/Monday, April 12, 2021
We’ve had quite the year, haven’t we?
I’ve been thinking lately about how the disciples would have felt when Jesus returned to heaven. For the past few years, his disciples had walked closely with him. Imagine living daily with Jesus - eating with him, having conversations, watching him as he interacted with those around him.
When he went back to heaven, Jesus left his disciples with specific instructions & the promise of the Holy Spirit. They were in this unique in-between time, at the beginning of a new era.
They would never go back to ‘how things were before’. They were at the beginning of a new time – exciting, with much potential and yet messy and unknown at the same time.
In the days ahead, the disciples (and later the church) would see:
- new believers added daily
- an outpouring of the Holy Spirit
- miracles & wonders (Acts 2-4)
- They would also experience jail & persecution (Acts 5)
- And amidst all the change, they also had to deal with ‘messy’ circumstances – things like welcoming Gentiles into the church (Acts 10) & how to deal with Jewish requirements such as circumcision (Acts 15).
We are living in an in-between time. We have lived in the midst of the pandemic for more than a year now. Even though we don’t know when the pandemic will end, we do know that we are stepping into a new future.
We know we can't go back to the 'old normal'. We have already been pivoting & adapting, but we know that we will need to continue to adapt & change.
We may be asking questions about how to best equip those we minister with & those we serve. We may be bursting with ideas and new initiatives for the days ahead. We may be tired, hanging on for dear life.
Wherever we may be, and whatever is on the horizon, we anticipate that God is at work!
Here are three things to consider as we move forward into what comes next…
It Might Not Be Easy
Jesus never promised following him would be easy. In fact, he told us it wouldn’t be easy. He says, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33) and “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Let’s not be surprised when following Jesus is difficult.
After teaching about Jesus, in Acts 5, the disciples were flogged & “ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40). Immediately after this, the apostles left “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. They never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah”.
As we move into this next season, let’s not be surprised when things are difficult. In fact, let’s expect it.
When things are challenging, will we rejoice that God has invited us into his work, even when it is difficult?
When things are challenging, will we continue to share the good news about Jesus?
It Might (Will) Get Messy
“Our mission hasn’t changed but how we make disciples may.” – Murray Moerman
In this ‘new season’ that the believers found themselves in, they also found themselves navigating new issues. And these issues weren’t all neat & tidy – in fact they were often uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty.
For example, in Acts 11, believers heard that Peter had gone “into the house of uncircumcised men (Gentiles) and ate with them”. And they were critical…this is not how things were done.
They questioned, and listened to Peter, who said, “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
And their response? They “had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”
This situation was messy, and uncomfortable for the early church. But, as they navigated through the messiness, exciting things happened! (Like welcoming new believers into the church family!)
Our world is a different place than it was a year ago. We may have to navigate messy or uncomfortable situations, but we can trust that God is at work.
What ‘messy’ situations do you anticipate as we move forward?
As we step into this new season, into a new future, will we praise God when we see him at work, even if it looks different than we expect?
Will we look & expect for God to work in new ways? Or will we reject new ideas or methods, because of our discomfort?
We Need God
Jesus made it very clear to his disciples that they needed him. Before returning to heaven, Jesus left his disciples with a specific mission to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28) but he also told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.
“Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” -Luke 24: 49
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” -Acts 1:4,8
Jesus never expected his disciples to be disciple-makers in their own strength. And he doesn’t expect us to make disciples in our own strength either.
There is a compelling story, in John 21, that takes place after Jesus has died, been resurrected and reappeared to his disciples. After all of this, the disciples go back to their boats to fish.
Everything has changed, and they go back to their ‘old normal’.
Interesting, isn’t it? After experiencing these monumental events, the death and resurrection of Jesus, his disciples go back to what is familiar.
And they catch no fish.
Until Jesus shows up.
And then they catch so many “they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish”.
We need Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit & His power in our lives. He changes everything!
Many of us are tired right now. It has been a year of constant change, and we may feel that we’ve used up our stores of ‘adapting & pivoting.’
If that is you, I would encourage you to remember that God doesn’t expect you to do this on your own. In fact, he makes it very clear that we need Him!
And if you are tired right now, I would also encourage you to spend some time reading John 14-17. Before Jesus died, he took time to speak to his disciples about what would come. He speaks to them about the Holy Spirit & he urges his disciples to “remain in me, as I also remain in you”.
And then he leaves them with these words: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The Next Season
As we move into this next season, let’s not be surprised when things are messy or challenging. We need God! Let’s lean into him, as we navigate this new normal.
Wherever we may be, whatever is on the horizon, whatever comes our way, we anticipate that God is at work!
Melissa Berry is the Digital Content Coordinator at Outreach Canada. Her favourite part of her job is getting to share stories - the stories of OC people, & the stories of how God is working! If she had a free afternoon, you'd probably find Melissa on an adventure with her husband & two children (with a chai tea in hand, of course).