Coop's Column- Waiting According to His Promise
The entire Biblical story breathes future. Scripture discloses a God who is unstoppably on the move toward establishing a kingdom that is breath-takingly beyond all human imagining. But how do we "wait" properly?
“But in keeping with God’s promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (II Peter 3.13)
God loves the future tense. To be sure, God enjoys the past tense too (how else to explain his frequent call to His people to “remember your past, and what I have done for you?”), but a good case can be made for claiming that the Almighty’s favorite tense is future.
The entire Biblical story breathes future. Scripture discloses a God who is unstoppably on the move toward establishing a kingdom that is breath-takingly beyond all human imagining. It announces that God will soon usher in a new heaven and a new earth, and that every square mile of his vast Kingdom territory will blossom with justice and delight. Everything—simply everything—will be made new. Hence, Scripture’s call to hope.
Usually God prefaces His announcement of that glorious future with two words: “I shall.” It’s His way of pledging to carry through on what He says will happen. How remarkable: the eternal and almighty God, who needs nothing and no one else to exist, is nonetheless willing to bind himself to a promise He makes to His human creatures. That promise enables human beings able to know—for sure—where they’re “at” with God. It makes them able to rely on Him, and to pin their hopes confidently on what He says He will do.
God takes joy when His children, imitating Him, make the future their favorite tense, too. He delights to see them standing on tiptoe, eager for the day when God will fulfill His pledge. Such people honor God by taking him at His word. They are persons whom Scripture describes as waiting in hope “according to His promise.” (cf. II Peter 3.13).
Advent is a season for refocusing ourselves. It’s a time for directing the eyes of our heart toward the future which God has pledged to bring into existence. It’s a time, too, to be done with our dull and energy-draining tendency to pine for a past that’s irrecoverable, or simply to plod along in a present that’s heavy with sadness and sin. Advent is for learning again to take God’s promises with the joy-filled seriousness they deserve, and then to stake the entire tomorrow of our lives upon what He has vowed. To engage in such a spiritual exercise involves rare and heady adventure.
But how to “wait” properly? How to live faithfully for our Lord in our here and now, while at the same time to lean toward the future He promises? Four adverbs ought to mark our act of waiting. Jesus’ followers ought to wait:
All of us, to some degree, are infected with an “immortality virus.” Foolishly we pretend we’re not going to die—or at least not soon. Such pretending makes it easy for us to slip into living like the ancient Rhodians, who “built houses as if they were immortal, but feasted as if they were meant to live but a little while.” Far wiser to live as Jesus advised: “to store up treasures in heaven, rather than treasures on earth.” (cf. Matt. 6.19f). In other words, in view of what is to come, to devote our best time and strongest energy to what really matters; and far less to what doesn’t.
In Scripture “patience” connotes steadfast determination, courageous and untiring perseverance. It is anything but passive resignation, idle waiting around. Biblical patience reckons seriously with the promise God has made; and then, without swerving or tiring, it stretches every muscle to move toward the day when God fulfills His promise. How long to keep practicing patience? James 5.7 says: “Be patient, then, [sisters and] brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” And since no one—not even God’s Son-- knows when that will happen (cf. Mark 13.32, Acts 1.7), keep being patient without setting any limit.
Jesus promised the day is coming soon when He will establish his Kingdom fully, finally, and forever (Rev. 22.7). Today might be that day! Wise, therefore, are they who stay awake, vigilantly eager for when He does return, and when they join the chorus of jubilant worshippers to honor Him.
Our Lord is pleased with followers who, until he comes again, live faithfully for him in the here and now. Who make to him a promise and pledge of their own—daily to trust him and to live for Him. Who at the beginning of every day pray to Him:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I give You my hands to do your work;
I give You my feet to go your way;
I give You my eyes to see as You see;
I give You my tongue to speak Your words;
I give You my mind that You may think in me.
I give You my spirit that You may pray in me.
Above all, I give You my heart that You may love in me--
love God the Father and love all humankind.
I give You my whole self, Lord Jesus,
that You may grow in me,
so that it is You who lives, works, and prays in me. Amen.
~The Grail Prayer, anon.
To the Church, His Bride he so much loves, Jesus calls out: “Remember my promise to you. Soon you’ll see me again.” Advent is for practicing how to watch and wait for Jesus. It’s for preparing to greet Him at Bethlehem’s stable where he entered our world to become our Savior. It’s for preparing for His return to earth to welcome home His Bride, the Church He so much loves. It’s for preparing room for Him in our own heart, so that we may enjoy His fellowship and delight in His love , both now and forever.
God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance,
of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ,
grant that as we joyfully receive Him for our Redeemer,
so we may with sure confidence behold Him,
when He shall come to be,
our Judge, who liveth and reigneth with You and the Holy Spirit,
world without end.
(from the Book of Common Prayer)