In Acts 1, Jesus’ disciples are tired of waiting. Reeling from the revelation of his resurrection, they’re inquisitive and impatient. They expect the risen Jesus to restore his kingdom. I imagine at least one of them said, “Hurry up!” And then Jesus answers, “but wait…”
I’m relieved to see my own struggles mirrored by the disciples. They didn’t like to wait any more than I do. So Jesus’ explanation for the purpose in waiting encourages me too.
The disciples are told to stay and wait because in the waiting they will receive the power to go and do.
I am not great at waiting, and even less so when I know what I’m waiting for. The disciples response sounds a lot like mine:
“Ok, I’m waiting, but are you going to do it now?”
There’s plenty to appreciate about their expectations – they believed Jesus was God’s Messiah, and therefore Israel’s rightful king. Their bold confidence was well placed, but premature.
Limited understanding hindered their full realization of what God intended to reveal through Jesus. Their focus on timing underscored the spiritual maturity they lacked.
So just before leaving them, Jesus offers two final points for the work his disciples are tasked to accomplish in his name.
First, their authority does not include knowing times or dates. The when of their commission is God’s alone.
Second, they will receive power to become witnesses locally, regionally, and globally. How they executed their commission would be God-given power displayed wherever they went.
The keys the disciples’ success then – and to mine today – was obedience to wait and choices made while waiting.
They chose to stay and they chose to pray.
The apostles returned to Jerusalem and gathered with more than 120 believers to pray. Then Peter begins to explain how Jesus fulfills hundreds of years of prophecies recorded in the scriptures.
Prayer transformed the same man who had denied Jesus three times into a bold leader and fearless champion of the gospel.
Even before the day of Pentecost, prayer enabled the disciples to replace Judas the traitor. Through prayer they added Matthias, who had been witness to Jesus’ life and resurrection, and whose heart aligned with God’s purposes.
On the day of Pentecost, the believers were gathered together. Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit, they began speaking God’s truth in more than a dozen different languages and dialects.
Prayer had equipped the same disciples who hadn’t quite understood Jesus’ parables to begin to teach God’s truth to new believers. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, dozens of foreigners began to hear God’s word in their native tongue.
By choosing to stay and pray, the disciples were prepared and empowered. Their obedience to wait ensured their success when they were released to go.
Have you been asked to stay when you want to go? Are you waiting for something or someone, impatient to see your expectations realized?
Too often my response to “stay and wait” is characterized by restlessness. External movement masks internal discomfort.
I want to see God answer a prayer for this particular need, but I don’t see it yet. So I look for ways to help that thing I want to see materialize. I could go there or do this, perhaps if I insert myself into that process it will bring about the resolution I desire.
I think I’ve reconciled with God’s instructions for my life. Until I see my own dilemma on the pages of the Bible and realize my waiting looks more like striving.
Learning to wait well is a lesson I’ve learned repeatedly thanks to a gracious God. These two choices – to stay and to pray – ensure I’m prepared and empowered when it’s time to go and do.
- Choose to stay. No doubt the disciples were eager to testify to the risen Jesus. But they obeyed his instructions to stay in Jerusalem. Only after they received the Holy Spirit did they go and do. If you’re waiting for some piece of the puzzle in your life and God said wait, stay put until He reveals it’s time to go. If your restless anticipation has sent you here and there to occupy your time, return to the last place God told you to go. Consider, He might be preparing you in that exact space for the pace of the race to come.
- Choose to pray. The disciples gathered with like-minded believers and together they sought God’s wisdom and guidance for their lives. Jesus had told them when two or more gathered in His name, He was with them. His promise is true for us today too. If you’re in a waiting season, find a like-minded soul on a similar journey and pray together. Encourage one another daily to strengthen your faith.
Verses to Consider:
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7-9)
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)
“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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 1:7-8)
God, waiting is hard and uncomfortable. Help me to rest in your promises of peace. Staying is difficult when I’d rather go. Help me to discover more of you in stillness. Believing what I can’t see or don’t understand reveals my weakness. Help my unbelief by giving me more of your strength. Open my eyes of faith to see your work in my life and in those around me. Help me build a community of believers who encourage each other to trust you wholeheartedly. Amen.