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When to Act and When to Wait on God: 3 Things to Consider

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When faced with an important decision in life or a choice of paramount proportions, it is important to know when to act upon that which the Lord has revealed to you and when to wait on God before moving forward.

God's Word tells us...

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, 
who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 1:5

Not only are we to seek God's wisdom for direction concerning a matter, but even after we sense that God has given us the green light, we must seek His wisdom before acting.

Let's consider the following three things when making a decision to act or to wait in the context of having already received a green light from God.

The Importance of Waiting on God

Patience is not a natural bent of ours.  In fact, this is becoming more and more apparent in an age of entitlement and wanting things yesterday.  We have been essentially trained to have zero tolerance for waiting.  And I'm preaching to myself here...  There are areas in my life where my patience runs thin and I end up resenting the wait.

In God's economy, waiting should be as natural as our breathing.

The Word of God spells out God's patience in carrying out His perfect plans.  And yes, a thousand years is like a day to the Lord, but even so, we are part of God's creation and God's creation has been designed to wait on the Lord.

For the creation waits with eager longing
 for the revealing of the sons of God.
Romans 8:19

So how can we be patient with God when He makes us wait even though He has already given us the green light?

Look to His Word for encouragement...

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary;
 they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

The Lord has built renewal into waiting.  Waiting on God's timing builds character and trust in a God who is always acting even when He is telling us to wait.

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; 
it hastens to the end—it will not lie. 
If it seems slow, wait for it; 
it will surely come; it will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:3

It is especially important to wait for God's appointed time to move forward when He's given you the green light...

                    When God Tells you to Wait Even Though                     He Gave you a Green Light

Let's say you've spent much time in prayer seeking the Lord for direction regarding a ministry idea, asking what is the will of God concerning this matter.  You may have been praying for months or years!  After waiting on God, finally the day comes when you feel confirmation in your spirit that the Lord is leading you to move forward in this new area of ministry...  But does that mean you should act right then and there?

Let's learn a lesson from Judges on the consequences of acting hastily in that which the Lord has given a green light for...

The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?”

The Lord replied, “Judah shall go first.”

The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah.  The 
Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against 
them at Gibeah.  The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand 
Israelites on the battlefield that day.  But the Israelites encouraged one another and again
 took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.  The Israelites 
went up and wept before the Lord until evening, and they inquired of the Lord. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?”

The Lord answered, “Go up against them.”

Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day.  This time, when the 
Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another
 eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. And the Israelites inquired of the Lord. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?”

The Lord responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”
Judges 20:18-28

Here we see that indeed the Israelites sought the Lord for direction three times, but it was only after the third time that they did not suffer defeat.   According to Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary, Israel was defeated the first two times because they acted hastily, moving forward without careful planning and without depending on God in the battle.

There is much wisdom in not acting hastily once you've received God's green light, ESPECIALLY in something where you carefully sought the Lord prior.  It would be a shame to obey in the first, but when the rubber meets the road, to disobey and go out in your own strength rather than waiting on the Lord.

Before moving through God's green light, consider when to act and when to wait on God through continued prayer; careful, prayerful planning; and dependence on God through the entire process.

When to Act and When to Wait on God

I am going to use the story of a dear friend of mine and sister in the Lord as a practical application for determining when to act and when to wait on God once you've received His green light.

When my friend was a teenager, she felt the Lord had placed a call upon her heart to start a ministry for providing a place of solitude and rest for Pastors, missionaries, Christian workers and fellow believers.  The Lord had even given her a name for this ministry and inspired her mind's eye with what the buildings and grounds would look like...

Even though the Lord had given her excruciating detail about moving forward with this ministry, it was not time to act...  In fact, it was about 15 years later when my friend felt that the Lord was taking her out of her holding pattern and moving her to go through a green light that was given by Him 15 years prior.

Fast forward, and this ministry vision that the Lord placed upon my dear friend's heart many years ago is now closer to a reality.  When the Lord's timing finally came for her to act upon the green light, she was amazed at what God had been preparing for her - a property that looked exactly like the vision the Lord placed upon her heart all those years ago, right down to the house, the outbuildings and the land!  She and her family have been living there for at least five years now and continue to wait upon the Lord to begin actively running the ministry.  There have been green lights and red lights along the way.  Throughout all of this, of course, His timing has been absolutely perfect!

My friend has unceasingly prayed and sought prayer from fellow Believers for this ministry which prayers continue today.

Although I gave the Reader's Digest version of my friend's story, there are indeed deeper lessons from the full story, lessons about knowing when to act and when to wait on God...
  • The Lord provides green lights for casting a vision.  As we wait for it to become a reality, the Lord is maturing and strengthening us for service in whatever area we sought direction in.
  • God orchestrates circumstances, sometimes in ways that are painful, that are working toward moving us through a light that has already been made green by Him
  • God's timing is perfect.  While we wait, He is preparing that which He will eventually move us forward through.
  • If there will be a season of pain in moving forward with that which the Lord has signaled is time to act upon, move forward anyway, there will be abundant blessings on the other side of pain.
  • Even when God gives the go ahead to act, be patient in moving forward to ensure wisdom in direction, movement in His strength alone and reliance wholly upon God.

In reflecting upon these insights from my friend's story, we can see the fruitful blessings that will be our reward for discerning rightly when to act and when to wait upon God when He has already given us the go-ahead.

May we contemplate the importance of waiting on God, heeding the Lord when He tells us to wait even though He has given us a green light, and prayerfully considering when to act and when to wait upon God.

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  1. I needed this tonight, dear friend. Seeking the Lord with all my heart for the direction we need. He is ever faithful. I trust you He will bless you with a wonderful week ahead! Much love and many blessings to you!

    1. Hi Cheryl, Praising God that the words of this post ministered to your heart in the area of direction you were seeking. All Glory to Him.

      Indeed He is!

      Thanks so much dear friend and thank you for being my biggest encourager. <3

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog, Clothed with Joy, and for your comment on my recent post. It's nice to meet you! God's timetable is not generally our timetable, is it? But it is his timetable that is the best. It is in the waiting times that things are often coming together. of course, we generally cannot see what is going on behind the scenes, so we get impatient. If we truly realized that he is working in our wait, we might have more patience.

    1. Hi Patti, You are very welcome! It's nice to meet you too!

      Thank you so much for adding to the conversation here! I appreciate your insights. Thanks for sharing!

      And thanks so much for stopping by. :-)

  3. Early in our walks with God, my husband and I had lots of enthusiasm but didn't fully understand how important it is to wait on Him. We got ahead of Him on a couple of occasions, probably many more but there are a couple that stand out. It's so much better to wait on His timing!

    1. Hi Donna, Thank you for humbly sharing here in the comments. I appreciate it!

      Indeed it is!

      Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Thank you for this post - it's so true! Earling in my faith, a missionary once told me: There is no safer place to be than waiting on the will of the LORD. Boy! This really helped build my patience in waiting.

    1. Hi Miaismine, You are so welcome!

      Thanks so much for sharing this encouraging quote and adding to the conversation. I appreciate it!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. The waiting is hard at times, but in the aftermath, even if later on, can see the wisdom to wait. Have a happy week.

    1. Hi Peabea, That is so true. Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by.

      You too! :-)

  6. Very wise words. Being patient doesn't come easily to us, especially when we are sure God has said Yes. As in your example, the go-ahead doesn't always come at the same time as the Yes.

    1. Hi Kym, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for stopping by. I appreciate it!

  7. Lots of great advice here. The decision of when to stop and when to go is a difficult one that we all face at many places along our Christian journey. You've provided practical advice as well as spiritual encouragement to trust God in the waiting and depend on his leading. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lisa, Thank you so much for your kind comment. I appreciate it!

      And thanks so much for stopping by! :-)

  8. I'm indeed blessed with this, what I need at this particular time. God bless you

    1. Praise God you found blessing here. God's timing is always perfect. :-)

      Thanks so much for stopping by!


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