In the Waiting Room

Last week we began looking at the life of Noah. We surveyed his times, his character and his mission. We looked at the story and wondered what it would have been like to be told to build a boat when there was no water so you could survive a flood when there was no rain. I argued that Noah was a regular guy who had a steady faith in the Lord. I contended that we could have a similar faith if we trusted God. The story of Noah is quite engaging and entertaining . . . . until you get to chapter seven. Then things seem to get bogged down in seemingly endless details. But they are not meaningless details.

In 1 Cor. 10, Paul writes of the Old Testament, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” (v. 11) In other words, the Old Testament contains lessons for us today. And as I look at this passage I see two lessons. But before we get to the lessons, you need to understand some of the facts.

  • First, it started to rain and Noah entered the Ark when he was 600 years 2 months and 17 days old (7:11). He got off of the Ark when he was 601 years 2 months and 27 days old (8:14) Which means Noah and his family were locked in the ark for over one year.
  • It rained solid for 40 days and 40 nights. That’s almost six weeks on non-stop downpour.
  • After it stopped raining it took 150 days before the ark stopped floating. (8:3)
  • After the Ark stopped floating it was almost three months before Noah could see the tops of the mountains (8:5)
  • Forty days later Noah opened a window to let a dove look for a place to land. We don’t know how many windows they had in the Ark or how often they enjoyed fresh air. (8:6)

What I want you to see is that this was no luxury cruise. There were no swimming pools, no movies and floor shows, no activity director. There were no showers, no washing machines, and one has to imagine that the family of Noah was beginning to get on each other’s nerves. This was no picnic. But through it all, Noah was faithful. But there are things you and I need to see.

First, We See the Horrible Consequences of Sin

Don’t miss the story behind the facts. I spent some time this week imagining what it would have been like in the Ark. Think about it with me. First, I would hated been closed in anywhere . . . .even in a vessel this big. It wouldn’t have taken long before this ocean liner would have started to feel a little crowded. Seasonal Affective Disorder would have been weighing me down.

Second, imagine what it was like to see and hear the rain the first time. Was there thunder and lightening? It can be frightening today . . . but imagine what it was like for the very first time!

Think also of the first moments when the Ark began to be battered with flood waters. Can you sense the boat beginning to rock and then finally being set afloat? Imagine that “jolt” as the boat was lifted from the earth and moved along with the current. Imagine the various trees and things they would have banged into along the way making you feel a little like you were in a bumper car….with a load of afraid animals.

But let’s go a little further. Imagine the neighbors as the rain continued. I wonder How long was it before the people began to think maybe Noah was telling the truth. Can you see them calling from outside the Ark, “Let us in!”? As the waters rose the number of people outside the Ark rose as well. Perhaps my imagination is overly morbid. But I imagine that long after the Ark had begun to float, people were hanging on wherever they could. Literally hanging on for dear life. I wonder if Noah and his family could hear the whimpers slowly dying out as one by one the last people died.

Imagine how eerie it would have been to know that you were the only ones left on the earth. Everyone . . . neighbors, enemies, friends, co-workers, all destroyed. The world as you knew it was gone. What would the future be like? Don’t miss the horror. This is no movie. This was real life. These were the horrible consequences of sin.

This is one of the things we must learn from this record. We need to see and feel the horrible consequences of sin in the record of Noah. Why? Because day after day you and I trifle with sin. We rationalize it, we excuse it, we seek to make it seem noble. And as we do, we lose sight of the horrible nature of rebellion against God and the subsequent judgment.

This was not a one time event! The Bible tells us that a day of judgment is on the horizon. In fact, we are told,

Mattew 24:37-42 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.The horror of the last days will be just as horrible as the days of the flood. Those who are hidden in Christ will be saved . . . those who choose to ignore the warnings will be lost.

Like the people of Noah’s day we too have sinned. We too have hearts that are discolored by sin’s pollution. Our intentions and motives have become evil. And as in the days of Noah, a voice is crying out: This voice is crying, “Come unto me, you who are weak and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” But this time the voice is not that of Noah, it is the voice of Jesus. The Lord invites us to hide ourselves in the shelter of His love and grace.

What we must realize is that like Noah the message is only for a designated period of time. That voice will not go on forever. We do NOT have unlimited opportunities. There is coming a day, when the door will be shut, the books will be closed, and the invitation will end. What if that day is today?

This Old Testament record of history calls us to a contemporary decision about Jesus Christ. We are reminded that there is a decision to be made. The Savior invites you to trust Him and to rest in Him while the door is still open. Like Noah, He warns of a coming judgment. Do you believe Him or are you like the neighbors of Noah? Will you trust Him and accept His invitation? Will you turn in the simple faith of a child and say, “Lord Jesus, I know I need someone to save me from the coming judgment. I place my trust in you and in the sacrifice that You made on my behalf”? Will you do that today?

And for those who have heeded the invitation and are already in God’s “ark of grace” this realization has a different application. We are reminded of what is at stake. The decision about Jesus is not just a matter of personal preference. It is an issue of eternity. It is the most significant issue of life. We must speak earnestly and compassionatly if we don’t want our family and friends to be on the outside when the judgment comes.

But this is not all we see in this account. There is also another message, a much different message.

We see the Unadvertised Element of Faithful Living . . . Waiting

When Noah went into the Ark he had little idea what was going to happen. For a year he waited and wondered,

  • if the rain was ever going to stop
  • what would be left after the flood went away
  • where they would find food and lodging
  • if things would ever be the way they “used to be”
  • at times of great frustration he probably wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to have died in the flood
  • he may have even wondered if he was ever going to want to spend time with his family again!

Think about it. An entire year of uncertainty. Perhaps Noah would have nodded with the sentiments of this poem,

Could You Hurry a Little?

Lord, I know there are countless times
When I must wait patiently for You.
Waiting develops endurance.
It strengthens my faith
And deepens my dependence on You.
I know You are a Sovereign God
Not an errand boy
Responding to the snap of my finger.
I know your timing is neatly wrapped
In your incomparable wisdom.
But, Lord
You have appointed prayer
To obtain answers!
Even the Psalmist cried
With confident boldness:
It is time, O Lord, for you to act.”
When I am hedged in on every side
I too cry boldly.
You are my Father, and I am Your child.
So, Lord, could you hurry a little?
(Ruth Harms Caulkins, Lord Could You hurry a little)

Being faithful is not always easy. Often we are called to wait . . . sometimes in silence.

Let’s face it, most of us are not very patient. I get frustrated if I have to wait for three or four cars to go by before I can pull onto main street! I am impatient if there is anyone in front of me at the checkout line at the store. We want things fast. We want our Internet connection to be faster. We put our food in the microwave so it will be ready in a couple of minutes. We carry credit cards so we don’t have to wait for anything. We read condensed books to save time, we carry cellular phones so we can communicate anywhere from any place. Is it any wonder that this attitude has seeped over into our faith?

We begin to doubt if God delays in answering our prayers. We get frustrated is we don’t understand the Bible the first time we read it. We strike out when our brothers and sisters in Christ are not as “far along” in their spirituality as we think they should be.

But God knows that some lessons can only be learned over time. There are some things we cannot understand. Some things must be concealed. Someitmes it is necessary that we spend time in the waiting room.

Perhaps you know what it is like to sit in an intensive care or surgical waiting room. The time passes slowly. Every half hour we check the clock only to find that only a few minutes have passed since the last time we looked. We try to do other things but we can only think about what is going on. We try to make conversation but it all seems superficial and trite. You do nothing for several hours but you are exhausted physically and emotionally. The waiting room is a hard place to be. But that is often where God places us.

There are many waiting rooms, here’s a few,

  • When we hear the words “tumor” or “malignant” or “cancer” or “Alzheimer’s” or “Parkinson’s” or any number of other frightening diagnoses . . . we must wait to see what happens.
  • When we need to make career decisions but don’t know which way to turn we often find ourselves in the “waiting room”.
  • When we want to share our lives with someone and develop a relationship of love but nothing seems to be happening, we may be in the waiting room.
  • When someone we love is hurting and it seems like there is “just one thing after another”. We ask “why?” but we find ourselves in the waiting room.
  • When we know God wants us to serve Him but we don’t know how or where we take a seat in the waiting room.

You see, God knows that it is in these times, when we have the least amount of control, that we can exercise the greatest amount of faith. In these times we are left to choose between trusting God, or wallowing in despair and self-pity. We can worry or we can trust. We can keep going or we can give up. There are some things we just can’t control. And in those times we learn to trust.

Noah was in the waiting room. He didn’t know when and He didn’t know where they would ever leave the Ark, but He kept going. Fact is, he didn’t have a lot of choice. And we usually don’t either. But I think Noah continued to trust God and faithfully tend to his duties. I think Noah was able to hang on for two reason,

First, He had God’s promise God told Noah that He would save His family. He told Noah that he was going to start over with him. Noah may not have fully grasped all that this meant . . . but He had God’s Word. And so do we. When we are in the waiting room we have God’s promises to rest on.

  • The Lord your God goes with you He will never leave you or forsake you (Dt. 31:6)
  • Whoever comes to me I will never drive away (Jn. 6:37)
  • In all things I am working for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28)
  • We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil 4:13)
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Pr. 3:5,6)
  • My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19)
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God and all the other things will be added to you (Jn. 6:33)
  • Whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)
  • He is faithful, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you can bear, But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Cor. 10:13)
  • They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isa. 40:31)

God has promised that He would take care of us. He has promised that He will guide us. He has promised that He will equip us to meet every situation. Noah trusted God’s promise . . . . even in the waiting room. Will you?

Second, Noah Knew God’s Character. Let’s not forget, Noah had walked with God. Over the years Noah had seen what God was like. He had a relationship with God. He had seen His faithfulness, His love, His mercy displayed time and time again. Noah knew that God cared. He had experienced that care in the past. And as he looked back on his life He could see that God had been true to His Word. God had been equal to every task. Noah knew what God was like and he knew he could trust Him.

I hope the same is true for you. I pray you have a relationship with God that has been nurtured over the years. Look back. Do you see God’s hand working in your life? Remember the times when you dared to trust Him and you were not disappointed. Remember the times you thought you could not survive . . . but you did. Remember the times you thought you knew better . . . but now you see that His way would have been the right way. Can you see even those times when God was working on your behalf before you ever came to Him? Stand on God’s Character.

He Maketh No Mistake

My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My hearth may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans my go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.

Though night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim;
But come what may, I’ll surely trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift
And plain it all He’ll make;
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

[A.M. Overton]

Is it possible that you came here today expecting to be given information only to find yourself challenged by God’s Spirit in your daily life? If so, praise God. That’s the nature of God’s Word. That’s the character of our God. He is alive, He is active, He is relevent.

So, where are you? Are you on the outside wishing you were on the inside? Friend, there is still time. The door is still open. You don’t have to wait until you are good enough (you will never be good enough). You don’t have to wait until you have “proved yourself”. You don’t have to get anything “out of your system”. You can enter right now. You may not understand much of the gospel. All you need to do is understand that Jesus gave His life for you . . . and wants you to trust Him forever. Will you do that today? The invitation is given. How will you respond?

Is it possible that you find yourself in the waiting room this morning? Life is difficult. It’s uncertain. You don’t know which way to turn. You may be facing a family crisis, decisions about your job, a health need. You may have been praying for something or someone for months and even years and nothing seems to be happening. Friend it is time to tighten your grip on the Lord? It is time to trust His promse and rely on the character that has proved itself again and again. If you are in the waiting room why not wait in His arms?

And for some of you, life is going well. You are at peace. Things are good. And I rejoice with you. But friend this is the time to nurture your relationship with God. We must learn to “walk with God” in the light . . . .so that our relationship will be solid in the dark.

You see, in this ancient story of Noah . . . there is something for everyone.

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