During the Christmas season, we are doing a series called “Make Room” at Gateway Church in Austin.
Have you ever felt like you’ve been waiting on God for a long time and things aren’t changing? Even in the most desperate situations and in the most hopeless seasons- God will always keep His promises.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
“O Come Emmanuel” is very different than most Christmas Carols.
Most carols have their upbeat, celebratory feel– “We wish you a merry Christmas” or “Joy to the World” or my dog’s favorite, “Bark the Herald Angels sing.”
O Come Emmanuel is more somber. It came from 8th or 9th century monasteries, which explains a lot. But it’s also a very realistic Carol.
It’s about Hope–even in the midst of life’s troubles, disappointments, and waiting on God’s timing.
It comes from a passage in Matthew, when an Angel came to Joseph in a dream.
We aren’t told which angel, probably not Harold, the Harking Angel (because there is no angel Harold, just Herald Angels—confused?).
Anyway, an undisclosed Angel tells Joseph “good news and bad news”
Good news—Mary your Fiancé is pregnant, you’re gonna have a son and name him Jesus.
Bad News—the child’s not yours. But don’t divorce her, this is God’s plan. Then the angel says:
“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet [Isaiah]: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:22-23
That’s what the Carol is about – Immanuel—God with us. God is with us, He’s with you–even in the disappointments.
- God is with you in the trials.
- God is with you in the waiting. God is with you—right now.
- There’s still a longing: “Come oh Come Emmanuel” – He is “here–but not yet fully”.
- God is with us, now, by his Holy Spirit.
- Yet we look forward to more—he will one day fully rule and make things right.
- But until then, we sometimes have to Wait.
As we lead to Chrstimas, we’re talking about Making Room for God.
Today I want to talk about The Waiting Room. Have you ever had to wait on God?
Maybe you’re single, and you’ve been waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right—waiting for God to bring that right person, but it’s been a long wait, and now you’re thinking maybe Mr. or Ms. “Not-So-Terribly-Bad” will do. You’re tired of doing things God’s way, His Matchmaker abilities feel lacking—maybe that’s what got you to church, you came to Dateway (I mean Gateway) for that reason.
What do you do when you have to wait? When God’s not coming through in Your timing?
Maybe you’re married, and it feels like those embers of love are dying out, there’s no spark, you’re not getting along—and it’s been 2 years—do you throw in the towel? What do you do?
Why doesn’t God fix it? What’s he doing? And how long do you wait on God?
These are tough questions—the waiting room is a challenging place to be.
Maybe you have a son or daughter straying from God and rebelling against you—you’re praying, you’re waiting on God to do something. But he doesn’t seem to act. What do you do in the Waiting?
Maybe your business is struggling. You’re trying to honor God and do things right, but you’re tempted to cut ethical corners like your competition does, because You’ve been waiting on God to honor your ethical choices,, but things haven’t turned around yet.
What are you Waiting for?
There are many times in life where we have to decide, will I wait on God’s timing, and His ways, or will I take matters into my own hands and make it happen my way?
That’s what we’re talking about today—what do you do in the Waiting Room?
No one likes to wait, but what I’ve seen in my 35 years of ministry is that the Waiting has a purpose—God is doing something for your benefit through the Waiting that can’t be accomplished any other way. And if you’re going to follow Jesus, you’re going to spend some time in the Waiting Room. I’ve seen it in Scripture and my own faith Journey
God is the 11:59 God – That first Christmas, there was a man, Simeon, who had faithfully served and followed God.
We don’t know a lot about him except that he was very old, and he was righteous and faithful to God, and it says he had been waiting on God to send the Messiah.
In fact it says The Holy Spirit had promised him, “You will not die until you see the Messiah’s coming.” Eight days after Jesus birth, he was circumcised, and then according to the Law of Moses, his parents took him to Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord. Let’s read:
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” 33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” 36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple…she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.[c] She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
These two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, had both been waiting on God. Waiting on him to send his long-promised Messiah. Waiting on him to change their situation and rescue Jerusalem from their Roman oppressors. And they saw God’s Promise in Jesus and praised God.
But a couple of things stand out to me.
First, it says Simeon was devout—meaning he studied the Law and Prophets, the Old Testament, so he knew the prophecies of the Messiah—he quotes parts of Isaiah 42 that says
“Look at my servant [Messiah]…I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations… and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. 7 You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison…” Isaiah 42:1, 6-7.
But he also must have known Isaiah 53, that foretells of the Messiah’s suffering and he warns Mary—Messiah has come to reveal what’s in people’s hearts (remember that), and so many will rise, but many will oppose him, and a sword will pierce your very soul, Mary.
Here we see something about God that most of us don’t like—He doesn’t do things our way.
I’m sure Mary didn’t want to hear that one day grief would pierce her soul, watching Jesus fulfill Isaiah 53, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”
His plan to overcome evil was very different from what we would have directed God to do.
Anna and others were waiting for the Messiah, but waiting for what?
It said waiting for God to rescue Jerusalem.
But that’s not what Jesus came to do—to change a government—he came to change a human heart, then another, then another—because that’s the solution to the world’s problems, not another regime change (we should remember that in 2024).
And that’s why God sometimes makes us wait, and wait, and wait. I have no doubt that Simeon was a faithful man, and probably early in his life of devotion to God, while studying the prophets the Holy Spirit promised him—“You will not die until you see the promised Messiah.”
We don’t know exactly when this promise came, but I bet he had to wait. Because now he’s an old man, and finally he gets the prompting to go to the Temple, and he sees the baby and says “Now, Lord—now finally I can die in peace—I have seen your salvation as you promised.” You can tell he’s been waiting for this—waiting on God. And God waited until he was very old—why?
Because He’s the 11:59 God.
- I don’t like this about him, I would change it if I could, but I don’t get that option—He’s God, I’m not.
- But If you and I are going to follow God, we have to understand this about him.
- He likes to wait to the last minute.
- If you need God to come through by midnight, he’ll come through at 11:59. And the waiting is excruciating.
- But He does come through—and it’s always better than if you’d forced it your own way. If you choose to wait in trust, you’ll see He’s faithful.
- If you never wait, but take shortcuts, you’ll never see that God’s ways are better.
[Anecdotes of something you prayed about and asked God for and you had to wait]
[Story of God coming through last minute and exceeding expectations]
God loves to do this—He makes us wait, then comes through at 11:59.
I don’t like that, but He obviously does. [when starting church—please don’t do the 11:59 thing].
If you’re like Simeon and you devoutly study His Word, he’s told us this.
Think about Abraham and Sarah.
They’re unable to have children, but then Yahweh comes and promises they will have a son and a great nation will come from him, and that nation will bless all nations on earth (Genesis 12).
God promises them a son if they’ll go to the land of Palestine.
They do…and then…NOTHING.
It’s easy to see how the story resolves looking back, but imagine 1 year passing—no child, 2 years, then 3,4,5.
And it’s not like God said, “Just wait, be patient”…probably just silence—like we often feel.
And after 10 years, they lose hope in God. They lose trust in God.
They take matters into their own hands and use adultery as a means to get the result.
They took a shortcut. And it was a HUGE mistake—caused generational strife between the son God promised and the son of Abraham’s adultery.
But God did come through, just as He promised, but not in Abraham’s timing. But this leads to the first lesson when Waiting on God:
If God Promised, Trust Him–Don’t Compromise.
Paul tells us of all these Biblical stories, These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.
Endure—to stay faithful, while waiting on God.
- We all have to wait—the question—when things aren’t going as we hoped, expected–What will we hold onto for hope in the waiting? Will our hope and trust be first in that thing we hope for?
- The spouse, the job, the financial bailout, the teenager’s heart changing, the marriage healing.
- Or will our hope and trust be first in God?
- Will we get rebellious and turn to our own ways, make it happen if it’s not in our timing?
- Or Trust God as our hope?
See this leads to the second lesson in the Waiting Room.
God’s Working on Who You Are–
Why does God make us wait—is he just a sadist?
Is he mean or likes to watch us struggle with anxiety?
No—none of that is true.
He gives many promises of scripture to the contrary.
God cares about you and me more than we care about ourselves.
Because often we settle for outward, circumstantial props to hold us up, but God wants to strengthen us from within so we are truly strong—not dependent on the fleeting circumstances for our joy, peace, or hope.
When God led Moses and the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and back to the Promised Land, it says he didn’t take them there by the direct route.
God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18
Sometimes, God takes us on a roundabout way to get to the good things He wants to give us.
Because he knows our hearts, our souls, need strengthening.
The shortcut may get you there faster, but God is not as concerned with where we are going, as much as he is about Who we will be when we get there.
Let me say that another way, because it’s the key to waiting on God:
God is not nearly as concerned with where I am, what job I get, my financial situation, or relationship I get into as he is with who I am becoming along the way.
So God makes us wait—he takes us the roundabout way sometimes, because in not getting what we want when we want it, we learn character. We learn faithfulness. We learn to trust. And the result is we become stronger within—less dependent on outward circumstances for happiness, peace, love, hope.
If I went to our Kids rooms- to our 4 and 5 year old kids with a huge bag of candy, held it in front of them, and were able to quiet them down from saying “Can I have some, can I have some” enough to ask. Which do you want, you can have all this candy right now or, if you can wait four weeks, I’ll take you to a toy store and buy you whatever you want.
Which do you think they’d choose?
The Candy – it’s right there for the taking, and they haven’t matured in temperance (which is the ability to wait, to say “no” to a good thing to receive something better later).
They haven’t matured to be able to control their immediate desires in order to gain something better down the road. That’s the same spiritual quality that God develops in us in the Waiting Room.
Ultimately, God Wants Your Heart.
Why would God make people wait?
He told Moses why …to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Deuteronomy 8:2.
God is good, and He has good things planned for you.
He wants your best self to emerge. But He created you for relationship with himself—so anything short of a growing relationship with the One who loves you most, is selling yourself short.
So one of the main things God is doing in the Waiting Room is testing your heart—asking “Do you love me? Then Trust me.”
When you have to wait, ask:
- Do I really love God?
- Do I really love God for God, or do I just love him for doing what I want, when I want?
- Do I love God for God, or do I only love him when circumstances are good?
- Do I love God because he is wonderful beyond all imagining, a good Father who sent Jesus to die in my place?
- Or do I just love his blessings?
- Do I really love God, or do I just use God?
The waiting is where God gets to peek into our hearts to see what’s really there—and it’s where we see it too. Jesus would reveal the hearts of people, Simeon said. So in the Waiting—trust Him. He’s Emmanuel—He’s with you, especially in the waiting—so turn to Him, put your hope in him, not in that thing you’re praying for, and at 11:59, or maybe before, he’ll come through. You’ll see how loving and kind he is.