In Samuel Beckett’s seminal play, Waiting For Godot, two men sit beside a leafless tree and wait upon someone called Godot. Of course, Godot never arrives. The play has been the subject of a great many interpretations over the years; from the existential to the lengthy wait for the Second Coming. Beckett, himself, never gave away his intended meaning. It remains a speculative secret that he took to his grave. I’m not about to reinvent the wheel by offering my own interpretation – there are plenty of people who have done that already – but the plot intrigued me because of our own experiences of waiting for God.
Waiting and patience are words that are synonymous with the whole experience of walking with God. Most people hate waiting. Few people are genuinely are patient. I can claim to have developed a degree of patience over the years. Prison enforces patience upon you. I learned to wait. Prison meant that you had to wait for everything. Nothing was instant. But, although I would claim to know how to be patient because of that experience, the reality is that when it comes to the things of God, patience isn’t one of my better qualities.
I write these posts with the view of trying to document the whole experience of seeking God, as well as leaving some ‘breadcrumbs’ of a trail for others also seeking God. I can tell you that much of such a journey is about waiting and being patient. There is no other way. So, if you are looking at this site hoping to find a formula or a shortcut, let me put you out of your misery now – there is no formula, nor any shortcuts. Don’t let any prosperity preacher tell you any different. God deals with us as individuals, which excludes any formula or shortcuts. You might be thinking that not everyone will have to wait or learn patience. Perhaps not, but the evidence that is found in the Bible, tells us that patient endurance is just part of the process.
“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” [Romans 5:3b-4 NKJV]
All things with God are in the form of a journey. That journey can sometimes be a physical one, but is mostly always of a spiritual nature. Look at the above verse like it’s describing a journey. The destination is a place called Hope. You start that journey in a rundown city of Tribulation, and on the way you pass through the towns of Perseverance and Character. That’s exactly how God works with all of us. He uses tribulation to produce in us qualities like perseverance and character. If you can grasp that now, you will learn to be like the apostle Paul, who could glory in tribulations.
Even our Lord’s own brother, James grasped this:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” [James 1:2-4 NKJV]
Count it all joy. Some translations say ‘consider it pure joy’. I know this isn’t a popular message, but suffering is part of the deal. Re-read the New Testament and you will see that Y’shua (Jesus) spoke continually about suffering as being part of salvation; the letters of Paul, Peter and James are also littered with references to God using suffering in order to fulfil His purpose. There is no shortcut. It has always been this way. God has never done anything quickly by our own understanding of time. His purpose is unstoppable and so time has no real relevance…except to us. We are taught (by the world) to want and expect everything now, or yesterday. But God never works in that way. Right from the very beginning, waiting and patience was always part of His plan.
And it is to the O.T. (Old Testament) that I wish to turn to explain what I mean. It has taken a lot longer than I really care to admit to even start to get my head around what being patient is really all about. But, I have been learning to actually thank God with genuine gratitude, for the trials and tribulations that we have experienced on this journey. It has taken many years of thinking I knew what it was all about. I still don’t truly understand it, but I have learnt how to surrender. It doesn’t always work. Frequently, I fail. It is in these moments of failure that God is there, gently showing me the way back to the Narrow Path. It is in my failures that He is revealed. Yesterday was a typical example of God speaking to me through failure. I’m not going to go into the details – you probably wouldn’t believe them anyway. But, I do what to explain something of how God works with me.
Let me ask you a question first.
Why did it take so long for Noah to build the ark?
Most estimates are that it took him around 120 years. This is probably wrong. We know that Noah was at least 500 years old when he fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 5:32). And, we also know that when God spoke to Noah and told him to build the ark, He said that he should take his whole family with him in the ark (Genesis 6:18). So, my guess is that if his children were already married when God spoke, then they were probably at least twenty years old. So Noah would have been at least 520, and we know that he entered the ark in his 600th year. This means that the outside estimate should be 80 years. Written like that, it doesn’t sound like a long time, does it? But it is.
Let me ask you a question again.
Why did it take so long for Noah to build the ark?
While you ponder that question, let me tell you how I came to ask the question myself.
We have done a lot of waiting. To be honest, at times, we haven’t been very patient. On many occasions, the lack of apparent progress with all things Cornerstone has led us to do things under our own steam, the result of which is always the same – we end up repenting and getting back to waiting (see Psalm 127:1). Waiting and being patient are so against everything that our flesh desires. Such attributes are the exact antithesis of mankind. If you know someone who has been walking with God for a long time, have a think about their most obvious character traits. Right up there, at the top of the list, will usually be patience. It should be clear, along with the likes of kindness, and joy, and peace, and…well you can read the list in Galatians 5. Fruit.
Two years ago we bought a young vine to grow in a pot in the conservatory we have at the back of the house. It is in a fine spot, with plenty of sunlight. We have learnt that if you want to grow vines, you need to look after them. It takes time. And attention. For the last two autumns we have cut back the vine to almost nothing in order to promote growth in the third year. This appears to be a similar principle with all fruit trees. We have just been given a pear and an apple tree, which we are also going to attempt to grow in the conservatory. These young trees need tending. They need to be nurtured; trained to grow correctly; cut back to encourage new growth; and limited so that they don’t grow up too quickly. All this work is with the single purpose – to encourage the trees to produce fruit. God works with us in exactly the same way.
Here’s what Y’shua has to say about how God works with helping us to grow:
“I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, He cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. Stay united with me, as I will with you – for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified – in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim (disciples).” [John 15:1-8 Complete Jewish Bible]
Let’s break this down a little. So, Y’shua is the vine. We are branches of that same vine. Without the vine, the branches cannot possible survive, and most certainly cannot produce fruit. In order for the branches to produce fruit, they must be pruned. God is the one who does the pruning.
That seems pretty clear. Our purpose is to produce fruit. Everything in scripture all points to that. However, fruit is only produced through the hand of the gardener, who makes sure that the branches are able to bear fruit. Just like us with the fruit trees in the conservatory – we need to look after the trees; to water them; to feed them; to cut them back to encourage new growth.
The thing about growing fruit; the issue at the heart of this analogy, is that it takes time to produce the fruit. What starts as a single seed, has to die and be buried in soil for God to breathe life back into it. We come to God spiritually dead and He breathes new life into us, and we become a new, tender branch attached to His vine. It takes time for the branches to get established, and even more time for them to bear fruit. It requires patience.
We know from the Parable of the Sower that Y’shua describes the seed that the farmer sows as the Word of God. The principle works the same way in every aspect of our lives. When God showed us to start Cornerstone, it was His word, like a seed, that He used to help us understand. But, with our lack of patience and our inability to wait, we weren’t prepared to follow His example and tend carefully the seed…we wanted the finished product immediately. Now, we have had to go back and start over. To prepare the soil and plant the seed again. We have to let it die in the soil, so that God can breathe life into it. Our efforts are not enough. He is the gardener, not us. Right now, we have been pruned back to the vine, so that we might bear some real fruit. It is difficult. It is a very tough place. But it will be worth it. From here it takes time. Patience is one fruit that the wait will produce. Y’shua’s vine produces all the good fruit – the fruits of the Spirit. The fruit in our lives proves us to be His disciples, and if we are seen to be His disciples, the Father will be glorified. That is our purpose in life – to glorify God.
The vision that God has given us for Cornerstone is a seed that we have had to plant and let Him do the work. It is not the finished product. It takes many years to produce fruit on some trees. We’re just getting started.
God also gave Noah a seed. He told him to build an ark out of Gopher wood. Why did it take Noah so long to get the work done? Because he had to first plant the seed in the ground. And that seed grew into first a sapling, then a tree. And after a few years the Gopher tree started to produce fruit itself in the form of nuts. Noah knew that the one tree wasn’t enough to produce sufficient wood to build the ark. So, he harvested the fruit from the tree and planted it all, until it grew into a huge forest with plenty of Gopher wood. More than enough to build the ark and fulfil God’s word to him.
We’re not entirely sure what the Gopher tree is these days. After all, whatever Noah grew was either used in the ark or destroyed by the flood. But, there is some evidence to believe there is a link between the Gopher tree and what is known as the Florida Nutmeg tree. The Florida Nutmeg is a type of pine tree that produces, as fruit, huge nuts or seeds. It takes twenty years to grow a mature tree of around twenty feet tall, but each tree produces endless fruit each year; seeds ready to be planted to produce their own harvest. I like to think that when God spoke with Noah about what was coming He gave him a seed from the Gopher tree and said that from this seed you will produce enough wood to save your entire family, as well as the animals of the planet. I like to think that Noah planted that seed, in the same way that we have had to plant the seed that God has given us.
If God has spoken to you, plant the seed. Let Him make it grow. Be fruitful, and multiply.