Week of October 16

The Fast Track to Success: Wait on God

Read: Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 1
“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, ESV


F.B. Meyer once said, “Fall on your knees and grow there. There is no burden of the [human] spirit but is lighter by kneeling under it. Prayer means not always talking to Him, but waiting before Him till the dust settles and the stream runs clear.” The disciples modeled for the contemporary church the oft-overlooked pathway to making clear choices that bring God’s results—prayerful, patient dependence upon Him. Let’s learn the simple steps today to successful prayer.

Understanding the Bible Context

A unique moment in time with contemporary application
Our focal passage provides us with an important bird’s-eye view into the events that occur between Christ’s resurrection-ascension and prior to Pentecost. If ever there was a time when the disciples could choose to slip back into their former way of conducting their spiritual lives, it would be now. However, something new has taken place in their hearts and their behavior shows it. Rather than rushing headlong into a decision and/or clamoring over who would be in charge, they set an example for us that we would do well to heed and follow.
Pathway to understanding God’s will and receiving His power
Life is filled with many “betwixt and between” moments. Business-people know the in-between moments after one job assignment ends and another one begins. One of my nephews faced this situation in recent months. Parents also know this critical interim period that follows the graduation of a child and the new enrollment in a university. Many dear souls know the aching quiet that follows the home-going of a beloved spouse and the period of grief prior to a refocus in life as a widow or widower. Active prayer fills the waiting time with the powerful presence of God! Let me explain.
How to actively pray while we await God’s answers to prayer
First, there must be obedient waiting. The Lord gave a directive, based upon His authority, that the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until they had been clothed with power from the Holy Spirit (1:4; Matthew 28:18). They were quite excited no doubt by His resurrection and were undoubtedly ready to carry out their mission. It may seem to be counterintuitive to require them to wait. “Strike while the iron is hot” may be the mantra of many organizations, but this approach builds a flaw into the final product. Once tempered the tool is quite often brittle and breaks easily. The same holds true for ministry. Jesus knew that they would fail in their mission unless He were with them in the Spirit to guide them. Sadly, we often do not know how to wait, nor do we know how to follow the Spirit. Our results are quite often meager in comparison to what He intended to achieve. There is more in our focal passage.
Secondly, we are to practice focused praying. The disciples actively set themselves to the task of prayer. The prayer meeting was ongoing as indicated by the participle that Luke uses to describe it (Acts 1:14). Notice this time that there is no word that they fell asleep like they did at critical times when Jesus walked among them (Luke 9:32; 22:45-46). We should also notice the centrality of the scriptures in their prayerful preparations (Acts 1:16; Psalm 69:25). They began a process of calling to mind all that Jesus had taught and they made use of the scriptures—aided by prayer—to come to their decisions.
Thirdly, we are to utilize faith-filled decision making. Note well, the disciples were entirely dependent upon the Lord’s leadership. His leadership would be made known through answered prayer. Peter is a spokesperson, but he does not get ahead of the Lord. Herein lies an oft-overlooked key lesson for leaders: Peter’s primacy does not give him the authority to lift one finger ahead of Christ, even if it only meant naming Judas’s replacement.
The casting of lots (see Proverbs 16:33) was used, but this is the last time that this method of determining God’s will is referred to in the Bible. Marked stones were placed in a jar and shaken out. The one whose stone fell out was chosen. Keep in mind that this was not a risky decision because they had already deliberated and prayed and decided upon two qualified men (Acts 1:20b-22). It was a randomized way to reach an impartial decision. The Lord’s oversight was the unifying presence (“gathered together”) that was essentially, “church fellowship.” The Holy Spirit will be the guide from this point forward, and should be the Guide for our personal, home, business and, indeed, church decisions too.
One further point needs to be made. The number twelve must be kept because it corresponded to the restored twelve tribes of Israel, the people of God. The church is built upon this foundation, so it had to be completed before the coming of the Spirit and the “birth of the church” (cf. NAC). The disciples showed their profound faith in Christ’s leading through the tools that they had at their disposal. God blessed!

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

I learned in 9th-grade metal shop class the vital importance of “tempering” a tool. Students earned their grades based upon the successful completion of specific projects at pre-determined times in the semester. We often had a week or two of opportunity before we moved to the next task.

On one occasion, I observed that some of my classmates hurried through the process of making chisels. They did not grind and shape and temper the metal properly. Our teacher would assemble the class. He would take a large hammer, loft it well above his head, then strike the newly made tool with full force. Very often the chisel would bend or snap under the pressure. He would look at the class, pause for effect, then toss the useless tool into the trash container beside him. It was worthless.

Make no mistake, the teacher wanted us all to succeed; however, our success depended upon our willingness to follow his careful instructions and directions.
Here is a spiritual application. The early church leadership knew that hasty, ill-conceived, and Spirit-less leadership led to defeat. Their previous mentorship with Christ had shown this time and time again (cf. Luke 9:40, Matthew 14:22-33). The eternal consequences were not worth the risk, so they followed Christ’s instructions and leadership, and the rest is history.

We may also say that the rest is our future, if we practice the same. “Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given” (G. Campbell Morgan).

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Call to mind a previous failed ministry attempt to serve the Lord. Examine it carefully to see what internal flaws may have led to the failed result. Follow the steps taken in Acts 1 and trust the Lord for His timing and results.
2. Churches too often plan, fund, and only then pray before engaging in a ministry project. Patience is lacking, and prayer serves only as the icing on the proverbial cake. This flawed approach to ministry produces human results. Practice waiting upon the Lord for His guidance and provision.
3. For Families: Help children to learn that waiting on God is not punishment! The Lord is not placing them in time out. You may illustrate this prayer principle by taking a frozen item out of the refrigerator and placing on the table as the main dish. Once the surprised looks exit the faces of the children, introduce them to the importance of preparing through prayer the blessing that God has already intended to provide! Just like we must prepare and then wait for our supper, God always provides for us, and sometimes we pray and wait until it is is in God’s timing to act.

This lesson will serve them well when they are required to wait for the spouse God is preparing for them, the job in which He intends to place them, and the specific trade school or university into which He desires them to enter.

Ah! One other important point needs to be made. God opens all of these doors, fully intending for them to carry out His ministry through their lives in these various relationships, avenues of learning, and employment.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock