One of my biggest struggles when we served overseas was understanding why God did not do what I wanted, now! I have some sympathy for the disciples as they gathered around him and asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?” (Acts 1:6, The Message).
Yet over time, serving in East Asia has taught me to wait (even if I’m still learning that lesson!) Early on, a more experienced colleague told me that we would feel like we were achieving nothing, but one day we would look back and we would be amazed by what God had done. He was right. Whilst on the field, we were involved in the leadership of a fellowship that doubled in size and planted three other congregations in six years. This is the sort of story that most churches in New Zealand could only dream of, but I do not tell the story to brag. It really was God’s work, and we were just along for the ride. Yet, much of that growth only happened after we had been faithfully serving for years. And, the most exciting things happened quite differently to how we imagined they should!
Of course, in God’s Kingdom, waiting is not the same as doing nothing. After Jesus’ Ascension, the disciples were not sitting around twiddling their thumbs. We read that the first thing they did was return to Jerusalem and start to pray. As they did that, they were led to deal with a problem within their midst. Judas, one of the Twelve, had dishonoured Jesus’ name with his betrayal, and for the sake of God’s continuing mission and because of their continued faith in Christ, they could not allow this shame to stand. Prayerfully, they selected Matthias to make up the Twelve. That done, they continued to pray for the gift of the Spirit that Jesus’ Father had promised them.
This is often what waiting for God’s Spirit looks like. Seeking God’s face, responding in bold faith to whatever He calls us too, and then seeking God’s face once again, as we wait for Him to do great things!