FIRST-PERSON: What are you waiting for?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) -- At his father's deathbed, Bob Sparks made a promise to his father that he would find the remains of his father's dear brother, Army Corporal Ron Sparks, who died in a POW camp in North Korea during the Korean War. The good news came one day when the DNA sample he had given came back from an army lab with a 100 percent match.

On August 16, 2016, a military procession brought the remains of Corporal Ronald Sparks to Cambridge (Mass.) City Hall. Family, friends, veterans, local government officials, fire fighters, police officers, a sizable contingent of the Korean community, and a throng of patriotic supporters had gathered to honor the memory of the city's native son and long-lost fallen soldier.

A banner hung over the street in Cambridge, Mass., as the city welcomed home the remains of Army Corporal Ron Sparks, a POW of the Korean War.
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It came to be a significant event, with the local media giving it wide coverage. The mayor of Cambridge spoke poignantly of how Sparks, who had sacrificed his life for our freedom, was finally home. The Korean Consul General of Boston presented the Ambassador of Peace Medal to Sparks' sister. As a clergyman and national assistant chaplain of the Korean War Veterans Association, I was privileged with the opportunity to offer my remarks of gratitude. The next day Cpl. Sparks was given a full military funeral and was laid to rest next to his parents, who never got to see their son after sending him off to war. The surviving family members had waited 65 long years for this unforgettable moment.

Waiting is a way of life. In our day-to-day existence we wait for so many things. In Samuel Beckett's well-known existential play "Waiting for Godot," two characters wait for the mysterious Godot, who never shows up. The play makes us ask ourselves, what are we waiting for in this life? Are you waiting for graduation, career, marriage, house, children, retirement, etc.?

All these things will eventually fade away. Doesn't it make sense then to wait for something that is eternal? At the return of the Lord Jesus, He will take His church, the family of God, to be with Him in a loving relationship forever. Since our Lord and His angels promised that this will happen, it is worth waiting in faith for its fulfillment.

Why does God want us to wait? What is the spiritual benefit of waiting? Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest" writes: "The time of waiting may come to teach you the meaning of sanctification -- to be set apart from sin and made holy -- or it may come after the process of sanctification has begun to teach you what service means." Waiting for Christ allows us to grow in spiritual maturity.

The Boston Globe told the story of one family's patience as they waited for the return of their loved one's remains, which had been missing for 65 years. The city of Cambridge, Mass., held a celebration when the wait was finally over.
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In the Bible there are many references that call for Christians to wait for the return of Christ. Waiting, in a spiritual sense, requires discipline, patience, and long-suffering. But we must not just wait idly and let sin and Satan rule the world. We are to engage in spiritual warfare and fight every day to win victories in Christ

While we wait, we are called to work patiently, watch for the signs of His impending return, and witness to the world's lost through ministry and missions. "Behold, I am coming soon," Jesus proclaimed. One day that promise will be fulfilled and we will have to give an account of our lives. What a glorious day it shall be for those who wait patiently and prepare diligently for that appointed hour! So until Christ returns, let us wait without being spiritually lazy and complacent.

And let us not forget that we are merely strangers and pilgrims on this earth. We are citizens of heaven. Just as the body of Cpl. Ron Sparks finally made its way home to Cambridge, Mass., when Christ returns, we will finally get to go home. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Paul Kim is pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.
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