I taught in rural Kenya for several months and learned the art of waiting. When I made a trip to a city to buy supplies I could never be sure when the mawingo or matatu would conquer the mud-clogged roads and arrive.1 I quickly learned to take a book to read.
After Jesus ascended to heaven His followers had to wait.
Gathering [the disciples] together, [Jesus] commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)
The followers lived in the upper room. Most, if not all, of them came from Galilee, so they had no jobs to go to. Apart from a simple administrative decision about filling Judas’ place, and presumably the chores of daily life, they had nothing to do. They devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). We have good records of Jewish prayers of the time. They are a wonderful combination of Scriptural declarations of God’s character with simple requests for Him to act. Jewish prayers blended worship with Scripture and petitions.
Many of us find waiting hard. Waiting, with nothing more to do than prayer, worship, and everyday life, is a test. It tests our degree of trust in God.
- Are the silent periods a sign of His absence, or non-existence? Is it worth the wait or could I use my time more productively? Surely He would value my initiatives.
- I don’t like not knowing what is happening. I like to be in the know, or in control. I even get a little angry at God sometimes. And anger tempts me to old ways of thinking or acting just because they appeal more than dull silence. Life as I knew it before was easier to live with, so I make myself busy. Perhaps the disciples were tempted to pack and head back to their fishing boats.
We must trust that periods of relative inactivity are not something to be worried about or to fight. Our old responses are the expression of who we naturally are; they are what God wants to change or fill with His Spirit. Waiting tests our willingness to let the old life die and our hunger increase for the abundant life of the Spirit’s power and leading. In the Bible, waiting often preceded anointing.
Be encouraged by the following points:
When it came to the Holy Spirit, God did not keep the disciples waiting long. Jesus ascended about forty days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3). Pentecost happened fifty days after Passover.2 So, the disciples waited about ten days before the Holy Spirit came in power.
We do not need to beg. Our Father is glad to give His children the power of the Spirit (Luke 11:13). Worshipful requests based on the nature and will of God are far from begging.
Never forget that the Ascension and Pentecost have already happened. The Spirit is at work right now through His people. If God has us wait a short while for a greater measure of His Spirit, it is only to deepen our hunger for more and our capacity for being filled. Never doubt His promise.
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