Amazing Things Come to Those Who Wait
Scripture Text: Acts 2:1-21, 37-41
What is a great day to you? Perhaps it is a day when you see a friend you have not seen in a while. Maybe it is a day when you share a meal with close family and friends. Perhaps a great day is a day off from work. Maybe winning the lottery would be a really great day. What if you were there when the church formally and publically began to exist? Would that be a great day or a least a little exciting? A really great day is what this passage is about. It was a day unlike others – a day when God Himself visited His people in a most powerful way. It was the day called Pentecost.
The word “Pentecost” means fiftieth and stood for the Jewish festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was also called the Feast of Weeks because it occurred seven weeks after Passover and celebrated the Israelites entering the land God had promised their ancestors. The festival was primarily a harvest festival and was commonly called the Feast of Harvest. Whichever name is used for this feast it was one of three Old Testament pilgrimage festivals when the Jewish people would travel and appear before the Lord with gifts and offerings. It was a time of great rejoicing and where God’s people assembled and when no work was to be done. People came together for fellowship and to eat a meal.
There is something else special about Pentecost and it has to do with the church. Pentecost was the day when the church formally and publicly began its work and mission as God’s people. It was first mentioned in the New Testament as the time when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples of Christ. This is not to say that God’s Spirit was not experienced before, but this day was special. The Holy Spirit was given to the church in an amazing and powerful way. Since this was a required festival in Jewish culture, Jews had gathered in Jerusalem from great distances to observe it, making it an appropriate time for the Holy Spirit to do amazing things. There are three things I would like to point out from the text:
- God’s Miraculous Power is Available to Those Who Wait on Him
- The Holy Spirit Enables God’s People to do Amazing Things
- God’s Spirit and God’s Word Produce Extraordinary Results
God’s Miraculous Power is Available to Those Who Wait on Him
When Jesus was with His disciples before He was crucified, buried and resurrected, He told His followers that they needed Him. An important fact that we all need to understand is that we can do nothing without God. Nothing! God must empower us to accomplish anything worthy of being His people.
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
So, if it is absolutely necessary for God’s people to be empowered by Jesus Christ to live faithfully for Him and to fulfill the mission God has called them to do, what was the Church to do when Jesus went back to heaven? They needed a Helper, someone like Jesus to help them live their lives faithfully. In Acts chapter one, Luke wrote that before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to not leave Jerusalem, but to “wait for the promise of the Father.” He told them that He was leaving, but they would not be left alone. They were, however, to wait for it. With Jesus going back to heaven, nothing was left for the disciples to do but for them to wait and pray for the promise Jesus mentioned. That’s exactly what they did. They went to an upper room, and there, they waited and prayed.
Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
The disciples were all together. They came together, much like Christians do on Sunday morning, and prayed together as they waited for what God had promised to give them. They did not know when it would happen, but they did what Jesus told them to do. Another way to say this is all of them were continually united in prayer as they waited for God to act. Do you feel that you have been waiting for God to do something amazing in your life? Maybe you just want God to do something, anything, it does not have to be amazing, just something. Are you feeling discouraged because things are not going the way you expected? Maybe things are not happening as soon as you think they should. Do what the first church did – wait and pray! God’s time is not always (or not often!) our time.
The Church’s prayer was not answered immediately, but it was answered and in a mighty way. On the day of Pentecost, God’s power was displayed and given in an amazing way. The Church’s first Pentecost experience shows us that God’s power is available to those who pray and wait on Him. Are you waiting for something mighty to happen? Are you praying for something amazing to happen? I encourage you to do so. God might be ready to open the floodgates and bless you. Are we ready for it?
The Holy Spirit Enables God’s People to do Amazing Things
The second thing I would like to point out from this text is that the Holy Spirit enables God’s people to do amazing things.
Acts 2:2–4 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The answer to the Church’s waiting and praying was a mighty display of God’s power. God’s power was manifested with three signs – wind, fire, and inspired speech. God’s power was audible, it was visible, and it was demonstrated by divine speech. The disciples heard God’s power, they saw God’s power, and they spoke with God’s power. It was an amazing event. It was a great day!
Luke described what the disciples heard as something like a gusting blast of wind, like the roar of a tornado that suddenly came from heaven. For anyone who has experienced the roar of a tornado, you know just how amazing and fearfully intense it can be. We are accustomed to bad weather here in the South and have thunderstorms that pop up suddenly. We are accustomed to flashes of lightning and booms of thunder. What we are not accustomed to is the roar of a tornado. My wife and I experienced something like that one evening. We were watching the weather from our porch when suddenly we heard a roar and growl that was all around us and on top of us. We did not see a funnel but the sound was exactly what we have heard people say a tornado sounds like. Needless to say, we were more than amazed – we were frightened.
In the Bible, wind would often accompany an appearance by God – the Spirit of God. As in Ezekiel the wind, the breath of God, is God’s Spirit, which brings life to dry bones. On Pentecost, the wind was the manifestation of God’s Spirit empowering His people in a powerful way, giving life to the Church. Not only was there suddenly a mighty wind, but also there was a visible sign in the form of flaming tongues of fire. Oftentimes, fire was a visible sign of God’s presence with His people, such as the burning bush with Moses and the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt.
The third sign of God’s powerful presence with the Church was inspired speech. The disciples were so filled with the Holy Spirit that the power of God overflowed in them and they began speaking with various languages from all parts of the region. This astonished the crowd.
Acts 2:7–8 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?”
This seems to indicate that there was a miracle of foreign speech. Imagine being at a conference where the guests were from different parts from all over the world and the host of the conference began speaking in the native languages of each group of people – languages not previously learned. Filled with the Spirit, the disciples began to speak in languages different from their own and a crowd was attracted to it and utterly amazed to hear these Christians speaking their languages. Some see this a reversal of God’s judgment on the Tower of Babylon when he dispersed the people and caused them to speak different languages.
There was inspired speech so that everyone present there heard the disciples telling in different languages the mighty works of God. There was also an inspired message telling the Good News of Jesus Christ. Responding to the crowd’s amazement, the Apostle Peter stood up and delivered his first sermon recorded in Scripture. The same Peter who merely days before denied Jesus stood up before a great multitude of people and boldly proclaimed God’s Word to them. He quoted the Prophet Joel showing the scriptural basis for what was going on the Day of Pentecost. It was not that God just decided one day to wow everyone with these miraculous things. God could have done that, by the way, but He did not. As Peter spoke of the prophecy foretelling the events of that day, he proved that God was faithful and God’s Word was true. The Holy Spirit, the promise of God, was empowering the Church to do amazing things.
God’s Spirit and Word Produces Extraordinary Results
Now, some might say that a mighty rushing wind, visible tongues of fire, and ecstatic speaking of languages that were previously not learned are tremendous results, and they were. The people were amazed and astonished by God’s mighty presence on Pentecost. Even a sermon boldly delivered by an unlikely person might be considered remarkable, or at least surprising. All of these are amazing results, but something else happened on the Day of Pentecost. When the signs of the Holy Spirit occurred, people were prepared to hear from God and when Peter delivered that first sermon to a crowd of unsuspecting Jews something else wonderful happened. The crowd heard God’s message and asked, “What shall we do?” They asked Peter and the apostles how to respond to what had happening.
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter’s answer to the crowd included three elements (just like a good Baptist preacher):
- Repent – turn from sin and turn to God.
- Be Baptized – publicly declare one’s repentance and symbolically identify with the crucified and resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ.
- Receive the Holy Spirit – to those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will receive the Holy Spirit, a gift and seal of one’s new relationship with God, and will be empowered to live their lives faithfully.
The power and gift the disciples received at Pentecost was available to all those who turned from sin and called upon the name of Jesus Christ for salvation. Those who recognize their need for Jesus Christ, turn from their own sin, and place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter preached the way of salvation. The really amazing thing is what happened as a result of this.
Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
About three thousand people heard the good news of Jesus Christ that day, believed it, placed their trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ, and were baptized. Before Pentecost, the Church was about one hundred twenty members, but after Pentecost, the Church had grown past three thousand members. It was an amazing work of God with extraordinary results.
In closing, we see from the first Pentecost how God’s power descended on the small Church in an amazing way that resulted in remarkable growth – not just for the Church, but for God’s Kingdom. God was revealing the work He commissioned the Church to do – go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations. That is still the mission of the Church. As the song Until the Whole World Hears says, we should be God’s hands and feet, going into the world to see the captive set free – those who are still in bondage of sin. You might ask, “Who can receive this promise of freedom?” In Peter’s first sermon, he quoted the prophet Joel, saying:
Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Today is the day you can see God do amazing things in your life. If you do not know the Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you can today. Anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus Christ, the only name by which anyone can be declared right with God, shall be saved. You may ask, “From what are we saved?” From yourselves. From destruction. From eternal separation from the Father in Heaven Who wants to have a relationship with you. Will you do that today?
For the Church, are you ready to be amazed and astonished by God? Have you been waiting for God to work, to do something extraordinary in your life? In your community? In your church? Magnificent things come to those who wait. We must be waiting, willing and praying for amazing things to happen. But this does not mean that we sit idly by doing nothing. No longer can God’s people just sit in the pews of a church, content with the way things are. We must be faithful to the mission God has called us to do. God gives us His Word and His Holy Spirit in order to enable His people to do amazing and astonishing things that lead to extraordinary results. The Church must be willing, waiting and praying for it to happen. Are you doing that? May it be so! Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.