What Are You Waiting For? (both services)
Topic: Waiting Scripture: Psalm 40:1–40:8, Titus 2:11–3:2
Waiting is a necessary evil. It’s something we never grow out of but also something we never grow used to. Which is interesting because we do a lot of waiting. Did you know that the average American spends 13 hours a year waiting on hold for customer service calls?
Researchers translate that to about 43 days in a lifetime. 43 days! On the phone! With that awful music. How about that the average American will spend 38 hours a year waiting in traffic? And that doesn’t even account for folks who are waiting on a bus or a train! It is estimated that the average person will spend five years of their life waiting in line. At the DMV, for coffee, at the grocery store. Overall, the New York Times reported that Americans as a whole will spend 37 billion hours waiting in line. That’s 37 with nine zeros.
We do a lot of waiting. And some of these statistics hit us and beg the question: What are you waiting for? Consider that question right now. What are you waiting for? Maybe some of you are waiting for a call from a doctor. Or perhaps you’re waiting for a check to clear. You could be waiting for the birth of a child. It could even be something as simple as waiting for a football game. Or the end of this sermon. Regardless, we wait. And that reality is something we have in common with all peoples around the world and throughout time. And especially with other Christian brothers and sisters, even one’s like Paul, Titus, and Timothy who lived centuries ago. This morning we’re going to look at Titus 2:11-3:2. In it, Paul offers us and this new, young pastor Titus, some insight into what we all are really waiting for. Let’s read.
This is a text pretty well saturated with depth and meaning. It has a unique way of weaving through and impacting multiple areas important to the follower of Christ. It talks about behavior. We’re to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions and, instead, live godly lives with self-control. It reveals our theology and what we believe. That God’s grace has the power to save all people, regardless of story or deed. It also reminds us of who Jesus is: both God and Savior. And what He has accomplished through His death. This passage urges us in not only knowing what we believe but also having the confidence to share it. These are the things we’re to teach. We do that by encouraging and by combating sin and we do those things only through the authority given to us by Christ. I mean, this passage even talks about politics. It’s rare to find a compact verse of Scripture that could be considered a one-stop-shop but this might be one of them.
And right smack dab in the middle is the answer to the question of this message: What are you waiting for? It’s Jesus. More to the point, it is the return of Christ that Paul is talking about. That moment spoken of in Revelation and other books where Jesus comes back to this place and rights every wrong, defeats every evil, and ushers a new age of God’s kingdom. This is a topic as dense as it is confusing. And while authors like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins crafted a 16-book fictional representation of how they understand this puzzling truth of our faith, Paul mentions it only as a half verse within a much broader intention. One that is ultimately concerned with answering a question of identity and action rather than only one of theological meaning.
And, though it is difficult at times, the identity of the Christian is often found in waiting. When I was in college I took a class called Exploring the Universe. Every student at Eastern University had to take a science class with a lab component. For me, choosing between an astronomy class over something like biology or chemistry was a no-brainer. After all, maybe I would catch a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon. I imagined the class would consist of startling revelations and would provide me the chance to look into the distant but ever-present universe itself. Instead of examining slides under a microscope or using beakers and Bunsen burners, we would be using the observatory telescope to gaze out into space itself. I was floored. And then I had my first night in the observatory.
What I thought would be a night filled with gazing at the stars turned into one of my most boring nights in college. You see, anyone can grab a telescope from Target and set up the tri-pod and aim it at the sky. But the telescopes we had at Eastern were second only to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. They weren’t meant to glimpse at the sky and snap a picture. They, like all observatory telescopes, took a long and measured gaze into the reaches of space – wherever we pointed it. Once I input the coordinates and activated the telescope, there was nothing I could do but wait. And wait I did. I want to share with you the fruits of that waiting. Now, mind you, this is sort of like the astronomy equivalent of finger painting. It was a first attempt. But here it is.
This is object M51. It’s a spiral galaxy about 24 million light years from our own Milky Way galaxy. The smaller object up top is a dwarf galaxy called NGC5195. Together, they make one of the most spectacular displays in the night sky. But you know what I needed to do in order to capture it like this? I needed to wait. In this instance, the thing I was waiting for was the chance to see something light years away that I could never see in the short glimpse I might take looking up at the sky.
I believe the Christian life is much the same way. Yes, we wait for a lot of things. For our lattes. For a text message to be returned. For a moment of peace. But as Christians we also wait for Christ. We wait for that time when God’s kingdom is not veiled. A popular teaching is that the kingdom of God is already but not yet. We already see glimpses and glimmers of the kingdom of God in our world. Through the work of the church, through the justice efforts of humanity, through the beauty of creation. But we also know God’s kingdom has not fully arrived. We need little example to be reminded of that. So for us, life is somewhat of a waiting game.
And just like in that observatory for me back in 2007 sometimes all we can do is apply that which we have been taught and know, ensure that we are on the right track and pointing in the right direction, and wait. To gain that picture I showed you meant waiting for the telescope to gather and collect enough light from an object millions of light years away. It took extreme focus, steadfast patience, and trust that the object I was focused on would continue to produce that light. How is that not the call of the Christian?
We are called to fix our eyes on Christ with extreme focus. It means looking to Christ for answers and for hope and for meaning. It means not falling idle and wandering from that focus. But instead, as our text says, living godly lives with self-control. It means waiting with steadfast patience. And you know what patience is born from? Hope. We only practice patience for those things which spark hope. Tell a toddler to wait and be patient to receive a cookie, and they wait because they are captured by the hope of that delicious chocolate chip cookie. Hope is connected to something we long for and something we enjoy. And our greatest hope is the coming of Christ. We are waiting for that because hopefully we know it is the end of brokenness and sin and the beginning of our time where we will see God with our eyes and not only through the lense of faith. And we trust. We trust in our God. We believe the Father, Son, and Spirit are a source of never-ending light. That we can never take in enough of their luminance and that our God is able to illuminate all of creation itself. And that includes our own hearts and the dark spaces that we try so hard to ignore or dismiss.
Sometimes the waiting means joy for some and endurance for others. I told you that Paul touched on the political in our text and indeed he does. The final two verses of our passage.
Show Titus 3:1-2.
Many of us experienced waiting this week. Just when we thought things couldn’t get tougher on our patience after the World Series, we get the presidential election. And we received the results of that election. Some celebrate. Some mourn. But the result of this election does not change Paul’s words in our text and it does not change our call as Christians to wait. What are we waiting for? For a time where our only leader and authority is God Himself. For a time where political platforms are useless because the Lord Almighty has solved all poverty, injustice, discrimination, sorrow, and debt. That is the message I have for you concerning Paul’s words on political leaders and in light of the election. People of God, wait. Wait on the coming of the Lord. Do it through obedience. Do by being a presence of good in this world. Do it with consideration, with peace, and with gentleness. Do not forget that just as our Savior is returning so too has He given us a call and place in this world. Our identity as the patient children of God does not change regardless of who holds the office of President.
And so I conclude by asking you again: What are you waiting for? I pray that whether those things are objects of hope or objects of anxiety that you are, at least, reminded that our God is coming. That His return will fulfill all the things that give us deepest joy and abolish all the things that fill us with despair. And in that waiting, you have a role. You exist as recipients of grace, a gift that can and will change all that you are. You are to stand, grounded in that grace, in opposition to all ungodliness. To practice self-control and to rely on hope. You have been redeemed of your sin, that burden is canceled. You have been purified and made into God’s chosen people called to do good in a world desperate not only for good but for those who will champion it. And we do all that in waiting. In endurance. In hope. And unlike me in that observatory all those years ago, our waiting as a people of God should not be done without action. Paul uses action words here: say, live, teach, encourage, rebuke, remind, be ready to do. For us, waiting is an action. It’s the choices we make and those things which we stand for and against. And it is always driven by hope and toward Christ. So again: What are you waiting for?