I am a type-A, self starter kind of person. Therefore, I find it hard, if not seemingly impossible, to wait on the Lord. Perhaps you have the same struggle. About 5 or 6 weeks ago, the Lord spoke to me that He is going to teach my congregation several lessons in prayer throughout the course of this year. He said the first lesson would be on how to wait before Him.
The Lord said there would be times when we would gather that I was not to have a structure. We are to gather and wait before Him. We are to wait until we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Waiting makes me nervous. Waiting makes me feel vulnerable. I don’t like it and I struggle to do it. So my question is this…why does God command it in the Bible? Why are there numerous verses that command us to wait before the Lord? Why did Jesus, after speaking for 40 days about the Kingdom of God, tell His disciples in Acts 1:4 to not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit?
Seeking and Obeying
Before Jesus had appeared to all of His disciples, the Bible tells us in John 20:19 where you could find them. They were hiding in a room behind locked doors. Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Christ’s followers. Because they had just crucified Jesus, who knew which disciple would be next?
Jesus came with a message to His followers. What do you think that message was? None of the disciples had been able to pray all night with him in Gethsemane. Peter had denied Him 3 times, and every disciple (except John, the Beloved) had abandoned Him. What do you think Jesus was going to say to them? Surprisingly, He did not chide them nor was He angry with them. A a matter of fact, He comforted them by saying, “Peace be unto you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Could God’s grace get any better? Jesus could have appeared through the wall and said, “Where is your faith? You have spent 3 years with me. Every miracle I did, you have had a front row seat and now you’re hiding in a locked room?” But Jesus didn’t do that with them and He doesn’t do it with us!
Instead, Jesus spoke peace over them. He said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Now we come to Acts 1. Jesus is alive. He has shown them by many proofs and He invested 40 incredible days talking about the Kingdom of God. What do you think the disciples wanted to do?
No doubt they were ready to proclaim Jesus to the world. I can’t imagine their excitement. What could hold them back now? But instead of sending them out, it seems Jesus was holding them back! Have you ever felt this way? Have you felt ready for the next steps yet it seemed God was holding you back? I have had seasons when I felt confident in moving forward but it seemed as though God was saying, “Chad, you’re not ready.” If you have been through seasons like this, you know how frustrating it can be.
Notice how verse 4 reads. He “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait…” What a simple but strong command. It causes me to ask am I sensitive to the commands of the Lord in my own life…even the one’s that may seem small or insignificant? Am I willing to not only seek the Lord…but to obey Him? Think about it, Jerusalem was the place where Jesus was killed. Would Jerusalem not have been the most dangerous place for the disciples to launch the Church? How much easier would it have been for them to “think” of a better plan and launch from another city or another region. Instead, we see Christ commanding His disciples to stay where they were once hiding in fear.
We are an impatient culture. If we are not careful, our lack of patience will find its way into our walk with Christ. Is the Church suppose to wait to be empowered by the Holy Spirit today as it was in the Book of Acts? I think to a large degree, we are!
Note what Luke records in his Gospel in Luke 24:49, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Could this be what we are lacking in our Churches…power from on high? Sure we have great music, but music does not change people. Only the power of God can do that. We have speakers who are eloquent communicators…but people do not need speeches, lectures or even life coaches.
As a pastor, I am not called to be a motivator or life coach. I am called to preach with power from God’s Word. How can I do that if I am so filled with my pride and ego and not filled with the Holy Spirit? Listen to what Paul writes about his preaching in 1 Corinthians 2:4, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.”
Several years ago I attended a large national conference for church leaders. A prominent pastor came to give his talk. To my surprise, he began by saying that he intentionally was not going to use a Bible. Sure, he gave great notes and it was an interesting lecture…but that is ALL it was. It didn’t have any power. It did not have God’s Spirit and I highly doubt it had God’s blessing or approval.
We are a generation that is so concerned with being clever and being creative that we no longer wait to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The Promise of the Father
It means so much to me that God promises the Holy Spirit to His people. Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you.”
Perhaps you’re someone who thinks God cannot use you because of bad decisions from your past. You may look at other Christians and think to yourself, “I’ll never be that.” Well let me encourage you that God’s Spirit is a promise to YOU! It not reserved for only pastors or Christians who have it all together or for people who have been saved for many years. No! God’s Spirit is for you!
Are you making decisions in life a part from the help of the Holy Spirit? Are you trying to live life in your own strength or with the strength of His Spirit? I think when Scripture commands us to not “grieve” the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), I think this largely means that we should not ignore the Holy Spirit. By living life a part from His help, His power and His wisdom…we essentially are ignoring Him. Do not make this mistake. Wait before Him and let Him empower your praying and work in your life.