Thesis: Sometimes God calls us to act by waiting on Him.
Stella had been prepared for her husband's death. Since the doctor's pronouncement of terminal cancer, they had both faced the inevitable, striving to make the most of their remaining time together. Everything went as well as it could have when facing death.
But now, on this first Christmas without Dave, Stella would be on her own.
Suddenly engulfed by the loneliness of it all, Stella buried her lined face in her hands and let the tears come. How would she possibly get through Christmas and the winter beyond it?
Then, the ring of the doorbell echoed through the house. Who could possibly be visiting her on a day like today?
Summoning courage, the elderly lady opened the door slightly.
"Mrs. Thornhope? I have a package for you."
Smiling, he placed his burden carefully on the floor and stood to retrieve an envelope that protruded from his pocket. As he handed it to her, a sound came from the box. Stella actually jumped. The man laughed in apology and bent to straighten up the cardboard flaps.
It was a dog! To be more exact, a golden Labrador retriever puppy. As the gentleman lifted its squirming body up into his arms, he explained, "This is for you, ma'am. He's 6 weeks old and completely housebroken."
Shock had stolen her ability to think clearly. Unable to form coherent sentences, she stammered, "But...I don't...I mean...who...?"
"There's a letter in there that explains everything, pretty much. The dog was bought last July while her mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift."
Unbelievably, the stranger was turning to go. Desperation forced the words from her lips. "But who...who bought it?"
Pausing in the open doorway, his words almost snatched away by the wind, he replied, "Your husband, ma'am." And then he was gone.
It was all in the letter. He had written it three weeks before his death and had left it with the kennel owners to be delivered along with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. It was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting for the day when she would join him. And he had sent her this young animal to keep her company until then.
Finally, Stella lowered the puppy to her lap, where he regarded her solemnly. She wiped vaguely at her tear-streaked cheeks, then somehow mustered a smile.
That sweet story pulls at our heartstrings and reminds us that God is often at work behind the scenes.
I can just imagine this elderly woman sitting at her piano bench in the dark, so focused on her feelings that she forgets her faith. I believe that for many of us, we make our small dark house out to be the whole world and fail to remember that God is at work outside of our four walls. God is interacting with billions of lives, all across the globe, working and weaving all things together for His glory and the good of those who love Him.
My freshman year at Indiana Wesleyan University was absolutely difficult. It wasn’t the classes, making new friends, or having to clean my own bathroom though. It was that I wanted to be out in the world sharing Jesus. I regularly talked with my friend on the phone who was in the missions organization YWAM. She was out on the streets helping untouchable people know God doesn’t hate them, she was in India sitting in mud puddles with impoverished children, and prayed for healing for a man’s hearing which was restored.
So I started working things out to leave Indiana Wesleyan and join a YWAM base. The only problem was, my Mom, my Dad, and God all made it very clear that this was not the right time. I couldn’t believe it! Here I want to go and serve God in the world, and everybody is telling me to wait, wait, wait. But, I consented to one more year at Indiana Wesleyan.
It was during this sophomore year that God opened the doors for me to take a slew of church history and theology courses which ultimately changed my entire perspective on Christianity. Also during this year I found myself studying more about the relationship between Christianity and atheism, philosophy, and science. It was also during this time I was learning how to play guitar and piano with friends. Other interesting things during this year were that a friend taught me how to breakdance, I really nailed down my graphic design skills, and I remember having a huge ache in my heart to get back into acting and performance art like I was in high school. Why would I share all this with you?
Because little did I know that the YWAM base I was going to apply to had, during this time felt called to reach one of the most influential cities in the world: Boston, Massachusetts. More than that, they felt led to create a base that would use performance art, visual art, and music to reach a culture primarily influenced by atheism, philosophy, and science. Within my time at YWAM Boston, of which I was the very first team to go through the program—I had the opportunity to share Christ with philosophy students at Harvard, breakdance on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, and perform skits in downtown Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Sometimes God is calling us to wait. To be patient. To trust and to realize that our little world of pain is not His great big world of possibilities. God is working behind the scenes!
Today we are wrapping up our final message in the series Easter Logic. Throughout the Easter season we have attempted to look at life not through the way we see it, but through the way God sees it. And our hope is that as you consider God’s ways, you’ll begin to align your perspective with His. Last week we studied Jesus’ Resurrection and worked through the Easter Logic that hope comes through despair. Today we take a closer look at the post-Resurrection story and realize that sometimes God calls us to action through waiting.
If you have your Bible or App with you, please turn to Acts chapter one. Again, that is Acts chapter one, if you’re using a Sanctuary Bible from the back, that is page 909.
Acts is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and we will be picking up at verse three. Just so you know, I’ll be skipping a verse here and there for brevity. So you can keep your Bible open for reference, but it might be easier to follow along on the screen behind me. Let’s begin by reading verses 3 to 9.
Acts 1:3-4, 6-7, 9 ESV
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father…
…they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority…
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
We can only begin to imagine the confusion and frustration the Disciples felt at this time. They already lost Him once in the Crucifixion—waiting in the midst of those three days until His Resurrection was almost unbearable. Now again, Jesus asks His companions to be patient and trust Him. “Wait for the promise of the Father” He says (v4).
But in verse six the disciples are piqued—Lord, we don’t want to hear about waiting, aren’t you going to restore the land of Israel to the Jews? Are you not at this time going to topple the government and put us in place as the judges? Jesus replies “It is not for you to know the times or seasons” And within moments, Jesus ascends to Heaven and a cloud “took Him out of their sight.” All in all, Jesus says wait, you won’t know when, and is then hidden.
Does this sound familiar? You wait on God, wait on God, but He is nowhere to be seen. An elderly woman misses her husband and lacks purpose. A student wants to get out of school to go change the world. A husband perhaps, is waiting on his wife to return her heart to him. A mother is waiting for a report that says the cancer is gone. Yet Jesus seems hidden from their sight.
But that is not the end of this story. Let’s pick it up in verses 12 and 14:
Acts 1:12, 14 ESV
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away… All [the Apostles] with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
When we find ourselves in the land of in-between, when we don’t have what we once did, but also can’t grasp what is next, what do we do? We’re tempted to bury ourselves under the covers, eat the pain away, escape in a hobby. But that isn’t going to change anything. We can learn some lessons from the Apostles in this situation. I’ll break it down like this:
Action through Waiting
And ultimately, if we would have the courage to remove ourselves from the equation, the only One who can save the day is God. If I would have taken the reigns of my life, I would not have experienced what I did in YWAM. If the Disciples took out their swords and went up against Rome, they would not have experienced God’s power. Which is exactly what happens next.
Acts 2:1-4 ESV
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
God’s power. He comes through!
When we listen to God and wait, it displays God’s power (2:1-4)
I’d now like to invite up Kevin and April Morse. Go ahead and make your way up here guys.
I invited Kevin and April up here today to help us identify what action through waiting looks like in day to day life.
So guys, you were in a situation where patience on God was a necessity. Can you share in broad strokes the position you both found yourselves in?
So, initially this was a short-term idea, but all of a sudden you found yourselves in the thick of caring for two young girls. Were there times when you wanted to quit and back out of it? What kept you from quitting?
Were there any specific occasions where you saw God provide in the midst of your “waiting”?
Share with us the conclusion of the story and any final encouragements to those of us who are waiting patiently for God to act.
Amen. Thank you guys for sharing. Band you may come up at this time.
Church, are you in a place of waiting today? Of needing to trust that God is moving outside your four walls to bring glory to Himself and good to your life? Don’t rush Him, trust Him. We’re about to sing the song Because He Lives and you have the chance to make this song your prayer. The chorus says:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone…
Don’t take matters into your own hands, instead a) depend on Him, b) depend on one another, c) prayer like crazy, and d) watch God come through. Please stand and join me as we respond to God’s Word through song.
He holds the future. Do you trust Him? You can. He always comes through.
Church, thank you for worshiping today. Before we conclude our service, Kevin Morse has a special announcement.
A few months ago I was contacted by the District Superintendent of the Indiana North District of the Wesleyan Church. I was surprised to see his name on my phone and when I answered he asked “Brian, did you have a dream last night that God wrote in the sky ‘Come back to Indiana’?” I said “Well, no.” To which he remarked “I guess God didn’t answer my prayer then.”
He went on to share how he would really like me to consider being a lead pastor at one of their most successful church plants. So I gave him permission to pass me on to their board and things have lined up perfectly since. Pastor Ron, the Staff, and the Board have been extremely supportive and we couldn’t be sent off by a better group of people.
Our prayer team will be available up front if you would like someone to pray for you this morning. Please drop your Connection Cards off in the baskets as you leave and sign up for the Fish Fry. Receive the benediction from Romans 12:11-12 ESV
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Go with God.
Delayed Delivery by Cathy Miller in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul