After Jesus was raised from the dead, he spent forty days with his disciples. During this time he proved to them that he was alive and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3-4). What an incredible time this must have been! Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures”. They were finally getting all the answers to the questions they’d had for the past three years of Jesus’ ministry.
When eating with them one night, Jesus suddenly says “do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” The disciples respond “are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now?”.
But Jesus again tells them to wait, saying “…and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”. And, as the Church remembered this week, Christ then ascends to heaven.
What would it have felt like to be one of the disciples? Perhaps after hearing years of teaching about the Kingdom of God, and witnessing signs of the Kingdom, they felt ready to do the work. But, then they're told to wait. To not preach the Gospel. Not pray for people. Not make themselves public. Do nothing. Stay where they are. And wait.
The Fruit of Faithful Waiting
In the Gospel accounts, the disciples continually wanted to ‘do something’. They wanted to extend God’s Kingdom. They wanted to change the world! Their lives and perspectives were ruled by action and seeing societal transformation. And that is not inherently a bad thing. But at this crucial transition point, Jesus told them not to do anything, no matter how good they thought their ‘doing’ was.
Incredibly, this waiting culminated in a powerful moment in church history. In fact it led to the very birth of the church! And what happened next was exactly what was needed for the Gospel to create transformation: God showing up and empowering them in a way that was completely different to what they had ever experienced before.
The result of the disciples' faithful waiting and obedience to Jesus was the tangible, experiential power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of their faithful waiting was the formation of the Church. The fruit of their waiting was, ultimately, the transformation of the world.
The Inside Impact of Waiting
Why did Jesus ask the disciples to wait before sending the Holy Spirit?
Of course, let's be clear, their waiting did not somehow ‘qualify’ them to receive God’s blessing. Earning the Holy Spirit denies everything Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished. But rather, perhaps the natural by-product of the disciples’ faithful waiting was that the very shape of their hearts were transformed into vessels that could receive what God wanted to give them. And it was through their faithful, obedient, surrendered waiting that they were able to receive it.
What we can do while Waiting
Over these last few weeks we’ve all done a lot of waiting here in Aotearoa. We, like the disciples waiting in the Upper Room, have been holed up in a house waiting for change, and not knowing what might come next. But now our country is beginning to get ‘active’ again. Shops are opening. Alert levels are lifting. Church small groups are meeting. 'Stuff' can start happening again. And it’s exciting.
However, during this time, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the NZCMS staff who, in amongst all the various tasks and roles that we still must complete, haven’t rushed off to do what we’ve always done before. But we have been using this time to ask each other questions such as:
“What are the new opportunities that are available now?”
“What will cross-cultural mission look like in the future?”
“What is the prophetic call of God to the Church right now?”
The disciples weren’t asked to wait when things weren’t possible. Jesus asked them to wait when they could have started preaching the Gospel. And now we find ourselves in a similar space. Our alert levels are dropping. But I believe that now is the most important time for the New Zealand Church to wait on God.
The temptation is so strong to just ‘go back to normal’. But what if, now, God is not calling us to rush back into doing what we’ve done in the past but to wait on him and be open to seeing the ‘new things’ that He wants to birth in us and the Church?
Maybe now is a good time for all of us to lay our strategies, tasks, and attitudes before the feet of Jesus, surrender them to Him and ask for the Holy Spirit to speak. Because, I believe God takes our willingness to give Him our ‘doing’, and turns it into the gift of an obedient heart, more fully able to live and serve in His power to achieve His mission of bringing God’s kingdom to earth. If only we would just wait for a while.