Recently I faced a number of situations where I was put on standby, and none of them were much fun.
At work everything was put on hold two days in a row because of the “possibility” of a very important meeting that never ended up happening. During that same week, a pastor asked me to be on standby to preach for him in case bad weather prevented him from getting back from a ministry trip on time—but he returned successfully.
Meanwhile, I was looking forward to a new initiative in my personal life, only to find out about a six-month waiting period before I could even begin. More waiting. More standby.
I don’t like being on standby. There’s all the stress of preparation and all the frustration of waiting, but the payoff seems so uncertain. I hate to waste time, and that’s usually what it feels like when I’m on hold.
And I bet you’ve faced some “standby” situations too. Perhaps you’re waiting for some kind of medical diagnosis or procedure…a new job or promotion on your present job…the launch of a new ministry…or resolution of some relationship issue.
Lots of people in the Bible were put on standby, with mixed results. Noah’s life couldn’t progress until he completed construction of a gigantic ark—and that project took over 100 years.
Abraham and Sarah were on standby for decades to receive their promised son from the Lord. While waiting, they cooked up a scheme to have a child by other means. The result was the birth of Ishmael—and thousands of years of conflict in the Middle East.
King Saul was told to be on standby until Samuel could return in seven days and present a burnt offering to God. But Saul grew impatient when Samuel didn’t return in the designated time, so he offered the burnt offering himself. As minor as this infraction may seem to you and me, it marked the first step in the unraveling of Saul’s reign.
The disciples were put on standby as Jesus prayed and sweated drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. He found them fast asleep, unable to pray and stay awake during even one hour of standby mode.
As these stories illustrate, it’s a hazardous thing to be on standby. We tend to get impatient…take matters into our own hands…and often do something crazy.
However, I’ve found that God often has a reward in store when we learn how to handle the standby mode correctly. Perhaps an illustration from the world of pets may help…
If you throw some object into the backyard, your dog is likely to retrieve it and bring it back to you. Most dogs do this instinctively, without any training. You can give him a treat to reward him for his efforts, if you would like. But the dog hasn’t really accomplished much, has he? Rather than displaying any feat of obedience, he was simply doing what came naturally.
However, what if you want your dog to get the object and then sit quietly in place until you ask him to come to you? That’s a skill likely to take some training from you and some self-control by the dog. You must teach him what the command “Stay” means, and he must fight all of his natural instincts in order to comply.
It’s pretty impressive when a dog has learned to obey his master in doing something contrary to animal instincts. You really should treat him with a reward when he can do that.
Well, I would like to say I’m a voice-trained dog, but too often I’m not. Too often, I still do what comes naturally instead of what the Master is commanding.
The key to dog training is repetition, I guess. And that seems to be the same pattern God uses in training us to be voice-trained believers. Hopefully, we will learn the lessons in time.
I encourage you to take a hard look at the standby situations in your life today. Are you patiently waiting, listening for your Master’s instructions rather than doing whatever is right in your own eyes?
And perhaps you need to be challenged about the opposite side of the coin: Do you think you are waiting on a green light from God on some issue, when He’s actually waiting on YOU to take action and get started?
Let’s listen to our Master’s voice today, my friend. If we do, I’m convinced our standby periods will be rewarded.