I’m sure the minds of the disciples must have been spinning. Jesus had just told them He was going away. What?? There was so much they didn’t understand. But listen, there was a lot they DID understand, too. They’d just spent the better part of three years living with Jesus. They heard most every word He spoke, they witnessed most every miracle and they experienced first-hand the fruit He produced in them and others. They were on a steep learning curve for sure, but they weren’t stupid. They were learning what it meant to live life in the Kingdom of God. But they were not yet ready to do anything He had prepared them to do. When we graduate school we get a diploma. That diploma says we are ready to tackle the corporate world. It qualifies us for the work we plan to accomplish. These guys were ready to graduate but they had no diploma. He would not send them out to work. In fact, when Jesus ascended into Heaven He told them to stay put; to not go anywhere.
We know their instructions: to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught them. These were their marching orders. It seems like after three long years of teaching and preparation they might be ready to at least try to accomplish Jesus’ goal for them. But no. They were not ready. The Spirit had not yet come. They had not yet been clothed with power from on high. As educated and tested as these men were they could not do the simplest tasks in Kingdom, yet.
As you read these words today I pray you will heed their wisdom. You may have had years of Bible education and instruction. You may have spent years on ministry teams serving the Church and community. But if you are not clothed in the righteousness of the Spirit of God, you are useless in the Kingdom. Your efforts will be absolutely fruitless, no matter how well intentioned, planned or timed. The Spirit is the key that unlocks the doors that are currently shut. He is the only One who can change hearts, revive the Church and reinvent the City. It is for His presence and work that we pray today.
I was ordained at the young age of 19. I was already pastoring. My mentality was work as hard as you possibly can and maybe something good will happen. While this mentality works great in the corporate world, it was a struggle at best in the Kingdom. It took me years to learn what Jesus meant when He said “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” It was not at all that He didn’t trust His friends. It had nothing to do with their competency or ability in ministry. It was not that He didn’t think they were emotionally or mentally stable. They simply could not accomplish the task before them because the task was divine and they were not. And neither are we. Try as hard as they want, they simply could not affect the hearts of people, change people’s minds, offer people peace, give people rest, heal people of impossible diseases… These were all things that required divine power, and that is something you can’t buy at a local garage sale.
I was met with frustration after frustration early on in my ministry. I spent hours butting my head against the wall. We would take a few steps forward with people and 15 steps back. My preaching was dry and ineffective. My counsel fell on deaf ears. It seemed the only thing that worked in my favor was my ability to befriend people, but as I later learned, that is totally a gift God has given me. To put it bluntly, I am worth about .10 cents apart from Jesus. Take my shoes off and you won’t even get that much!
The good news came for me when I began to realize the Spirit promised to those who wait is the very Spirit of Jesus. His goal is to work in us and through us in the very same way Jesus worked in and through the disciples. I realized my effort(s) in ministry were fruitless because I was working in my own strength. Instead of working I needed to be praying. Instead of trying to come up with the best evangelism methods, I needed to be meditating on the Word. I needed to learn how to recognize the voice of Jesus before I learned to respond to every other voice in my world. I needed to learn how to keep pace with Him before I tried to keep up with the rat race outside. Does this make sense? Once I began learning to wait on the Spirit things in my world started to change.
How about you? Do you find yourself praying only when things are going south? Do you spend more time reading about the Bible than actually reading it? Do you spend more time on your phone than every other spiritual exercise in your life? Do you find yourself coming up with excuses to not do what you know the Lord has told you to do: give, be an active part of the Body of Christ, share His work in you with those around you, pray without ceasing… The work of ministry is not work when it is done by the Spirit through you. It’s joy! Apart from the enabling of the Spirit, however, it is harder than hauling hay…all day…in the rain. I urge you to put yourself in front of the Word each day and ask God to fill you with His Spirit afresh. Pentecost was real and still is! They needed His power for life and we do, too. Wait for it. It’ll be the best choice you’ve made in a long time.