Sentries In The Box Of Patience

Certain saints are summoned to active marching duty, and others are ordered to keep watch on the walls. There are warriors on the field of conflict and sentries in the box of patience. –Charles Spurgeon

There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to do something for God, and not being able to.

At times we want to be out on the front lines serving God and we find ourselves keeping watch on the walls.  Every believer will have times like this.  And some are “sidelined” longer than others.  It might be because of a sickness or an accident.  It might be because of persecution.  And when we find ourselves in a spiritual holding pattern, there’s nothing we can do to get out of it but pray.

In times of waiting we can feel worthless, like we’re not bearing fruit for God.  We can feel hopeless and tempted to despair.

But as Spurgeon said, waiting is something God calls us to.  The Bible’s full of stories of men and women who found themselves sentries in the box of patience.

Moses wanted to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery, but after taking things into his own hands and killing an Egyptian, had to flee to the backside of the desert for 40 years.  Can you imagine those 40 years for Moses tending flocks in the desert?  He may have thought he’d totally blown his chance to be useful to God.

Joseph spent years in an Egyptian prison.  He too may have felt like God had set him aside.

David spent a long time in the desert running and hiding from Saul before he finally became the king of Israel.

Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity before he began his public ministry.  He was tempted in every way we are except without sin. He surely was tempted to impatience at times.  Even Jesus himself had to spend time as a sentry in the box of patience.

Paul spent a lot of time in prison and John was exiled to the island of Patmos.  So when God calls us to wait, it’s nothing he hasn’t called multitudes of saints to before us.

When God calls us to wait, it doesn’t mean he isn’t actively at work in our lives.

Sometimes God makes us wait to teach us to trust and depend on him.  Waiting humbles us – it reminds us that we’re very limited creatures.  Waiting reminds us God is in control and our times are in his hands.  Waiting strengthens our prayer lives as we seek God again and again for an answer.  Waiting makes us compassionate toward others in their trials.  Waiting builds patience, faithfulness and long-suffering.  And waiting makes us all the more grateful when the wait is over.

Do you feel like you’re in a holding pattern right now?

The best thing you can do is thank and praise God your life and all he’s working in you now.  Ask him for whatever you desire, ask him to change your situation, and ask him for grace should he keep you there.  Pray for saints whose wait is much harder than yours, like persecuted believers in prison camps in North Korea.  Pray for brothers and sisters you know who are suffering much worse than you and waiting for an answer from God.

  • thunderberrygrace

    there’s nothing we can do to get out of it but pray. Very timely…indeed thanks keeps me focused what is right and true and noble

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks for commenting thunderberry! Yep, sometimes the only thing we can do is pray. But that's so very powerful and active.

  • Elaine

    Great reminder, Mark! Thanks so much!

    Praying is so important and I would add to it to be busy serving and praising the Lord while you are waiting.. Whether it's something small like soothing a crying child or cleaning the kitchen – again!- we can be content no matter what our circumstances are. Learning to be content while I'm waiting on the Lord is probably one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn…well, am still learning.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Mark!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks Elaine, I'm glad you mentioned this because we can always pray, and should always pray. And in situations where it feels like we're on hold, prayer goes out and gets stuff done, even while we can do little else.