Wait for It
Letting God do God’s work
At times a Christian leader is challenged to do what has never been done before; instances when they are called upon to develop and direct such plans as have never before been attempted; tasked to “go where no man has gone before,” to undertake assignments personally impossible and humanly unreasonable.
Assignment and Perplexity
They shared three years of Jesus’ life. They experienced the devastation of His death, the joy of His resurrection, and the comfort of His 40-day intensive thereafter. Classes done for the day, they considered their final assignment: Do the impossible; go make disciples of all nations; go teach them everything I taught you.
It’s still impossible today: for the single seminarian not yet recovered from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, now hurled into a multichurch district with one congregation dying, another dead, the third riven with cliques of strife, and a collective history of five previous pastors all documented as “unsuccessful.” Or the conscientious first elder confronted by the spiritual lethargy, multiple personalities, mania, schizophrenia,and other unaddressed psychological dislocations that bless the fellow saints of his congregation. Or your neighbor the Christian nurse, forever facing the demands of irritated prima donna surgeons. Or the blue collar journeyman trying to keep a clean mouth and mind in the midst of the vile rivers of language that flow all around him and threaten to overflow him. Or the conscientious freshman coed so earnestly desiring mental sanity and sexual purity in the midst of what seems an ocean of frats and sisters and intoxication and hazing.
Yes, but the Lord has a way of commanding and expecting the inconceivable: staying faithful to a cheat who seems determined to destroy his family and sink the marriage boat; staying clean when you know that inside your firm’s accounting operation there is dedication to sustaining some vast financial fraud; being compassionate to the cruel, caring to the chauvinistic, calm with the combative, constant with the capricious: loving much because you’ve been forgiven much—though friends and loved ones cannot understand the insanity of your love. You love as you do because you’ve heard the voice—the voice of the Lord who reached you first, doing the improbable in and for you, and now commanding and expecting you to do the impossible.
In your fervor for obeying Jesus’ “Go!” command you almost missed another word of His final instructions to His disciples. Luke lays it out: “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Again, Jesus “being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:4).
Jesus’ final order to His followers was not simply “Go!” It was also “Wait!” And it was a plural “Wait!” “All of you: wait!” Delivered in the tone of a general commanding his soldiers, Jesus ordered: “Wait.”
They waited, . . . coming together to each other, and all, together, closer and closer to God.
Where? “In Jerusalem.”
What for? “For the promise of the Father.”
And who must wait? “All of you, wait together!”
There must be no leaving, departures, or separations from one another. All must unite in waiting—and in the very place that seemed adverse to them; the place that opposed Him and was hostile to them. “Wait!” He ordered, in an uncomfortable place where He would redefine their experience and their most recent memory of the populace in this place. They needed to wait so they could do things right, once He had fixed them.
The “Wait!” command has nothing to do with inertia or stasis. It is a wait of expectation, not for just a transient moment, but until the promised gift arrives. It is the command to keep on waiting, discomfort notwithstanding; threats of the place notwithstanding. The Lord who commands and expects the impossible has given the command: “Wait!”
Yes. Wait. Sara failed to wait, and surrendered her husband to the arms and legs of a younger woman, only to find herself a desperate housewife with baby mama drama.
Moses failed to wait, and ended up in exile. Samson failed to wait, and ended up blind, eyes gouged out. David failed to wait for God’s voice, and spoke the lie that led to the slaughter of a whole city of priests (see 1 Sam. 21:1-7; 22:1-19).
The prodigal’s failure to wait has given us the ultimate story of being in the pits.
We wait together. In the words of Aristotle: “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Ask Israel about waiting: they’ll point you to Jericho, where seven patient days of doing the same thing over and over—together—brought the walls down. Ask beauty queen Esther: she’ll tell you of three days of fasting together that stopped a genocide. Waiting may be boring, but it’s pregnant with life if we’re waiting on the Lord and by His instructions. Job pledged to long waiting, “till my change come” (Job 14:14).
Ask even of secular history, and learn its lessons on the blessedness of waiting: generations of Black slaves in America dreamed of change, and were waiting for it when it came, when centuries of cruelty and exploitation endured, brought December 6, 1865, and the abolition of slavery.
Ask God-inspired activists for justice and learn how they worked and waited until change came and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became the law of America. Ask Blacks and Whites in America to recall one more momentous change, January 20, 2009, when what had seemed impossible became possible, as a Black man became president of the United States and moved his family into the White House.
Yes, waiting can be daunting and boring. But “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).
In obedience to Christ’s command His disciples waited together in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. They did not wait in idleness, but “were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). They “met together to present their requests to the Father in the name of Jesus.They knew that they had a Representative in heaven, an Advocate at the throne of God.”2 They waited, humbling their hearts; they waited, in true confession and repentance; waited, reconciling; and waited, confessing; they waited, worshipping; they waited together, fervently praying for fitness to function right in leading sinners to Christ. They waited, putting away all their separating differences, abandoning all desire for supremacy, coming together to each other, and closer and closer to God.
They knew they needed more than what they had. Waiting would make the difference; waiting until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit: “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, NASB).3 John fully submerged you in water, but if you will wait, you will soon be fully submerged into the Holy Spirit. Skin may be impermeable to water, but you will be permeated with the Holy Spirit penetrating every membrane, transforming every cell.
People craving personal performance enhancement have traveled illicit paths in their search for glory: Ben Johnson, Marion Jones—Olympic sprinters; Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, cyclists.
But Jesus’ promise for performance enhancement is neither an over-the-counter drug nor a physician’s prescription. Nor is it simply a recipe for lasting longer or finishing faster. Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit comprehends and transcends any simple physical human accomplishment. The Spirit brings physical strength, emotional stability, and spiritual power, imparting new abilities and functionalities to its recipient. Did you say you needed more? Well, here is where you get it—in Spirit power: price already paid, guaranteed delivery, better than Amazon! But wait for it. Wait for the power.
For you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. It’s power of a different sort than that which Jesus mentioned in Acts 1:6, 7: that “power” (Greek, exousia) refers to authority, the Father’s exclusive prerogatives; this one (Greek, dunamis) means “dynamite”!
For the mission Jesus calls us to requires dynamite power: dynamite power to reach and win the heart of communities long underserved, underprivileged, and plagued with gun violence, promiscuity, and drug addiction; dynamite power to reach sophisticated, post-Christian, postmodern post-absolutists whose idea of human generosity is a political correctness that absents the name of Christ from Christmas; dynamite power to reach people for whom greatness is tied up with notions of ethnic superiority.
Luke put it this way: “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power [Greek, dunamis] from on high” (Luke 24:49).
In the movie series Mission Impossible agents receive special gadgets and weapons to combat the enemy: a special camera pen, a rocket, a wall climbing suction device—whatever it is that equips them for the mission. Jesus’ words tell us that His disciples have yet to be fitted with the arsenal needed.
This mission requires dynamite power. We find ourselves hitting our head against the proverbial wall: why? Our blood pressure is up: why? We crave spiritual victory over vices that we resist but cannot quite shake: why? Worse yet, we hate ourselves for secret sins that are more pattern than exception: why?
Jesus’ answer is that we need more than we have. And we need to wait for it! “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down [and dismantling] of strong holds” (2 Cor. 10:4).
Once we’ve been saturated, clothed, empowered, we go—according to the qualification of Jesus’ adverb “therefore.” “Go therefore,” He says. The disciples’ advance, proclamation, and soul winning would thrive exclusively on the grounds of the Spirit’s empowerment. Undereducated cowardice would hardly represent Jesus. They would soon find themselves burnt out, worn out, stretched out, and, of necessity, fazed out. Hence Jesus comes and speaks to them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore” (Matt. 28:18, 19). His words make the difference that matters. We go, now, with His authority, ever aware that the final say in our effort will be Jesus’ word. He will have the final say; speak the last word.
Others, misguided others, sometimes conceive of themselves in the Jesus role—having the last word. But neither parent nor mentor, employer nor administrator, determines whom God may or may not call. No board or committee has the final say in any of our lives. Jesus does. The power and authority and dynamite are all His. His jurisdiction embraces heaven and earth: from Africa to Australia; from North America to South America; from Triangulum to Antarctica; from the Milky Way to Andromeda, Centaurus A to Bode’s and beyond.
Power—all power—belongs to Jesus, the One who bled a fountain to wash away our sins; who laid down His life, then took it up again, because by the surrender of His perfect innocence for our perfect perversity, He conquered the devil and won the keys to death, hell, and the grave. At His departure He left us the promise that guarantees that power. For it all belongs to Him, guaranteed to you if you’ll wait. So: believing His promise, grounding yourself in Him, and, looking forward to victory, wait for it!
- Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 35.
- Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Tricia Payne pastors the Tabernacle of Hope and Muncie Philadelphia congregations in the Lake Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.