But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NIV)
The prophets predicted the coming of God’s Messiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born – and the people waited. Jesus was born in a small town in Israel. His coming was heralded by angels, wise men from far away, and more prophesies about him when he was presented at the temple. His parents wondered what all this meant – and they waited. Jesus began his ministry about 30 years later. He called 12 men to follow him and a larger crowd also gathered around. He told them that he was the Messiah and had come to fulfill the prophesies from long ago. His followers watched as Jesus’ life unfolded in a way that was far different than they understood the Messiah’s life would be – and they waited. Jesus was crucified and buried. The disciples thought everything was lost. They gathered together for comfort and safety – and they waited.
After three days, their world was changed when they learned that Jesus was alive, raised from the dead. He spent 40 days with them. I believe this is the time when he explained his teaching. He “connected the dots” and filled in the gaps. He finished the process of preparing them to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. He promised them great power to accomplish their mission. But, there was something they needed to do first – wait.
Take a couple minutes and read the first chapter of the Book of Acts. You will see that before Jesus made the promise in verse 8, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5 (NIV)
I hate waiting. It’s not that I am an amazing man of action or a type A personality. I just get this sense that time is running out and I don’t have forever to wait around for God to do something. I hear myself saying, “God, I want to do whatever you want me to do, but we need to hurry up.” Maybe you can relate. You believe that God has called you to something great, something new, something wonderful. But, it has been a while and you are still waiting. I’d like to share a few things I have learned about waiting, as a reminder to myself and an encouragement to you.
Jesus spent three years telling his followers about the new kingdom he had come to establish. During the time following the resurrection, I think he explained that he was not talking about a political kingdom, like the ones they knew, but a spiritual kingdom. It would eventually take in every nation on earth and would transform the lives of those who entered. The scale was so much greater than they could have imagined. But, before anything would happen, they needed to wait. Why? There were spiritual and practical reasons. Spiritually, they needed time to reflect and pray. Luke (the author of the Book of Acts) tells us that after Jesus has instructed the disciples and ascended into heaven, the disciples went back to Jerusalem where they joined together and prayed. They would have spent about 10 days in a concerted time of prayer. God used that time to lead them to do some things to get ready for the next phase they were about to enter, like selecting the person who would replace Judas as a disciple. Practically, the right time had not come. The disciples could have gone back to Jerusalem and started preaching right away, but two things would have been missing, the power and the people.
It all came together on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, when Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Festival of the Harvest. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, as Jesus told them He would, and the disciples launched what would become the Christian church. Peter, who less than two months before could do nothing right, preached his first sermon and over 3,000 people responded to follow Jesus. From there, the message Jesus had taught would spread from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the rest of the world, just has Jesus had promised.
In hindsight, I’m sure the disciples saw the waiting was critical. The Holy Spirit added power to their message by allowing them to speak in languages they had never learned to people who had come from all over the world. Those people would now go back to where they had come from and carry with them the message of Jesus. Had the disciples not waited, the impact would have been lost and their mission may have lasted only days and not millennia.
Back to us, the people who are waiting today. What can we learn from this? I have learned that there may be, and usually is, a time a waiting between a calling or vision and its fulfillment. I get a flash of insight into where God is leading me. It gives me hope for the future but fades to a time of waiting. I have also learned that waiting is not idle, wasted time. It is a time of preparation, a time to pray and plan, a time to get in place the pieces I will need to accomplish what God has called me to do. I gather together with other disciples and share what I have believe is going to happen and ask them to pray with me and for me. And, I wait for God to move. Often, the outcome is different and bigger than I had imagined. The vision grows into a reality that, had I known what was coming, would have been too intimidating to begin.
Are you in a time of waiting? You’re not alone. Don’t give up and don’t be disappointed. Remember, this is a time of preparation, not idleness. Take the time to pray and share your vision with others you trust. Ask them to pray with you and for you. Write down your insights. Get ready for God to move.
In closing, I think of Noah. Perhaps the most famous of all “waiters.” God told him that He would flood the world and, to be saved along with his family, he needed to build a huge wooden ship. Noah built the ship while waiting for the flood. He must have been ridiculed by everyone around him. Even his family had to question his sanity. God was finally shown to be true to his promise and Noah was ready because his time of waiting was also a time of preparation.
I’m waiting for God to move, you’re waiting for God to move. Welcome to the club. Hand me another plank and a nail and keep watching the sky, there is a storm on the horizon.