Strength by Patience
Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary…

"New strength" is often our deepest need. The machinery of the steamship, the locomotive, or the factory may be perfect in itself, its parts exquisitely adjusted, and all ready for action; yet it is inoperative until the steam is generated and applied. So, what a human being often needs is just — motive power. Not new faculties of body or of mind; not new opportunities for action, or new fields of enterprise; not so much new knowledge either; not even new desires and affections; but "new strength" — fresh inspiration. It is painful to be in that condition in which we feel that we can, and yet cannot; that we have faculty, yet lack inspiration; that we have wings of heavenward desire, with but little power to use them. The prophet here points us to the source of all true inspiration: "He giveth power to the faint." He points us also to the condition on which this Divine energy is to be recovered: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength."

1. What, then, is meant by this "waiting upon the Lord"? We use the word "wait" with reference to service: a servant "waits" upon his master or his master's guests. We use it, too, with reference to the holding of an interview with a superior: a deputation "waits" upon the Prime Minister; the Prime Minister "waits" upon His Majesty. We use the word also with reference to a state of expectation, more or less prolonged: as when we say that we are "waiting" for some friend. It is in this last sense — the sense of continuous expectancy — that the word is used in the Bible. To "wait" is more than to pray. It is to keep looking for the answer to our prayers. It is the opposite, therefore, both of despair and of impatience. Hence the Psalmist says, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." And again, "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope," etc. So here the prophet does not mean to say that if we would "renew our strength," we have simply to seek an interview with God and lay our request before Him; but that if we keep looking to God with a believing and patient expectation, new vigour will come to us, our very patience will be a source of strength, and the God in whom we hope will not disappoint us.

2. "Waiting is often the only means of receiving fresh energy." Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening. But when the evening comes, he is exhausted. All the organs are there, but they want new strength. The man lies down on his bed, and "waits." Sleep comes upon him; and through its influence the waiting body recovers all its vigour, so that the man rises again in the morning ready for his toil. Often, too, the very best prescription which a physician can give is, "Rest and cheerful society." A godly patience, then, is the grand secret of spiritual might. For such patience not only carries within itself the germs of strength, but also places the soul in that condition in which it is most susceptible of quickening influences and can most readily take advantage of fresh opportunities. Power is hidden in patience, as the subtle force of the lightning slumbers in the brooding cloud. Despair paralyses. Impatience, too, weakens. Magnetise a needle, and it becomes much more sensitive to the force of the magnet. And so a human heart which is constantly looking to God will be much more susceptible of all influences that come from God. The soil is ready for the vitalising shower. The sails are unfurled to catch the heavenly breeze. The ear is listening for the whispers of the Divine voice. Whereas the man who has worn himself out by impatience, or yielded himself up to despair, is too inert or too distracted to take adequate advantage of the fresh opportunities which may come at last. On the other hand, the blended eagerness and calm of the soul that is "waiting upon the Lord" make it the more receptive of all Divine influences, and keep it at least strong enough to take advantage of fresh sources of strength.

(1) The calm of a believing soul may be heightened into a kind of ecstasy. Patience has sometimes a dull, torpid, chrysalis aspect; but, when the time is ripe, patience passes into a winged rapture which rises gladly into the sunshine of heaven. In all godly "waiting" there lies the capability of Godward soaring. A patient spirit has the wings of faith and hope. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life," etc. There is the eagle again — keen-eyed and strong as before, but soaring now into the blue, bearing itself up on exultant wing, and gazing into the heavenly radiance! Exuberance of holy feeling is not a thing to be manufactured. These loftier moods have sometimes come even when you least expected them! Although we cannot always account for these moods of the soul, we might all experience them more frequently if our habitual attitude were more of a "waiting upon God." We cannot, indeed, manufacture inspiration; but what if the "breath of God" comes upon us and finds our souls too dull or too distracted to respond to its subtle influences? At the best, however, these lofty flights can only be occasional.

(2) There are races to be run down here upon the earth, special duties to be performed, for which a man must gird himself by special effort. Fatigue will oppress us long before the goal is reached, — our running in the path of duty will be a thing of fits and starts, — if we do not keep expecting that God will bless our endeavours. New strength will come to us for all holy enterprise in proportion as we trust in God for results. Be sure that, in "waiting on" Him to do what we cannot, we receive all the more energy to do what we can.

(3) There is also "walking" to be done here on earth, the ordinary routine of life to be trudged through every day. And perhaps it is in this region that a godly patience is needed most for the constant renewal of our spiritual strength. There is little or no effort in holy ecstasy, and its very joy is an inspiration. Any special duty, also, tends, by its very specialty, to brace us for the doing of it; there is, moreover, the goal in view, and the prize to be won. But the ordinary homely duty of the work-day world — the monotonous path which must be daily trod, this indeed requires the most abiding patience. Men who live far from God are apt to grow sick and weary of the humdrum monotony of their daily life, especially if they have to bear some continuous burden from which they see little hope of escape. Even the drudgery of life can be transfigured in the light of the Father's love. And those who believe that their ordinary life has a Divine significance — that it is as the rough scaffolding within which a very temple may be built — and who are striving to live daily as under the eye of the heavenly Friend, have within their souls a peace which keeps them from "fainting."

(T. C. Finlayson.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

WEB: But those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint.

Standing Still
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