Acts 1:6-14 and John 17:1-11
Patsy Clairmont, author of the book God Uses Cracked Pots, tells a story about her youngest son Jason. Little Jason has two goals in life. One is to have fun, and the other is to rest. He does both quite well. So, it was no surprise when he was sent out to catch the school bus one fall day and there was, a few moments later, a knock on the door. Mom flew to the door, jerked it open, and their stood Jason looking up with his back pack and lunch box dragging the ground. Mom demanded, “What are you doing here?” He bravely said, “I’ve quit school.” Mom said, “Quit school?” As she looked at her child in disbelief she tried to think of some motherly wisdom but all that came to mind at the time was “A stitch in time saves nine” and “Starve a cold and feed a fever.” They didn’t seem to fit the occasion so she asked, “Why have you quit school?” Without hesitation Jason said, “It’s too long, it’s too hard, and it’s too boring.” This time she was equal to the task. She shot back, “you have just described life. Get on the bus!”
Jason’s statement about quitting school because it was too hard, could have been his mother’s statement about life, earlier in her life journey. Patsy Clairmont’s testimony of faith is in the 6th chapter of Sheila Walsh’s book Extraordinary Faith; the book we are doing in the Bible study at the Ontonagon Christian Centre Tuesdays at noon. At one point in her life Patsy suffered from agoraphobia, a crippling fear of people, public places and crowds. To cope with her fear, she smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, and lived on tranquilizers. Patsy was virtually housebound and traveled only short distances with her husband, Les.
A friend asked her to attend a Christian Women’s Conference with her and Patsy’s initial response was fear. Her friend asked her to ask God and her husband before she said yes or no. Patsy was sure her husband and God would agree it was impossible, but she felt compelled by both to go. She ventured out in a storm, (she had great fear of storms), traveling on a freeway, (she had great fear of freeways), in a strange car to a strange place, both of which she feared, to a church where she was forced to sit in the balcony, which she feared. She sat there in the conference in a cold sweat, petrified, finding it hard to breathe, when one of the speakers took the stage and said, “We are nothing, women, without Jesus Christ.”
The speaker read from Isaiah 55: “Come, all you who are thirsty come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost? (v. 1).
In her spirit Patsy heard God say to her, “Hope to you little one who sits there so afraid. I see you and I understand that this life journey is too much for you; but it is not too much for Me.” *
Patsy Clairmont is now a member of the Women of Faith team, which ministers at Christian Conferences around the world. When she answered God’s call to trust Him with her life, she became the person God designed her to be, and she now has the power to be Jesus’ witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). She has the power to tell her son Jason, don’t just stand there, “Get on the bus!”
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles the angels from God’s Army, the two men in white robes, are standing with the disciples telling them virtually the same thing. Don’t just stand there, get on the bus! As the disciples watch Jesus ascend to His Father in heaven, the two men ask them, (v. 11) “—why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven,” referring of course to Jesus return as foretold in the book of Revelation.
In Acts 1:6-14, we find Jesus in His final moments in earthly body form. After Jesus was raised from the dead, He spent 40 days with His followers continuing to teach about the Kingdom of God, knowing that it will be His followers who will have to continue what He began.
Jesus does not expect them to build the Kingdom in their own power. Acts 1:4-5 tells us that Jesus ordered the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of God. “–For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” He goes on to tell his disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8).
Jesus prays for His disciples in John 17:6-8, “(Father), I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
Jesus goes on to pray for future disciples, you and me. John 17:20, “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,–” Jesus prayed that you and I would also be given the Holy Spirit’s power to continue building His Kingdom.
We can witness to our faith and continue building God’s Kingdom in and through the power of God given to us through the Holy Spirit. When we surrender our life to Christ, we allow the Holy Spirit’s power to come in and empower us to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.
Jesus was entrusting everything he had lived and died for to these disciples and those followers of his yet to be born, you and me. Our assignment is to be his witnesses. That is Christ’s plan for reconciling the world unto himself. Witnesses! People who have experienced Christ in their own lives and are willing to share that experience with others. And the question we have to ask ourselves is, are we good witnesses, seeking to continue building God’s Kingdom or are we still standing there gazing up into heaven?
The speaker at the Christian Center last Thursday testified how God changed her life through a woman who did not just stand there, but was seeking to build God’s Kingdom. The speaker, Lynn, said she was headed down the wrong path, and the woman kept telling her, “God loves you.” A little while later Lynn was in the doctor’s office. She was sad, crying and depressed because of all the abuse she had suffered throughout her life. After hearing Lynn’s story, the doctor turned to go without offering her any medication to help with her depression. He had his hand on the doorknob, when he turned around and said to her, “Do you go to church?” Lynn said, “No.” He then said to her, “Find a good church and start attending.”
This is the way to build the Kingdom of God.
How do we stop just standing there and go about building God’s Kingdom? Step out in love.
There is a saying we hear quite often. “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. If that Christian woman had not invited Patsy Clairmont to the Women’s Conference, and if Lynn’s friend had not told her, “God loves you,” and her doctor’s prescription had been drugs instead of God; where do you think they would be now?
A bitter, broken young man, we’ll call Bob, was a patient in a drug and alcohol treatment center. However, he wouldn’t get into the spirit of the treatment the center offered him. He held the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous in disdain because it spoke of a “Higher Power.” “God,” he said without shame, “is a joke!”
Bob was counseled by a middle-aged man named Murray. Murray was a battle scarred recovering alcoholic. The key to Murray’s life was what he called “an encounter with God.” Murray never pushed his experience with God on others. He didn’t have to. Just to sit and eat lunch with Murray gave people a sense of refreshment. Although he didn’t say very much about God, people sensed that Murray was very close to God.
After a time, Bob was discharged from the program having shown very little progress. He was back within a few weeks after another drunk driving arrest and another job loss. He asked if Murray could be his counselor. The reason? In Bob’s own words, “I don’t know if it can work for me or not, but I know that if there is a God–it is the God I sometimes think I see in Murray.”
Bob knew that Murray cared. Do your neighbors know that you care about them? How about your friends, the people at work, your own family members? To witness for Christ you must be credible, you must be caring.
There’s an old story about what happened when Jesus arrived back at the gates of heaven, following his ascension. All the heavenly host were gathered to welcome God’s Son, to celebrate his return home. Everybody had questions. They’d heard of his exploits on earth. They wanted to hear it straight from him.
Jesus described his adventures at great length: the preaching, the teaching, the healing They laughed when he told them how he’d tied the Pharisees’ theological arguments up in knots, and they wept when he described both the agony of the cross and the joy of resurrection.
Someone asked him, Lord, now that you no longer physically walk the earth, who will share the good news?”
I’ve got a plan,” said Christ, “I’ve selected 11 followers, my closest friends. To them I’ve given the responsibility of sharing the good news.”
“They must have some incredible talents, those 11,” remarked one angel.
“Well actually no” the Lord responded. “These are average people, with ordinary abilities. They’re vain and sometimes foolish. One of them, their leader, denied me three times.”
“But, Lord,” objected another angel “how can you be sure they’ll get the job done?”
“To be perfectly honest, I can’t be sure.”
“What do you mean, you can’t be sure? What if they fail? What’s your backup plan?”
Quietly Christ answered, “I have no backup plan.”
The hard question today is this, ‘Why are you standing there? Think of all the people’s lives you touch each day. Who needs to hear, ‘God loves you?’ Who needs to be invited to church? Who needs to know that you care, so they will care how much you know about God’s mercy and grace, God’s love?
Stop standing there and step out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Step out in love.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
Resources: *Walsh, Sheila (2005). Extraordinary Faith, Nashville, Tennessee. Thomas