Unstoppable – Waiting for God’s timing
KAB, Frankenberg, September 25, 2022
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Unstoppable is the name of our new service series.
Let’s look at the Acts of the Apostles together. We’re going to do that in stages, once this year through mid-November, and then in two more stages next year.
Unstoppable – this is how the message of God’s saving love spread after Jesus’ ascension from Jerusalem to the center of the world at that time to Rome and to this day throughout the world.
That’s what the Acts of the Apostles tells us.
Jesus instructed his disciples:
Acts 1:8: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Rome was the center of the world at that time. Many traders came to Rome, took the latest news with them and so it was clear at the time:
If the good news comes to Rome, then it will come from there to the ends of the earth.
This movement is the common thread. And it becomes clear: God is the agent through the power of his Holy Spirit. Nothing can stop him, who changes people and cities and still wants to and can do that today.
We have the same commission to introduce people to Jesus and the same Holy Spirit that lives in us. Therefore, we will look at what characterized those first years and what we can learn from them for ourselves today, and hopefully we will be motivated for our own lives.
We will get to know different people and communities and their stories.
That’s really exciting, but at the same time not the main focus. That’s why we don’t get complete biographies in Acts. At some point, Peter also gets lost from the narrative because it is about the spread of the gospel to Rome.
Some areas that we learn from the epistles where the gospel went are not mentioned at all in Acts. It is interesting to hear about individual churches and their beginnings. But here, too, we will notice: The Acts of the Apostles is an inspiration and can be a model, but we do not receive a norm as to how a church should be structured. We learn some details from Jerusalem, but we learn very little about what the other churches are like.
The Acts of the Apostles is historical in form.
And that’s why we have to be careful about the conclusions we draw for ourselves today. Narratives don’t always answer all the questions we have about them.
Nor do they directly impart a theological doctrine. Sometimes we just read how something was, but don’t learn why it was like that, or if it was good or right. We have to judge this on the basis of other passages in the Bible.
Exactly what we can learn for ourselves from it.
In the Old Testament this seems to be clear to us for the most part. It would not occur to us that laying down a fleece, as Gideon did when making an important decision, is the method we should always use for ourselves as well.
However, this is not always so clear to us in the book of Acts, because it is much closer to us. It describes a period of God’s history with man that we are still in today, namely after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
At the same time, what we read in Acts is unique. Much of what we read about happened for the first time. Often there is no repeating pattern in these events. They are simply described and they happen in a culture different from ours.
So that means for us:
If we recognize that the author’s intention is to teach us something through the narrative, then we can apply that to ourselves today. Otherwise, we can only transfer something to our life as a norm if it is taken up as a lesson elsewhere, for example in the letters.
For example, Acts 6, in which the leaders of the church delegate responsibility to others, is not a norm that it must always be like this in a church. But we can learn from it that it is good and useful.
Or when we read that the congregation in Jerusalem was together every day and also celebrated communion, then we know that Jesus said that we should celebrate communion and read in the letters that it is important to us as a congregation meet, but nowhere is it said as a requirement that this must be done on a daily basis. But we can look at the life of the church in Jerusalem and be motivated by how they lived and how we can apply it to ourselves today.
In the first part of my account, dear Theophilus, I wrote about everything Jesus did and taught from his first appearance to the day he was taken up into heaven. Before that happened, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, he gave instructions to the apostles he had chosen for the time after his departure. It was also to them that he showed himself after his passion and death, and to whom he gave many convincing proofs that he had come to life again: for forty days he appeared to them again and again and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and all that related to it. Once – it was at a meal together – he instructed them not to leave Jerusalem for the time being, but to wait for the fulfillment of the promise which the father had given them. “I’ve spoken to you about this before,” he said. “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days .” This announcement led the apostles, when they were again with Jesus, to ask him: ” Lord, is the time now when you will restore the kingdom of Israel ?” Jesus answered them, “It is not for you to know the times and dates which the Father has set and which he alone decides. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be endowed with his power, and that will qualify you to be my witnesses – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria , to the ends of the earth .” After Jesus said this, he was lifted up before their eyes. Then a cloud enveloped him and they saw him no more. While they were still staring spellbound at the sky – to where Jesus had disappeared – suddenly two men in bright white robes stood with them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why are you standing here staring up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken up from among you into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go .” Acts 1:1-11
The physician Luke is the writer of the Acts of the Apostles.
He also wrote the Gospel of Luke about the life of Jesus, and here is his second work, the Acts of the Apostles.
We do not know who Theophilus is, the recipient. It can be a real person that Luke is writing to here. But it can also be a pseudonym, because Theophilus means translated: Gottlieb, the one who loves God.
In this respect, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles can be written for all people who love God, including you today. And Luke reports that we read at the beginning of the gospel what he researched, examined, collected and arranged, and finally, as Paul’s travel companion, is part of the Acts of the Apostles and an eyewitness to what he writes.
The first verses here, up to Jesus’ ascension, are, as in the continuation of a previous book, a brief recap of what happened.
We learn a few more details than in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus, the Son of God, suffered, died, and then rose again. He had given his disciples many proofs of his actual resurrection.
Within 40 days, that is the length of time between Easter and Ascension, he appeared to his disciples again and again. He talked to them, he ate with them and he taught them.
Paul writes that Jesus appeared to 500 people at once.
He wasn’t a ghost, he wasn’t just imagination, he wasn’t just resurrected in people’s minds but quite real and he even invited the disciples to touch him.
It must have been the greatest thing for the disciples to meet him on Easter Sunday. She was seized with joy, awe, amazement, new hope and enthusiasm, and initially justified doubts, a mix of feelings that we can hardly understand.
One of the questions that moved the disciples was: when will Jesus restore the kingdom to Israel.
They had an image in their heads, and that was their idea from the very beginning, that God would visibly set up his kingdom in Israel and free them from Roman rule. The disciples were still fixated on Israel. And Jesus answers them that only God knows the day and hour.
He is saying indirectly that he will come back visibly and establish his kingdom on earth.
But his thought was something the disciples did not yet understand, as we read throughout Acts. shall see, nor now, when he commanded them to declare him. His thought was that the kingdom of God is already spreading, through the disciples, wherever people begin to believe in Jesus, trust him and live their lives according to him, and that this kingdom is not limited to Israel, but that the message of salvation, of forgiveness and reconciliation with God applies to all people.
Like a mustard seed, as Jesus put it, a small seed that grows and gets bigger.
Until then, the disciples should wait for the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had said:
It’s good for you that I’m leaving. For if I did not go away from you, the helper would not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. He will reveal my glory; for what he will announce to you, he will receive from me.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.
He is the Spirit of God that Jesus sends that magnifies Him and that would dwell in believers. But what does it mean that the Holy Spirit “comes”?
Wasn’t he long at work in the world?
The essential difference from the OT is that the spirit resides permanently in each believer, whereas previously it was given and taken only to special persons and for special purposes.
Pentecost begins nothing more and nothing less than a new epoch in history.
The Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to be witnesses of Jesus. They could not do this on their own, and that is an important statement in Acts. In every chapter we see how the Holy Spirit works and uses and guides the people. It doesn’t work without him, we should also be aware of that for our lives.
Eventually Jesus is gone and two angels explain to the disciples that Jesus will come back in this way too.
That’s what we believe and that’s what we’re waiting for today, too, that Jesus will come back one day and then also visibly establish his kingdom.
But first they should wait for the Holy Spirit, wait for God’s timing.
The theme of waiting runs like a red thread through the Bible.
- Abraham receives the promise of a son and waits.
- David is anointed king as a teenager and has to wait until he actually sits on the throne.
- The people of Israel are waiting for the promised Savior.
- The disciples wait for the Holy Spirit.
- We await the return of Jesus.
- Our whole life consists again and again of waiting times.
- Waiting in the waiting room.
- Waiting at the checkout in the supermarket.
- Waiting at the toilet. (Picture)
- Waiting for the parents – especially after the service.
- Waiting for the children – especially before the service.
- Waiting to finally have a driver’s license.
- Waiting for school to be over.
- Waiting to finish training or college.
- Waiting to finally earn their own money.
- Waiting for vacation.
- Waiting for a partner.
- waiting for children
- Waiting for the kids to get out of the house.
- Waiting for the kids to come visit.
- Waiting for the grandchildren.
- Waiting for retirement.
And then there is the painful wait.
- Waiting for the diagnosis from the doctor.
- Waiting for the cancer to be defeated.
- Waiting for the pain to stop.
- Waiting for visitors, because otherwise I’m so lonely.
- Waiting for the relationship crisis to end.
- Waiting to finally get back to work.
At this point I would also like to say that there is a wrong waiting.
- Some people wait for the perfect moment and it never comes.
- Some people are always waiting for God to tell them what to do and so never get moving.
God trusts you to make your own good decisions and to include him in them. He will not let you perish. He has gifted and enabled you and endowed you with His Spirit as a person who trusts Him.
We also see in the book of Acts how the apostles make plans and move forward and God guides them in it.
He put you in an environment, he gave you an assignment.
You don’t need an extra request for this, you may have to overcome your fear and your weaker self.
Nevertheless, there are situations where we feel that the right time has not yet come. Where God puts a stop for us, or where we must wait.
In it he gives us a promise:
The waiting of the righteous leads to joy.” ( Proverbs 10:28)
Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 3:25-26:
For the LORD is kind to those who wait for him, who wait for him, and to those who seek him. Therefore, it is best to be patient and wait for the Lord’s help.
Maybe you’re in such a wait this morning. Then be encouraged to trust in Jesus and wait for His timing.
Finally, there is a great waiting that affects us all: we are all waiting for the return of Jesus.
How can we manage waiting times, whether small or large?
What can we learn from the disciples?
Thereupon the apostles returned to Jerusalem; they had been with Jesus on a hill called the “Mountain of Olives,” which is only a Sabbath walk—about a quarter of an hour—from the city. Arriving in Jerusalem, they went into the large room on the upper floor of that house which had been their meeting place before, and where henceforth they met constantly – Peter, John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus , Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. They all prayed persistently and with one accord. There was also a group of women, among them Mary, the mother of Jesus; Jesus’ brothers were also among them.
The disciples have been actively waiting.
They didn’t just withdraw, do nothing and wait. What characterizes them is something we will observe throughout Acts.
1. They lived in close community.
They waited not alone but together. We read that a total of 120 people met with the disciples there in that room.
When you’re alone, you’re more likely to become discouraged and give up in a wait or crisis. One can carry one another, support one another, encourage one another to look to Jesus, to believe in his promises and not to lose hope.
Who are your people with whom you live or can live such a community?
What are we missing as a church to live such a community?
The second is
2. They kept praying.
Whenever a problem arose in the way of the disciples, they met to pray. They prayed constantly, so not for a few minutes and that was it, but for hours, for nights. And they did it with great unanimity, that is, they agreed in what they prayed. There was a great unity, a deep togetherness, a mutual interest in one another.
We read of David when he was in a crisis: And he strengthened himself in the Lord. That means he sought the presence of God, he prayed, he poured out his heart to God.
How do you react in a waiting period, in a crisis?
Are you running towards God or away from him?
Where do we come together as a church to pray like this?
The third is that the disciples read and knew the Word of God.
3. They read the Bible and listened to God’s words
Of course, the disciples back then didn’t have a Bible like we do today. But immediately after reading the Bible text just read, it goes on to say that once during such a prayer time Peter stood up and explained that it was scriptural necessary for them to replace Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, with another person in order to get 12 again to be an apostle. God had spoken to them during a time of prayer, perhaps reading a scroll, and now they took that impulse and acted on it.
Do you read your Bible and are you open to God’s speaking?
And that’s that
4. They were patient and did their part
So hold on patiently, brothers and sisters, until the Lord comes again! Think of the farmer waiting for the precious crop to ripen on his land. For her sake he is patient until the autumn rains and spring rains have fallen on the land. Be patient and strengthen your hearts in faith, for the coming of the Lord is near.
And what does the farmer do? He works the soil, he sows, he fertilizes.
He’s doing his part. But there is also a part that He cannot do, that only God can do. If you find yourself in a wait, what is the part you can do?
We read of Peter encouraging us to live a holy life in the fear of God, especially during the waiting periods of our life, and then not to throw it all overboard, precisely because we know that one day Jesus will come again. If we wait for it today, then people should recognize Jesus in us.
And then our part is that we help the people who are perhaps losing heart right now, who are despairing in the face of the current situation because they no longer know how to pay their bills, how to proceed, and there are more and more, me I had several such conversations last week , then we can point out to Jesus that we can turn to him, that he wants to take care of us, that there is hope beyond this life and then we can pray for you, maybe you too help in a very practical way and invite them to get to know God better.
Patience is also translated as long-courage in the New Testament.
And I think that’s a good thing, because sometimes we really need courage, staying power while we’re waiting.
And that’s why I want to encourage you this morning with two scriptures
No matter what situation you are in, what you are waiting for, what you might be afraid of
These are God’s promises to you.
Just like the Lord’s Supper, which we’re about to celebrate together. Which shows you that God sees you and loves you and cares for you. Jesus gave his own life for you
Perhaps you would also like someone to pray with you and for you, whether on this subject or something completely different, then during the worship time that follows, you are welcome to come to the back where there are people who are happy to pray for you.
Here are the Bible verses for you:
Let’s get up for the next songs.