Waiting for You – Addie Davis

“Waiting for You” was preached by Addie Davis at Covington Baptist Church, Covington, Virginia, on Sunday, June 5, 1988. On that Sunday, the church was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Woman’s Missionary Union (1888–1988) and recognizing recent high school graduates.

Isaiah 6:1-8

Addie ProvidenceWhen Harvard University celebrated her 300th anniversary, some freshmen held up a placard which read, “This institution has waited 300 years for us!” In a sense, the sign holders were right. And today, that is my message for you: the Woman’s Missionary Union has waited for you to celebrate its centennial, and you young people and graduates have waited what seems like a long time to you to receive these awards, your high school or college diplomas. We have waited for you!

Your achievements represent hard work and dedication—a milestone—but you will discover that there are no resting places, just breathers along the way, for you must get on with the tasks of missions, education, and employment. You must certainly get on with the business of living.

You who are young still have decisions to make concerning your life’s work. You must discern what is it you feel called to do. You must discover how you can best use your God-given talents to make an investment of your life, while at the same time deriving real joy in living, serving, and being who you are supposed to be.

Isaiah answered the call of God as he encountered God’s holiness while worshiping in the temple. Feeling cleansed and purified from sin, Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me!” We have lost something of our sense of the holiness of God and our own unworthiness in light of God’s goodness. God is always “other than,” “more than,” and beyond all that we can fully comprehend. God chose to be revealed to us not only in the prophets and others who have gone before, but God chose to be revealed primarily through the life of Jesus. We need only examine Jesus’ life and teachings to see how far short we fall in being the persons God intended.

As we enter into partnership with God in faith, whether now in the beginning of the second century of WMU or in the beginning of whatever it is that God is calling us to do both as young people and older, we can be sure that God does not call us to do something that we are incapable of doing. God calls us to use the natural and developed gifts that are ours. No matter how small or how great our talents, our gifts are multiplied and strengthened in the hands of God.

Remember Jesus’ parable about the master who gave talents to his servants. We find that parable in Matthew 25, and we read of the master who condemned the one-talent servant because he failed to use or to invest what he had been given. That one talent seemed so small and unimportant.

You who are young have a lifetime to invest, and the questions for you are: Will you invest your life in the kingdom of God? Will you be sure to develop those personal qualities that cause you to invest wisely rather than selfishly? Will you be concerned with what you can give rather than what you can get? Remember that you are unique; God has made no two of us alike. And remember this is your day. Now is your turn. The world waits to see what you will do, and God waits expectantly for you.

Remember that other folks have made an investment in your life—all the missionaries who have ever lived and those who now serve throughout our world; your pastors and Sunday school teachers; your parents and grandparents; and those who struggled for religious liberty, especially our Baptist heroes such as Roger Williams and those earliest Baptists here in our country who founded a small church in Providence, Rhode Island. This weekend, on June 5, 1988, that church, the First Baptist Church in America, is celebrating 350 years of freedom and Baptist beginnings in North America. Incidentally, this historic church to which we all trace our roots now has a woman pastor—and religious freedom has struck a new note. Remember that there are so many who gave so much to make it possible for you and for all of us to experience soul freedom, that we might have the opportunity to grapple for ourselves and to interpret the Bible according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and that we might live a life of order that we understand to be Lord-given and Lord-inspired.

We take so much for granted as Americans. We forget our obligation to those who have gone before us, and as one has reminded us, “We need to pay rent on the space we occupy.” To me, I believe we need to render back to God a “thank you” for all that God has invested in us through prophets, such as Isaiah, through the peoples of old, through the life and ministry of Jesus, through Jesus’ disciples, through those early Christians, and through all who have contributed to our religious heritage over the centuries. We dare not take their sacrifices for granted. They paid a high cost.

Today, remember that God called you, and as young people and older adults, you are called to search out and listen to what God is saying in this generation. God is not confined to the past. God is the God of the present and the future as well. And there is much work God still needs us to do. Not everything has been done that needs to be accomplished in order to right the wrongs in our churches and in ourselves.

The world has waited all these years for you. Surely, the needs and challenges have never been greater in our world. The world needs us to share our faith and to live in light of God’s revealed truth. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, reminds us that God is in Christ reconciling the world, and God is calling us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. That is, God is making an appeal through us. God chose to use human beings to accomplish his purposes, which means we need a word from God within us. We can respond to all the brokenness we see in our world, all the fractured relationships for which we do not have all the answers. And we are assured that we have a loving, forgiving, compassionate God who walks with us. We have Jesus who became flesh and dwelt among us and who called to us, saying, “I am the way. Follow me.” Jesus gives us a sense of direction. Jesus also gives us intelligence and the will to follow.

If we are to find wholeness or healing, where else can we go except to God, who created us, and to Jesus, who died for us and who waits to redeem all facets of our lives? We must remember that we become fully human only when touched by the divine. In other words, we are God’s children, given to live in this particular time as the people of God, called to invest our lives for the present and future generations.

As Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote in the hymn, “God of Grace and God of Glory,” “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.” To live for self and self alone is to miss the meaning of life. To live for God and to express this in relation to others, as Jesus lived, is to find a fuller life here on earth with deeper spiritual meaning, and to have eternal life someday with God.

The challenge has never been greater—the lost, the confused, the homeless, and the desperate are out there waiting to know that God cares and to know that God loves them. The challenges for young people also have never been greater. You have so many opportunities and fields of service open to you—all of which call for your best! If you dedicate yourself to following God and allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit, you will be amazed at what you can do. What takes place in the church, what is done for missions, what is accomplished in our world, I believe, is up to us. The choices we make help determine the outcome. God is waiting for us.

Frederick Potter Woods reminds us of these truths in his poem, “Talents”:

Stir up the gifts of God which are in thee
Wrote Paul to Timothy;
And as a steward of His gifts I know
God asks the same of me.

What can I do? My talent seems so small
It’s hardly worth the deed;
But when I use the best I have for God
It grows to meet the need.

A world to build anew, ideals lift up;
And all in fields of white,
Till now I see the harvest lives with me,
Lord, help me build myself.

The future is on your doorstep. God is waiting for you!

This post originally appeared as Chapter One of The World Is Waiting for Us: Celebrating the 50th Ordination Anniversary of Addie Davis, edited by Pamela R. Durso & LeAnn Gunter Johns.

Pamela R. Durso is executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry in Atlanta, Georgia.

LeAnn Gunter Johns has served as pastor of St. Clare Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia and New Community Church in San Jose, California.

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