This is the article it took God about eight months to let me write. I think there’s a lesson (God’s Silence) in that fact that we can all learn from.
I am not a patient person. I like for everything to have happened yesterday so I can get on with the next thing. This especially has been the case for me in ministry. At any given time over the past several months, I’ve had several different articles for this website in various stages of development. Also over the past several months, I’ve had people offer numerous ideas about different things they thought would be nice to add to this site. I’ve also had people comment that they noticed I hadn’t updated the site much for a while. These two factors have, at times, had me wondering if I should be doing more, or doing things more quickly, for the sake of “ministry.” The many suggestions I have received are all good. But maybe not best. There is a much more basic Scriptural principle which the Lord has been trying to teach me, and hopefully will teach others who read this: Frequently, and especially in ministry, the most we can do is just be still. And know that He is God.
There is an important lesson to be learned in this, and it’s a hard lesson to learn, especially in a media-saturated world which bombards us with information and calls to action around the clock. (Having studied journalism in college, I understand all too well how being bombarded with information can compel us to act as immediately as possible.) The urge to complete everything by yesterday is relentless. But that’s not the way the Lord works very often. I think a key passage of Scripture which can be applied in this instance is Acts 1:3-10 (NIV):
After his suffering, he (Jesus) showed himself to these men (the disciples) 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. 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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”Jesus Christ
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them,
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.”Jesus Christ
There are a couple of very important principles in this passage which we would do well to grasp.
First, by this time the disciples were spending time with Jesus not just because they had been following Him, but because it had become their identity and way of living. Following Jesus had become a matter of who they were and not just what they did. And in the process of spending time with Jesus, they talked with Him. Specifically in this instance, they asked Jesus if that time was the time when He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Even in this passage after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples likely still had a notion of Jesus as one who would conquer the earthly, political forces which had oppressed the people of Israel. In answering the question, Jesus did not address the earthly aspect which the disciples asked about (thus showing the disciples that their focus on earthly matters was misplaced). Instead, He said that God the Father had set times by His own authority when certain things would happen. And Jesus told the disciples that only as they waited (a key principle) and received power from the Holy Spirit would they be equipped for ministry not just to the rest of their people, the Jews, but also to Samaritans, who were reviled by the Jews and regarded as spiritual half-breeds who were unworthy of even being mentioned by name.
Not only did Jesus command the disciples to wait so that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, but His command was followed by a promise of the most unlikely kind. The disciples would preach the gospel of Christ to the far reaches of the earth, including people it seemed ridiculous that they would minister to. Keep in mind that this same group of disciples was a bunch of cowards and fled when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50), denied knowing Him as He was on trial (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-26) and locked themselves behind closed doors for fear of their lives after Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 24:36-42; John 20:19-20). These are not exactly profiles of courage. So for Jesus to tell the disciples after His resurrection that they would do such amazing things depended upon two things: Jesus the resurrected Christ, in whom they found their courage, purpose and perspective, and their obedience to Christ by doing as He told them: To wait for power.
“We will learn how to deal with God’s Silence!“
It seems as if there is nothing more frustrating in this day and age than waiting. But what choice do any of us have to be effective in reaching this world for Christ if we don’t wait for Him to empower us? If the disciples had left Jerusalem before receiving the Holy Spirit’s power, not only would they not have had His power, but they would’ve either withered in their faith (which, if it was really faith, would’ve compelled them to wait, as Christ had commanded), or they would’ve gone out on their own initiative, power and so-called “wisdom” and would’ve watched their own efforts totally fall apart. Remember that these were the same disciples whom Jesus said would abandon Him on the eve of His crucifixion, as indeed they did. (Matthew 26:31-56; Mark 14:17-50; Luke 22:20-62) It would seem like utter nonsense that they would go anywhere preaching the Gospel of Christ if they had not received divine power, for not only had the disciples become such cowards by the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, but they also should’ve thought it to be totally ridiculous that Jesus would tell them they would be preaching to the entire world (including people they really didn’t like) if they had not received power and wisdom beyond themselves. But let us not think that we can use this as an excuse for inaction. Christ doesn’t call us to be lazy; He calls us to listen intently while waiting. (Matthew 24:45-51; Mark 13:34-37; Luke 12:42-48)
The bigger lesson to learn here is that ministry–and by ministry, I mean all believers taking the Gospel to our world, as Jesus commanded us (Matt. 28:19-20), not some convoluted notion (unfortunately still prevalent) that only “ministers” (as we tend to refer to “professionals” who work in church-oriented occupations)–is not about us, but about Christ. We cannot assume for a minute that our own grand plans are worth anything outside of Christ’s will, for if we suppose we can do His work while not waiting for Him to show us His will in His time, we’re in for a rude surprise. Is this frustrating? Humanly speaking, yes. But should we want it any other way, if the perseverance and discipline we develop in the process draw us closer to Christ?
“God’s Silence will teach us!”
I ran track in high school, and can recall days when the workouts were fairly brutal. But when race day came and the training I had received was put to the test, I fared far better in competition than I would’ve if I hadn’t had the intense workouts. In training, I was frequently eager for race day. But the coach insisted that I stick with the regimen he had prepared for me, rather than my tendency to want to treat each workout as a race. I would’ve been ill-prepared for competition if I hadn’t done the workouts that the coach knew were necessary and appropriate for what he knew I was capable of at any given time and the potential he knew I could ultimately achieve. Likewise, if I had rushed into a workout when the coach told me I needed rest, I would’ve been more fatigued and less prepared for the task he knew was coming soon. And if I had lagged behind when the coach told me to push myself, I wouldn’t have developed the strength I needed for my next test on the track.
And so it is with Christ. He puts each of us in situations which are what we need to be doing or where we need to be at certain times for the work He has for us to do. And whatever it is He is preparing us for may not be evident at any given time, nor necessarily what we think we need, and often not when we think a thing should happen. And sometimes, we think He is crazy for calling us to do a certain thing in a certain way at a certain time in a certain place for certain people. But do we turn a deaf ear to Him just because we can’t understand what He is calling us to do, especially when He calls us to wait? Or to turn the question around: Are we willing to trust our own limited, human perspective for the simple reason that we don’t want to wait for Christ’s perspective and the wisdom that comes with it? To not wait for wisdom–and wisdom only comes through waiting and learning–is to grant ourselves less than the best which Christ has for us.
“Be patient God’s Silence has a reason!“
What then should we do while we wait? Listen for the Lord’s whisper. And watch for Him to come to us. And no matter what our own senses and intuitions tell us about what we can see, touch, hear and understand, remember that our own wisdom and knowledge are nothing without Christ’s perspective. That’s the topic of the next article I am working on and will be finished with soon. Yesterday. Or eventually.