"Will you marry me?"
It's the moment many are waiting for. But however romantic the day of engagement, the time between "I will" and "I do" is often difficult. It's difficult because you know who you are going to marry, but you aren't married yet. It's a season of already and not yet. Very few people look back on engagement longing for it again. Being married is so much better than waiting to be married.
Similarly, Christians live in the already and not yet. We are the Bride of Christ. Our future is secure; our hope is certain. But it isn't yet. We do not see Christ face to face; we do not experience a life free from the sin Christ defeated. But yet it is certain that one day we will. We are the betrothed Bride of Christ, waiting for our wedding day. We live by faith, not by sight. And in faith, we wait.
Waiting: An Expression of Faith
Waiting is one of the primary expressions of our faith. In Hebrews 6:12–15, we are commanded to be imitators of people like Abraham, who inherited the promises through patient waiting. We see the waiting nature of our faith in Romans 8:
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (vv. 23–25, emphasis added).
Waiting is an expression of faith because of the discrepancy we feel between the truth and what we experience. The truth is we are no longer slaves to our sin! Jesus defeated our sin on the cross, and we bear it no more. Now, we have been adopted, and the Bible describes us as the very righteousness of God! But who wakes up in the morning and feels like the righteousness of God? I sure don't.
I woke up today feeling selfish and easily aggravated. Yesterday I gave in to self-indulgence and ate one too many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups just because I wanted to. The day before that confession was on my lips, just the like the one before that. Sin is a part of my experiential reality. I experience the lingering effects of my crucified flesh daily. So no, I do not feel like the righteousness of God most days. But yet, that is what the Bible tells me that I am. So how do I reconcile these things?
The temptation is to work. Like Sarah saw in Hagar a solution to the discrepancy between the promise (a son) and the reality (barrenness), I see in my own efforts a solution to this sin problem (Gen. 16:1–2). In our waiting, we face the same temptation Sarah did. Will we wait on God? Or will we turn to things we can see?
Waiting: The Antidote to Works
By default, most of us choose the work-harder approach to righteousness, but this only separates us from our Savior:
You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:4).
My good-intentioned hard work becomes a saw, cutting the cords that bind me to Christ! So what then is the antidote? We see it in the very next verse:
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness (Gal. 5:5, emphasis added).
Can you see the connection of faith and waiting in that verse? The only verb in this verse is "wait." By faith, through the Spirit, and with eagerness we wait. What do we wait for? The hope of righteousness.
Everyone is waiting on something. Maybe you're waiting for the day to be over, for the day you graduate from college, or the day your kids get out of diapers.
Maybe you're waiting for a promotion, for the day you fit into that ideal jean size, or until you can afford that needed vacation.
Maybe you're waiting for your battle with cancer to be done or for your husband to change. We're all waiting on something we think will help us or relieve us or satisfy us.
But Galatians 5:5 is a call to wait on the right thing—the hope of righteousness, namely Jesus.
First Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Jesus has become righteousness for us. Philippians 3:9 says through faith in Jesus we gain righteousness from God. Our hope of righteousness is the person of Jesus Christ, whom we will one day see face to face. So instead of working hard to be righteous in our own strength, we wait. We wait. And we wait.
Waiting Is Active
Waiting is not passive. It is a continuous and active looking to God as the answer to all problems and unfulfilled longings. It is a conscious choice to persist in seeking God, not a subconscious existing between prayer requests. It is a fight to continually refocus the hope of our souls onto God alone. It is the constant reminding of our souls that He is trustworthy, He is reliable, and He will come through. Waiting on God is crucial when prayers remain unanswered and God seems distant, and it is necessary in fruitful seasons when we are prone to complacency and self-reliance.
We wait on what we believe to be reliable. There's a reason no one is standing in line at an empty register at Walmart, hoping for a cashier to magically appear. There's a reason no one is sitting at a Chick-fil-A drive-through on Sunday afternoon waiting to place their order. No one is coming. Waiting is pointless. We only wait on what we have faith in. Let us put our faith in God and wait on Him alone.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken (Ps. 62:1–2).