The hallway between the doors is the hardest place. Living between two lives and wondering how to live at all. We find ourselves unsettled.
Waiting until you are on the mission field isn’t only painful. It feels as if you are in some way betraying your calling.
“Am I raising support right? Am I being faithful? Is it because I miscounted the tip at Acropolis and tipped low that God hasn’t financially blessed our endeavor?!?!? SLAY THE FATTED CALF AND PREPARE THE DOVE! OUR SACRIFICE WILL DRAG US BACK TO THE MINES!”
To be honest, waiting just isn’t fun. It’s a no-bueno situation. Having the hope and desire to go and see God move in another land and then traveling from church to church wondering, “What I am I doing wrong? Is this a just Horse and Pony Show? Am I a terrible Vanna White for Sparklefluff? (That’s the name of our metaphorical Taiwanese Pony)”
Waiting really always feels that way. It is hard. It is illogical for our fast-paced culture in which we invented flying machines that travel faster than sound, cars that zip from state to state, and instantaneous communication between the highest mountain to the gas station bathroom. We hate waiting. We don’t understand that in the time of Jesus, life moved in seasons. Time was slower and longer term. You built buildings over a lifetime. You farmed year-round to survive a winter that was terrible.
Yesterday we read the great commission. If you went to bible college that first sentence probably could be translated into your internal monologue as, “I’ve probably heard this before. Time to check out and think about cats!”
This isn’t about stating the obvious. If you don’t know by now that Jesus told us to do more than watch Hulu and eat Potato Chips, then there are probably some finer points of faith to brush up on. The Great Commission is in essence, standard. It’s par for the course. But there is something new about it I noticed yesterday that you don’t get from just reading Matthew.
The moment on that mountain was more than just a couple sentences at the end of Matthew. In fact Matthew, Mark, and Luke all share little details of the same account. If you don’t read the other accounts you miss the that immediately after being told to go. The disciples are told to wait.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24
I never realized how frustrating that last part is. They had all this pumped up excitement from the events preceding this. They lived this incredible narrative of the Rabbi coming back from the dead. Like a General, he issues commands before blasting off into the sky. GO! GO GO! Hanz Zimmer probably conducted an orchestra in the background as Michael Bay shook a camera shouting “LENS FLARE!”
This was a moment that action films covet.
But as He’s leaving Jesus informs the disciples that they should sit around and pray for ten days.
How frustrating that command must have been. Sure as an introvert my natural compulsion is to high five myself and exclaim, “Yes! Waiting! WOOOOOOT!!!! Oh! Thank goodness. I don’t have to talk to strangers and die. This is my life verse.”
But to those who felt on mission. It was strange.
Go therefore into the world and tell everyone about Me. Make disciples. Go as far as the Earth stretches. Baptize, make disciples.
But before you go wait.
In fact He didn’t seem to allude much to how long they should wait. Sure a couple days go by and it’s normal. But can you imagine on day nine? I mean these people waited three days after Jesus had died and were about to throw in the towel!
To add to that, the disciples knew life would be different now. After this command, it meant they’d go back to circuit riding. Walking dusty roads and meeting new people. The thrill of being an itinerant preacher. No more fishing. Although, Peter probably liked fishing as it’s literally the first thing he does a couple days after Jesus came back.
“Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” John 21
That doesn’t make sense to most of us. In fact in human terms it seems strange that the God of the universe would curb-stomp death and sin, rise from the grave after two nations murdered Him, and then go around eating breakfast with the people who betrayed Him in the first place. According to the logic of our world that’s absolutely Insane! Not only is that incredible, but He shows Himself to have magical powers such as transforming His appearance, walking through walls, appearing at will.
Eventually after God arrives, He goes to a mountain, tells a bunch of rag tag people they are going to change the world. People who pretty much messed everything up after three years of hands on personal training. “So go do it. But before you go, wait, I’m sending this Spirit and it will actually be more useful than if I am here on Earth. I’ll be back. Shalom La Vista Baby.”
*Fly’s into the sky.*
And then to add one more dash of weird two angels are kind of like, “Yo, why are you guys staring at the sky. He’ll be back.”
It’s implied by the angels that the silly humans are a little moronic for staring. Angels seem to be a bit blunt.
It’s all so incredible, and beautiful, and powerful, and just plain different. Why did angels even need to be there in the first place? We probably would not have wrote our novel the way God penned the story of the universe.
And this… what it all boils down to… is conflicting orders about a mission.
Go. And wait.
I can’t imagine being there in that crowd. It’s real, you saw a man rise from the dead and save humanity from sin, and now it’s your turn to share that message. I’d be so anxious and so excited. And then getting told to just wait.
Just wait and pray.
That’s a hard thing for an American to swallow. I know this because James 1:4 basically says letting patience develop is a step shy of being perfect and complete. Patience is hard. Waiting is one of the most bizarrely active defining characteristics of faith. Waiting is not passive. It is an aggressive seeking of a hidden and mysterious God. It is an intentional running toward a goal beyond distant shores. Waiting is for some people a harder action to accomplish than going.
Yet God knew it was better. That Pentecost, the Spirit came, and a people who waited over a Millennia since the Passover, who had repeated ritual after ritual in preparation for Jesus, who had literally kept a night of waiting every year until God came back, found God dwelling not among them.
But within them.
God doesn’t do things like we would. Sometimes He moves so fast we are shocked, like that time he economically crippled and destroyed the strongest nation on earth to let the Israelites flee Egypt. It took just a handful of weeks to topple a civilization that had lasted 1000 years. Sometimes God moves slow. It took four hundred years of preparation beforehand before the Exodus, but the action of destroying Egypt took moments.
Jericho took seven days to topple a city that probably would have survived a siege for months if not years. God moves fast.
God always moves differently. Sometimes He comes into the world in physical form, hangs out with a Patriarch, and lets Abraham make a case for why He should spare people. Other times, he rebukes a prophet like Jonah and says that Jonah should care more about life and animals.
His plans are utterly unknowable.
Yet they are UTTERLY TRUSTABLE.
We aren’t supposed to know how God is going to get us away from Pharaoh when we are at the Red Sea. That’s not our place. The Psalms said, “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”
That is why looking at our path and trying to guess the hand of God is foolish and ultimately boxing up the King of the Universe into a system of He can’t, He won’t or He will.
It’s not our place.
We could have seen the disciples ignore those instructions and rush out proclaiming the story of God. Yet they would’ve missed out on the most powerful and Spirit filled moment as thousands converted and miracles occurred everywhere. They would’ve been hollow vessels longing for the Spirit of God. Waiting was in a way, the most faithful action they could do.
Instead of being bummed out about waiting, it is something to find joy and purpose in! We can be faithful in doing what He has asked, even if it brings us to the Red Sea. Even if it gets us thrown in a furnace. There are times that we need to merely wait and pray and pray and seek. And let God fight for Himself. Because He is just. He is loving. He is trustable and His crazy ideas are so much better than ours.
He loves Taiwan more than I ever could. He wants us there as soon as we should be there. We must only be faithful. Some of you are in the same situation. Maybe you are waiting on marriage and struggling through the steps from purity to the Altar. Maybe you are waiting on a job or an escape from a terrible situation. Or maybe you are going, on the move, and it just looks plain different.
It’s possible God has a plan you won’t understand right now, or even in your lifetime. I’m sure generations came and went that wondered why the Passover would remain significant. Yet there is a payoff. God will put everything right, He will make it all make sense. That’s the beauty of living with a being so beyond us. We don’t need to know everything. We just need to trust that He is good and just and He wouldn’t make this terrible plan with no purpose. Instead He has a plan that whether in this life or the next will give us chills and make us cheer as we see Him move.
Sometimes we go.
Sometimes we wait.
But we must always remain faithful and know that just because our plans aren’t on our timeline, life is scary, and things look grim, it doesn’t mean we are in a bad spot.We didn’t do anything wrong. The hand shouldn’t be hovering over the eject button. God just works differently. And that’s normal. It means Faith actually gets to be Faith and not some lofty Ivory Tower ideal.
It means God gets to pull through all the greater. We know He always does.
And I’d much rather live in the wonder of miracles and the hope of greatness than the fear of tomorrow and the anxiety of today. I’d much rather believe that there is something to our daily struggles and fights. I’d much rather believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, we must merely wait and have faith, for He will fight for us.