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We live in a society that is always in a rush. People just don’t want to wait for anything anymore. We have fast food, fast check out lines, Fast internet speeds. With everything moving along with such speeds it makes it difficult for people to wait. We have all been there, we walk into Walmart and we are there for a few items and you walk passed the check out and see the lines are going through apparel and you turn around and leave the store. “I don’t want to wait in that line.” Waiting is a hard thing to do. This translates well to the life of the believer also. You watch the news and see all of the violence around the world that is if you can find a news program that is even provide the truth these days. Tv shows, commercials all glorify sin and you watch this and think, how much longer do we have to wait Lord. Waiting as the song goes, “is the hardest part.” So what do we do when we have to wait. How do we handle waiting whether it is with fast food, or with something even greater then that, waiting on the Lord’s return. We are going to see this morning the key to waiting as we take a look at the disciples and what they did when they were told specifically to stay and wait.
Jesus has told His apostles to do on of the most difficult things anyone can do, wait. They are to wait on the promise from the Father of the coming Holy Spirit. It is hard to wait on something and it makes it even more difficult when God has promised He will do something without giving a definitive time. So what do you do when you have to stay and wait. We don’t receive direct promises like this from God anymore but we do have some in Scripture that may not be direct but are there. One of them we looked at last week, Jesus’ return. It will happen. Another promise is eternal life which will happen while we wait on His Return. We are also promised peace and joy. We don’t always see this promises and sometimes it seems as though they will never come right. We look at this world and we watch the news or pick up the news paper and all we see is politicians being politicians, journalism is dead and everyone wants to excuse sin as being normal and morality as being dead, and antiquated. Yet we have to live in this world and we have to wait on Jesus’ return and the consummation of all things so how do we do this? How can we live in a world that is fighting us every step of the way. Well it is easier said then done but as we look at our text this morning we will learn a very powerful lesson in Patience, We will see we must ‘Patiently Persevere with the Priority of Prayer’
Let’s look at this lesson as we look at the disciples ‘Waiting of the Promise’ in Acts 1:12-14;
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
The first element I want us to look at here is the fact that these men ‘Patient for God’s Plan’
This is very obvious in verse 12 Luke writes, ‘Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.’ Jesus has ascended to take His throne at the right hand of the Father. The men in white have told the apostles to stop standing around starring at the sky. This was a sign for the men to listen and obey Jesus’ instructions, go to Jerusalem and stay and wait. So here we have these men following Jesus’ instruction, they returned to Jerusalem. This was not a somber return it was a joyous return. Remember Luke 24:52-53;
And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
So here we have the account of Luke and after Jesus’ ascension the apostles went happily skipping back to Jerusalem with deep joy in their hearts and a song of praise on their lips.Now as Luke provides this account for us in Acts we even find the distance they were from Jerusalem, it was a Sabbath’s day journey. This is about two miles. This is not necessarily prescribed in the Hebrew Scriptures it is one of those laws which was imposed on the Israelites by the religious leaders. They derive this length from the distance of the farthest tents of the Israelites from the tabernacle while they were wondering in the wilderness for forty years prior to entering the promised land. In Israelite culture this became a demarcation of a specific distance of about two miles as it is here. It doesn’t mean Jesus ascended on the Sabbath day it only means this is the distance they walked or as I said before probably with a serious skip in their steps.
So we have these men return to Jerusalem and then Luke tells us where they go and their names. Look at verse 13, “When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying.” So during the day these men and as we will see in the next verse women also, went to the temple by day to praise and worship God, it was public praise and worship. Then at night they went to the upper room. There is debate on whether or not this is the same upper room where Jesus enjoyed the Last Supper with His twelve or another upper room. In the long run it doesn’t really matter, it really doesn’t even make a difference if it is or not. It just adds some cool commonalities if it were. Either way one thing is agreed upon is this is the room were Jesus came and appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. This is where they are staying at night. It is a typical ancient Israelite home with a large room on top of a flat roof with a separate set of stairs running up along the outside of the house. This is were they would eat together and spend the night together.
Luke also makes sure to provide the names of the eleven apostles for us here. This is the same list Luke provided for us in Luke 6:14-16 but with two minor differences.
Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
First of course is Judas Iscariot’s name is stricken from this record and second is the order of the first three names. Peter was first in the original list also but after Peter came his brother Andrew who is numbered fourth in this list. The second name is John and the third is James. It is believed these three held the most prominence through the Acts letter. These are the only ones we hear of in the rest of this letter and the reason for placing John as second is because it is believed Peter and John had become very good friends. They are even together in Acts 3. So these men are the prominent figures throughout the first half of this letter. And Luke is sure to name them all.
So here we have these men who have been with Jesus for three and a half years. They have recieved some very powerful first hand instructions from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords I mean there really isn’t any better school then this. It is better then any seminary we have today. So these guys after three and a half years of being at the feet of Jesus are ready to go right. No they aren’t they have to stay and wait. They can’t just go out and be Jesus’ witnesses even though they have seen Him heal people, heard His teaching, witnessed His holes in His hands and feet and side. They need to still wait. They have to be patient on God’s plan. They can’t just rush headlong into telling people all that they have seen and heard. Although they were no longer in hiding they still were not ready to share the gospel, they had to be patient because Jesus even though He told them they would receive power from on High He didn’t say when it was going to come just a range, ‘not many days from now.’ This isn’t a definitive date. Still they have to stay and wait and they obey Jesus. They were told to stay and wait and that is exactly what they did.
I am sure it wasn’t easy for these guys to go back. When we ended the gospel of Luke we said they went back and they were publically praising God. This couldn’t have been easy for them to do knowing these were the men who killed Jesus. Who knows they might even had encountered some ridicule and possibly from time to time felt their lives were in danger. So to go back to Jerusalem and for them to stay and wait was really a big deal. It demonstrates trust in God and patience in His timing of all things. These men were being patient.
The psalmist understood what it means to wait on the Lord look at Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.
See this the Psalmist was going through something very difficult, this psalm is attributed to David so this could be any of the times he was being cased down by Saul or one of his other enemies. Still, look at how he sees the difficulties he went through he waited on the Lord, patiently or intently. David had faith God would see him through.
Then there is the prophet Isaiah as he is encouraging the Israelites. Look at this in Isaiah 40:27-31
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Notice what asks them, why do you say, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escaped the notice of my God?” Many of speak the same way today, oh it seems like God is not there, all these wicked and evil people seem to be getting away with everything. Well listen to what Isaiah says to them and what in turn Christians can apply to their own lives. Even when things look tough and it looks like the world is against us, which quite frankly if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior the world is against you, that’s actually a good thing. We need to patiently wait on the Lord.
It is never easy to be patient especially in the midst of a storm or a difficulty in life. It is easy to be patient when things are going well but it is difficult when things are tough. The longer you wait the more difficult it feels. We never know God’s timing His ways are not our ways but one thing we do know is that we are to be patient in this world as we wait on God’s plan. Now by all accounts the toughest thing these men had to go through as they are waiting is how they can all sleep in that one room. But regardless they are being patient.
They are not only being patient on God’s plan, they are also ‘Persevering in Unison’
These men are not the only ones in the upper room. In verse 14 we find there are women and Mary the of Jesus as well as His brothers. This is important to note because of the fact it is not only the apostles who were hand picked by Jesus, it is the women who are more then likely those who followed after Jesus from Galilee to the cross. As well as Jesus’ family who didn’t come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior until after His resurrection. Notice this is the beginning stages of the church, in today’s culture in church planting they would call this the ‘core group.’ It is important to note it is made up of all kinds of sinful people. We have first the apostles and the first one named is Peter and we all know about his impatience and his foolish lack of control over his mouth. He was always the one who would quickly speak up before the Lord sometimes saying the right thing but most of the time speaking out of turn and inserting his foot into his mouth. Then you have James and John who asked Jesus to place one of them on the left and the other on His right. One of the accounts even states their mother initiated this conversation and I can guarantee you she is there as well because she is one of the women who followed Jesus. My point is, this group is filled with men and women who are sinful and have demonstrated great pride throughout the gospels and here they are together, patiently persevering in unison.
Because the disciples had fallen away, and filthily fled from their Master Christ, every man whither fear did drive him, (Matth. 26:56,) they did deserve, like forsakers of their masters, or runagates, to be deprived of honour. Therefore, that we may know that by the appointment of the Lord they were gathered together again, and restored to their former degree, Luke reckoneth up all their names.
Look at what Luke says in the beginning of verse 14, “These all with one mind.” They had a single focus and a single drive. This focus and this drive was to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit. There was no infighting about who should lead the group, there is no one here going rouge and trying to go out and doing things on their own. They are all fallen individual who have been called by Jesus to serve Him and wait on the promise of the Holy Spirit. They did this as a team as a family as brothers and sisters, in humility.
It was all about focusing the minds on one single solitary goal and they were dedicated to this goal. And as you notice they continually devoted themselves to this goal. This actually became the pattern of the Acts account.
In Acts 2:46-47
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them,
Paul even points to this in his letter to the Roman church;
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Being of one mind is to be united with one common goal and it is to praise God for what He is doing, and what He will do. Persevering in Unison means we as a church devote ourselves to praying together for God’s plan to come to be, even when we are waiting on Him. We still push through as though He has already answered the prayer. We push forward in rough times and in times that we feel He is not there, knowing He is and moving toward His end goal. The waiting truly is the hardest part but we can persevere if we are all focused on one goal and focused on the fact that it is God’s plan not ours and we can are to be doing this together.
Don’t think I don’t know what it means to wait on God’s plan. I have become a firm believer God has plans for all of us and at points in time they come to fruition and then do you know what happens, God has another plan for you that you have to wait on. How many of you have felt that. And don’t think you need to figure out what the plan is, some you may know but there are many you don’t know nor will you ever know. You just feel like you’re in limbo. Well here is one major purpose of the church. We are a Body of Believers who are to come together and we are to push through together.
Look at what Paul tells the Corinthian church about what is means to be the body of Christ.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
The Corinthian church had many issues and one of them was in the way the church should function especially in the worship service. In this passage here Paul is drawing a connection between the church and a body. Each member of the body is important and has its own function. Yet, the body is designed to work in the way it does each part working together in unison to bring about a specific goal or task. A hand is specifically designed for grasping and holding the feet are designed to walk on. The eyes are designed to take in light and turn them into images and the ear takes in sounds and transmits it to our brain clears it up so this sounds now become words or music notes. Still it has to work together. It is a unit. Now in the same way if one part of your body is hurt, like stubbing you toe. Your whole body is affected by this pain. As I healed from my surgery it was my pretty much my whole abdomen that hurt but when I had to get up and move around my whole body know where the pain was.
That is the same thing with the church the church is to have one focus and one purpose and that purpose isn’t for individual power, prestige, or popularity. It isn’t about being around only when things are going well and when your happy. The church is about Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel. The thing is the church is made up of fallible, proud, selfish people who when they don’t get their way right away they run away. No when it comes to the church we are to be working together with one goal and one purpose and that is to build up the Kingdom of God. That should be our motivation. It should be just like these people.
These men and women were functioning together in the upper room as though they were already the church because they understood they were to be focused on one purpose. They were able to persevere because they were unified. They moved toward God’s goal not their own. I love this because these people are waiting on God’s promise of the Holy Spirit and they don’t even realize yet that the only way they are able to sit and wait with such patience and persevere is because the Holy Spirit is at work in them. Yet, He is the One they are waiting on and He is the One they are praying for. He is the One who has placed this priority on their hearts, the Priority of Prayer.
Let’s look again at verse 14, Luke says here, ‘These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.’ They understand that as they wait it is not just to sit around but it is to be together focused on one purpose which is God’s purpose and instead of going out and trying to make things happen they are turning to God and seeking God’s power in making these things happen. Prayer is a priority. And the idea of prayer here is not for selfish endeavors, it is not to have the desires of their hearts fulfilled it is to have God’s plan fulfilled. In fact prayer is seeking the desire of God’s heart. When you are praying for God’s desires to be fulfilled and if it is a true desire of yours then it becomes the desire of your heart.
They are putting into practice what Jesus has taught them concerning prayer. We find this in Jesus’ model of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
This is the model of prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray and as you can see the focus in this model really is God. It is exalting God, recognizing His name is Holy and above all other names, it is focused on His coming kingdom on God’s will, God’s provisions, spiritually and physically, and God’s forgiveness of our sinfulness. Prayer is a discipline that is designed to bring mankind to a humble state. It is the recognition of how powerful and holy and glorious God is and how wretched we are in His presence. That is why we need forgiveness. Prayer is a reliance on our perfect and heavenly Father for who He is and what He can do. It is not just about a laundry list of things we want but it should always be driven by what God wants.
Let’s look at some verses on prayer;
Paul tells the Philippians this in Philippians 4;
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
Do we know what God wants? Do we know what God wants from us? Just in case you are unclear of what God wants I am going to tell you. First of all God wants you to succeed. He wants your to prosper. But not in worldly wealth and fame. He wants you to succeed in building up His Kingdom not your own. The world has a perverted or crooked or foolish way of look at prosperity and success. God’s idea of success or prosperity has everything to do with knowing Him, serving Him, honoring Him. God’s idea of success is people being told the gospel, people being reconciled to Him. That is true success.
These people in the upper room knew this and do you know what they were praying for. They were praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who will work in and through them so they can share the gospel and the Holy Spirit is the One who will work on the hearts of those who hear the message and succeed in bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They aren’t looking for wealth and power and glory and honor for themselves. They are seeking God’s promised helper. They don’t want a mansion on a hill, because they just saw Jesus go to be with the Father and they know what Jesus is going to provide for them is so much better then anything this world has to offer. They are waiting on God’s plan but as they wait they are in fervent prayer to see God prosper over His own fallen people.
Prayer is about God it really is. Prayer is about succeeding but it is about succeeding in God’s plan not your own. Prayer is also about control. Prayer is about relinquishing your own control and recognizing the One who is in control and submitting to His control. True prayer is an act of humility because it means you look to God and place everything in your life under His control and you allow Him to utilize you to further His plans and desires. This life believe it or not is not about you it is not about what you deserve it is not about what you think is fair or not. This life is all about God it is about bringing Him glory and honor and that means we do it His way not our own way.
We find that the believer glorifies God through the salvation that he has received by grace, through the new life that he lives, and through being one in whom the promise is fulfilled that is given us in the Word of God that when Jesus Christ “shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” The preeminent goal of the believer is the goal of bringing glory to the Father.
J. Dwight Pentecost
Designed to Be like Him: Understanding God’s Plan for Fellowship, Conduct, Conflict, and Maturity (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 192.
Prayer helps accomplish this goal. We need to be in prayer. We need to be in prayer individually but this passage is teaching us about being in prayer corporately. Prayer within the church must be a priority, a priority individually but also as a group. Prayer was common within the early church it is very common even before the church began, just like here. The church needs to be in prayer, and we need to be in prayer for the out pouring of the Holy Spirit on the community. The Holy Spirit is the One who brings people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, these people here were praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit for them to be able to continue the work of Jesus. We have the Holy Spirit so we don’t need to prayer of Him for ourselves we do, however, need to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out in Barnegat, Waretown, Manhawkin, and Lacey.
We are providing an opportunity for the church to pray together on July 30. It is a Sunday it will be after Church we will be meeting in a park and everything adds up for us to be able to meet together and pray. It’s a Sunday, so if you already come to church you should be able to make it. It is at the park on our way out of here and we will meet there once church is over so it is right on your way home. Bringing your kids and they can go and play on the play ground. We are trying to eleviate all kinds of distraction. We need to get together pray for the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, pray for the boldness of the church in sharing the gospel.
I want to take one look at Paul’s instruction here to the Roman church, it sums up how the church should function, look at this.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
This is the church and this is how the true body of Christ functions. We need to have love for one another and working together in unity and encouraging one another and praying for one another. This is how we can patiently wait on God’s plan and being unified in this goal will help us to persevere through the agony of waiting and we need to pray for one another and pray with one another and pray for God’s will on this earth and this truly does need to be out priority. If we move first without prayer we are proud and do it on our own. Wait patiently and pray and allow God to move in and through you.