Last week, we learned about the in-between where our faith is put to the test. It is in that place where our faith can grow and be proven genuine. It is that certain faith which emboldens us with the courage to praise God for the coming outpouring of His promises fulfilled right in front of the very enemies standing in our way.
Jesus’ disciples found themselves in that place. They left everything to follow Him and now He was crucified, buried, and resurrected back to life.
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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 we find another example of how God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways. The disciples were expecting a governmental shift for Israel and Jesus was planning a world-wide movement that would establish His Kingdom in every nation.
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “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.”
So again, this brings us back to the in-between. Jesus not only resurrected from death to life, but He then spends the next 40 days meeting with His disciples and providing many convincing proofs that He was indeed alive. Then, He promises the gift of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and ascends back to Heaven.
They had lived with Jesus these past three years and saw first-hand what a life filled with the Spirit looked like. Jesus often spoke to them about some of the things that the Holy Spirit would enable them to do. However, we don’t know for sure if the disciples really knew what it would be like to experience the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
They knew that they would be empowered to be witnesses, but how would they know for sure when they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? They were waiting for this gift, but didn’t know exactly when it would happen, how it would happen, or what it really meant for them after they had received it. They just knew that the next step for them was to wait in Jerusalem until they had it.
So, what did the disciples do while they were waiting in the in-between for this promised gift?
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
All joined together constantly in prayer.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Using the word of God for direction and looking to the Lord as their guide, they added to their leadership. No one would ever take the place of Judas in regard to his lack of integrity, being a thief of ministry funds, and betraying Jesus to death. However, his role in leadership as an apostle was a place that was to be filled.
While we are waiting, we also should pray and prepare.
These 120 believers weren’t likely just quietly sitting around with heads bowed and hands folded waiting around for something to happen. The Greek word used here for prayer is an earnest and fervent prayer accompanied by worship. It’s an act of passionately pursuing and seeking after God.
It’s the same word used after Jesus made a whip and flipped tables declaring that His house would be called a house of prayer. It’s the same word used for Jesus going up to a mountain and praying all night long and then choosing the twelve apostles. It’s the same word that Jesus used saying that a certain type of demon could only be driven out by prayer and fasting.
It’s the same word used in Paul’s letter to Timothy where he describes a widow all alone with no family whose only hope is in God to meet her needs and continues in prayer day and night for help. It’s the same word used when Peter was imprisoned awaiting death for sharing the gospel and the church was earnestly praying through the night for him.
It’s the same word used to describe how Elijah prayed earnestly and there was a 3 1/2 year drought and then prayed again and there was an outpouring from Heaven. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective indeed!
This is a type of prayer that cries out in desperation to God acknowledging that He is the only answer and solution. It is a self-abandoned pursuit that will not relent until God’s response manifests.
This type of prayer is not just a few minutes saying a few words and going on with out day. It is an ongoing and unceasing conversation where hope and expectations are high. It is a prayer where we are looking and listening for God at all times.
It’s where we become not just like a deer panting for water by the stream, but also like a deer on high alert with our ears high and eyes fixed to the hills where our help comes from expecting it to arrive at any moment!
The other night, God showed me a bit of a humorous picture of what we should look like in a season of this type of prayer. Our dog, Chewy was in Bethany’s bedroom because that’s his favorite place to hang out. I opened our pantry door and grabbed the bag of dog treats.
At that sound, even in the midst of our chaotic and loud house, Chewy frantically clawed at the door until it opened and started to run down the hallway so fast that he lost traction several times, but slid I to the walls and just kept running full speed.
He came leaping at me with his tail wagging so hard that it kept smacking our other dog in the face. That expectant, joyous look on his face and the way that he pursued me is exactly the picture of what our hope and faith in God should look like.
Not only were they praying, but they were praying together. Again, our English translation doesn’t really give an accurate understanding of what this meant. The Greek adverb used here is defined by the Strong’s lexicon as “with one mind, with one accord, with one passion”. This is a degree of togetherness and unity that goes beyond just physically being in the same room together.
This is what Jesus desires of us as well and why He designed the concept of church. He literally prayed for you and I to have this. Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father:
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
When it comes to the promises, the plans, and the purposes of God, what do our prayers look like? Are they passionate pleas of desperation and expectation?
Do we ask and keep on asking? Seek and keep on seeking? Knock and keep on knocking? Are we relentless in seeking after God in the in-between the way that the believers were pursuing the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the upper room?
The believers prayed and then prepared.
In John 16, Jesus likened the in-between to child-birth. There is a long season of waiting, a time of pain, but all followed by great joy where the waiting and pain are forgotten. During the waiting season, however, the soon-to-be parents prepare for the arrival of their child.
They gather together all of the supplies that their baby will need and prepare a place for them to sleep and play and eat; all in anticipation of its birth long before it happens. They’ll read books and seek advice from experienced parents to do all that they can to prepare and to learn what to expect while they are expecting.
They want to be the best parents that they can be and work hard to prepare their lives and their house to be a sanctuary for their child so that they can reach their full potential and lack no good thing all before that baby takes its first breath.
Maybe it’s time for us to get into “nesting” mode as well. What can we do now to prepare for what God has promised?
The believers in the upper room didn’t fully know what was coming their way, but God did. He knew that in just a few days, they were going to grow from 120 people to over 3,000. They were going to need leadership so that all of these brand new believers could grow in their faith and become a functional body.
In fact, that was just the beginning! Daily people were being saved and adding to their numbers. In just a matter of months, entirely new churches were going to be planted and something entirely new was about to be started all under their leadership.
The church was multiplying and they were soon going to understand what Jesus meant in the great commission by those disciples making disciples who would make disciples who would make disciples and on and on!
Persecution was also going to physically take these disciples from Jerusalem out to Judea and to Samaria and to the ends of the earth in a relatively short period of time. It would become a movement of the Holy Spirit that would literally endure until the end of time! We are literally sitting here today gathered in Jesus’ name as disciples in that long tradition of faith!
These twelve apostles were about to oversee a huge network of churches different in just about every way from one another except for their faith in Jesus for their salvation and the unity that the Holy Spirit created.
What did the 120 need to do to prepare for all of this while they were in the in-between? Just take the next step in faith; choose someone to become an apostolic leader in Judas’ place.
What’s your next step? What’s one, simple thing that you know God’s word calls you to do? Do it in faith!
We all have a part to play. None of us are here by accident, but were all intentionally called and placed here on purpose and for a purpose. As Paul, another apostle later added to reach non-Jews wrote:
1 Corinthians 3:5-9
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Only God can make anything grow and He will faithfully do it. However, we also must be faithful to do our part.
To each of us, what we have to offer in service to God and to others may not seem like much. What doesn’t seem like much to us is a miraculous answer to prayer to someone else. It’s only when we come together and each do our part that Jesus is then fully represented to those around us. We are all co-laborers in grateful service to God!
God has made some incredible promises to us and He has every intention of fulfilling them. However, He intentionally chooses to work in and through us, His people. So what can we do?
Well, we know for sure that we can pray and prepare and eagerly expect God to do the rest!