We missionaries tend to gravitate toward the Great Commission passages. It’s understandable as they are among the primary ways the Lord called us to make disciples in places far from home. However, I see that it’s quite easy for us to focus so much on the task that we forget the condition: that our Lord didn’t start with “Go” – He started with “Wait.”
Luke writes that Christ told his disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). Jesus knew it was futile to send his followers out into the harvest without them being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 28, He tells them he had been given “all authority” and because of that great truth, they could then go into all the world. The simple truth is we cannot do what we’ve been called to do without the power and authority of the One who called us. Those of us who have received Christ have received the Holy Spirit, yet there is a difference between being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being filled (that is, fully controlled and empowered by) with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus taught that to produce fruit we need to abide in the vine. Before he started his earthly ministry he even took 40 days to be alone with his Father in prayer and fasting. Paul wrote that he struggled with the energy the Lord provided (Col 1:29) and prayed for others to also be strengthened with God’s power (Col 1:11, Eph 3:16), urging them to “put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). Without God’s power in our lives we will have no true success – neither in ministry nor in our personal lives.
We must also remember that the work we have been called to is a spiritual one. We’re not fighting “flesh and blood” (Eph 6:12; II Cor 10:3). This is not a struggle we can win without the Holy Spirit fighting by our side. And we have been called to fight together as the body of Christ (Phil 1:27). To do so we need to be changed by the Spirit, displaying his fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22). Without his power over our flesh, we will never be “knit together in love” (Col 2:2). From start to finish, we need to be filled with the Spirit or all aspects of life and ministry fall flat.
Whether you are considering missions (or any ministry) or have already been in ministry for a long time – we all need to do a self-assessment from time to time. Personally, I write this during a time when I have been convicted of spending too little time with my Father. I’ve gotten so busy with the work He called me to that I’ve neglected these basic truths – that without Him I can do nothing (John 15:5) and that before He called me to his harvest field, He called me to Himself (Mt 11:28). And it’s not about checking “Quiet Time” off our daily to-do list. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). He desires us to not only be one with each other – but also with Him (John 17:21). God uses the imagery of a marriage to speak of our relationship with Him, just as He did in the OT regarding the people of Israel (Rev 19:6-10; Jer 3). From the beginning, God has desired a deep, loving relationship with us, out of which we will be sanctified (Gal 5:22), directed (Eph 2:10) and empowered (Acts 1:8) for His work, which we will do side-by-side with Him [Mt 11:29-30 (his yoke is easy); John 16:7-11 (The Comforter will come – the one who ‘comes alongside’)].
What about you? Do you also need this reminder? Have you truly given all of you over to the Lord – and then left it all there? Do you daily give the Holy Spirit full control? Have you wandered from where you once were and allowed the “tyranny of the urgent” too much sway in your life? Have you succumbed to the lie that you are the hero in the story? That you have to be the one to push on through thick and thin? Have you, too, forgotten that you, like Paul, must struggle with the Lord’s energy (Col 1:29)? If so, let me encourage you with the following:
May you “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance, and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col 1:9b-12)