Dec 12, 2013

Simeon - Watchful Waiting

One of my favorite Bible stories from the Christmas narrative is the story of Simeon, the man who eagerly waited many years to see the fulfillment of God's promise. Sometime in Simeon's life, he received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw with his own eyes the arrival of the Christ. The Scriptures don't tell us exactly how he received that promise or how long he had to wait.  It does seem to indicate in the context that he had to wait a long time -- probably many years.  
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
  according to your word;
  for my eyes have seen your salvation
  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
  a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
  and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

Waiting is a common theme in many of the great characters of the Bible.

  • Abraham had to wait 25 years from receiving God's promise of an heir until the promise was fulfilled.
  • Joseph had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him, but had to wait 22 years, enduring being sold into slavery, falsely imprisoned, and being in a foreign land, before the dream was realized.
  • Moses spent 40 years in Midian before receiving a word from God to deliver the people from Egypt and then spent another 40 years wandering in the desert with a disgruntled and ungrateful people and never actually set foot in the promised land.

Waiting is not something we value in our world today. We want instant gratification, microwave meals, shorter check-out lines, high-speed Internet, fast-food, and short waits in the doctor's office. We have boiled life down to a 30-minute sitcom where we fast-forward through the commercials. Most of us personally admit to suffering from a lack of patience.

I remember a time when most of the luxuries we have today didn't exist. We believed that all the advancements and technology would improve our life and make things better, but they have also made us a much more impatient group of people. When this creeps into our spiritual lives, it often has disastrous results. Many people have become frustrated or disenfranchised with God because He hasn't delivered what we want when we want it. Some of us have prayed for something and because we didn't get the answer we were looking for right away, we either decided that God didn't exist, or if He does, He doesn't care about me.  We have lost the art of waiting.

What does the story of Simeon tell us about watchful waiting?  What principles can we learn from Simeon's life that can help us develop the art of waiting?

1.  Ground Yourself on the Veracity and Surety of God's Word. 

Somewhere along the way, God spoke to Simeon through the Holy Spirit and revealed His plan for Simeon's life.  It may have been through reading the prophet Isaiah.  It may have been a personal word to Simeon's spirit during his prayer time.  Whatever it was, Simeon's response was "God said this and that's good enough for me. I will build on that promise and wait for it to come to pass."  Simeon knew the power of God's word.  Too many believers today fail to understand the power of God's word.  Our instant and fast moving society doesn't lend itself for most of us to slow down and develop the habit of reading God's word.  Some of us self-admit that we are not readers.  However, God has given us a written word and it is to be the foundation of our lives. Don't build your spiritual life on pithy Christian platitudes, talk-show advice, or by only listening to what your pastor preachers.  You must ground yourself on God's word personally to have a sure foundation to build upon.

2.  Focus On the Promises of God Instead of Focusing On the State of Your Present Circumstances.

Remember, it was years from Simeon receiving God's promise until it was fulfilled. Every day, Simeon lived in a society that was drifting from God. It had been over 400 years since God had spoken through a prophet.  The culture around him was a mix of hypocrisy and spiritual apathy. However, Simeon knew that God had promised a Messiah and knew that God had told him that he would see him personally with his own eyes.  Too many times, we lose sight of God's promises because we spend too much time focusing on the state of our circumstances - bills to pay, kids to raise, and living in a culture that doesn't value Christ. The way to survive is not by focusing on your circumstances, but by choosing to "set your mind on things above."

3. Stay in Daily Communion with God's Spirit

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit was with Simeon. It also says that he came into the temple in the presence of the Spirit. There was a tangible presence of the Spirit of God wherever Simeon went. He was the kind of person whom when you encountered him, you knew that he had been with God.  He had a consistency in his relationship with God. This type of relationship is borne out of daily, fervent, and authentic prayer.  Lots of people around Simeon prayed everyday.  The Pharisees sure did. The Pharisees also prayed fervently and loudly.  However, the difference was that Simeon's prayer was an authentic prayer from a heart that stayed connected to God.

4.  Be Consistent in your Devotion and Obedience to God.

Simeon other characterization was "righteous and devout."  Righteous means that Simeon was obedient to God. He did what God said. He had a consistent obedience that produced a righteous character. This is in short supply in the church today.  He was also "devout" which means he maintained a consistent love and devotion to God.

5. Commit to be a Blessing to Others.

Notice in the text that when Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he immediately picked the baby up and spoke such encouraging words about him that it was a blessing to Mary and Joseph.  Again, this appears to be a pattern for Simeon. He was the kind of guy who lifted others up instead of dragging others down.  There are usually two types of people in your life - those who pour into you and make you feel better about yourself when you leave and those who drain you and make you want to avoid them when you leave. What kind of person are you?  Are you the type of person who consistently blesses others?  When you are waiting on God to fulfill his promises, you can either be so anxious about it that you are a burden to others. Or, you can commit to bless others and pour into them.

6.  Have a Lifestyle that Worships and Celebrates God

Simeon's response when he laid eyes on the baby Jesus was an immediate song of worship and praise to God. Simeon obviously lived a lifestyle of worship and celebration of the Lord, even when God appeared to take His time delivering on the promise to Simeon.  Some people allow their circumstances to hinder their worship. Simeon allowed his circumstances to deepen his faith and magnify his worship of the Lord.

Take a lesson from Simeon this Christmas if you are waiting on something from the Lord. Perhaps the reason you are waiting is that God is far more interested in what He is doing in you that what He is going to do for you.  Be a Simeon this Christmas and see what God does in and through you.