Waiting for God? Oh.

Reposted with permission from The Cripplegate.

If you haven’t seen Samuel Beckett’s famous play, Waiting for Godot, let me tell you what you missed by quoting a stage critic, Vivian Mercier: “Waiting for Godot has achieved theoretical impossibility: a play in which … nothing happens, twice.”

The play has two acts and involves two characters joined sporadically by a few more characters, who are waiting for a character named Godot. At the end of the first act a boy shows up with a message from Godot that he will not be coming today, but will certainly come tomorrow.

After the interval, the play resumes as the next day, with no plot development at all, until at the end of the second and final act, when the boy shows up again with the same message that Godot will not be coming today, but will surely come tomorrow.

The drama world was startled by the advent of a new concept: a play with no plot, no climax, and no character development, breaking all the rules of theatre, for no apparent reason. Of course, when interrogated as to what it all meant, Samuel Beckett declared emphatically, “It means what it says!”

One popular interpretation is that the character Godot who never appears, represents God and the gullible characters are Christians adamantly believing in someone who may or may not exist, and will never show up. The play’s pathos lies in one aspect of Godot’s promise: its timing. It is never in the present, but always in the future. Believing in his coming is not based on experience, it is based on faith.

This truly is an apt way to mock Christians, because we are in fact a group characterized by waiting, in faith, for God.

Have you ever been tempted to stop trusting that Jesus will return? Have you ever wondered what the consequence of that would look like?

In 1 Samuel 13 we see the Philistines preparing for battle. The Israelites take fright and dive into caves. King Saul is waiting at Gilgal as he was instructed by Samuel. He waits seven long days for Samuel to arrive and to perform the sacrifice that will hopefully signal the nation’s deliverance from the Philistine marauders. All the while, the army is dissipating daily. The seventh day dawns, the time of the morning sacrifice passes and there is still no sign of Samuel. Saul can’t wait any longer, so he performs the sacrifice himself, assuming this is how to activate God’s deliverance.

To be clear: this is a direct violation of God’s law, which said that only Levitical priests were to sacrifice, not Benjamite kings. And it is giving up on Samuel’s explicit instruction.

God’s word was clear that this was wrong, but Saul thinks, “The situation called for it.”

We call that pragmatics, i.e. the end justifies the means.

We know what we are doing is wrong, but the end result seems to be good, so we sin to do good. The mantra of the pragmatist is, “If it works, it must be okay.” Or as Sheryl Crow would croon, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”

An example of this is when a church violates the clear command of 1 Timothy 2 and has a female pastor. When you ask, they say “Look at how successful the lady’s ministry is, look at how God is blessing it, people are being saved. It’s working, so it can’t be that bad.” Pragmatics.

Another example might sound like this: “If we discipline this big supporter of our orphanage for his sin we might need to shut down the orphanage, so let’s just ignore his sin … because of … the orphans.”

But what does God think of pragmatics?

Just as Saul finishes the sacrifice, Samuel arrives. Saul responds:

When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering. (1 Sam 13: 11-12)

Saul’s response is not repentance, it’s rationalizing, justifying, and blame shifting.

“You came late, the people were leaving, the Philistines were attacking, I didn’t want to do it, I had to do it. The situation called for an exception to obedience, surely God understands my predicament?”


And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” (1 Sam 13:13)

You see, God doesn’t accept partial obedience, or situational obedience, or selective obedience when it suits you.

God desires total obedience. And total obedience requires your faith.

Do you ever get impatient with God’s timing? Do you get tired of waiting for him to work, so you become willing to sin to get what you want, when you want it?

Here’s a one-word test for you to know if you are content with God’s timing, or if you are willing to act foolishly, unwisely or sinfully to get what you want when you want it … debt.

Debt is when you want something you can’t afford yet but assume you will in the future, and don’t want to wait for it.

Here’s another two-word test: premarital sex. ‘Nuff said.

Are you waiting for God right now?

  • Perhaps you are single, waiting for God to provide a godly spouse.
  • Perhaps you are unemployed waiting for God to provide a good job.
  • Perhaps you are in pain from illness, and are waiting for God to grant relief and healing.
  • Perhaps you have a child that is set in their sin and you are waiting for God to do a mighty work and change their heart.

Waiting is part of being a Christian.

God teaches us much in the pauses of life. God changes us, not only in the granting of gifts and healing and help and deliverance, but in the long, quiet times of waiting and trusting before his gifts and healing and deliverance.

Listen to the journal entries of these godly people:

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way. (Ps 37:7)

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (Ps 130:5)

We wait for God’s deliverance from a trial, we wait for the wisdom we asked him for, we wait for the spouse he will provide, the children he will give us, the job he will supply.

And most of all we wait for him: we wait to see him in the clouds when Christ returns.

We are like a foolish crew of misfits waiting for Godot.

The reason Jesus doesn’t return now and bring judgment upon the world is because he is being patient with us so that more people can be saved (2 Peter 3:3-13). Our job is to be patient, too. And to get busy evangelizing the lost.

If you are a believer today, God’s word to you is, “Be patient, just wait. God is working with you and on you and for you, for your good and his glory.” If you are an unbeliever, God’s word to you is, “Hurry up, today is the day of salvation.”

God’s patience is long, but not infinite.

And his coming is … well, it’s coming soon. And God is worth waiting for.

Clint Archer bio

Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.

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