Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jesus Said Wait! (Acts 1:1-11) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

In the New Testament, the letter of II Peter, the apostle writes: "Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, for with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day."  An economist who read this passage became curious and prayed to God about it. "Lord, is it true that a thousand years for us is like one day to you?"  The Lord said “yes.”  The economist replied, "Then a million dollars to us must be like one penny to you."  The Lord said, "Well, yes."  The economist said, "Lord, will you give me one penny?"  The Lord  answered,  “Sure, can you wait a day?"

Which brings us to our lesson from the book of Acts.  After the Risen Lord had appeared to the disciples over 40 days, they were anxious to leave the city, but Jesus commands them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  So let us reflect upon our Risen Lord’s summons to His disciples to wait.

How do you react when someone says to you: “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait! “   Have you ever heard that?  Is the Pope Catholic?   Yes, it's hard to wait.  Taking action is easy, but waiting...  Like waiting for a baby to be born, especially when you go past your due date, 5 days is a long time, isn't it Caroline?   Our computers and cell phones have never been faster.  Intel's new Core i7 chip hits 5 GHz.  Do I know what that means, not a clue, but it sounds fast and yet its surprising how quickly they become too slow and we are impatient for the latest faster model to be released.   We don’t like to have to wait for a decision or an answer.   I think technology has made us impatient.   I also think waiting is hard because it means we aren't in control over our circumstances.  We have to trust the outcome of a situation to someone or something else which means it might not turn out the way you want it to.  Is waiting easy for you?

The disciples were eager to leave Jerusalem and return to their homes to get on with their lives.  They knew Jesus’ enemies were still in the city and as Jesus' followers they could be arrested and thrown in prison at any moment.  But rather than sending them out  Jesus reigns them in.  And so with mixed emotions, with elation and frustration, the disciples obey Jesus and remain in Jerusalem.

Why did Jesus ask them to wait?   They needed power for their coming mission to spread the gospel, to witness to Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,   the power of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural power to accomplish what God had planned for them.  Jesus promised that they would soon receive this extraordinary spiritual power.

Waiting!  You can fight against it and become filled with frustration, or accept it philosophically, “Oh well, it's a part of life.” The psalmist in psalm 130 cries out: “I wait for the lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”  Yes, like Jesus’ command to His disciples, I believe God sometimes commands you and me to be patient and wait it out.

I’m certainly not going to pretend that I know all the reasons why.  Sometimes the answer remains hidden from our mind for months or even years before God reveals it, and sometimes we will not know in our lifetime, but in the life to come.  But the Bible isn’t silent on this question.  It speaks about what can happen inside, in our interior lives, when we wait.  Waiting is God's means of grace through faith.  Isaiah 40:31 says: "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."

Here Isaiah is saying God knows that at times we are too weak physically or mentally, and we need a new infusion of spiritual power.  Do you ever feel burned out emotionally or physically or spiritually?  We need God's renewing strength.  We just aren’t ready for some new thing.  God knows this, whether we know it or not.  Waiting is one way God recharges our inner being.   Isaiah's words are about God’s promise to restore us.  Waiting forces you to stop, so that God can renew your strength.   Psalm 23 says:  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he restores my soul.”

Further, waiting refines our character!  We read in the letter of Romans 5: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials; they help us learn to be patient and patience produces character in us and character produces hope.”  I remember a friend who used to say to me when I was grumbling about something: “Alan, it's just another character building opportunity.”  God cares about your character.  God is in the character building business.

God knows that when everything comes easy, character comes hard.  Like when kids grow up to be adults, after their parents have given them everything they wanted when they wanted it.  I remember two brothers who lacked ambition or drive or goals.  Both were married, but neither would work and basically lounged around the house.  Their parents admitted that they spoiled them as children.   When they first started working, if they ran into frustrations, if a raise didn’t come fast enough or the promotion didn't materialize or the job got difficult they simply quit.  After awhile, they simply quit looking.

Now I'd love to develop my character without having to wait it out through trials, without persevering through difficult times, how about you?   But the Bible says it doesn't work like that. As one writer put it: “You can't make steel without tempering it.  You can't develop character without going through times of waiting.”

Finally, waiting can refocus your direction in life.   If God wants to re-direct our lives, God must get us to stop, and guide us in the direction He wants us to go.   Sometimes doors being slammed shut are God’s ways of re-directing our lives so that new opportunities might open up for us.  Sometimes when opportunities are not opening up, it’s because we need to listen to God and others and change what we are doing or change the way we are thinking.

Like the story of a couple who waited and waited to have a baby.  Sadly, they were unable to due to infertility.  The news devastated them.  They had discussed the idea of adoption but now, when adoption seemed their only recourse, it felt it like a consolation prize, like second place.  The husband writes:

We dropped the thought.  As we balanced the delicate walk between grief and hope, we decided to try to understand the Lord's heart regarding this subject.  We prayed about it and studied stories in the Bible.

After waiting a year, we made the prayerful decision and adopted twin boys.  Unbelievably, after the adoption of our twins, my wife became pregnant for the first time.  It was a very difficult pregnancy, but after the birth, my wife fully recovered with no side effects other than extreme exhaustion.

When we decided to adopt the boys, we already had come to terms with our deepest desire. It wasn't biological heirs or blood and gene transference.  It was the opportunity to parent, the privilege to raise up a boy or a girl in the ways of the Lord—to share life and dreams with the next generation.”

So listen for God's word and persevere in faith and hope.    I believe that in moments of deep frustration or confusion or indecision, when your way is unclear, God is saying: “Listen, pray, watch, talk to others, read your Bible, be patient, imagine another way, don’t act foolishly, and trust in me.”    Psalm 37 says: “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.”    Amen!

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