|The Lamb's Bride Symposium
|The Lamb's Bride Project|
P.O. Box 8240, Colorado Springs, CO 80933
Copyright ©1998 Dick Wulf. Permission is granted to copy and distribute.
"... but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
"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."
Isaiah 40:31 is far more precious and useful than as a Scripture to adorn pictures of an eagle flying in the sky. The very imagery is even wrong. Every time you see a poster or greeting card with Isaiah 40:31 and a picture of one eagle, you can consider how very poorly we have understood this passage. The plural words are quite visible: "they, their, eagles." Somehow we just have not seen the words accurately. Our image of this passage is of the solitary believer kneeling before God, waiting for Him to answer or act. As the wait goes on, the believer gains strength and becomes a majestic, tireless eagle flying above life's mundane troubles.
That isn't at all the picture being painted here. Anyone who has had a loved one wheeled into surgery knows the value of having family and friends nearby in the waiting room. Whether the results of the surgery are likely to be good or bad, having a group gathered for mutual support makes the waiting easier to bear.
In difficult situations we find out just how fragile and powerless we are. Yes, we ought to turn to God. We also should turn to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Lord gave them to us for a reason. How cruel we have been to teach that waiting for God to answer or act is the responsibility of the individual believer in isolation. When we go through a time of waiting or testing, we should expect the support of other believers. When others are going through their times of trouble or testing, we should support them. How little of that we see in the Church today! We have taught people it is their duty to wait and suffer in silence.
Just a few years ago, husbands were sent to waiting rooms while their wives had the baby in the delivery room. The husband drove the wife to the hospital. She disappeared for a few tense hours. Then, the husband was told by a nurse if the child was a boy or girl. Childbirth was sanitized for the husband. He never understood what his wife had been through. On the other hand, the wife was deprived of the person who could give her the most support. She was left in the hands of the professionals.
That system has now totally changed. Today, the husband is typically the wife's "coach" during childbirth. The husband has the opportunity to help and support his wife during the birth. He also gets to see the reality of childbirth. He sees what his wife and child go through. The wife now can rely on the emotional support of her husband as she goes through a very difficult process. We now recognize the value of the husband participating in the birth process.
Life, like childbirth, can be a messy and exhausting business. We need all the help we can get. Yet the Church handles problems and times of trial like we used to handle childbirth. We put the problems behind closed doors. We are cut off from those who could help us most. When the problem is too big, we call in the professionals. The analogy breaks down at the level of the waiting room. No one is there, even to wait. They've all gone home. "See you next Sunday."
We have failed to understand passages that teach us to practice mutual support. We twist such passages as Isaiah 40:31 to fit into our individualistic perspective. As a result, we have heaped unimaginable burdens on the Christian individual. Feeling the requirement to wait on God alone is only one small example.
Isaiah 40:31 was written to the nation of Israel. How dare we apply it to the individual! How can we illustrate this verse with just one eagle in the sky? (95% of pictures illustrating Isaiah 40:31 show just one eagle!) There is something much more thrilling than being one lone eagle in the sky. It is flying with other eagles. And there is something more thrilling than waiting on God alone. It is far more exciting to wait in anticipation with other believers.
However, what if "thrilling" and "exciting" are not the true motivating factors? What if this strength when tired, worn out, beaten down or sick is not merely more fun to acquire together? What if it is basically not accessible unless acquired together? What if being together is the way that God makes the new strength available?
It is almost certain that waiting hopefully together is the process God uses to rejuvenate us. When we wait upon God expectantly together, we add our anticipations together for a much larger sum. Then, when one of us for the time being is discouraged with the waiting or lagging in hope, the expectancy and anticipation of the others carries that person until patience and hope return.
We built the game DragonRaid to teach truths like this. Maybe an example will more clearly communicate this principle that some situations require more hope (more waiting) than one individual is capable of accomplishing.
DragonRaid is simulated learning on a make-believe world with a biblical worldview. One person runs the game for three to six players who form a "raid team" and go out to destroy the evil the dragons have created. For the purpose of this illustration, let us say that our raid team of LightRaiders (as they are called) is on its way to destroy "the Relativity Potion" that influences "dragon slaves" (non-Christians) to see truth as relative, that it is not objective but subjective and only a matter of personal preference and taste.
On the way to the castle where the potion is given its power (a secular institution of "higher" education), their way is blocked by a huge chasm caused by a recent flood. The Adventure Master (the one running the game) tells the players that to go on requires a Hope of 23. Since each of the LightRaiders has a Hope rating of 1-10 derived from a formula using the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23), no one person alone has enough Hope to continue. (We are trying in the game to teach what the church is and how she operates.) The players know by this time in the adventure (say, 15 hours into it usually played in three-hour segments, once a week) that to add their Hope ratings to one anotherıs Hope rating requires each to make a statement of hope based on Scripture. When four LightRaiders, with Hopes of 7, 4, 6 and 8 respectively reassure the raid team with truths about hope from the Bible, the Raid Team has its required level of Hope to go on in their quest to challenge relativism.
So much for your introduction to "adventure learning" invented by myself and a few friends back in 1983 and 1984.
Isaiah 40:31 gives us a promise we all want. But it has requirements for the Body of Christ. It is a promise with the assumption that we would be waiting and hoping TOGETHER. Obviously, in context, the nation Israel was so waiting and hoping.
What are some of the applications of this "plural promise"?
In the larger congregational expression of the church (larger than a small group), mission statements are adopted and visions from the Lord embraced. To be effective, the mission statement and vision are larger in scope than can be easily accomplished. In short, they require much hoping and much waiting. The church is to do this together. I have seen and experienced churches who adopt mission statements and visions, but other than some official place on the church bulletin, you never hear of them. That is not waiting (or hoping) on the Lord together! It is too passive. Waiting and hoping that brings strength and vitality is active in prayer, expectation and anticipation.
In small group Christian community, waiting and hoping might be required when a member is seriously ill, when someone is unemployed and looking for work, when a married couple in the group is finally facing the tremendous dyfunctionality of their marriage, when a member's grown child has strayed from the Lord, etc. In such cases, the small group would hope and wait together, not by praying once, but by praying regularly and asking how things are going, and by seeking together what the group or any of its members might do to help.
How does your favorite athletic team wait and hope for next week's game? Well, maybe not with prayer, as critical as that is to the equation the church must use. But certainly that football team or soccer team (or whatever you have chosen) fills the week with expectation and anticipation. And what happens when a team has dread instead of expectation and a sense of defeat instead of anticipation? Right! It loses strength.
Isaiah 40:31 also teaches us that when we have waited and hoped together, we will be given strength together. We soar together like a bunch of eagles in the sky. We run the race of faith together without weariness. And we walk steadily toward the goal in Christ Jesus together without fainting.
We start the process together and we finish it together. We do not seek strength by waiting and hoping together for the end result that individuals have the strength to soar, run and walk. We do not wait and hope individually so that individually or corporately we eventually soar, run and walk. The first is the equation is, for example in a small group of six people, 1+1+1+1+1+1=1. The second is 1=1 or (how can it be?) 1=6. Of course, it must be 1+1+1+1+1+1=6. We do this together. Such is the only consistent application of Isaiah 40:31.
There are other passages that show the importance of this initial waiting and hoping TOGETHER. Consider 2 Chronicles 7:14: "... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This requires much hoping and waiting together, as does the humbling, praying, seeking, and turning required by 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Another passage that comes to mind is Ephesians 6:10-11: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. Yes, this also is in the Greek plural. The church puts on the armor together. (Ephesians 6 will eventually be the topic of additional reports from The Lambıs Bride Symposium.) To be strong in the Lord requires the corporate method of Isaiah 40:31. Then the church in congregation or small group form will have to put on the armor together so that the church can defeat the devil.
Hoping in the Lord (NIV) and waiting upon the Lord (KJV) are active and intentional behaviors of the church to usher in the Lordıs strength. It is how God wants to do it. Why? Because He wants a people who love him enough to do it his way. And that way is obviously consistent with his design of the human race too weak individually, only strong together. (Remember the Garden of Eden!) 
Click here to go to the list of available reports.