The Undervalued Virtue

The Undervalued Virtue

I regularly employ a couple of different devotionals as part of my daily routine of spending time in scripture and prayer with God. The one is the old classic, Streams in the Desert; the other is Job and Sawchuck’s A Guide to Prayer. Every now and then, the two seem to overlap in what I take as a divine call to pay attention to something God wants to impress upon me. Today’s readings were a case in point.

The one meditation focused on Acts 16, and the Spirit of Jesus preventing Paul from entering into the province of Asia, for the time had not yet come in which the gospel would penetrate that region. Rather, a vision of a man from Macedonia calling for Paul would lead that disciple into the area of both geography and ministry which the Lord had appointed for his apostle.

The other writing was a reflection on the story of Peter walking on the water at Jesus’ command, a feat quite possible for any of us if truly the Master bade us to “come to him.” Going on, the writer suggested that we must, like Peter, call out to the Lord very clearly, and then wait and listen for his beckoning and commanding word. For without that word of summons, to throw ourselves out upon the water would only be presumptuous, rash and impudent. No, till we are unmistakably called to dare the impossible, our duty is simply to pray and wait.

The two readings sparked a number of thoughts. First, how often we allow our impatience to direct our actions and decisions, rather than waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide our every step and plan. How easily we become anxious because life is not working out according to our hurried time schedule, instead of trusting that God’s timing is not only true but perfect. Our preoccupation with both technology and today’s fads has shaped us to presume God is present only to help us achieve or attain “the next best thing.” Or again, how prone we are to run ahead of God with our visions and campaigns and agendas, and then in afterthought, ask for blessing upon what we have purposed to undertake. After all, our goal is to bring glory to God—why would the Lord not want to cause our plans to flourish. Except that just as God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways, our ways, it just may be that our great tactics and projects may not fall whatsoever within God’s kingdom plan. How often we fail completely in first of all waiting for God to enable us to discern his vision for our church or call upon our hearts.

Scripture often directs us to trust in the Lord, look to the Lord, hope in the Lord and give praise to the Lord. But God’s Word also commands us again and again simply to wait upon the Lord. God invites us and challenges us to that active, waiting, patient and prayerful work of attending, listening and discerning what the Spirit of the Lord is telling us to do for right now, and for tomorrow. True discipleship means the exercise of that holy virtue of patience and wait diligently and expectantly for his word, not our wishful thinking or arrogant will. Only as we do so will we find ourselves alert and empowered for either the Macedonian call or a meander over the waves or simply to be the sign of holy grace where God wants us to be.

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