A Powerful Presence -  AWAITING THE SPIRIT

 [Video clip]

In this first in the series for Prayer and Self Denial, we are talking today about waiting in hope upon the Holy Spirit.

As I was preparing this message, I had a revelation that often we wait for something, but in the Bible it also speaks of wait on.  Wait on is different to wait for.  To wait on means being attentive to the object of our attention, like a waiter attending the needs of a table in a restaurant.

Both of these (wait for and wait on) are applicable in relation to our response to the Holy Spirit.

We wait for the Spirit to do his thing, we wait on the Spirit, focusing our attention on him.

Bear both of these in mind as we look at Acts, in the period after the ascension of Jesus

Acts1:4 … while Jesus was eating with the disciples, 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… 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.”

The writer Michael Wells describes faith as waiting in quiet confidence on God to provide.[1] That was the position of the disciples.

Acts 1:12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk] from the city. 13 When they arrived, … 14 they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read

Luke 24:50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

The disciples waited 10 days between the time Jesus ascended to heaven (remembered next Thursday) and the day of Pentecost (not that they knew it would be only 10 days). They didn’t waste that time doing nothing; they gathered to pray. As we wait for the Spirit we too have the opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer.

Prayer is the essential activity of waiting for God: acknowledging our helplessness and his power, calling upon him for help, seeking his counsel.[2]

The disciples knew something was coming, and even though they didn’t know what to expect they still had hope for what was to come.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

 

Many people today do not have hope because they have not heard of what is still to come.  So, who will tell them?

 

Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

 

Our task is the be the ones who tell of the hope we have

 

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

 

When was the last time you had to wait for something? Traffic lights to change, birthday to arrive, impending birth of a baby, a visit from relatives up north.

 

We as a human race in the 21st Century are renowned for being impatient people. We’re an instant society with an expectation for instant results.

 

We are told continually to wait on the Lord and to trust in him, but how often, when faced with problems, do we rush out and try to solve the whole thing in our own strength, forgetting to wait for God?[3]

 

God often puts us on hold and asks us to wait patiently for him.[4]  It is a test of our faith.

 

Many of us confuse waiting with doing nothing, but as we read in the Scripture, the disciples did not wait twiddling their thumbs in the upper room; they praised God, they rejoiced, they prayed, and daily they went to the Temple whilst they waited.

Waiting on God means you are living between the already and the not yet. It's already promised, but it is not yet delivered.[5]

 

The purpose of waiting is strengthened faith

 

Our faith in God is strengthened through the process of waiting for God to fulfil His promises.

Everybody likes the end results of a miracle, but no one likes the waiting process. Yet it is in the waiting that he actually proves that he is God in response to our absolute dependency on him.[6]

 

“… the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Isaiah 30:18.

The waiting is the waiting for and on the Holy Spirit.

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49.

And we know that the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost. And we know that same power is available to us.

By receiving the Spirit, we are made right with God and can be bold in our faith. We are filled with power from heaven.

John 14:26   But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The Holy Spirit teaches us, he reminds us of what Jesus has said, and convicts the world of sin, of God's righteousness and of the coming judgement.

John 16:8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:

What makes the Holy Spirit different from any other spirit is that through the indwelling of the Spirit we are offered comfort, security, wisdom and direction, as well as conviction and the need to repent.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to all who believe.

Turning these facts into mission is what this 3 weeks of Prayer and Self Denial is all about. It is about reaching people who currently do not believe.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can feel confident when we talk to others of different religions and ideologies and world views about their faith. The Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom to discern the truth.   

That truth is that “…He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and a new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5.

People today are in need of the Holy Spirit who will show them who Jesus is.

Without the Holy Spirit the church cannot succeed in its task of evangelising the world. It is the Holy Spirit who gives power to the church so that it can fulfil its role of reaching the unbelieving and disobedient world around it.[7]

Unbelievers need the Holy Spirit to convict them of the truth of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is always working behind the scenes, through different people, and different situations. We need just to go to the mission board in the office foyer to read of story after story of God working throughout the world: International Needs, Slavic Gospel, Africa Inland Mission, SGM, Mission Aviation Fellowship and the list goes on.

But God is not just working in far off fields, he is in our local garden as well, our own backyard, our own families.

Evangelism is a cooperative effort between the Holy Spirit and those of us who follow Christ. We should consider: how is a spirit working in this person and how can I contribute to the process?[8]

We earn credibility by how we work and who we are…We need to work and live in such a way that when the Holy Spirit orchestrates opportunities to speak about God, we will have earned the right to speak.”[9]

Our role is to share the truth of the Good News of Jesus and pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in that person’s life. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

Will you partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ here in Invercargill?

Will you partner with the NZBMS missionaries in the East to partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing salvation to those countries?

Will you wait on the Holy Spirit to achieve all that he will?  Remember the pastor in the clip at the start of the sermon.  He was confident that God would bring people to salvation through the Holy Spirit, Do you have that confidence and faith?



[1] Michael Wells Sidetracked in the wilderness 166-168

 

[2] John Piper Desiring God 140

[3] John E Hunter Limiting God 99

[4] Robyn Claydon “Waiting for answers” in Australian Stories for the Spirit, 74

[5] Tommy Tenney The God Catchers 95

[6] Tenney 86

[7] Michael Harper Let My People Grow: ministry and leadership in the church 68

[8] Pete Hammond “Marketplace Reflections” 2000

[9] Bill Hybels Honest to God – Becoming an Authentic Christian 143