Waiting And Working
From of old no one has ever heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. ((Isaiah 64-4)
Waiting on God has its value in this: it makes us strong in work for God. Our waiting on God secures the working of God for us and in us, out of which our work must spring. As waiting on God lies at the root of all true working for God, so working for God must be the fruit of all true waiting on Him. Our great need is to hold the two sides of the truth in perfect construction and harmony.
It is as we elevate working for God to its true place, as the highest exercise of spiritual privilege and power, that the absolute need and the divine blessing of waiting on God can be fully known.
But there are many who work for God yet know little of what it is to wait on Him. They do not know that God’s work can be done only in God’s strength, by God Himself working in us. They do not understand that it is only as in utter weakness we depend on Him, His power can rest on us. And so they have no conception of a continual waiting on God as being one of the first and essential conditions of successful work. Christ’s Church and the world are sufferers today- oh, so terribly!- not only because so many of its members are not working for God, but because so much working fo God is done without waiting on God.
God will work for His Church that waits on Him. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may show us how sacred and how urgent our calling is to work, how absolute our dependence is upon God’s strength to work in us, how sure it is that those who wait on Him shall renew their strength, and how we shall find waiting on God and working for God to be indeed inseparably one.
We have been given this wonderful book of the Bible called Acts that describes the New Testament Church and all the things it accomplished. Without the benefit of technology, and motorized transportation, and seminaries and buildings and programs, this church literally touched its world with the Gospel and it did so with powerful Acts. Their secret and they soon discovered it after the ascension of Christ was to wait upon God continually before acting or working.
There won’t be space or time to include every movement in the book of Acts, it lets look at a few of its highlights.
Luke, the author and constant companion of the apostle Paul provides us the continuation of his book written under his name. We actually begin the book of Acts in Luke, for it is there that he tells of the post-resurrection meetings with Christ and His instructions before His ascension.
Then He opened their minds to [help them] understand the Scriptures, and said, “And so it is written, that the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance [necessary] for forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Listen carefully: I am sending the Promise of My Father [the Holy Spirit] upon you; but you are to remain in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed (fully equipped) with power from on high.”
He gives them two sets of instructions. First, they are to preach repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem and second they are to remain in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high. No other instructions were given for no other are needed. These two alone is the work and the waiting of the church. Be clothed with heaven’s power and proclaim heaven’s message.
While being together and eating with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” He said, “you have heard Me speak. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized and empowered and united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now.” So when they had come together, they asked Him repeatedly, “Lord, are You at this time reestablishing the kingdom and restoring it to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
Again He repeats His instructions. Now it’s interesting to note that the believers were focused on His return more that on listening to His instructions, so when they asked when He would establish the kingdom and restore Israel, He repeats His instructions again: “But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses.”
As we read through the book of Acts, we discover that they practiced these instructions. Here’s a few examples:
Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet (Olive Grove), which is near Jerusalem, [only] a Sabbath day’s journey (less than one mile) away. All these with one mind and one purpose were continually devoting themselves to prayer, [waiting together] along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately]. But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be explained to you; listen closely and pay attention to what I have to say. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart [with remorse and anxiety], and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what are we to do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways, accept and follow Jesus as the Messiah] and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far away [including the Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God calls to Himself.” So then, those who accepted his message were baptized; and on that day about 3,000 souls were added [to the body of believers]. They were continually and faithfully devoting themselves to the instruction of the apostles, and to fellowship, to eating meals together and to prayers. A sense of awe was felt by everyone, and many wonders and signs (attesting miracles) were taking place through the apostles. Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.), and a man who had been unable to walk from birth was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, so that he could beg alms from those entering the temple. But Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have; but what I do have I give to you: In the name (authority, power) of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—[begin now to] walk and go on walking!” Then he seized the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankles became strong and steady, and with a leap he stood up and began to walk; and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. So they arrested them and put them in jail until the next day, because it was evening. But many of those who heard the message [of salvation] believed [in Jesus and accepted Him as the Christ]. And the number of the men came to be about 5,000.
I hope you have noticed a pattern here. First they waited upon God in prayer. Indeed prayer seems to be their focus rather than their work. We could rightfully say that they had made waiting upon God in prayer their priority. What followed was the work of God as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the works of God.
Now I don’t know about you, but it would be an incredible thing to see and experience such great moves of God in which the response to the gospel results in many coming to Christ. And I believe it can be so if we could learn to wait on God.
It seems to me that in our modern church calendars we find room for every imaginable activity. I think it’s fair to say that the church is busy, yet while it’s busy, for all of its busyness it is for the most part declining rather than growing. We gather in meetings trying to find some program, some community event, or some activity that we think ought to make us attractive. We involve ourselves in the work of serving the community with food pantries, clothing centers, and other forms of social assistance. All these are good but they have us so busy doing that we fail to find time to wait. And that my friend is the weakness of the modern church and is at the root of its ineffectiveness to influence its world. We have at our fingertips unimaginable technology and transportation and tools and education, yet the world around us grows darker.
Perhaps we should read again Christ’s instructions: “Wait(tarry) until you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.” I make an observation based on over forty years of work as a pastor. I’ve discovered that as difficult as it may be, I can find volunteers to work programs and projects, but I have found it almost impossible to get the church to pray. With exceptions such as the 911 crisis, by and large called corporate prayer gatherings have been at best sparsely supported. In fact in most places less that five percent of a congregation including leadership participated in prayer meetings. Now I confess that I’m an old school preacher who still believes that the pattern laid down by the Acts church is the only one that works with such effectiveness. I just wonder what the future of the church could be if we chose meeting with God as a people rather than meeting with ourselves so that we could plan another futile program.
“Tarry until you are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit,” said Christ and they did and were and the world around them became transformed through their Spirit empowered activities. May we return again to the waiting upon God so that we too may do the work of God through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. John Thompson