Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 28; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 190 through 196
Anticipation. Sometimes it feels good doesn’t it. Sometimes it just tears at us. Let me give you a couple of examples. Kids anticipate Christmas. They are excited about the approach of the day and what they might find under the tree. They might have climbed into Santa’s lap and told him and no doubt they dropped hints around the house about what they really wanted. As the day approaches, so does their anticipation. It goes and grows and feels pretty good as the day gets closer.
But then there is the other side of anticipation. Some friends of mine built a house a few years ago that their contract said would be done in about five months with a guarantee to be finished before Thanksgiving. Five months came and went. Halloween found them without a home. Thanksgiving passed them by without a place to call their own. Christmas. New Year’s Day. The five months of construction and a seven month guarantee ended up being more than a year and still took them to court because the construction was of such poor quality.
Their anticipation brought nothing but more pain and heartache and bills and living on the edge waiting for their house to become at least habitable, though never as complete as they dreamed.
Jesus stood on a hillside the last time his disciples saw him and told them he would be back. He told them he’d come to take his bride to a place he was building for her. A new heaven and new earth. Then he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for power to carry out the mission he gave them until he returned.
Now if you heard his words that day, wouldn’t you expect him to come back in a few days or weeks? If your boss said, “I’ll be back soon.” Wouldn’t you think that meant he took a short vacation or had a business meeting somewhere and would be back in the office before you had a chance to retire...or die! That’s what the disciples thought. They anticipated his return. Soon. But they also had a task to do before he came back.
Remember his mission for them and us? “Go into your neighborhood [Jerusalem], go to those that live near you and are somewhat like you [Judea], go to those that you don’t like very much [Samaria], and go to places and people you don’t even know [the uttermost parts of the world] and make disciples. Teach them everything I have taught you. Baptize them into the same faith into which you have been baptized, the one that proclaims the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
They went to Jerusalem. They went to a room they had met in before. All day and night, without a break, they took shifts praying, asking for something they didn’t understand. Jesus told them to wait for power and they asked for direction, for Jesus’ return, for power. Finally, they quit asking for Jesus to return. They quit asking for the Romans to be defeated. They quit asking for the pockets to get full. They quit asking for the Sanhedrin to stop looking for them or harassing them. They stopped asking for health. They stopped asking for everything...except the power to do the mission Jesus gave them to do. They didn’t know what they were asking for but finally all of them agreed what they needed was the power to carry out the job.
120 of them. All in one accord. All praying for one thing. To receive the promised power to do the work God asked them to do. Then it happened. God’s Spirit came and rested on, and filled each of them. They went out into the crowd that had gathered for the annual celebration of Pentecost, the first harvest. 120 mingled through the crowd telling them what had happened over the last seven weeks and the message that Jesus left us. Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Believe in him and have everlasting life.
Peter preached that morning and the number of converts grew from 120 to 3,000. A pretty good evangelistic sermon that morning. Read it in Acts Chapter 2. They didn’t have any fine churches with steeples and fancy altars. They didn’t have praise teams and bands or choirs and orchestras. They didn’t have pulpits or lobbies with café’s and doughnuts. What they did have was the power of God’s spirit living in them.
Have you ever thought about that? When God’s spirit takes hold of us and we let him take charge of us, we have the same power in us that raised Jesus from the dead. We have resurrection power in us. You’ve probably heard a song like that. But it’s absolutely true.
There is one catch, though. Remember the disciples spent 40 days and nights waiting and praying for the promised power. They didn’t know exactly what they were praying for, but quite frankly, until God’s spirit lives in us, we don’t know what we are praying for either. It’s indescribable. It’s something that can only be experienced.
I’m afraid too many today don’t do the waiting and praying necessary to really know what it means to have God’s spirit in their life. I don’t see his power in the lives of his people much despite the words said. It’s easy for us to make church more like a concert than a time of giving ourselves to God’s will. We rush in, find a seat, listen to great music and 20 minute sermon, rush out the door and pretend our lives are God’s.
That’s not the mission Jesus gave his disciples and that’s not the mission he gives us. If my math is right, those 3,000 people won to the church on that first day, met together in groups of about 30 in a hundred different homes. They ate meals together. They prayed together. They shared each other’s praises and each other’s hurts. They believed who Jesus was and what he could do for them. They experienced peace and joy because they waited on the promised power and they didn’t accept a McDonald’s kind of religion. They prayed until the promise came through. And the promise didn’t come through until their heart and mission and vision changed to align with God’s heart.
As we look at the early church, they didn’t play games with words. They were much like the Christian churches in Syria or Somalia today. They risked life and death by proclaiming Jesus name. They often met in secret because death was around the corner at the hands of the Romans or the hands of the priests. Their faith meant they lost jobs. They lost property. They lost their children and families. They lost their lives. Being Christian meant real commitment and real faith, not just words to them or to those in nations today with severe persecution of those who follow Christ.
So how about you? Are you ready to take up the mission Jesus has given all who claim his name? The great commission is for all of us. But we cannot carry it out without the power he promised them and us. The question is, am I willing to pay the price to receive that power? Am I willing to wait on God and lose myself in him so that I can gain all he has for me and complete the mission he has prepared for me in this place?
It took forty days for the 120 disciples to get past themselves to find the promised power of God. Are you willing to spend the time necessary to get past yourself to find the resurrection he has for you? You won’t regret it.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more about The Story and our part in it. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn’t, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.