Category  |  Waiting on God

Preach or Plow?

According to the family legend, two brothers, one named Billy and the other Melvin, were standing on the family’s dairy farm one day when they saw an airplane doing some skywriting. The boys watched as the plane sketched out the letters “GP” overhead.

Both brothers decided that what they saw had meaning for them. One thought it meant “Go preach.” The other read it as “Go plow.” Later, one of the boys, Billy Graham, dedicated himself to preaching the gospel, becoming an icon of evangelism. His brother Melvin went on to faithfully run the family dairy farm for many years.

Skywriting signs aside, if God did call Billy to preach and Melvin to plow, as seems to be the case, they both honored God through their vocations. While Billy achieved greatness and fame during his long preaching career, his success doesn’t mean that his brother’s obedient calling to plow was any less important.

While God does assign some to be in what we call full-time ministry (Ephesians 4:11–12), that doesn’t mean those in other jobs and roles aren’t doing something just as important. In either case, as Paul said, “each part [should do] its work” (v.16). That means honoring Jesus by faithfully using the gifts He’s given us. When we do, whether we “go preach” or “go plow,” we can make a difference for Jesus wherever we serve or work.

Bright Spots in Bleak Places

When my husband and I were exploring a small, rugged corner of the state of Wyoming, I spied a sunflower in a rocky, dry place where sagebrush, nettles, prickly cactus, and other scraggly plants grew. It wasn’t as tall as the domestic sunflower, but it was just as bright—and I felt cheered.

This unexpected bright spot in rough terrain reminded me of how life, even for the Christian, can seem barren and cheerless. Troubles can seem insurmountable; and like the cries of the psalmist David, our prayers sometimes seem to go unheeded: “Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy” (Psalm 86:1). Like him, we too long for joy (v. 4).

But David goes on to declare that we serve a faithful, “compassionate and gracious God” who abounds in love for all who call on Him (vv. 5, 11, 15). He does answer (v. 7).

Sometimes in bleak places, God sends a sunflower—an encouraging word or note from a friend; a comforting verse or Bible passage; a beautiful sunrise—that helps us to move forward with a lighter step, with hope. Even as we await the day we experience God’s deliverance out of our difficulty, may we join the psalmist in proclaiming, “You are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God”! (v. 10).

Walk in the Present with God

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote: “Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another . . . Ten-thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the world—is always present for Him.” Still, to our frail humanness, waiting seasons often feel endless. But as we learn to trust God, the eternal Maker of time, we can accept the reality that our fragile existence is secured in His hands.

The psalmist lamenting in Psalm 102 admits his days are as fleeting as “the evening shadow” and withering grass, while the Lord “endures through all generations” (v. 11). The writer, weary from suffering, proclaims God sits “enthroned forever” (v. 12). He affirms God’s power and consistent compassion reach beyond his personal space (vv. 13-18). Even in his despair (vv. 19-24), the psalmist turns his focus on the power of God as Creator (v. 25). Though His creations will perish, the Lord will remain the same for eternity (vv. 26-27).

When time seems to be standing still or dragging on, it’s tempting to accuse God of being late or non-responsive. We can grow impatient and frustrated with remaining still. We can forget He’s chosen every single cobblestone on the path He’s planned for us. But He never leaves us to fend for ourselves. As we live by faith in the presence of God, we can walk in the present with God.

Never Too Late

During the anxious moments that followed my mother-in-law’s heart attack, she was fortunate to receive immediate medical care. Later, her doctor told me that treatment within fifteen minutes of a heart attack results in a survival rate of 33 percent for critical patients. But just 5 percent survive if treated beyond that time frame.

On the way to heal Jairus’s desperately ill daughter (someone definitely needing immediate medical care), Jesus did the unthinkable: He paused (Mark 5:30). He stopped to identify who touched Him, and then spoke gently with the beggar woman. You can imagine what Jairus was thinking: There’s no time for this, my daughter is dying! And then, his worst fears came true—Jesus appeared to have delayed too long and his daughter passed away (v. 35).

But Jesus turned to Jairus and offered a word of encouragement: “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36). Then, calmly ignoring the mockery of onlookers, Christ spoke to Jairus’s daughter and she came back to life! He revealed that He can never be too late. Time can’t limit what He’s able to do, and when He chooses to do it.

How often do we feel like Jairus, thinking that God was simply too late to accomplish what we had hoped for. But with God there’s no such thing. He’s never too late in fulfilling His good and merciful work in our lives.

More Than Just Waiting

Police charged a woman with reckless driving after she drove her car on and off of a sidewalk. She steered off the street and onto the sidewalk because she didn’t want to wait for a school bus dropping off students!

While it's true that waiting can make us impatient, there are also good things to do and learn in the waiting. Jesus knew this when He told His disciples to “not leave Jerusalem” (Acts 1:4)? They were waiting to “be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (v. 5).

As they gathered, likely in a state of excitement and anticipation, the disciples seemed to understand that when Jesus told them to wait, He didn’t say for them to do nothing. They spent time praying together (v. 14), and informed by Scripture, they also chose a new disciple to replace Judas (v. 26). Soon, in an upper room, as they were gathered together in worship and prayer, the Holy Spirit descended upon them (2:1–4).

The disciples hadn’t simply been waiting—they had also been preparing. As we wait on God, it doesn’t mean doing nothing or impatiently rushing forward. Instead we can pray, worship, and enjoy fellowship as we anticipate what He’ll do. The waiting prepares our hearts, minds, and bodies for what’s to come.

Yes, when God asks us to wait, we can be excited—knowing that we can trust Him and the plans He has for us!

Escaping the Noise

Several years ago, the president of a college suggested that students join her in "powering down" for an evening. Although the students agreed, it was with great reluctance that they laid aside their cell phones and entered the chapel. For the next hour, they sat quietly in a service of music and prayer. Afterward, one participant described the experience as "a wonderful opportunity to calm down . . . a place to just tune out all of the extra noise."

Sometimes, it's difficult to escape "extra noise." The clamor of both our external and internal worlds can be deafening. But when we are willing to "power down," we begin to understand the psalmist's reminder of the necessity to be still so we can know God (Psalm 46:10). In 1 Kings 19, we discover as well that when the prophet Elijah looked for the Lord, he did not find Him in the pandemonium of the wind or the earthquake or the fire (vv. 9-13). Instead, Elijah heard God's gentle whisper (v. 12).

Extra noise is practically guaranteed through holiday celebrations. When families and friends come together, it's likely a time of animated conversations, excess food, boisterous laughter, and sweet expressions of love. But when we quietly open our hearts, we find that time with God is even sweeter. Like Elijah, we are more likely to encounter God in the stillness. And sometimes, if we listen, we too will hear that gentle whisper.

From Shame to Honor

It’s that time of the year again, when families gather to celebrate the festive season together. Some of us, however, dread meeting certain “concerned” relatives whose questions can make those who are still single or childless feel that there’s something wrong with them.

Imagine the plight of Elizabeth, who was childless despite being married for many years. In her culture, that was seen as a sign of God’s disfavor (see 1 Samuel 1:5–6) and could actually be considered shameful. So while Elizabeth had been living righteously (Luke 1:6), her neighbors and relatives may have suspected otherwise.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth and her husband continued to serve the Lord faithfully. Then, when both were well advanced in years, a miracle occurred. God heard her prayer (v. 13). He loves to show us His favor (v. 25). And though He may seem to delay, His timing is always right and His wisdom always perfect. For Elizabeth and her husband, God had a special gift: A child who would become the Messiah’s forerunner (Isaiah 40:3–5).

Do you feel inadequate because you seem to lack something—a university degree, a spouse, a child, a job, a house? Keep living for Him faithfully and waiting patiently for Him and His plan, just as Elizabeth did. No matter our circumstances, God is working in and through us. He knows your heart. He hears your prayers.

The “Hope for a Baby” Tree

After wrapping the tree with clear twinkle lights, I tied pink and blue bows on its branches and christened it our “Hope for a Baby” Christmas tree. My husband and I had been waiting for a baby through adoption for over four years. Surely by Christmas!

Every morning I stopped at the tree and prayed, reminding myself of God’s faithfulness. On December 21 we received the news: no baby by Christmas. Devastated, I paused by the tree that had become a symbol of God’s provision. Was God still faithful? Was I doing something wrong?

At times, God’s apparent withholding results from His loving discipline. And other times God lovingly delays to renew our trust. In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah describes God’s correction of Israel. The pain is palpable: “He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver” (3:13). Through it all, Jeremiah also expresses ultimate trust in God’s faithfulness: “his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22–23).

I left the tree standing well beyond Christmas and continued my morning prayer. At last, on Easter weekend, we received our baby girl. God is always faithful, though not necessarily on our timeline nor always according to our desires.

My children are now in their thirties, but each year I set up a miniature version of the tree, reminding myself and others to hope in God’s faithfulness.

Help from Heaven

SOS, the Morse code signal, was created in 1905 because sailors needed a way to indicate extreme distress. The signal gained notoriety in 1910 when used by the sinking ship Steamship Kentucky, saving all 46 people aboard.

While SOS may be a more recent invention, the urgent cry for help is as old as humanity. We hear it often in the Old Testament story of Joshua, who faced opposition from fellow Israelites (Joshua 9:18) and challenging terrain (3:15–17) for more than fourteen years as the Israelites slowly conquered and settled the land God had promised them. During this struggle “the Lord was with Joshua” (6:27).

In Joshua 10, the Israelites go to the aid of Gibeonites, allies of Israel who were being attacked by five kings. Joshua knew that he needed the Lord’s help to defeat so many powerful enemies (v. 12). God responded with a hailstorm, even stopping the sun in the middle of the sky to give Israel more time to defeat the enemy. Joshua 10:14 recounts, “Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”

If you are in the midst of a challenging situation, you can send out an SOS to God. Although help will look different than the assistance Joshua received, perhaps help comes through an unexpected job, an understanding doctor, or peace in the midst of grief. Be encouraged that these are ways He is responding to your call for help and fighting for you.

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