Sermon Series: Don’t leave before the miracle! 4/23/17 “Don’t Leave Too Soon!” Acts 1:1-11

April 26, 2017
Last weekend I was cooking a ham, and decided to do some errands while it cooked. So I walked to our vet’s and they told me to come back in 20 minutes or so and they would have ready what I needed. I then walked to another store to pick up what I needed there and went back to the vet’s. They told me to wait just a few minutes and they would have what I needed. So I pulled out my phone to play solitaire. After a while I looked at the clock and realized I had been waiting about 30 minutes. I thought, “how much time does that ham have to cook and will I get home before it’s done?” That’s when I started to worry and my patience began to evaporate.
Waiting isn’t always easy. Sometimes we are tempted to stop waiting and do something else. The other night I was on my way somewhere and got stopped in traffic. I didn’t wait long before turning around and going another way, because I realized I would never make it where I was going on time if I continued to wait. But sometimes we have no choice but to wait. When I put the ham in the oven I knew it needed a certain amount of time to cook and it would do no good to take it out early because it wouldn’t be done.
Jesus, in this passage in Acts, tells his disciples to wait. “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.” They had a place to wait, a reason to wait, and a time limit to their wait. They were to stay in Jerusalem, they would receive the gift promised by the Father which was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they were to wait a few days. It helps when you know what you are waiting for and the amount of time you need to wait. The disciples didn’t have any trouble following these directions. They stayed in Jerusalem and waited.
What about others in the Bible who had to wait? Abraham was promised that God would make him into a great nation and all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. Yet he had to wait 25 years before his son Isaac was born and he never lived long enough to see the nation of people that would come from his descendants, or to see his descendant Jesus, who is the blessing to all people.
David was anointed as king over Israel and yet he waited something like 15 more years before he actually took the throne. During a lot of those years of waiting he was on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him. Also during those years of waiting, he never tried to seize the throne from Saul but rather defended Saul’s right to the kingdom as God’s anointed.
Hebrews chapter 11 lists many people of faith who waited for the promises of God to come to pass. The patriarchs passed the promises down from one generation to the next, believing that some day God would fulfill all his promises. When Joseph was near death, he gave instructions that, when God took His people out of Egypt and brought them back into Canaan, his bones would go back with them. That’s waiting on a promise! Joseph knew he wouldn’t be alive when the promise was fulfilled, but he wanted his bones to get in on the action.
When God did move to bring His people out of Egypt, they had to wait while Moses and Pharoah went back and forth, and God brought all the plagues on Egypt. Then they had to wait at different places on their journey through the desert. They didn’t just leave Egypt and walk in a straight line to Canaan. Then because of their disobedience, they ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years before the people finally arrived in Canaan. Many of the people in the Old Testament waited on promises that were never fulfilled in their lifetimes. Hebrews 11:39-40 says “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
The fulfillment of all the promises of the Old Testament came in Jesus Christ. All the centuries of waiting were completed in him. He is the fulfillment of the prophets and the law. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ.” Ultimately what the people in the Old Testament were waiting for was Jesus Christ. They waited for generations without giving up hope, but rather passing the promises on from one generation to the next.
We have no concept of waiting like that today. If someone makes us a promise, we expect them to fulfill it. For example, if someone borrows $20 and promises to pay it back, we expect it within a fairly short period of time, right? We expect it should take a few weeks maybe, until they get paid, and then we’ll get our money back. But if a couple months goes by, what do we normally think? They’ve forgotten about it. They don’t intend to pay it back. I might as well consider that a gift. Unless we really need the money back and are willing to go ask for it, we tend to forget about it and stop waiting for it. We certainly don’t expect to be telling our grandchildren in 50 years that so and so borrowed $20 and promised to pay it back so they need to remember that promise because so and so is going to show up someday with the money.
God’s promises are not like the promises of people. God is trustworthy and will fulfill every promise. Peter tells us “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” There is a purpose in the waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. We don’t always know what those purposes are but we still need to wait it out and not give up too soon. Don’t leave before the miracle.
There was a purpose in Abraham and Sarah waiting for their child to be born. It created an example of faith for others to follow and showed more powerfully that this child was a miracle. There was a purpose in David waiting for the appropriate time to ascend the throne. It was a time of refining for David and a time for the people to recognize his leadership. There was a purpose in the centuries of waiting for the Messiah to be born. There is work that God does in the time of waiting that can’t be rushed. There is a refining of our own faith in the waiting that can’t happen any other way. There is a drawing closer to God in the waiting that won’t happen if we give up too soon. In seeking Him and waiting on Him, we learn more about Him and our relationship with God can grow deeper and our faith in Him grow stronger.
Sometimes we wait on God because we are desperate. We have no other options available to us and so we pray and we wait for God to answer our prayer. The prophet Jeremiah expresses this desperate waiting on God in Lamentations chapter 3. Beginning in verse 15 he writes, “He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” He’s describing the desperate plight of the refugees from Jerusalem when they were overrun by their enemies and their city was destroyed. This was a horrible time for them. Yet in verse 21 the entire tone of his writing changes. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
When we are in a desperate situation, Jeremiah tells us, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we are at the end of our rope, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we don’t have any other options, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we don’t have clear direction, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we are alone, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we are surrounded by enemies, it is good to wait for the Lord. When we are facing death, it is good to wait for the Lord, because great is His faithfulness. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. It is good to wait for the Lord.
Mary and Martha waited for the Lord to come when their brother Lazarus was sick. He didn’t show up and Lazarus died. But still they didn’t give up on Jesus. When he came days later, they didn’t turn him away. They still expressed their faith in him, their love for him. And the Lord fulfilled his words that those who die in him will live and he raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary and Martha found out it is good to wait for the Lord and not give up, even when all seems lost, because our God is a God of resurrection.
The disciples waited through the long weekend when Jesus was in the grave. Then when the women could wait no longer, they went to the grave to finish preparing his body and became the first witnesses to the resurrection. It is good to wait for the Lord.
In the Old Testament, Naaman came to the prophet seeking a cure for his leprosy. He was told to go dip in the Jordan river 7 times and he would be cured. He balked at that. Weren’t there good rivers in his own land? What did the prophet think was so special about the Jordan? But his servants convinced him to give it a try. So he dipped in the river 7 times. He waited through each dip, each time emerging from the water with the leprosy still there. But after the 7th time, he came out of the water clean, his skin restored like that of a young child. It is good to wait on the Lord.
What about when we don’t wait on the Lord? What happens when we give up too soon? Sarah got tired of waiting for the child God had promised her and Abraham so she told Abraham to have a child by her servant Hagar. Ishmael was born and all types of conflict and jealousy came about in the family and in the end, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. When the people of Israel came out of Egypt, they went to the Mountain of God and Moses when up the mountain to receive the law from the hand of God. But the people got tired of waiting for him to come back down. So they had Aaron make a golden calf and they started worshiping the calf. When Moses came back down from the mountain, the camp of Israel was in chaos and judgment came upon them. King Saul got tired of waiting for the prophet Samuel to come to offer the sacrifice before the army went out to battle, so Saul offered the sacrifice himself, overstepping his bounds. When Samuel saw what Saul had done, he declared that God would take the kingship from Saul and give it to someone else. It is good to wait on the Lord. Don’t give up too soon.
The disciples were told to wait for the promise and they did just that. Over the next several weeks, we are going to look at the commitments that kept them together as they waited for the promise to be fulfilled. We, in this congregation, are waiting. God is up to something here at Oxford Circle. We don’t know what that is yet but we know it’s something different because Pastor Leonard has left. Things are not the same. But we don’t need to get anxious and give up waiting. God is going to speak to us and give us direction and vision for our future as a congregation. He’s not finished with us yet. There are promises still to come that we need to wait for. There are dreams and visions that we haven’t had yet that are coming. There is growth that we haven’t experienced yet that is coming. There is movement of God’s Spirit among us that hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming. It might be happening even now. We need to stay together in this place and wait for the gift the Father has promised us.
People today all over the world are waiting for God to fulfill His promises. There are people who are sick and are waiting for the promise of healing to be fulfilled. There are people without jobs or people who have jobs and still don’t make enough to get by. They are waiting for the promise of provision to be fulfilled. There are people in mourning who have lost loved ones, lost homes, lost dreams and who are waiting for the promise of comfort and peace to be fulfilled. There are people living in situations of war, military aggression, and occupation who are waiting for the promise of peace and deliverance to be fulfilled. There are people who have a dream or a calling or a hope for their future who are waiting for the promise of a way to be fulfilled. Don’t give up waiting too soon. Don’t leave before the miracle.
What are you waiting for today? What is the word that you think God has spoken to you that you are still waiting for Him to fulfill? What is the hope, the prayer, the dream you have that you are waiting for God to fulfill? Don’t give up waiting too soon. The psalmist wrote “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” We gain strength as we wait. The prophet Isaiah wrote that those who wait on the Lord, or those who hope in the Lord, “…will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (40:31).
What are you waiting for? Maybe you feel like you’ve been waiting a long time and maybe it’s time to move on. Don’t give up yet. Don’t leave before God fulfills His word to you. Ask the Lord for the strength to keep holding on. Whatever you are waiting for, come again to the Lord and remind him you are still waiting. Don’t give up waiting today. Don’t leave before your miracle.