Waiting on God: Pray & Serve

Waiting on God: Pray & Serve

Chris & Nikki commissioning

This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Waiting on God.” Waiting isn’t exactly our favorite thing to do, but it is a critical part of God’s plan for every one of our lives.

Last week, we learned that no matter our circumstances, God is worthy of, and we certainly can choose to praise. Praise is exalting Jesus above all else and invites His presence into our circumstances. There are countless ways to express praise, but while we’re waiting on God, it’s best to choose praise over complaint.

After Jesus appeared to His disciples following His resurrection, promising them the gift of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, He told them to wait in Jerusalem. He had them wait in a very dangerous and life-threatening circumstance. Where they once hid away in fear, they now publicly praised together in the presence of their enemies all because they had an encounter with Jesus. We know that we should respond with praise while we’re waiting on God, but what’s next? Well, let’s see what the first followers of Jesus did:

Acts 1:12-14
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[a] 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.

While we’re waiting on God, we pray! And, just like praise, we can also pray constantly and continually!

1 Thessalonians 5:15-18
15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Pray continually, this is God’s will for you. The disciples all met together constantly in prayer. Men, women, children, they all joined together and prayed while they were waiting on God. They didn’t want to miss out on the gift that Jesus had promised and therefore, they knew that they had to be in prayer seeking after Him.

Prayer is simply speaking with God. It is a two-way form of communication as we converse with Him. We talk to Him about things that are on our heart and mind and God will speak to us about what is on His heart and mind as well. He also will move and act according to our prayers as we share our requests with Him, just like a good friend.

Sometimes, He will even lay it on other people’s hearts to reach out to us and He will send them our way to help us with something that we’re praying about. From time to time, we encounter these same situations in life. We have a friend that needs a hand with something and we just happen to know someone who is really good at that same kind of thing, so we put the two of them in touch with one another. God can do that same very thing for us as we stay connected to Him in prayer. After all, He has the greatest resource network of anyone, even better than Angie’s List!

Often, when God makes us aware of a need or puts a real concern for someone on our hearts. This is because He is calling us to serve that person. Maybe we have something that they need or maybe we know someone else who could help them. Through constant prayer with God, we invite God into our lives to do these very things.

God wants us to know His will in both the big things and small things. It is through constant prayer that this becomes possible. In fact, the big things in life almost always start out with some small step of obedience to God’s beckoning to us through prayer. While we’re waiting on God, we pray.

When we speak about knowing God’s will for our lives, we are usually referring to a single, significant revelation from God. We’re looking for the skies to part and for God to clearly speak through thunder and lightning and fire and to overwhelm us emotionally in order to know and understand His will. We are listening for something grand and specific like, “Go to the people of Zimbabwe in the village of Nandi. I have a family of six there waiting for you. Don’t worry, Jim from IT is going to take care of all of your travel costs and arrangements to get you there.”

However, when we look at what the Bible actually teaches us about God’s will for our lives, we quickly discover that God is all about small things. Even the huge miracles that movies are made of like Moses crossing the Red Sea were in reality, small steps of obedience. Why do we consider selling everything and going on a missions field a “call of God” on someone’s life, but giving a bottle of water to a thirsty 9-year-old out there playing softball trivial and insignificant?

Constant prayer keeps us in touch with God. We get to share our days with one another. We all have those moments throughout our day when we see or hear something and it reminds us of something else. For some of us, this happens more often than others as you’ll find while having conversations with them. While we are in constant prayer, God will often remind us of things as we live out our common, ordinary lives. He will point out someone who could use a word of encouragement, or a simple act of service like taking their shopping cart back for them.

Those simple acts of service often lead to conversation, which often leads to the sharing of their needs, which leads us back to prayer, which unlocks the door of the miraculous. Think small and go small. You’ll find that the big things in life will begin to naturally happen as you do. Constant prayer keeps us right in the center of God’s will for our lives as we go about our ordinary days.

I’m reminded of Acts 8 where Philip lead an Ethiopian eunuch, who was very important and was in charge of all of the wealth of the queen of the Ethiopians, to Jesus. It all started with the simple prompting to take a walk along a desert road leading to Gaza. Then, the Holy Spirit prompted Philip to go and stay near a certain chariot. Because Philip was in constant prayer and communication with God, he was in the right place at the right time to lead this man to Christ and also to water baptize him right there on the spot. It is being obedient to the small things like taking a walk and hanging around a vehicle that lead to the big things like salvation.

Jesus reminded us how big to Him these small things are here:

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

The least of these that Jesus refers to is the Greek word adelphos, which can mean several things. The usage of this word in the way that Jesus spoke it is defined as all mankind. Jesus was not referring to Christians alone, our brothers and sisters in Christ, He was not referring to just our blood brothers, He was not referring to our buddies nor those who come from the same nation. Jesus was speaking generally of the least of all of mankind. Some translations use the word brethren, some use the phrase brothers and sisters, but the original usage was intended to convey the concept of the least of all of mankind.

This is the motive behind God’s vision that He gave to you and I this year to understand and act out the reality that “Every One Matters” to Him. The awesome thing is that this is so simple that any one of us can do it anytime that we’re anywhere. We can show that every one matters to God.

What Jesus sees is when we go out to the least of these and give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the needy, and visit those who are sick or imprisoned. Jesus didn’t filter that list down for those things to be done by only apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Jesus didn’t say to give money to the people for them to do it on your behalf. Jesus says that whatever each and every one of us do or don’t to the least of these, we do or don’t do to Him. Jesus takes this very personally! Eternal punishment and eternal life hang in the balance according to Jesus’ own words!

He sees that stuffed toy that you gave to the little girl whose daddy just went to prison. He sees the box of tissues that you gave to the funeral home that comfort dozens of mourning families. He sees that change of clothes that you gave to the school nurse to cover the embarrassment and shame of that little boy who had an accident. He sees when you just sit and talk with the widow down the street. He sees that meal that you just gave to the family going through a hard time. He sees that ride that you gave to the child of a single mom that can’t be in two places at one time.

He also sees when we are aware of these needs and yet ignore them thinking that they are insignificant and unspiritual.

Sure, it may be God’s will for us to fly out to some third world village and give our lives to serve them. However, it is just as significant to Jesus to serve the needs of those right in our own back yard as well. It was God’s will that the disciples began their service in Jerusalem, then in all Judea and Samaria, then to the ends of the earth. It must begin at home.

It wasn’t accidental that God chose to put New Hope Assembly of God where He did. It was intentional that our church is placed where it is. It wasn’t so that the community would come in and begin to serve the church. It wasn’t so that we could meet merely to serve the needs of one another. God placed us here on purpose so that together, we would be equipped to effectively go out into the community and to serve it. It was so that we could be light in a dark place and hope in the midst of hopelessness.

When we begin to truly pray continually, the Holy Spirit will begin to open our eyes to see the needs around us. When we allow God to soften our hardened hearts and give us His compassion and desires, our hearts will break for the least of these. We will feel His nudge to simple and small acts of obedience that open the door to the awesome power and love of God to be unleashed through.

When we do little things in Jesus’ name, they aren’t so little. When small and simple acts are done in cooperation with the leading of the Holy Spirit, significant things begin to happen! These small things may not seem spiritual in nature nor significant at all, but when done in obedience to God’s leading, they are enormously significant and spiritual.

Mark 10:42-45
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

While we’re waiting on God, we pray. While we’re praying as we are waiting on God, we are lead to serve.

Jesus served the least of these and He has called each and every one of us to do the same, following Him. The church is the body of Christ. We are His physical presence in the world today. Therefore, the church should have the same mindset and goals as Jesus did and still does. Service isn’t the function of just a few ministries of the church, it is to be the primary function and mission of the church entirely. To minister is to serve. To lead is to serve. To be the church is to serve.

Philippians 2:3-13
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

While we’re waiting on God, we serve. As we serve, God’s will is fulfilled and His good purposes are put into action. While we’re waiting on God, we don’t sit around on our hands waiting for God to move on our behalf, we move on God’s behalf. While we’re waiting on His promises to be fulfilled in our own lives, we obediently do what God calls us to do and act on His behalf.

While we’re waiting on our miracle, we are God’s miracle to the prayers and needs of others.

Jesus did not sit in the temple waiting on the demons to flee, the sick to be healed, the dead to raise, and His word to be taught. Jesus did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus went out to those bound by demons and set them free. Jesus went out to the sick and healed them. Jesus went to the tomb and called the dead to life. Jesus taught the Word of God wherever He went. God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom of talk, but of action!

Jesus knew that His Father’s plan for His life was to exalt Him above everything in all of creation. While Jesus was waiting on that purpose to be fulfilled, however, He obediently lowered Himself choosing to serve all of mankind in any way that He could. He chose to seek and to save the lost through simple acts of kindness and love.

While we’re waiting on God, we pray.
While we’re waiting on God, we serve.