What Kind of Waiting Attitude Do You Have?
IN TODAY’S world, few people enjoy waiting for someone or something. It tests their patience. The Scriptures, however, encourage God’s people to cultivate “a waiting attitude.” In contrast with the people around him, the prophet Micah declared: “I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.”—Micah 7:7; Lamentations 3:26.
What, though, does it mean to wait for Jehovah? How should a Christian wait for God? Are there proper and improper ways to do this? The experience of the prophet Jonah of the ninth century B.C.E. provides a lesson on the matter.
A Case of Misguided Waiting
Jehovah God directed Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Nineveh was known as “the city of bloodshed” because of its brazen brutality and cruelty, a fact well attested to by historians and archaeologists. (Nahum 3:1) Jonah initially tried to avoid this assignment, but Jehovah made sure that the prophet eventually went to Nineveh.—Jonah 1:3–3:2.
“Jonah started to enter into the city the walking distance of one day, and he kept proclaiming and saying: ‘Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.’” (Jonah 3:4) Jonah’s efforts met with a remarkable response: “The men of Nineveh began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth, from the greatest one of them even to the least one of them.” (Jonah 3:5) Accordingly, Jehovah, a God who “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance,” spared the city.—2 Peter 3:9.
What was Jonah’s response? The account says: “To Jonah, though, it was highly displeasing, and he got to be hot with anger.” (Jonah 4:1) Why? Jonah possibly felt that his unfulfilled proclamation of destruction by a certain date made him lose face as a prophet. He evidently became more concerned with his own reputation than with mercy and salvation for others.
Of course, Jonah did not go as far as resigning as a prophet. Nevertheless, he waited to “see what would become of the city.” Yes, he developed a kind of begrudging, wait-and-see attitude. Realizing that things did not happen the way he expected, he built a booth, sat in the shade, and sullenly waited to see what would happen. Jehovah, however, did not approve of Jonah’s attitude, so he lovingly corrected the thinking of his errant prophet.—Jonah 4:5, 9-11.
Why Jehovah Is Patient
Though Nineveh repented and was spared, it later relapsed into wicked ways. Through the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah, Jehovah predicted its destruction. Speaking of “the city of bloodshed,” Jehovah declared that he would destroy Assyria and make Nineveh a desolate waste. (Nahum 3:1; Zephaniah 2:13) In 632 B.C.E., Nineveh was destroyed, never to rise up again.
In a similar way, the world today is guilty of wanton bloodshed on a far greater scale than that of ancient Nineveh. For this and other reasons, Jehovah has decreed that the present wicked system of things will come to its end in an unprecedented “great tribulation.”—Matthew 24:21, 22.
Still, Jehovah has held back the promised destruction so that sincere people today, like repentant ones in Nineveh, can repent and be spared. The apostle Peter refers to God’s patience in these terms: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9, 10, 13.
Waiting the Proper Way
Peter goes on to say: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah!” (2 Peter 3:11, 12) Note that while awaiting Jehovah’s day, we should be demonstrating “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion”—activity, not inactivity, is in order.
Yes, a proper waiting attitude manifests absolute confidence that Jehovah’s day will come not one moment later than Jehovah purposed. Such faith produces holy acts and godly deeds, and prominent among them is the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom. Jesus set a fine example in preaching, and he instructed his anointed followers: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching!”—Luke 12:35-37.
First-century slaves would ‘gird up the loins’ by gathering up the ends of their robes under the sash in order to facilitate strenuous physical activity. Thus, a Christian is to be energetic, zealous in good works. He should fight any tendency to “loiter” in spiritual inactivity, perhaps diverting his energies toward pleasures or material pursuits. Rather, he should have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord” while awaiting the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.—Romans 12:11; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Active While Waiting
Jehovah’s Witnesses have kept busy while awaiting Jehovah’s day. In the 2003 service year, for instance, they spent an average of 3,383,000 hours each day preaching Jehovah’s word. Why, an individual would have to preach nonstop for 386 years to accomplish what was done in one day!
Nonetheless, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of waiting attitude do I personally have?’ Jesus gave a parable that describes the industriousness expected of faithful anointed Christians. He spoke of three slaves: “To one [the master] gave five talents, to another two, to still another one, to each one according to his own ability, and he went abroad. Immediately the one that received the five talents went his way and did business with them and gained five more. In the same way the one that received the two gained two more. But the one that received just one went off, and dug in the ground and hid the silver money of his master. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.”—Matthew 25:15-19.
All three slaves waited for the master’s return. The two who kept busy while waiting for their master were told upon his arrival: “Well done, good and faithful slave!” However, the one who waited idly received a different treatment. The master said: “Throw the good-for-nothing slave out into the darkness outside.”—Matthew 25:20-30.
Although this parable applies to anointed Christians, there is a lesson for all of us regardless of our hope. The Master, Jesus Christ, expects each one of us to work diligently in his service while we await his arrival at Jehovah’s great day. He appreciates each one’s labor “according to his own ability” and circumstances. What a joy it will be to hear a “well done” from the Master when the waiting finally is over!
Our Lord’s Patience Means Salvation
What if this system of things has lasted longer than we once thought or hoped it would? This has not been without reason. The apostle Peter wrote: “Consider the patience of our Lord as salvation.” (2 Peter 3:15) Accurate knowledge of God’s purpose and a humble appraisal of our own relative unimportance will enable us to be patient just as long as Jehovah sees fit to be patient with this old system.
To encourage Christians to be patient, the Bible writer James offered an illustration. He wrote: “Look! The farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—James 5:7, 8.
Jehovah God does not want us to tire out or give up while we are waiting. He has a work for us to do and is pleased if we use the waiting time to engage industriously in that work. He wants us to be among those whom the apostle Paul describes in his letter to the Hebrews: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Hebrews 6:11, 12.
So let us not become weary. Rather, may our personal relationship with Jehovah God, our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, and our bright hope in the new system of things be the energizing forces in our life. Like the “good and faithful” slaves of Jesus’ parable, may we prove ourselves worthy of commendation and reward by keeping busy in praising our God, as did the psalmist who stated: “As for me, I shall wait constantly, and I will add to all your praise.”—Psalm 71:14.
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Disappointed, Jonah waited to see what would happen to Nineveh
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Let us manifest godly devotion while awaiting Jehovah’s day