I used to hate waiting at red lights. As I approached each intersection on my hour-long commute, I would strategically examine the multiple lanes of traffic, identify which lanes had the highest ratio of slow cars or trucks and pick the lane that I thought would move the fastest. I wanted to expedite my journey with as little waiting as possible.
I wonder if the disciples felt this way at the start of Acts. They sat at Jesus’ feet for three years. They experienced remarkable, life-changing things — miracles, healings, casting out demons and teaching about the Kingdom of God. They saw their Messiah brutally crucified and risen from the grave. I would have been itching to share these things with the world. I would have been sizing up the different lanes to pick the quickest one in spreading the good news.
Yet Jesus gave them a most curious command:
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ (Acts 1:4-5, emphasis added)
In other words, He told them not to go, but to wait. Not to pick the fast lane, but the slow one — the one filled with all dump trucks, semis, minivans and overly cautious drivers — the one you know is going nowhere fast.
If I were the disciples, I’d be scratching my head. I mean, Jesus had trained them for three years. They had seen Him rise from the dead. What else could they possibly be waiting for?
God has a purpose for our waiting.
Why Jesus Called Them to Wait
Two considerations help us make sense of Jesus’ curious command to wait. First, look at how the disciples spent their time waiting.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14, emphasis added)
They spent their time waiting in prayer. In other words, they didn’t waste this season of waiting by anxiously checking their watches, nervously tapping their toes or complaining. Instead, they recognized that God was using this time to prepare their hearts — and they embraced it.
Second, remember what the disciples were waiting for. The Holy Spirit Jesus promised in Acts 1:5 did come ten days later at Pentecost. Why is that important? Thousands of Jews had returned to Jerusalem from all over the region. The Spirit came and supernaturally empowered Jesus’ followers to speak in the visitors’ native tongues. This naturally caught the crowd’s attention. But in front of this great crowd, Peter boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah. That day more than three thousand people believed and were baptized (Acts 2).
So Jesus knew what He was doing when He told them to wait. They may not have understood His command at first, but His timing was infinitely better than theirs.
When God Calls You to Wait
Waiting seems so easy in theory — until you receive one of those curious commands to wait. To get out of the fast lane and into the slow.
That’s where I found myself a few years ago. Like the disciples, I had dedicated years to preparing for ministry. I had studied about Jesus and His good news. I had experienced the transformative power of his resurrection in my own life. I was ready to go.
But God unexpectedly ordained circumstances in such a way that His message was pretty clear: I was supposed to wait. And wait I did. In hindsight, I understand why I had to wait. But in the midst of the waiting, Acts 1 comforted me.
Maybe you’re waiting for something, too. You’ve graduated from school, but you’re still looking for that perfect job — or any job. You’ve prepared for ministry, but the search for a ministry position is going at a snail’s pace. You’re ready to hit the mission field, but doors keep closing. Or, you’re ready for that next chapter in life, but the page never seems to turn.
If so, find comfort from Acts 1. It reminds us that God has a purpose for our waiting. He wants to prepare us — because we always have room to grow. And he wants to prepare our situation — because His timing is always better than ours.
Waiting is hard. Unnatural. Uncomfortable. But when we find ourselves in the slow lane, we can remember that we’re in good company.
A version of this post published at Nathaniel’s personal blog.
Image credit: Nabeel Sayed / Unsplash.com