By Jay McCluskey
Pastor, North Cleveland Baptist Church, Cleveland
Focal Passage: Acts 1:3-11
We spend a lot of time waiting. We wait in line at the post office or “check out” lane of the grocery store. We wait to see the doctor or dentist. We wait “on hold” to speak on the telephone to someone in customer service. We wait to get on a ride at an amusement park. We wait in traffic.
Let’s be honest. Waiting is frustrating. Given a choice, we prefer NOW rather than later, especially in a culture like ours that embraces instant gratification. Luke tells us that the resurrected Jesus spent 40 days teaching and revealing Himself to His followers (Acts 1:3) Just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He leaves His disciples with instructions to wait: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait …” (Acts 1:4b NIV).
Like us, the disciples had greater interest in what was going to occur right away: “Lord, are you AT THIS TIME going to restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6 NIV)? Rather than affirm or even acknowledge the disciples’ time line, Jesus simply allowed it to remain a mystery. Then He miraculously ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9) and left a “waiting church.”
Staying in Jerusalem probably was not what the apostles wanted to do. Their homes and livelihoods were back in Galilee. Jerusalem was dangerous. But to their credit, they waited as Jesus instructed. As much as we resist waiting, we find, like the disciples, that there are some things that are worth the wait.
Wait for power. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8a NIV). They did not run off “helter-skelter” on their way. They waited because they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be sufficiently equipped for their calling. You would never peg these 120 simple followers as a bunch of world changers. They were uneducated and confused. They lacked formal education and social graces. But these were the people with whom Jesus left His international missionary movement. There is no doubt that they would need a greater power.
It is often in times of waiting that the Holy Spirit gives us the powerful resources we need to carry out His plans for us.
Wait for our purpose. “You will be my witnesses …” (Acts 1:8b NIV). Notice the future tense “will be.” In His time God would give the Holy Spirit to empower His waiting church for the task of evangelism. Previously, they were “hearers” of the Good news. When the wait was over they would be “sharers” or, more specifically, “witnesses.” By definition, witnesses simply tell what they themselves have experienced. As Jesus works in and through our lives, we are commissioned to tell our stories. Remember the words from Proverbs: “A true witness delivereth souls” (Proverbs 14:25).
Wait for a plan. “… in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b NIV). Often this phrase is recognized as Luke’s outline for the book of Acts. The gospel starts in Jerusalem and by the end of Acts we find the Apostle Paul witnessing at “the end of the earth” in Rome. Even as we carry the gospel out from our lives and church, we pray for wisdom to know when it is best to go and when best to wait.
I recently read the journal entries of an acquaintance who walked the Appalachian Trail last year. On occasion, he would have “zero mile days” where he simply waited for better weather, for family, for rest, for supplies, or some other favorable condition. While the overall journey continued northward, he never regretted waiting for opportune times to follow his course. Jesus gave His followers a plan to go “to the ends of the earth.” As we follow this outward course, we earnestly and sometimes patiently look for divine appointments and open doors of opportunity to advance His message.
“Waiting” is routinely a part of God’s plan for our lives. However God does not want us to merely “idle” away purposelessly. Martyred missionary Jim Elliot is credited with this prayer: “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.”
At the end of today’s text the angels called out the disciples for simply “looking into the sky” (Acts 1:11). A “waiter” or a “waitress” at your favorite restaurant is anything but “idle.” Rather he or she is intensely active, anticipating our needs. Waiting for the Lord should be redemptive, productive, and in eager expectation of something greater God is going to do.
On today’s television there are infomercials selling all kinds of products. They market just about everything you can think of, from pocket fishing poles to kitchen utensils. Each one goes into great detail, describing all the item’s features and benefits. But before the final pitch you hear the message: “BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE!”
This is Jesus message to His disciples when He ascended into heaven: “Wait! There is more!” More power, purpose, and plans than you can ever imagine.
— McCluskey is pastor of North Cleveland Baptist Church, Cleveland.