COLLINS COLUMN: To wait or not to wait: How to know which God wants us to choose

Published 3:10 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

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There are things we are immediately to do even when we are often told by Scripture to wait on the Lord. When it comes to spiritual formation and growth it is both-and, not either-or.

Filled with urgency

  • The gospel of Mark is filled with urgency. We can see it, starting in the first chapter:
  • At Jesus’ baptism, he immediately saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
  • The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness.
  •  When Jesus called Andrew and Simon to be disciples, they immediately left their nets and followed him.
  • Then when Jesus saw James and John, he immediately called them and they left their boat and their father and followed Jesus.
  • When Jesus arrived in Capernaum he immediately went to Synagogue and began teaching.
  • And upon hearing the teaching of Jesus, a man with an unclean spirit called out, and Jesus cast the spirit out and restored the man’s health.
  • And “at once” or immediately, Jesus’ fame spread everywhere in the surrounding area.
  • Leaving the synagogue, Jesus immediately went to Simon and Andrew’s house where the disciples immediately told Jesus about Simon’s sick mother-in-law and Jesus healed her.
  • Jesus then went to preach and teach around Galilee and a man with leprosy came to Jesus asking to be healed. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man, and immediately the leprosy left the man.

Maybe Mark had an achievement orientation. Lots of us are achievement-oriented. If we are given a job,  we want to get it done! And generally, culture celebrates achievement. In business, boards hire CEOs to get the job done. They do not hire executives just to give them a title. Boards want executives to take action.

Achievement oriented

The use of “immediately” in the Gospel of Mark may simply be a literary style. Mark’s Gospel is concise. There is less narrative and more movement in his Gospel than in the others. That appeals to achievement-oriented people who probably prefer less talking and more doing. So how do we discern when we are to do something quickly and when the wise decision is to wait on God to do it?

Those who listened to John the Baptist’s preaching responded to him with a question concerning what they were to do to demonstrate their repentance. His answer was filled with practical ways that would show a change of heart had occurred:

  • If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have one.
  • If you have food and you see someone hungry, feed them.
  • If you are a tax collector, then take only the taxes required by law and don’t take more to line your pockets.
  • If you are a soldier, then don’t threaten or extort money from others.

These actions do not require anyone to wait on the Lord. Each is possible out of the resources and authority we already have. As we read further in the Gospels, we see that Jesus calls us to the same simplicity. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are told to forgive, to love, not to respond in anger, not to retaliate, and not to worry. There are many other things Jesus tells us that, like John the Baptist’s answers, do not require waiting.

But we can and must wait on the Lord at other times. Isaiah tells us to wait on the Lord to renew our strength. The psalmist tells us to wait on the Lord in times of trouble and when there is uncertainty about our path forward. But we are never told to wait or to withhold from helping others when we have the means to do so.

Luke records that when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, she immediately got up and started serving Jesus and his disciples. Maybe the lesson is that we are always called to serve with kindness in word and deed no matter what is going on in our lives. Waiting on God for deliverance or wisdom in a tough situation does not excuse us from serving others while we wait. In fact, our acts of kindness to others might just give us new strength and courage while we wait on the Lord to do what only he can do. I am currently waiting on the Lord for a number of things, but I am pretty sure God will give me plenty of opportunities today and in the days that follow to immediately choose to show the kindness of Christ to someone nearby.