This week's Bible Study - October 16, 2016
Acts 1:4-8, 12-14
Quotes of the Week:
Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.
What do you think of when you think of unstoppable? Some may think of the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going, until you lose power and the flashlight won't work because that bunny just kept going! Some may think of a tank. I remember seeing a tank out of control in a neighborhood once, as it went through fences and over cars and anything else in its way. However, it would stop when out of fuel or when the driver gave up. In my hometown, there was an Eternal flame at the American Legion Park. It is no longer there, so that eternity was fairly short lived. When I first saw the title of this lesson, I thought of school where we would line up a few people and walk down the hall saying "we won't stop", until we uh, stopped. There is the orbit of the planets around the Sun, which seemingly go on forever, except for Pluto, which apparently lost its status of being a planet.
When you think of unstoppable things in our world, I am sure that there are powers that believed their reign to be unstoppable and they may have gone for generations. However, eventually every reign comes to an end and after a couple of generations, names are even lost. There are very few things that can stand the test of time. There are certainly ancient religions that are still practiced in parts of the world, but being unstoppable is more than just standing the test of time. This series of lessons will address unstoppable aspects of the Christian faith. First, we will discuss the mission (in this lesson), followed by the message, love, opportunities, courage and impact in future lessons.
This past weekend, Berkley and I had the privilege of going to the 2016 ALS Clinical Research Learning Institute (CRLI) in Clearwater Beach, Florida. We are now ALS Research Ambassadors and the 'mission' we were given was to help educate people in the importance of being involved with ALS Research. We learned about different types of trials and the need for involvement to find a cure. Sadly, it is doubtful that a cure will be developed in the very near future, but there are hopes that research could lead towards treatment for different types of ALS in the future. I started thinking that it would be great if a cure could be found and ALS could become a disease of the past. That would be awesome and would save many individuals and families from heartbreak and the impact of this insidious disease. However, ALS is not the main problem in our world and if solved, our main problem stares at us. That problem is our separation from God due to our sin. We can have great missions to do great things on earth, but the greatest mission impacts eternity.
This unstoppable mission could also be called mission impossible. If this mission were a manmade phenomena, it would have died out centuries ago. This mission is more than simply sharing a common story, and it also is something that mere men could never have done on their own. The reason that the mission was unstoppable and remains so today, is because heaven has been unleashed and we are not simply dealing with the power of men. This unstoppable mission impacts generations and generations of mankind, past, present and future.
During Jesus' three years of ministry on this earth, He chose His twelve disciples. These were the people that He would train and use to change the world. He spent three short years with them, but they had no way to comprehend what He was truly about until after His death and resurrection. Along the way, they almost certainly expected an earthly kingdom, which may have seemed great at the time, but in reality, would have been short sighted. The men He chose were not the elite or the best spokesmen or the ones that you or I would choose to change the world. They weren't the affluent, powerful or popular folks that you might think you would want to enlist to start a human cause.
While Jesus was still with them following His resurrection from the dead, He told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit which was going to come upon them. The gift would come from the Father and would empower them. They had no job to do at this time, other than to wait. In truth, the disciples could have done nothing effective on their own. They had seen marvelous things, including authoritative teaching, many varieties of miracles and even had seen Jesus risen from the dead. But, even that fact alone would not be enough to give them success in their mission. It would require the work of the Holy Spirit, so they had to wait.
It was evident that His disciples didn't quite understand what their mission was, as they gathered around Jesus and asked Him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?" They had witnessed a death and resurrection, and essentially kept their same mindset of the scope of Jesus' mission from the very beginning of His ministry. They must have assumed that since Jesus was back with them, things would finally start happening as they had figured. However, they didn't comprehend the true magnitude of the mission that they were to be given. John Calvin wrote, "Marvelous is their rudeness, that when as they had been diligently instructed by the space of three whole years, they betray no less ignorance than if they had heard never a word. There are as many errors in this question as words."
Are we any different from the misguided disciples at this time? How often do we lose focus today, by focusing on what we deem to be good goals, while neglecting our true mission from God? If they could lose sight in the very presence of Jesus, we must realize that we can easily lose sight as well. Jesus told His disciples that it was not for them to know the details of what the Father had set in place. Can you imagine what they might think if they realized that even today, nearly 2000 years later, they would still be waiting for their political kingdom to come into play?
They would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them to become His witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but also in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When they had thought of only Israel, Jesus explained that their scope was much, much broader, and rather than restoring the kingdom, by being His witnesses they would help usher in a new kingdom throughout the world. Even this has to be confusing to them. Jerusalem was where Jesus was executed. Judea rejected Jesus. Samaria was full of half breeds, and other parts of their world that they knew were largely pagans, in direct opposition to God.
Note what they were going to be asked to do. They were to be witnesses. They did not take a course on salesmanship. They were not given marketing brochures and business cards. They were not told to brush up on their debating skills. How often do we neglect to share our faith because we think that we won't be able to answer questions or that we are not great debaters? We, like they, are called to be witnesses. You can only be a witness by sharing your own personal situation. The truth is that we all, as believers, are witnesses. When others see you and I and they know us to be a believer, people start to get a sense of who Jesus is because of the way we are. Certainly we cannot adequately depict Jesus, but our task is to show the love of Christ to others and when the opportunity presents itself, we need to be willing to be a witness of our faith.
One other thing we often forget is that we have the presence of the Holy Spirit, just as the early apostles had. Certainly they had some unique giftings as the gospel began to spread, but we have the very presence of the Spirit who goes with us. He gives us words when we don't know what to say and goes with us as we live our lives. Realize that you are never alone!
In the preceding verses not in this study, Jesus' followers watched Him ascend into the heavens. I would imagine the tendency would be to stand and gaze at what had just happened, but two men, presumably angels, reminded the disciples to focus their attention on what Jesus had said to do (return to Jerusalem) and not stand looking, wondering where Jesus went.
So, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and waited. Although I feel sure that they were unsure what they were waiting for, they waited. They went upstairs where they were staying and joined together constantly in prayer, along with other followers of Jesus, It is noteworthy that they at least all seemed to be in agreement, as opposed to so many other times, bickering with each other. They had experienced a very special event together that seemed to put everything else to the side. We see this often today, as when a tragedy hits an area, it matters little what one's politics are, or beliefs are, or who their favorite college or professional team is, as people tend to come together.
How do you like to wait? I don't know many people that are patient while waiting. Sometimes, we have to wait for good things. Most children, and I suppose many adults, wait for Christmas. As the season approaches, and Christmas items are in the stores, and Christmas music plays on the radio, some people appear as if they will burst if Christmas doesn't get here soon. Sometimes, we wait for bad things. When you have a good friend that is moving far away, we wait for that day when we know that we will be sad, at least for a while. When a close friend or family member has a terminal disease and is given weeks to live, that time of waiting can be brutal. Sometimes, we wait for uncertain things. When I first started getting my own symptoms, we did numerous tests, waiting to find out was wrong. While we were hopeful for good news, it turned out to be ALS, and if one chooses to, they spend the rest of their shortened life merely watching and waiting for capabilities to be lost. We are choosing to spend our time focusing on what we have and enjoying life, as opposed to just waiting for everything to fall apart. Suffice it to say, we all know what it means to wait, and most of us don't like it.
What did the disciples do while they waited? They joined together and prayed constantly. It would appear that their prayers were in some sense of desperation and they were very earnest. How is your prayer life? Do you spend regular time in prayer, both on your own and with others? What do you gain by praying with others? Sometimes, it helps you to focus on things that might otherwise monopolize your brain, but it is always useful to help us to focus more on God's plan, rather than on our own.
The disciples had a huge mission that they were going to be a part of and you and I are still part of that mission today. They had the benefit of spending time with Jesus during His ministry and for weeks following his resurrection. However, we have the benefit of God's word which is more than they had written down, as well as the presence of the Holy Spirit within each believer.
As stated in the lesson, the disciples seemed to be more unified, after the shared experiences. Today, in our world, there is so much division along racial lines, political lines and just flat differences of opinion on so many things. We have seen times, though, when events happen in our nation that tend to cause the differences to be set aside, at least for a time. There will always be bickering in our world, but what would happen if all believers really got a sense of what has been done for us? Wouldn't that result in more people working together? Our prayer is that believers can come together in this manner, and that each of us can be part of this mission.
The mission we are on is to impact lives for eternity. We aren't called to add numbers to a church or just to win others to our way of thinking. The mission will continue throughout time until the Father sets other things in motion.
People generally like to have a purpose and feel that their lives amount to something that will last. People invest in all sorts of things throughout their lifetimes. However, if you want to impact eternity for others, allow yourself to be used in this unstoppable mission.