose alone: the glory of the king.
Waiting is hard for us because we tie our hearts to other glories. We so often are tempted to live and minister for the glory of human acceptance, of personal achievement, of power and position, of possessions and places, and of comfort and pleasure. So when God’s glory requires that these things be withheld from us—things we look to for identity, meaning, and purpose—we find waiting a grueling, burdensome experience. Waiting means surrendering your glory.
Waiting means submitting to his glory. Waiting means understanding that you were given life and breath for the glory of another. Waiting gives you opportunity to forsake the delusion of your own glory and rest in the God of awesome glory. Only when you do that will you find what you seek, and what you were meant to have: lasting identity, meaning, purpose, and peace in Christ. In this way waiting is is much more than a burden for you to bear; it is a precious gift for you to receive with joy.
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