Today’s message: The waiting room. The setting of this scripture: the disciples are between the lightning ascension of Jesus, and the thundering day of Pentecost. They are told by Jesus in Acts 1:4 to go to the waiting room. READ. Waiting rooms do not normally evoke warm and fuzzy thoughts… Newsflash: waiting is part of our discipleship. “WAIT” is a command of Jesus. I found a great description by Max Lucado of what its like to be in a waiting room:
The task at hand is the name of the room: the waiting room. We in the waiting room understand our assignment: to wait. We don’t treat each other. I don’t ask the nurse for a stethoscope or blood pressure cuff. I don’t pull a chair next to the woman with the newspaper and say, “Tell me what prescriptions you are taking.” That’s the job of the nurse. My job is to wait. So I do. Can’t say I like it. Time moves like an Alaskan glacier. The clock ticks every five minutes…Someone presses the pause button. Life in slo-mo.
It feels like the whole world is in a collective waiting room! May our time in the waiting room be redeemed. A time of refreshment, growing, preparation… READ Acts 1:12-26.
testimonies of how the waiting room is necessary and good:
It isn’t easy to wait. It demands persistence when common sense says “give up.” It says “believe” when there is no present evidence to back it up. Faith is forged in delay. Character is forged in delay. The forge is the gap between the promise and the fulfillment. As gold is purified and shaped in the white-hot heat of a forge, so we and our faith are purified and shaped in waiting. ~ Ben Patterson
I know a woman who, after her diagnosis of cancer, prayed twice every day for God to heal her. A year later, as she entered her third round of chemotherapy, she said, “Well, it looks like once again, God isn’t on my schedule. I guess God’s decided to heal me at some other place, in some other time.” She had been given a level of faith, in that time, I have yet to reach. ~ William H. Willimon
How to survive and thrive in the waiting room.
#1. While you wait, be normal. Practice the traditions that bring you comfort. The H.S. will soon upend the disciples life on the Day of Pentecost, challenging them to rethink many patterns ~ go to new places and witness to people they’ve overlooked. While in the waiting room, take comfort in that which is good and has brought you to this place.
Acts 1:12 says that after the ascension, the disciples want to Jerusalem, then this detail, “A Sabbath Day’s walk…” Luke could have left that detail out… It comes from O.T. scriptures and traditions ~ it’s how far Jews were allowed to walk on the Sabbath, about ¾ of a mile. All is about to change for the disciples, but they are Jewish people that found comfort in their traditions. We can argue all day about traditions. No doubt reading your Bible, going to church, praying, fasting don’t make you a Christian. But they sure help, especially when waiting… we need disciplines to draw us closer to God. Jesus could have chosen the place of ascension a mile from the waiting room, forcing them to confront traditions, but he doesn’t.
As Acts unfolds some Jewish customs will be challenged. Later, Peter is instructed in a vision to eat non-Kosher food ~ a mind altering change… for now Jesus says go to the waiting room. They go as Jews afforded the customs that help define them. When in the waiting room, keep the customs that bring you comfort, unless God is leading you away from them. In my seminary days I did an internship as a hospital chaplain. Chaplain Manley, the instructor, posed a challenging question to those of us who practice believers baptism: “Suppose you are a chaplain and a couple with a baby is sick and dying, and they ask you to have a baby baptism. What do you do?” For a young seminary student full of ideals, what a wonderful question. The answer is simple, YES. I am called to serve people. At such a time, I will not take away a such a meaningful comfort to a grieving family. When in the waiting room, that which brings you comfort, /normalcy, is good. When you are in a waiting room season of life, be as normal as possible:
Back in the late 80’s in S.F., a former pastor and his wife visited occasionallhy: Rev. & Mrs. Olson. One day Mrs. Olson died. 3 months after her death, Rev. Olson came late to a worship service. Then he left before the service was over. It was a mystery. Later I talked to him on the phone. He was late because he had to transfer buses and that’s the best he could do. He left early because he had to catch the bus. That explains the timing, but Why, I asked. He explained that his wife used to keep the calendar months in advance. She had on the calendar that day to visit their old church in S.F. That’s how he was making it through without his wife: keeping the calendar she’d outlined for them…
The disciples went a Sabath day’s walk… the H.S. is about to axe much of what they know, they are about to face challenges they’ve never faced before as they are assigned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. But they keep some of the familiar…. While we wait, be normal. Practice the disciplines of faith that have brought you this far.
#2 While you wait, Stay in touch with others. Listen to the diverse group gathering in the waiting room. READ Acts 1:13-15. Isn’t this a major strategy to make it through our present trying times: call, write, encourage. If I’m in a waiting room too long I go crazy. a few times I’ve taken people to St. Joe’s emergency room for a 6 hour wait…after 15 minutes the clock ticks every five minutes. I look around to see if I can catch anybody’s eye to talk, I watch the door hoping to know somebody… While we wait we need people. In these verses it’s fun to consider who is named, ~ lessons of leadership and discipleship with each.. but how wonderful that they are “joined together.” Stay in touch with other believers… the group totals 120… one of the funnest waiting rooms I’ve ever been ~ the Whatcom County Jail waiting room for visitation… everyone waiting has in common somebody they love in jail. The few times I’ve been in that waiting room with old pros, first time visitors… and a common bond… the NIV puts “a group numbering about 120” in parentheses, as if it’s a secondary detail. I’d say it shows how important it is for believers in Jesus Christ to stay in touch in difficult times.
How to survive and thrive in the waiting room. #3, PRAY. READ Acts 1:14a. I have a broader definition of prayer than many. I assume in the Waiting Room of Acts there is formal prayer, but I think a broader meaning of prayer is helpful: God at the center of their togetherness, constantly in prayer, God is here, it’s about God. Pray, formal morning, noon, evening prayers, whatever your pattern, but more broadly, recognize the presence of God….When waiting, don’t ever let God NOT be part of your thoughts, your actions, all that you do be God honoring, your decisions guided by what you know
#4 Believe God’s promises. i.e. faith (scripture) What are the temptations of waiting? Discouragement. Negativity. Doubt. Feeling sorry for yourself. Why me? Expecting the worst. Disappointment. In the Acts Waiting Room, Peter sidesteps all those temptations and says, READ Acts 1:16-17, 20.
How easy to do nothing but lament how everything did not work out. Jesus is no longer on earth. How easy to wonder if the Bible is true. If God really knows what he is doing. To think I am smarter than God because I would write the so much better.
Peter boldly chooses to believe in the word of God: “the Scripture had to be fulfilled.” He is focusing on the scandal of Judas’ betrayal and death. There is a larger principle for us: when in the waiting room believe in God’s word. Get it straight in your mind: no matter what happens, no matter what disappointment we face, no matter how life changes, God’s promises will not be stopped. God will always be God and his Word will always be His Word. God is in our current world wide waiting room season of life.
Believing in the promises of God allows us to overcome the negative attitude temptations of the waiting room and replace with optimism, hope, expectation, delight. As a Christian, learn to appreciate a good mystery, because often we have no idea how the story is going to resolve, but the promise of God is that the Lord will work everything out for the good.
#5 . In the waiting room, Act on God’s promises. That’s why this book is called “Acts” as in Actions. It is not called the prayers of the apostles, the story is not about the followers of Jesus sitting longer in a classroom to learn a little bit more, but ACTS. Most of my waiting room time is at Service Pro waiting for my oil to be changed. Almost always I take a commentary. When I get a chance, I also have a minor goal of piecing together the life’s story of whoever is behind the counter. That’s my hobby, to learn people’s stories. That’s the way I redeem my car oil change waiting room time.
Redeem the time when put in the waiting room season of life facing major transitions, when much of what you know is upended. Keep on in the faith. What’s described in the rest of today’s scripture (Acts 1:21-26) is choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas. This is the only time this man is mentioned by name in scripture. But what a great lesson: God’s promises will go on. how Matthias is chosen is not a lesson for us to follow, the great lesson is that God’s word is unchanging and God’s promises are right on time! We are to ACT.
How to survive and thrive in the waiting room: Be normal, Stay in touch with brothers and sisters in Christ, Pray, Believe in God’s Promises, Act on God’s promises.
The waiting room is not an inconvenience between between important events. Redeem the waiting room season of life and you will have more awareness of the Lord, you’ll grow in your faith, you will be shaped like clay on the potter’s wheel. A woman rushed up to famed violinist [Fritz Kreisler] after a concert and cried: “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do.” The violinist replied, “I did.” The waiting room shapes our character and tests our faith.
We all feel like we are in a waiting room for life to become fun again, to enjoy that which we once knew. The temptation is to be bitter, to fight. Jesus deliberately told his disciples to go and wait for the H.S. to descend upon them. He sent them to a waiting room. It is in the waiting room their hearts were prepared to accept one of the most amazing transitions bestowed upon humanity: from an earthly Jesus who died was raised and ascended to heaven, to life on earth with the Holy Spirit indwelling believers and empowered to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’d like to end with a simple prayer. Consider making this your prayer. It is not an easy prayer to believe: /// “Lord, thank you for the waiting room. Amen.”