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Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength
The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Come Thirsty,” published in 2004 by W Publishing Group.
Buried like a grass burr in Matthew’s rose bed is this disclosure: “Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him---but some of them still doubted!” (Matthew 28:16—17, NLT emphasis mine). Three years of miracles weren’t enough. Nor were forty days at the Resurrection Retreat Center. They’ve seen him vacate tombs and dictate weather patterns, but still they doubt.
You have to be kidding. Who knows him better than they? Ask them a Christ question. Go ahead. Anything. Did he hum as he walked? Pray before he ate? Did he talk to storms in his sleep? And, if he did, did storms listen? They know. They know the person of Christ.
And, my, how they could speak on the passion of Christ. John winced as the hammer clanged. Mary wept as her son groaned. Close enough to be splattered by his blood, they knew his passion. When it came time to prepare the body for burial, they did.
And when it came time to see the empty tomb, they did that, too. Peter ran a finger down the stone slab. Thomas studied Christ’s pierced hands like a palm reader. And for forty days Jesus taught them. Forty days! Can you imagine a six-week seminar with the mind behind the microbes? “Tell us again, Jesus. Tell us how you got the hell out of hell.”
Hand trained by Christ. Witnesses to the hinge moments of history. These folks are ready, aren’t they? Apparently not. “Some of them still doubted.”
Questions keep buzzing like a summer fly. Even after a thousand campfire conversations and a scrapbook full of jaw-dropping moments, some disciples resist. I’m still not sure.
What will Jesus do with them? We’d like to know, wouldn’t we? We’d really like to know. Still stalks our sentences too.
“I still worry.”
“I still gossip.”
“Permafrost still chills my marriage.”
“I’m still torn between the AA meeting and the corner bar.”
“I still clench my teeth every time I get a call from that speck-of-dandruff ex-boyfriend of mine.”
We find odd comfort in the lingering doubts of the disciples. For we still have our own. And so we wonder, Does Christ have a word for those who linger near the dis-still-ery of doubt?
His “yes” resounds. And his instruction will surprise you. What he told them, he tells us. “Don’t leave Jerusalem yet. Wait here for the Father to give you the Holy Spirit, just as I told you he has promised to do” (Acts 1:4 CEV).
Jesus’ word to the doubting disciples? “Wait.” Before you go out, stand still. Prior to stepping forth, sit down. “Stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49 NLT).
So they do. “They went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. . . . They all met together continually for prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus” (Acts 1:13—14 NLT).
They have reasons to leave. Someone has a business to run or field to farm. Besides, the same soldiers who killed Christ still walk Jerusalem’s streets. The disciples have ample reason to leave but they don’t. They stay. And they stay together.
“They all met together continually.” As many as 120 souls huddle in the same house. How many potential conflicts exist in this group? Talk about a powder keg. Nathanael might glare at Peter for denying Christ at the fire. Then again, at least Peter stood near the fire. He could resent the others for running. So could the women. Faithful females who stood near the cross share the room with cowardly men who fled the cross. The room is ripe for conflict. Mary could demand special treatment. Jesus’ blood brothers are in the room. They once tried to lock up Christ. Who’s to say they won’t lock up his followers? And the women. Isn’t this a men’s meeting? Who let the ladies in? Bitterness, arrogance, distrust, chauvinism---the room is a kindling box for all four. But no one strikes a match. They stay together, and most of all, they pray together.
“They all met together continually for prayer.” Mark uses the same Greek word here translated “continually” to describe a boat floating in the water, waiting on Jesus. The Master, speaking on the beach of Galilee, told the disciples to have a boat ready and waiting (Mark 3:9). The boat was “continually” in the presence of Christ. So are the Upper Room disciples. One day passes. Then two. Then a week. For all they know a hundred more will come and go. But they aren’t leaving. They persist in the presence of Christ. Then, ten days later, hang on to your turban:
On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1—4 NLT)
Doubters became prophets. Peter preached, and people came, and God opened the floodgates on the greatest movement in history. It began because the followers were willing to do one thing: wait in the right place for power.
We’re so reluctant to do what they did. Who has time to wait? We groan at such a thought. But waiting doesn’t mean inactivity---rather inHIMactivity. Waiting means watching for him. If you are waiting on a bus, you are watching for the bus. If you are waiting on God, you are watching for God, searching for God, hoping in God. Great promises come to those who do. “But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).
To those who still struggle, God says, “Wait on me.” And wait in the right place. Jesus doesn’t tell us to stay in Jerusalem, but he does tell us to stay honest, stay faithful, stay true. “If you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors” (1 Samuel 12:15 NLT). Are you illegally padding your pocket? Are you giving your body to someone who doesn’t share your name and wear your ring? Is your mouth a Mississippi River of gossip? If you intentionally hang out at the bus stop of disobedience, you need to know something---God’s bus doesn’t stop there. Go to the place of obedience. “The Holy Spirit . . . is God’s gift to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32 TEV).
While you’re waiting in the right place, get along with people. Would the Holy Spirit have anointed contentious disciples? According to Peter, disharmony hinders prayers. He tells husbands, “Live with your wives in an understanding way. . . . Do this so that nothing will stop your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7 NCV). Waiting on God means working through conflicts, forgiving offenses, resolving disputes. “Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace” (Ephesians 4:3 NLT).
Some years ago our family had a backyard trampoline. One Saturday afternoon I noticed all three of our girls bouncing on it. My daughters, like all siblings, don’t always get along. But for some reason, that afternoon they were one another’s biggest fans. When one jumped, the other two applauded. If one fell, the other two helped her stand. My chest swelled with pride. After a few moments, you know what I did? I joined them. I couldn’t resist. Their alliance pleased me. Our alliance pleases Christ. Jesus promised, “When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (Matt. 18:20 MSG).
Desire power for your life? It will come as you “do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Romans 12:18 NLT).
It will also come as you pray. For ten days the disciples prayed. Ten days of prayer plus a few minutes of preaching led to three thousand saved souls. Perhaps we invert the numbers. We’re prone to pray for a few minutes and preach for ten days. Not the apostles. Like the boat waiting for Christ, they lingered in his presence. They never left the place of prayer.
Biblical writers spoke often of this place. Early Christians were urged to
• “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians. 5:17 NASB);
• “always be prayerful” (Romans 12:12 NLT);
• “pray at all times and on every occasion” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT).
Remember the adverb continually that described the Upper Room prayer of the apostles? It’s used to describe our prayers as well:
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV).
Sound burdensome? Are you wondering, My business needs attention, my children need dinner, my bills need paying. How can I stay in a place of prayer? Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way.
Do this. Change your definition of prayer. Think of prayers less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. Acknowledge his presence everywhere you go. As you stand in line to register your car, think, Thank you, Lord, for being here. In the grocery as you shop, Your presence, my King, I welcome. As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker. Brother Lawrence did. This well-known saint called himself the “lord of pots and pans.” In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.1
Though a rookie in the League of Unceasing Prayer, I sure enjoy the pursuit. I’ve discovered the strength of carrying on two conversations: one with a person, another with the Person. One can, at once, listen and petition. As a person unfolds his problem, I’m often silently saying, God, a little help here, please. He always provides it. I’ve also discovered the delight of regular drinks from his water cooler. Throughout the day, my thoughts are marked with phrases: Guide me, dear Father. Forgive that idea, please. Protect my daughters today.
A final thought. The Upper Room was occupied by 120 disciples. Since there were about 4,000,000 people in Palestine at the time, this means that fewer than 1 in 30,000 was a Christian.2 Yet look at the fruit of their work. Better said, look at the fruit of God’s Spirit in them. We can only wonder what would happen today if we, who still struggle, did what they did: wait on the Lord in the right place. (63-69)
1. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Old Tappan, NJ. Revell, 1958), 9
2. Williams Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 15.
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