It was so good to have our friend Tommy Tenney with us at UCB last week. Tommy has spent over 40 years in itinerant ministry and is the author of The God Chasers. He spoke to a group of leaders for the filming of UCB’s Foundation event on Wednesday and shared on the subject of waiting. It is an experience we are all familiar with!
I sat down and asked Tommy about his experiences of waiting and what God has taught him.
How should we respond when we are waiting for God to fulfil a promise?
The first thing to say is that God doesn’t mind adding the ingredient of time to the recipe of our lives. I have often watched my wife make a cake, and sometimes she will take the cake out of the oven and test it with a toothpick. The ingredients of the cake are right, the temperature of the oven is right, but all the cake needs is time.
It’s the same with soup or any other recipe. You can add all the right vegetables and all the right seasoning, but sometimes it needs to simmer; it needs time before it tastes just right. So, God really doesn’t mind adding the ingredient of time to our lives. Maybe he sometimes puts a divine toothpick in our lives and says ‘All this needs is time.’
Secondly, I think we need to change the picture in our minds of what waiting is all about. We think of ‘waiting’ as the experience of sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, waiting to be seen. I believe this is the wrong picture. We should instead look at waiting as being like a waiter or waitress serving in a restaurant. It is a very active process: they are serving, helping to make others comfortable. They may even be waiting for their own dreams to come true, but while they are waiting, they are serving. You can learn some of life’s biggest lessons when you serve someone else’s dreams. I have learned that when you serve and make someone else’s dreams come true, God makes your dreams come true. Waiting doesn’t have to be an experience where you sit there and twiddle your thumbs – it should be an active experience while you are waiting for God to move in your own life.
It can be very frustrating though?
Waiting isn’t easy, but we can also learn a great deal in the process. If you look at the story of Abraham and Sarah, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but time was against them. They thought: ‘if we don’t do this now, it won’t ever happen.’ And so they rushed ahead of God’s timing and brought Hagar in, and Ishmael was born. What Abraham and Sarah had not realised was that by rushing ahead of God, they were actually creating future conflict for themselves and generations to come. We still live with the effects of that conflict today.
Have you ever experienced being in ‘God’s waiting room’?
Yes, there have been many occasions. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of The God Chasers. Before that, I had been in ministry for 20 years. If it had been up to me, I would have written the book many years before. But God said ‘No, now is not the right time, wait until you’re ready.’ So I continued to serve in ministry and being faithful as a preacher.
On another occasion, after I had written a novel about the life of Esther, I received a prophetic word that the book was to be turned into a movie. I shared the vision with those who could help me pray and process this word, and we very quickly got a cash investment, but we needed a great deal more. Then not one penny came in for the whole of the next year. We started to question whether we should just refund the original investment to the guys and tell them the movie was not going to happen. Then that Christmas, I was by myself one day and received a phone call from one of the people we were talking to. He said ‘Are you sitting down?’ Then he told us that he had just gotten $12 million dollars funding for the film. We had one full year with no sign of any funding, and then this!
I believe that waiting for God’s promises can be a time of worship. We don’t like waiting, but it is in God’s waiting room that we often learn life’s biggest lessons.
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