Just before leaving, Jesus promised the disciples. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) A great promise but before receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples must wait. One way to understand waiting comes from an evangelist who told the following story…
Picture yourself standing at the wheel of a ship cruising down a river. There is a forest on one side and fields of corn on the other. The river is flowing smoothly and the scenery is beautiful yet something seems strangely wrong. You look in the distance and notice the ship approaching what seems to be a mountain. There doesn’t appear to be any way around it. This presents a problem. What will you do? Meanwhile, you are getting closer and become increasingly fearful.
The ship represents your life as it follows the river. The scenery symbolizes events along the way. The mountain represents the obstacles and frustrations that lie ahead. Sometimes difficulties can appear to be so large you wonder if there is any solution. You feel helpless and even hopeless.
As you come closer, you discover not a mountain but a lock. Once inside, the ship comes to a stop. You can no longer go forward or see what is ahead. Large steel walls on three sides block your view. You are now faced with a dilemma. Everything you know and understand about the river, your life and your relationship with God is behind. You do not know what lies ahead.
This is one of those special moments. You can stop the journey and say, “I have traveled with God far enough. I do not want to go any further.” But deep down you know that God wants you to keep going. To do that you must push a button near the ship’s wheel. On the button is printed one word: Faith. But pushing that button is scary because it cuts off the one thing you still comprehend… your past.
Somehow God gives you the courage to push the “Faith Button” and immediately you regret it. Those great big steel doors begin to close behind you so that you can no longer see in any direction unless you look up and right now there doesn’t seem to be anything skyward. It’s a scary feeling. The courage that enabled you to push the “Faith Button” begins to weaken. Maybe you made a mistake?
Slowly water begins to flow into the lock and you sense the ship beginning to rise. But it happens slowly, very slowly. Why does waiting take so long? There isn’t much to do while you are waiting except clean the ship. (Not a bad idea!) After what seems like forever the ship finally rises high enough so that you can see again but since you are higher everything is much clearer now.
“This is wonderful,” you exclaim. As the front gate gradually opens you feel exuberant and alive. Your journey with God seems clear and the river ahead appears smooth. “Praise the Lord!” you shout. “Praise god in his heavenly dwelling; praise him in his mighty heaven!” (Psalm 150:1)
Yet before very long… you spot an obstacle ahead and you sail into another lock and the whole process starts over. Not again! What will you do? Once again you can say that you have sailed with God far enough. But to continue moving forward you must be willing to push the “Faith Button” that will close doors to your past. Again God gives you the courage to reach out and push that button. Once again you are afraid but you begin cleaning the ship and you wait. “Why does it take so long, Lord?”
The water flows and the ship rises. As the doors open you are again higher than before. You are able to see further ahead and more clearly than ever. You turn around and even your past makes more sense. Your relationship with God is strengthened. “Praise the Lord!” you shout and continue your journey. But your happiness is short-lived as once again you sail into another lock.
At any point during the journey you may be tempted to stop but then you miss the tremendous opportunities God has for you. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Meanwhile, we keep pushing “Faith Buttons,” we clean the ship, we look up and yes… we wait.