Waiting and eagerly seem like two opposite terms. They don’t seem to fit. So why does the Apostle Paul use them not only in Philippians 3:20, but also in Romans 8 and Galatians 5? Today we will be taking a look at what it looks like to “eagerly wait.”
In studying the Scriptures we have to understand a very important thing: it is not just a conglomeration of random stories, advice, and ethics. No, the Bible is something far greater than this. The Bible is the narrative of how God redeemed His people and brought them back into a restorative relationship with Himself through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That being said, one scripture passage can give us a glimpse into what the author is talking about, but another passage can give us a fuller meaning of the idea, the concept, the truth, that the author is trying to portray to his original audience and to us.
The Greek Word for “eagerly waiting” is ἀπεκδέχομαι. We can see this phrase echoed in several passages. We will look at three today.
“For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19)
“And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits–we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
“For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Galatians 5:5)
“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
Let’s digest this a little bit now. First off, we see that there are two entities that are “eagerly waiting”: The creation and The believers.
We see that the created order eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. Why?
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21)
So what is going on here? Well, we are taken back to the first sin, Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. Man was made in the image of God, and woman was made in the image of man. And they were given dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26). But sin ruined the created order, not only pushing Adam and Eve out of the garden, but the reverberating effects of sin were felt throughout creation. Christ’s return will bring restoration and redemption not only to the men and women who are His, but also to His creation. This is why creation eagerly waits.
Second, we see that we, as believers are waiting. For what? Our adoption, the redemption of our bodies, the Hope and Righteousness, and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see the word “groan” here. In the Greek it is translated στενάζω. Why is this significant? We will take a closer look at this verse by looking at 2 Corinthians 5:1-5.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
The terms groan, longing, and burdened are significant, but also the word tent. The first terms indicate a struggle, a burdensome life. What is the significance of these terms though? Why is Paul groaning and burdened and longing? Paul is longing for his heavenly dwelling with Christ which entails him: being clothed with a heavenly dwelling, mortality being swallowed up in life, and having an eternal house in heaven. Why are these things significant? Why does Paul long for these things?
This brings us to the term “tent.” No one usually lives in a tent permanently. They usually will sleep in them on camping trips, or week long trips, but it would be very difficult to live permanently in a tent. A tent is meant to be taken up and taken down, moved from one place to another, and used only for a time. This is precisely what Paul is getting at! Our body here on this earth is a tent, a temporary thing. We are not putting our hope in this life, but in the next.
Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven and that is why we eagerly wait. But not only that but the redemption of our bodies, the hope of righteousness, and ultimately living in perfect covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. This is our hope. This tent, this body is temporary. Our hope is not found here, it is found in Jesus Christ and the restoration He will bring to this world.
This brings us back to the original question: What does it look like to eagerly wait?
I think it looks like putting our lives into perspective. Our lives are short, temporary. Are we storing up treasures on this earth that will fade away, or are we using our time in this temporary tent wisely? Are we sharing and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ through our lives to those who don’t know Him?
Second I think it looks like being disciplined. “Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26)
God could take the breath out of you at any minute. You don’t have unlimited time. Are you seeking after Christ with all you have? Are you aware and grateful for the time He has given you on this earth? This time really isn’t even for you. Its for others that don’t know Him. Its for others to have a chance at hearing the good news. How are you being apart of that?
Thirdly it means being present where you are. It is easy to look ahead to future ministry and life, but if you do, you may miss out on great opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with your co-worker, classmate, manager.
Lastly, we are not discouraged or afraid, but live confident lives in Jesus Christ with all boldness. Paul says in Philippians 1:27-30: “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about that you are standing firm in one spirit with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance and this is from God. For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him, having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.”
We know we have hope. We know that we will be restored. So why then are we afraid? We are not alone. Even in the bruising, difficult times of life, our outer person may be being destroyed, but our inner person, renewed (2 Corinthians 4:16). And Paul says that us not being frightened by the world and their ploys, shows the world of their coming destruction. They will fight us and hate us. We have no reason to fear. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
As Pastor Matt Chandler puts it: “There will be a day when you die that all of history is rewritten. Like the annals of history will not be filled with wars and kings. There will be one story. The heroes will be missionaries. That’s what’s going to occur. Who cares if they mock you? Be fearless.”
I hope that as believers this has given you hope of your coming redemption. Be present where God has you with all boldness. Be aware of the condition of your temporary tent and preach the gospel nonstop, praying without ceasing for a world that desperately needs the love of Jesus Christ.
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