"Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart." — Psalm 27:14.
THE expression, "Wait on the Lord," does not mean so much a rendering of service to the Lord, as a waiting for the Lord, a waiting before Him, to see what is His will for us. We do not understand that it has the thought of ministering to the Lord, as a servant would wait on his master, but of patient watching until we learn what our Lord would have us do. Each child of God should wait to be guided by Him, and not run on before Him unmindful of what is the Lord's purpose for him. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths," is the counsel of the Wise Man. (Proverbs 3:5, 6.) Many of the children of God have made mistakes along this line.
Having committed our ways to the Lord, we should go forward only as He leads us. If we are not clear as to His will, let us not be in too great a hurry, nor try to guide ourselves, but present the matter to the Lord in earnest prayer, asking that we may have no will or way of our own, but may be guided only as He wills. Then let us wait and watch for the indication of His providence, and follow as He seems to lead, leaving the results with Him. We are not to follow our own choice, without evidences that it is God's will. The question may sometimes be asked of us, "Are you going to do this way or that way? Are you going to this place or to that place?" Our attitude and our reply, if we have not as yet clearly ascertained the Lord's will in the matter, should be, "I am not yet fully decided. I will consider the Word of the Lord, to see how His instructions seem to apply in this case." Or, "I am watching to see what the Lord's providences seem to indicate, and am praying over the matter, that I may be guided aright." The poet expressed the right thought:
"I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much."
Those who wait on the Lord do not always seem to prosper best, from outward appearances. But the Psalmist declares that we should be of good courage as we thus wait on God. We are pursuing the right course, and shall have His blessing. We make no mistake when we wait upon Him. Others may seem to be getting ahead of us at first, but we are to "wait on the Lord."
Take no step unless you feel sure that the Lord is directing and guiding. Watch for the meaning of His providences. Study His Word. Let not your faith depart from its moorings. "Be of good courage!" "Good" courage is courage of a good degree, not merely a little courage. Be of strong courage; "and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." The word heart here may be understood to mean the soul, the being—especially the intelligent portion of us. The Lord will support us, He will fortify us and make us strong to bear, strong to do His will as it is made known to us. They that wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing.
TRAITS NECESSARY TO SUCCESS
Courage, fortitude, persistency, in the service of the Lord are very necessary to the child of God. Such traits are needful even to the world. Whoever lacks these qualities of character is pretty sure to make poor success in life. Lack of courage, lack of hope, is one of the chief causes of failure in the world. Our text, however, calls attention, not to the world, but to those who belong to the Lord. The precious promises of God's Word, which are only for His people, those who are wholly His, give these every reason for hope; they have full authority to be strong and of a good courage. The children of God will have trials and experiences similar to those of the world, besides experiences and trials peculiar to them as followers of Christ. These come not to us in a haphazard way, however, as to the world, but are under the direct supervision of the Lord.
Those who are new in the service of the Master might think for a time that matters should run smoothly for them, that they should not have the difficulties common to the world; that now as they were God's children He would protect them from afflictions and mistreatment. But as they study the Lord's Word, they soon see that this is not true; they see that they are to walk by faith, and not by sight. They learn that they are not to expect to have outward and tangible manifestations of His favor, but that they are to suffer with Christ—that hereunto they were called. (1 Peter 2:20, 21; Acts 14:22.) They learn that they must be obedient, and they come to see what obedience means.
The Master learned obedience—learned what obedience meant—"by the things which He suffered." The narrow way is not an easy path. His followers learn that the Lord is now calling a class that have faith in Him, a class who accept His Word fully. In time they come, too, to see that "If God be for them, who can be against them?" If matters do not go as they had expected, if trials come, they will say, "We know that all things work for good to them that love God."
So these learn, as they are guided by the Word of the Lord, that they are to be of good courage as they pursue their onward way. There are many difficulties to be surmounted, and it requires courage to surmount difficulties. But the courage born of faith in God and in His "exceeding great and precious promises" strengthens them when otherwise they might be overwhelmed. It gives them a strength to which all others are strangers.
TRUST WHERE WE CANNOT TRACE
If a child of God becomes discouraged and loses his hope and strength, it is because he has lost his hold upon the Lord's promises to help. To lose courage is to lose faith. Loss of faith and courage makes a child of God powerless before his foes. We must trust our Father even when the meaning of His providences is veiled from our eyes and when our efforts to serve Him seem to be hedged up. We look back at the Apostles and their experiences. The Apostle Paul was very desirous of carrying the Message of the Gospel to others. Several times he tried to go into Asia, but he was not permitted to go. He began to wonder why this was, why his efforts continued to prove failures. But the Lord revealed to him that he was to go into Greece instead. In his first Epistle to the Church at Thessalonica, he writes, "Wherefore we would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us." (1 Thessalonians 2:18.) But we are sure that the Lord would overrule the machinations of Satan and cause them to work out His own glory, and the lesson of patience and submission would be a blessing to His children.
We see that in the Garden of Gethsemane our Lord had not lost faith in God, but was fearful for a time. As He came to the closing hours of His experiences on earth, He wondered whether or not He had faithfully conformed to all the Father's requirements. He knew that the slightest infraction of God's Law would mean His death. Had He completed His sacrifice acceptably? Would He be ushered from death into Heavenly glory by a resurrection? Then He received from the Father the assurance that He had been altogether faithful. All the trials and difficulties which the Master underwent in the laying down of His life preceded Him as a sweet incense, a precious perfume, beyond the veil, into the Most Holy as shown in the type.—Leviticus 16:12, 13.
A PROPER FEAR
After the Jewish high priest had crumbled the sweet incense upon the fire of the golden altar, after its fragrance had penetrated beyond the second veil and had covered the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, he then himself passed beneath the veil. Every time the high priest raised the veil thus to pass under it he probably feared; for in case he had failed in any particular to carry out his sacrificial work acceptably he would have died as he passed under the veil. So our Lord Jesus knew that His work must be acceptable in the most absolute sense, else He would forever forfeit His existence. He would become as though He had not been; He would lose all.
There was no earthly being to give our Lord encouragement along this line. There was no one to say, You have done everything perfectly; you could not have done better. So the Master went alone to the Father for this assurance and for strength and courage. He prayed, "Not My will, but Thine be done"; and the Father heard His prayer and gave Him the needed assurance and strength. He was heard in respect to that which He feared; and during all that night and the following day, up to the hour of His crucifixion, He was calm and courageous.
So the Lord's people should have a proper fear. Proper fear is good for them. But it should not proceed to the point of hindering their efforts and dissipating their courage. They should have the fear enjoined by St. Paul when he said, "Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it." (Hebrews 4:1.) This proper fear the Master had. He never became discouraged, never held back from the work which the Father had given Him to do. His fear was a filial one, which engendered a watchfulness and care, a circumspection of walk and of life, that He might be wholly pleasing to the Father. This all Christians should have. We should watch lest we neglect some privilege or duty.
This proper fear will lead us to careful inspection of ourselves. We should ask ourselves, "What do I believe? Why do I believe it? We should go over the ground again. We should again go over in our minds the proofs of the correctness of our Faith. By so doing, the Lord will strengthen us in the Faith, He will strengthen our heart. If any hope in themselves, and lean upon their own strength mainly, it will be to their advantage that the Lord shall allow them to come to the point of discouragement, that they may become more timid, may lose all self-assurance, may realize their utter helplessness and weakness and their need of leaning wholly upon the Lord, of looking constantly to Him for guidance and support. As the Lord's children thus learn to wait upon Him, to them is fulfilled the promise, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."—Isaiah 40:31.