Summary: For those who wait upon Him, God promises His strength and His direction for life

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SCRIPTURE TEXT: Isaiah 40:29-31.

This is one of those passages of Scripture that has become for many of us one of our "life" verses — a passage that stays with us throughout all of life’s experiences. It is one that we have often fallen back on in the difficult times of life. Its visual images stick with us. We see them occasionally in our daily life. At certain times of the year along the Arkansas river we may see the eagle soaring high in the sky and be reminded of God’s promise. When I visit at the nursing homes as I often do, I see some of our older friends slowly shuffling along the hallways, barely able to "walk and not faint", and I am reminded of this passage. I saw its images anew some years ago during the Atlanta Olympic games. I saw athletes performing in the blistering heat of a southern summer, the world’s finest young men and women. They had given themselves totally to developing the strength and skill of their young bodies, and yet some of them fell and fainted under the heat of an Atlanta summer, while others managed to keep going.

When God called young Isaiah to be a prophet, the young man had a question: "How long, Lord, must I deliver your message?" God replied: "Until the cities be devastated and without inhabitant, until the houses be without people, and the land utterly desolate" (6:11). In other words, God said, "I want you to be faithful to the bitter end. I don’t want you to ever give up. The youth may faint and fall by the wayside, but I want you to keep on going."

How do we keep on going? This is one of God’s great promises that can keep us going throughout all the circumstances of life. I want us to look at three great truths in this passage that can serve to keep us going till the very end.

1. First, a truth about life’s waiting: "...they that WAIT on the Lord..." Isaiah didn’t learn about waiting in the prophet’s classroom. He learned it as God became his teacher in the laboratory of life.

The command is for us to wait for God to lead the way. It’s like when Moses stood at the crossing of the Red Sea and said to his people, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Can you imagine how difficult it was to just "stand still and wait" when the great Egyptian army with 600 chariots was closing in upon them? Can you see the great cloud of dust rising up on the horizon, the ground shaking underneath your feet as the thundering hoofs of a thousand horses were closing in? Stand still? Wait, just wait? "Yes," Moses said, "Just wait for God to do his work." And He did, of course.

Waiting is hard isn’t it? Someone has called it "the discipline of delay". When it is planned and ordered by God, waiting is never a waste of time. When God is shaping and preparing us for something, it is not time lost, it is time gained.

Pastor Joel Gregory tells the story of a seminary professor who taught the Christian graces of love and forbearance for forty years until he retired. Occupying himself in his retirement years, he poured a new concrete driveway to his house. Finished, he went in to rest and get a glass of ice tea. Returning later to view his proud achievement, he discovered that the neighborhood kids were putting their footprints all in the wet concrete. The angry professor chased the kids down in a rage and beat the tar out of the ones he could catch. Hearing the commotion, the professor’s wife rushed into the yard, saw the angry professor thrashing the kids, and began to reprimand him: "What a shame," she said. "For forty years you have taught love, forgiveness and forbearance. Now look at you! You’ve lost your testimony." To which he replied: "That was all in the abstract. This is in the concrete."

Yes, it’s different when it is in the concrete isn’t it? We never seem to be able to recognize the waiting in our lives as being something of any positive value. We see it as an intrusion, an inconvenience, an interruption into our activity: the traffic light that holds us up when no one else is coming in the other direction; the long line at the bank or the grocery store; the busy signal — or, worse even, the canned music — waiting for someone to come to the phone.

A lady called American Airlines and asked the reservation clerk, "How long does it take to get from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfort, Germany?" The clerk had to wait a moment for the information to come up on her computer screen, so she said, "Just a minute." The caller responded, "Thanks very much," and hung up! Most of the things that really matter in life do not happen in "just a minute". They come for those who learn to wait upon the Lord.

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