Monday, August 31, 2015

A Strategy for Waiting-Keep the Faith


Dear Friends,

It isn’t easy to continue going to church or trying to exercise a ministry during, or immediately after, a period of pain and suffering – and yet there is healing if we do so. I know how difficult it can be to go to a worship service and hear everyone singing happy hymns. One more happy chorus and I’ll scream! you think. But there is a certain therapy in worship and service. This is true because in ministry we often meet a lot of people who are a whole lot worse off than we are.  It’s like the old saying, “I was sad because I had no shoes–until I met a man who had no feet!”  In Christian service, we usually bump into quite a few people who have no feet!  In helping and encouraging them, we find a measure of relief ourselves.

What did Jesus’ followers do while they were waiting for the Comforter to come after Jesus had ascended into heaven? “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). They also went to a great deal of trouble to choose a disciple to take the place of Judas, who had killed himself after betraying Jesus–and can’t you imagine the emotions this process brought up for all of them? At this point, their only instructions were to wait for the Holy Spirit. They waited in faith, restoring the apostles’ number back to the original twelve in the anticipation that their little organization–their body of Christ–would indeed move forward and continue Jesus’ ministry on earth. On the day of Pentecost, “they were all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). During their wait, all they knew to do was pray and stay together–and that’s what they did.

I find the examples of these faithful people practical and helpful. While I am waiting for God’s work in a difficult situation, I can realize my character is under divine reconstruction. I can try to normalize my routine (with lots of English cups of tea and a big pair of pruning shears or similar helps).  I can continue my religious disciplines, whether I am feeling “connected” or not, and keep up whatever ministry is feasible for me. I can also try to mend whatever fences I can, and try not to worry too much about the ones only God can mend at some future date.  Persisting in all of this will help me regain my spiritual perspective.

Are you in God’s waiting room?  Are you waiting for a baby to be born?  A prodigal to return?  A spouse to reconcile?  Are you waiting for someone to share your life with?  For a job?  For a cure?  Wait on the Lord and not on the answer.  Try to concentrate on His person, His plans and schedule – His business. Job’s growing faith did not stop the agony, but it helped him find a measure of productivity in his life, to the extent that the Scriptures say, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.”


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Improving Our Prayers

Dear Friends,

One thing that happens while we are waiting for God to act in a difficult situation is a marked improvement in both the quantity and quality of our prayers! If anything can help to pull us in line with God’s plan for our prayer life, it is time spent in the waiting room.

Think about a hospital waiting room. All of us must have gone through the harrowing experience of waiting for our names to be called. It certainly helps soothe our apprehensions to have someone to talk to, doesn’t it? In the same way, that part of our on-going relationship with God we call prayer becomes the conducive environment for a talk with Him about our fears and phobias.  It’s sad, really, that suffering has to pay us a visit before we get around to paying God a visit and getting our prayer life back in shape, but that’s the way it is with many of us.

One of the things I have learned as I’m waiting for it all to be over is to pray in the absence of rewards. As we grow in our relationship to God, we come to realize prayer is a whole lot more than a heavenly shopping list; it is our lifeline to God. We learn to say, “Lord, what will You show me, teach me, or make of me?” rather than, “Lord, what will You give to me or do for me?” So often we feel self-righteous when we pray–as if God owes us something and will reward us as a master rewards his pet dog that begs in the right way for a biscuit. If we pray expecting to be rewarded with a “treat” (the answer to our prayer request), we have not advanced very far in the school of prayer. The problem of praying without rewards, however, is that we can become discouraged. We must exercise perseverance if for no other reason Jesus’ exhortation to pray–even when nothing seems to be happening at all (see Lk. 18:1-8).

I will never forget being in God’s waiting room on one occasion, praying on and on for something important to happen. I expected to see some sign of “God activity” in this serious situation, but I could see nothing to encourage me. Sitting by a still lake early one morning, I asked the Lord why my prayer effort was not being rewarded.

What reward do you want? I seemed to hear Him asking me.

“Well, Lord,” I said, “it’s not as if I’m asking You to wave a magic wand and make this situation disappear–I’d be quite content just to see some small evidence that You are involved in this.  Some little sign that You are working some good out of all this trouble.”

As I sat looking at the pretty lake, God put this startling thought into my mind: Jill, do you believe there are fish in this lake?

“Yes, of course.”

Then God’s still, small voice asked me another question. How do you know? You see no evidence. The surface of the water is like glass! Then, Jill, do you have to see a fish jump to believe that they are there?

I knew well enough what the Lord was asking me: Jill, do you have to see a sign to believe I am hearing and answering your prayers? Know only the fish are there. I always hear and always answer. Trust the timing to me! I tried from then on not to schedule His answers on my timetable and to trust God to work out His plan–how, where, and when He would.


Blessings,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine