Acts 2:1-4 ESV
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This word is almost laughable in Luke’s description of the day God breathed life into the church.
The Hebrew prophets Joel and Zephaniah predicted this moment 900 and 700 years before any rushing wind. Moses longed for this day more than a thousand years earlier as well. And then, John the Baptist, the greatest prophet ever, promised his followers such an experience would happen a few years before any divided tongues of fire were seen by one soul. During the final conversation Jesus had with His followers, even He repeated this promise- “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit”.
So…after a few wars, a deportation, 400 years of silence, another misunderstood prophet, the crucifixion, the resurrection, 40 days of random appearances by Jesus, 10 days stuffed in a small room with 120 other people…then suddenly.
We find ourselves in the middle of a generation wanting everything suddenly but are unwilling to remain faithful until suddenly. Employers (the people doing the hiring) admit filtering applications for “job hoppers” while the blog-writing experts (not hiring people) tell you to quit what you don’t like. We absolutely live in a day of cognitive conflict. Who knows what to do?
How about an example?
I spend too much of my life watching adolescent sports- right now, I’m nursing a chlorine-induced high from last night’s swim practice and a sunburn from baseball this weekend. Here is the point- what I have noticed is an absolute unwillingness in children to work hard when no one expects hard work. These kids show up with the greatest of equipment and the least of heart. A fine-tuned $500 bat is no substitute for time in the batting cage. Those sweet swim goggles won’t reach the wall first without hours and hours of practice.
HOPE AND GRACE
Let’s project this onto our faith. There is little reason to hope for God’s help on a test you haven’t studied for. Tangentially, there is little reason to believe grace will save you without faith in Jesus (Ro 4:16). The sacred pulpit is now littered with fictitious promises that do nothing but attract lethargic Christians looking for a quick fix to problems that took a lifetime to create. Give $100 and get $10,000 back! Really? How about study (2Tim 3:15), bust your tail (1Th 2:9), be faithful (Pr 28:20)…then suddenly God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Mt 25:23).
You may need to renew your soul before that addiction is suddenly broken. You may be healed as you go instead of in a moment. Your miserable marriage may not be immediately restored before hours (and hours) of work.
Are you willing to work until suddenly?
HOW MANY PEPPERS
Peter left his job to follow Jesus (Mt 4:20). And yet, he prayed for people who didn’t get healed (Mt 17:16), he nearly died in a boat (Mt 8:25) and almost sank (Mt 14:30). The sacrifice of Jesus began with Peter falling asleep instead of praying, chopping a combatant’s ear off and denying Jesus three times. Hardly the dream job (or applicant, for that matter).
When Luke says suddenly, what he really means is suddenly after years of hard work, sacrifice, and mistakes. Apparently, God’s suddenly follows our faithfulness (1Sa 26:23).
I was watching a preacher online the other day who said, “I don’t waste time, if something isn’t working, I just quit and do something else.” It sounds good and preached even better. I’m just glad the first church didn’t feel this way. I’m glad most married couples don’t feel this way. I’m even glad the late Steve Jobs didn’t feel this way. And I’m definitely glad my parents didn’t feel this way.
Sidenote: that preacher’s first book was ranked 119 after the first week and the second was ranked 540. Those dismal rankings hardly sound successful, but thankfully there was a third because it might be the best. I’m glad he didn’t quit writing.
I’m not suggesting you stay in an abusive relationship, or keep working for a bad boss. But, not every uncomfortable conversation is abusive and not every difficult job is due to a bad boss. I am, however, begging you to embrace the tension between suddenly and faithfulness.
120 followers of Jesus were willing to wait just 10 more days in a congested upper room. Unsuccessful for days and therefore days without the promise. They didn’t quit early. They stayed faithful and waited on God. And suddenly He came.
Suddenly is sometimes a long time coming.