After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but "must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon." When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?" He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world." These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky.
(Acts 1:3-9, The Message)
We've all been through those times. Some of us handle them better than others, but it's almost as universal as death and taxes. At some point in our lives, we find ourselves waiting. And the waiting will take many different forms. I have a young, teenage daughter, so my waiting often takes on those characteristics. But the waiting spoken of in this passage is one directed by God and it has a very specific purpose in mind. Oh, and thanks to my pastor Sam for the inspiration behind this one.
The three-and-a-half years ended in the most confusing fashion for the twelve disciples. Their Master had been taken and killed. Judas was dead, and the rest of them were either scattered in hiding or lurking on the outskirts of what was going on. He told them explicitly that He was going to be taken and killed, but they just couldn't seem to wrap their minds around the concept ... until it actually happened. Then, a mere three days later, He defeated death and began appearing to them once again. The next forty days were filled with excitement and, I'm sure, planning on the part of the eleven. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all.
Throughout the course of this period, Jesus is preparing them for what comes next. On the day from the passage above, Jesus has given them His final instructions - to go back to their place in Jerusalem and wait - and then He disappears in a cloud. Their jaws hanging open, they gather themselves and go back to the city as He had instructed them. They have begun a short, but definitely intense, season of waiting. And they are going to need it, because in just ten short days, they will set the world on fire!
We often perceive the season of waiting as "down time". Nothing could be further from the truth. God is always working, just as he was during the disciples' ten-day wait. And it isn't time going to waste either. It is, instead, a time for us to commit to community (the disciples waited together, and I would imagine it wasn't just the eleven of them either). It is a time to talk to God in prayer and hear what He has to say. He certainly isn't obligated to tell us what is going on, but if we keep connected to Him during the season of waiting, how much more will we be in tune with His Spirit when it ends? We are always supposed to be seeking His heart, and the waiting time is no exception.
God may be using this time to shape and enhance our understanding. He may well use His Spirit to teach us and prepare us for something new. He is definitely at work and we should be also. But one thing we shouldn't do is go on some mental or spiritual vacation while we plan, scheme, and look for the "next big break" in our lives. We are called to serve where we are and when we are. We can't neglect our community or our communion just because we feel like God is going to bring something bigger to us. He may or He may not ... but we must not overlook our immediate situation even if it is a season of waiting. We really can't afford to miss what He is saying even in the silence.
As I travel the Crooked Path, I will encounter many seasons of waiting, of that I am certain. Some will be easy and bring rest; some will bring growth through struggle; some may never even be explained to me. My commitment needs to be the same - connect with God, listen for the Spirit's teaching, and do not neglect what is around me while I am waiting. God is active and He has a plan. My job, once again, is to trust and obey.
- How well do you handle your seasons of waiting? Are you anxious or relaxed? Do you wait patiently on God or try to make things happen?
- When the next season of waiting comes (perhaps it is here now), are you willing to commit to learning and working for God while you wait? Is it just "down time" for you or do you see it as something else?
- Are you in a season of waiting and looking for "the next big thing"? Have you taken your mind off your current ministry opportunities because you anticipate something else is on the horizon? Can you see this is causing you to miss the chance to bless others now?
The Message – Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.