Sometimes our church gatherings can be a little stale. You know what a stale worship service can be like. The music is a little slow. The prayer requests take too long. The prayers are long-winded. The sanctuary is too warm. The sermon drones on too long.
Yes, it can feel a little stale. We might even wonder why we are there. Surely, there might be other things we can do on a Sunday morning.
It is in those moments we must remember what the church is – and who it is who is with us as we worship. The church is a community that witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ, to his death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb. We tell the story – like Paul in Romans 4 – that we don’t earn our salvation. It is given to us by grace through faith.
And when we live in faith, things can get a little stale. This is true – because faith involves waiting. Some will say a life of faith (in the Spirit) is one exciting adventure or encounter after another. But that’s not the case. Becoming a Christian is not like entering an amusement park. Our own excitement and spiritual “highs” are not the point.
No, sometimes we just have to wait. Like our forefather Abraham. He’s the forefather of the Jews, and he’s the forefather of the Christians – both the circumcised and the uncircumcised. We walk in his footsteps.
And Abraham was a man who had to wait. His body grew weak with age. He was as good as dead. His wife was no better off. But God had made them a promise. And Abraham – our forefather – waited. And waited. And waited. And nothing seemed to happen.
But he was “fully convinced,” Paul said. Abraham was convinced God was going to do what he promised. He was convinced God could take a man who was as good as dead and bring life from him. He was convinced God could take a womb that was barren and empty and fill it full with new life.
No one likes to wait. I’m sure Abraham didn’t like to wait. We want to see God fulfill his promises to us.
The Christian life, though, is marked by waiting – by marking time. Sunday after Sunday we gather together as a church. And there are some who are young – newborns even. And there are some who are in midlife (right here!). And there are some who are our “senior” saints.
And we all gather together, generations of people who are waiting. What are we waiting for? We are waiting for the promise. We are waiting, fully convinced, “that God (is) able to do what he had promised.”
The promise is the return of Jesus. The promise is a new heaven and earth. The promise is the wiping away of every tear from every eye and no more grief, pain, or death.
Is it harder to wait as we get older in the faith? I don’t think so – if we wait the faithfully. Abraham, according to Paul, “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Abraham worshipped, too, just like us. And as he worshipped year after year, growing older and weaker as he went, his faith grew strong. His body was fading, but his faith was growing.
If we were to look around the room when we gather as a church, we might wonder what others are thinking. What are our senior saints thinking? They’ve been waiting a long time, some of them. They’ve been doing this – Sunday after Sunday – for many years more than we have. Does it get stale for them, too? Surely. But ask them about their hope. You might learn something. “In hope he believed against hope.”
And so we ought to remember that during those moments when our worship feels stale, or when our Bible reading and prayer times seem monotonous. Keep giving God the glory.