The Waiting Game
“Pro baseball player R.A. Dickey was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner, the highest honor for a pitcher. But Dickey's career almost ended before it started. In 1996, the Texas Rangers made him their #1 draft pick and offered him an $810,000 contract. All he had to do was pass a routine team physical. But unknown to Dickey, the physical revealed that his right elbow was missing its ulnar collateral ligament.
As Dickey, a committed follower of Christ, entered training camp he uttered a prayer of gratitude: ‘Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings and for helping me get this far.’ But shortly after that prayer, his agent pulled him into a meeting with Doug Melvin, the Rangers general manager. Melvin flatly said, ‘We are going to retract our offer. We think there's something wrong with your elbow.’
I try to take in those words for a second or two: We are going to retract our offer … I don't feel devastation, or even anger. I feel rage. Complete rage. It feels as if it starts in my toes and blasts upward through my body like a tsunami, into my guts and right up through the top of my head … [I want to tell Melvin] about … how this is the one thing … that I can do right and that makes me somebody … I want to make sure he knows [that] he's matter-of-factly dropped this atomic bomb on my baseball career. On my life.
[But] it's as if there's a strong hand on my shoulder holding me back, giving me pause. In that instant I have a self-control that wasn't there a moment earlier. I hear a voice: ‘Relax, I've got you. Relax, R.A. It's okay … I've got you.’ The voice is the Holy Spirit … I was just talking to God in prayer and now he is talking back, giving me a composure that could not have come from anywhere else. The tsunami passes. I am crushed by Doug Melvin's words but I am not going to do anything stupid … ‘I've got you.’”
Source: R.A. Dickey with Wayne Coffey, Wherever I Wind Up (Plume, 2013), pp. 97-99.
Dickey had to wait, to see his dream of becoming a professional baseball, fulfilled. He was part of the Texas Rangers’ minor league system until 2001. That means he waited five years to make it to the pros. God’s promise, through the Holy Spirit, was fulfilled. God did have him and rewarded him with the Cy Young Award in 2012.
Most of you know my story about coming into pastoral ministry
I told the Lord “No” to pastoral ministry for 13 years, before saying “Yes”
The Lord waited much longer for me than I had to wait for Him
It was within several months of saying “Yes” to the Lord, about pastoral ministry, that He provided the senior pastor role here at Idaville
Recently, I have been fortunate to see the Lord answer prayers pretty quickly
There are still some prayers I am waiting on the Lord for (His answer right now is wait)
My Dad shared, when he was here for our revival services, about praying for my brother
My parents prayed for many years for my brother
There were praying for him to return to the Lord and to surrender his addictions to the Lord
It was many years of heartache and pain, before my brother surrendered his life to the Lord again
My parents saw the Lord answer their prayers
Things most of us have waited for in life:
First boyfriend or girlfriend
Completing school (high school, college, masters, doctorate)
Job in our field
Spouse (some are still waiting)
Children (some are still waiting)
First million dollars (some of us are still waiting for this one)
Abram had just returned from an incredible victory that God had provided. It was during that time that Abram is feeling afraid about his future. God is aware of Abram’s fears and comes to him in a vision to encourage and comfort him. During this vision, Abram questions God about his promised heir and the delay is seeing that fulfilled. God reaffirms His promise to Abram. Through this passage, today, we will learn that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s delays are not denials. [Baldwin, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 12-50, 51]
GOD (Genesis 15:1-6)
Protection (vv. 1)
“After this,” is probably referring to what we just learned in Genesis 14
Abram just defeated the four eastern kings and sent them packing
I’m certain this didn’t sit well with those kings
It was possible that these four kings would rest, rebuild, and return with reinforcements to attack Abram [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 80]
We’re not told that this happened, but it could have
So, Abram could have been fearful about the kings returning
It is also possible that Abram is fearful about his future, since he and Sarai have not been able to conceive
Abram is feeling discouraged
It would seem like he should not be discouraged because of the great victory, but he is human
How often have we felt discouraged after something incredible has happened
It does not make sense to us, but it happens more often than not
I know this is true for me
I’ve experienced discouragement after something incredible happens at church – I always chalk it up to spiritual warfare
I’ve also experienced a heaviness and feeling of being down right before something incredible happens
It doesn’t make sense, because I feel like everything is going fine, but I just feel discouraged and down
In the middle of Abram’s discouragement and fear, God tells him not to be afraid
The Lord uses an “I am” statement as the reason why Abram should not be afraid
The Lord is Abram’s shield
The Hebrew word is used metaphorically of God as a protector [https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h4043/nasb95/wlc/0-1/]
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is our protector.
God protects us as His children
We don’t have anything to fear
Psalm 118:6, The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Hebrews 13:5-6, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
“Threatened layoffs at work. Drugs and weapons in the schools. We have every right to be fearful, right? Maybe not. In Scared to Life (Victor), Douglas Rumford cites a study that explains why we shouldn't allow fear to rule our lives:
- 60% of our fears are totally unfounded;
- 20% are already behind us;
- 10% are so petty they don't make any difference;
- 4-5% of the remaining 10% are real, but we can't do anything about them.
That means only 5% are real fears that we can do something about.”
Source: Marriage Partnership, Vol. 12, no. 2.
What fears are you facing today? (Job related, financial, relationships, physical, spiritual, etc.)
You can trust the Lord to be your shield, your protector through all of those circumstances
He is always with you
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that He is my shield, my protector.
When you claim that promise, you don’t have to fear anymore
The Lord is your great reward
“In these antique words the very loftiest and purest principles of spiritual religion are set forth.
He that loves and trusts God possesses God.
He that possesses God has enough for earth.
He that possesses God has enough for heaven.
[Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 305.]
“The ‘reward’ is not paid to him as compensation for his heroic deeds of chap. 14, or he would have received payment from the kings; rather, the ‘reward’ looks ahead to the gifts of descendants and land already promised.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 163]
So, the Lord encourages Abram not to fear the future, He is in control
Abram asks the Lord a question and makes a logical statement, in his mind
Provocation (vv. 2-3)
What can you give me since I remain childless?
Abram is really asking the Lord, who will inherit this reward, since I do not have any children? [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 246]
“Wages make a future possible, but a childless person has not future.” [Zimmerli cited by Goldingay, 246]
At this point, Abram has been in Canaan for 10 years and still hasn’t seen the fulfillment of God’s promise found in Genesis 12:2, 7
Abram is 85 years old at his point and we know that the son of promise (Isaac) would not be born for another 15 years
I don’t believe that Abram is doubting God at this point
I believe that Abram is probably asking the Lord for the timing of when it will happen
A servant will be my heir
The Hebrew word for “heir” literally means, “son of acquisition”
It was common practice in the Ancient Near East for couples, who remained childless, to adopt a son to take care of them in their old age an inherit their possessions [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 420]
Abram and Sarai had already begun to think about this and probably asked Eliezer to be their adopted son
If Abram and Sarai were to have a son, then their biological son would retain the title of heir and Eliezer would forfeit that position
“His [Abram’s] concern was expressed by a marvelous word play on his household servant’s origin: this Eliezer of Damascus (Dammeseq) is the possessor-heir (ben meseq, lit., ‘son of possession’) of my estate (15:2). It is as if Abram were stressing to God that ‘the omen is in the nomen’ – a mere servant would become his heir (Ross, 55).” [Ross cited by Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 135-36]
This was not God’s plan for Abram and Sarai, so He reaffirms His promise to Abram
Promise (vv. 4-6)
Biological son will be your heir
God tells Abram that Eliezer will not be his heir
The Lord reaffirms His promise that Abram and Sarai will have a son
He is reaffirming what He said earlier; I will make you into a great nation . . . “To your offspring I will give this land.” (Gen. 12:2, 7)
PRINCIPLE #2 – God keeps His promises.
Abram was probably starting to wonder if God was going to really give he and Sarai a son
It had been 10 years and nothing had happened
It’s easy to get discouraged and begin to doubt the Lord
God’s delays are not denials
God always keeps His promises – we can’t count on that
Perhaps you’re struggling today to really embrace and accept that truth
Maybe you’re doubting that the Lord will fulfill a promise He has made to you
There are some of you who have claimed certain promises from God’s Word, but you haven’t seen that promise fulfilled yet
Don’t lose heart, don’t become discouraged, don’t turn away from the Lord
He is with you, He knows what you’re going through, and He hasn’t forgotten His promise to you
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Confess to the Lord that I’m struggling to be patient for the fulfillment of His promise to me.
The Lord encouraged Abram by telling him that Eliezer would not be his heir, but a biological son would be his heir
God was reaffirming His promise to Abram and then He gave Abram a visual illustration of what the future would look like for his family
We learn a couple of things from verse 5
Abram was inside his tent during the vision
It was night time when he had the vision
Comparing Abram’s offspring to the stars
The Lord encouraged Abram to count the stars, if he could
There are millions of stars, so Abram wasn’t going to be able to count them all
This wasn’t the first time that God mentioned an impossible task to illustrate Abram’s offspring
I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. (Genesis 13:16)
“Whether Abraham looked down at the dust (Gen. 13:16) or up at the stars (Gen. 15:5), he would recall God’s promise and have confidence.” [Wiersbe, 81]
Abram’s offspring would be as numerous as the stars
God’s promise to Abram came true both in a physical and a spiritual sense
There have been millions of people born since Abram’s time, who are his biological offspring
“How appropriate, therefore, was the sign; the Lord would give to Abram not only physical descendants, but also the children of faith in every generation and of every nation (Rom. 4:16-17).” [Baldwin, 51]
Romans 4:16-17, Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
The Lord uses the visual illustration of the innumerable stars to encourage Abram that He will keep His promise
God’s delays are not denials.
That was all Abram needed to hear
He believed the Lord
This is the first time in the Bible that the verb “believe” is used
“The Hebrew construction translated ‘believed’ (heʾĕmin + bĕ prep.) means to place trust in someone with confidence (e.g., Exod. 19:9; 1 Sam. 27:12).” [Mathews, 166]
Abram’s belief in the Lord was not a first time experience, here, but rather an ongoing faith from the beginning of their relationship
“Abraham considers God true, reliable, and trustworthy.” [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 242]
Abram knows that God will be faithful to him and that He will keep His promise
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is pleased when His people believe His promises.
Abram had been waiting a long time for the fulfillment of God’s promise for an heir
He was going to have to wait another 15 years, but Abram believed God’s promise – he didn’t doubt
You may be waiting on God’s promise to be fulfilled for you
Don’t doubt, but believe!
God will keep His promise to you
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Reaffirm my belief that God keeps His promises.
When we take that step of faith, God recognizes it
The Lord credited it to him as righteousness
“The term ‘credited’ (ḥāšab, NIV, HCSB), also translated ‘reckoned’ (NASB, NRSV, NJB, NJPS) or ‘counted’ (ESB, NLT, JPSV), means ‘to assign . . . value’; in this case the Lord assigns Abram’s faith the value of righteousness.” [Mathews, 167]
The Lord and Abram were in a right relationship
“Because Abram takes God at his word, God credits him with a legacy on the basis of the ‘rightness’ of his faith. He accomplishes this by formally establishing the covenant with him. Recognized righteousness becomes the basis for blessing.” [Walton, 422]
The covenant between the Lord and Abram is what we’ll look at next week
Romans 4:11, And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.
Abram understood that God’s delays are not denials
The Lord was going to provide a biological son as his heir
Do you need to claim the truth that God is your shield, your protector?
Are you struggling to patient until the Lord fulfills His promise to you?
Do you need to believe, like Abram, that God will keep His promises?
Let’s encourage one another with these truths, today.
“In a New York Times article, journalist Alex Stone tells the story of how executives at a Houston airport faced and then solved a cascade of passenger complaints about long waits at the baggage claim. They first decided to hire more baggage handlers, reducing wait times to an industry-beating average of eight minutes. But complaints persisted. This made no sense to the executives until they discovered that, on the average, passengers took just one minute to walk to baggage claim, resulting in a hurry-up-and-wait situation. The walk time was not a problem; the remaining seven empty minutes of staring at the baggage carousel was. So, in a burst of innovation, the executives moved the arrival gates farther away from the baggage claim area. Passengers now had to walk much farther but their bags were often waiting for them when they arrived. Problem solved. The complaints dropped.
For the same article Stone interviewed MIT operations researcher Richard Larson, the world's leading expert on waiting in lines to discover the psychology behind our waiting. What happened at the Houston airport makes for a perfect illustration. According to Larson, the length of our wait is not as important as what we're doing while we wait. "Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself," says Larson. Essentially, we tolerate "occupied time" (for example, walking to baggage claim) far better than "unoccupied time" (such as standing at the baggage carousel). Give us something to do while we wait, and the wait becomes endurable.
This is why, so often, waiting on God feels like unoccupied time to us. We wait, but what is really happening behind the scenes of our life? Is God actually doing anything? Waiting on God implies developing a new perspective of what God is doing while we wait on him.
Source: Rick Lawrence, Skin in the Game (Kregel Publishers, 2015), pages 105-107.