“Be still and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10
If there is one word that best describes the average pastor or church member today, it is the word busy. Schedules are full, days are hectic, demands are getting greater and greater. The mark of the successful Christian these days seems to be a full calendar, a weary mind and body, and a lonely family. Without realizing it, we have adopted the pace and standard of the world, and somehow we expect to escape the price that the world is paying–fractured marriages, nervous breakdowns, emotional burnout, and various degrees of depression and inability to cope.
There is certainly nothing wrong with sincere ambition and the desire to build God’s work (except for the fact that Jesus said, “I will build my church.”). But we must take care that our standards of success are God’s standards and not those of Madison Avenue or Hollywood.
The American obsession with size and statistics has, I fear, captured us to the point of driving us toward goals that may or may not be biblical. This I do know: we are in danger of losing far more than we gain if we remain on this evangelical treadmill.
One cannot help but be impressed with our Lord’s ministry when He was on the earth. We never find him rushing about to get things done; nor do we hear him lament, “If I only had more time!” The reason? He lived in the Father’s will and sought only to please the Father’s heart. “ Are there not twelve hours in the day?” he asked his disciples (John 11:9); and the apostle John in his Gospel keeps reminding us that Jesus was on a divine timetable and his hour had not yet come (see 2:4)
I was complaining one day to a friend that I had too much to do and simply could not take time for another meeting. He smiled and quietly said, “There is always time for the will of God.” He hit the nail on the head: not everything on my calendar was in the will of God. I was so anxious to get things done and to please a lot of people that I was becoming the victim of my own ministry.
Jesus took time to get away from the crowd and rest his body and refresh his soul. He started his day in prayer and derived from that fellowship the strength he needed for the demands of the day. He was constantly in communion with the Father so that his decisions were in the will of God. He walked through each day with a holy calmness that radiated confidence, love, patience, and power. No wonder he could say, “Come to Me,…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
It was while Peter “tarried many days in Joppa” that God opened the heavens and revealed the next stage of gospel witness (Acts 9:34). According to some zealous preachers I have heard, Peter should have been out preaching to the needy multitudes. Baloney!
I don’t doubt that Peter had a ministry in Joppa after he raised Dorcas from the dead, but I get the impression that he was also taking time to think, meditate, and pray. Every Christian needs to experience “tarrying times” when he slows down long enough for God to catch up with him and perhaps teach him some new truths.
Having said that, let me add: times of tarrying are preparation for times of toiling. We wait before the Lord so that we can work for the Lord. God is our refuge in the hiding place that He might be our strength in the marketplace. We go apart to be with Him, not to escape life, but to get new enduement to face life. Tarrying times are times of refreshment and renewal. They are times of honest evaluation, humble confession, and happy restoration.
Waiting on God is no excuse for laziness or mediocrity. Believers who know how to tarry will always do their best. And while they are doing it, they will experience a poise and adequacy that can come only from God.
Who knows? If all of us slowed down a bit, if we cancelled a few meetings from the church calendar, if we took time to wait before God in prayer, we might see God work in wonderful ways. We might see fractured marriages mend again, some discordant ministries brought back into God’s harmony, and some exhausted believers given new strength and zeal for God. We might see revival!