In our super-fast-paced society, we crave instant gratification, and inventions like the microwave and Google have further encouraged this need for immediate satisfaction. Perhaps that impacts our ability to take our time with other decisions and commitments. I have been impacted like everyone else, but generally, I tend to take my time with decisions. Often too much time for my friends or family. PokeyTrace was my first email name- coined by a friend of mine, and I can still hear my nephew John when we would play board games and it was my turn. “It’s gonna take Christmas!” I like to weigh my options and think about what I am going to say or do. Other times it is just plain procrastination or stubbornness. It took me until I was 30 to believe in God and accept Jesus, and even then, only after a period of staunch atheism.
So, which is it? Wait or don’t Wait? All of us play this game with hundreds of decisions each day. It’s going to be 25 minutes wait for a table at your favorite restaurant. Wait, or don’t wait?
Or my favorite: You’re driving down Rte. 287 toward the bridge formerly known as the Tappan Zee, during its construction phase. You pass a sign saying that the left lane will end ahead. Then comes a sign saying “Lane Ends in 1500ft.” That’s 5 football fields without the endzones or track. A long way if you are walking, but with that many cars moving at least 55 miles per hour, what do you think about merging? Wait or don’t wait? Perhaps, if you know the route and the closure, you could avoid that lane entirely. But that is the fast lane, and you may be able to pass a couple more cars.
In an instant it is now 900 ft, with little arrows painted on the road saying that you haven’t got much pavement left. 500 ft, “lane ends!” My stance? I left you a space at 1500 ft. I left you one at 900 ft. I even left you one at 500ft, but if you make us all come to a crashing halt at the very end, I will not be a happy camper. Don’t wait, get over! However, if you are on a neighborhood street, and the car in front of you stops, do you swoop around the car without slowing down, or wait to see if there is a child or a ball, or an accident? Wait or don’t wait? Why do I use these traffic examples? Because I believe driving is a pressure cooker that brings out some attitudes that may exist at other times as well. What motivates our choices to wait or not wait? Or perhaps I should say Who motivates those choices.
In the book of Acts, as Luke begins to write the story of Jesus’ final days and the continuing account of the apostle’s activities, I see many crucial wait, or don’t wait decisions.
Don’t wait, Believe!
Ch 1 verse 3 “After His suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.” Time to believe? Wait or don’t wait?
Wait for the Holy Spirit!
Next in verse 4 we learn that he “gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Wait? Or don’t wait? Luke called it a command, but maybe you don’t like to be commanded to do anything.
Don’t wait to Witness!
Jesus told them again “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Here Jesus gives a little of the bigger picture; it is sort of a wait (for the anointing), then don’t wait (to witness). He even shows why we wait. It is to have the staying power to tell the whole world!
Then the apostles had to deal with Jesus’ ascension. They stood, staring up into the clouds where Jesus had gone, waiting to see what would happen next. It took two men in white to bring them out of their shock.
“Men of Galilee, they said, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Basically “Don’t wait here. Don’t let the occurrences of the day paralyze you.” So they went to Jerusalem, to the upper room to do some active waiting. Verse 14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.” The disciples set a good precedent and a good example for us!
They didn’t wait to replace Judas, because it was written in scripture “May another take his place of leadership.”but they did take time to pray specifically. Acts 1:24 and 26 “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry…Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”
I guess this “Wait vs Don’t Wait” decision-making is challenging, even when you are trying hard to follow Jesus. This must be why we are told to pray without ceasing. That’s what the disciples did, as we come to the day of Pentecost. [We commemorate Pentecost this coming Sunday, and on Saturday we have a Territorial prayer event, following the example of the disciples. Don’t miss it but join us. You don’t have to attend a Salvation Army Corps to pray with some “Sallies” on the eve of Pentecost.]
You have waited patiently, so here we are- Acts 2. “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Any manifestation of the Holy Spirit is worth waiting for, and this one that almost literally set the early church on fire was truly awesome in every sense of the word. They had been faithful and obedient in their decision to wait and pray.
But notice that not even a new sentence separates what happened next. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” When the anointing is on you, don’t wait. Proclaim the wonders of God! We are told of the God-fearing Jews that were there from every nation under heaven and they said “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” They were perplexed. Did Peter wait? No, he explained to them about the prophet Joel and about Jesus whom they had crucified. “They were cut to the heart and asked ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”
Now they have come full circle. A new group has to decide. Time to believe? Wait or don’t wait? Verse 38 “Peter replied ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day.” Let that sink in.
To be a true Blood and Fire Salvation Army, we need to believe in and receive the forgiveness found only in the Blood of Jesus, and wait for the Fire of the Holy Spirit, then declare the wonders of God. It is not about us; it is all about Him.
Lord forgive us when we get it wrong. Help us to believe in Jesus with every fiber of our being and, with the anointing of Your Holy Spirit, to testify about You, and may the purifying power of the Spirit help us to live out what we say. In the name of Jesus, amen.