My ministry takes me frequently to Great Britain. Not long ago I preached at the Coventry Cathedral. They gave me the text, as Anglicans tend to do, and the reading this time was Acts 1:12-26, a passage I would normally not have thought of. But it forced me to think on issues I raise in this column. I focused on the question of whether the 120 disciples in the upper room did the right thing in choosing Matthias as Judas' successor. They were "between the times"â€”following Jesus' ascent and before the Holy Spirit's descent.
Three thoughts gripped me: (1) When nothing is happening we often tend to make things happen. They had no mandate that I can see to choose Judas' successor. The 120 may have felt a need to do something during the time they were waiting for the promise of the Father (see Acts 1:4). (2) When we get simple instructions from God we should take them with both hands. Their instructions were clear and simple: Don't leave Jerusalem, and wait. (3) When nothing is happening but we are obedient, it is God's problem, not ours.
When I'm in Britain I am asked, "What is the situation these days in America?" In America I am asked, "What is the situation in Britain?" On both sides of the Atlantic, the answer is: Not a lot these days, certainly when you compare what is happening to what is coming. I thank God for bright spots in the worldâ€”and they do exist!Â But as the saying goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet." I think we are somewhat in the position of the 120â€”between the times. The awakening that will shake the world has not yet emerged.
Our danger is not knowing exactly how long we must wait before the day comes when extraordinary apostolic power will be unleashed on the church. We are tempted to make something happen between the times.
The easiest thing in the world to do is to run ahead of the Lordâ€”like Joseph and Mary on their return to Galilee when they thought Jesus was with them. Joseph and Mary headed toward Galilee assuming that Jesus was in their company. They were wrong. After a day's journey they realized they proceeded without Him. They took His presence for granted. They had to admit they got it wrong. They returned to Jerusalem and looked a good while before they found Jesus (see Luke 2:41-50).
The truth is, when we want to feel Him with us, it is so easy to imagine that He is with us.
What do we do between the times? We should take full advantage of the instructions our Lord has given us. It is not our mandate to "make things happen." Only God can make things happen. Our mandate is to "occupy" until He shows up (see Luke 19:13, KJV). When nothing extraordinary is happening but we are obedient, we should see this as God's problem, not ours.
What is so bad about being between the times? Who despises the day of "small things" (see Zech. 4:10)? God's own promise to be faithful is at stake. His integrity is on the line. He is honored when we rely on His faithfulnessâ€”which is what Habakkuk 2:3 teaches us. Moreover, "the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay" (NIV).
More recently I preached in two different conferences in Great Britain. The first was alongside John Piper. He preached magnificently, stressing the sovereignty and majesty of God. The second was alongside John Paul Jackson. He preached beautifully, emphasizing the supernatural with regard to visitations from God.
The contrast between the emphases of my two colleagues was noticeable, yet both were signally used by the Holy Spirit. Both have expectancy that God will work, yet neither tried to make things "happen," knowing that only God can do thisâ€”in His time. Are you prepared to be faithful in the day of small things? Can you come to terms with what is between the times?
If you ask, "R.T., what is it you think is coming down the road?" I answer: A restoration of original apostolic power to the church that will restore the honor of God's name in the world. I envision the time when people will be dazzled by the preaching of the Word as much as they will be by seeing signs, wonders and miracles.
Some can only imagine crowds being stunned by the blind being healed or the dead raised. But Jesus could cause the people to marvel by His word as easily as He did by the miraculous (see Matt. 7:28; Luke 9:42-43).
When God unleashes His sovereign power on the church, there will be no doubting whether God has truly shown up. The day is coming so that people will be made to say what Ezekiel forecast: "'They will know that I am the Lord'" (Ezek. 39:6). What the disciples in the upper room were to experience was worth waiting for. We are in that position too.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing and The Word and the Spirit. His Web site is rtkendallministries.com.