Article of the week: Making the most of waiting
1 May 2021
Major Ray Hobbins suggests we use the time before corps programmes resume to look to God for fresh direction
Which of these words will define your waiting time?
Bewildered or blessed
Coerced or convicted
Entertainment or evangelism
Formality or fellowship
Grumbles or grace
Hopelessness or holiness
Impelled or inspired
Listlessness or love
Pride or penitence
Sentiment or salvation
Trivia or truth
Vanity or vigilance
Zest or zeal
AFTER the ascension of the Saviour the disciples found themselves bereft of the physical presence of the Jesus they had followed, loved and served. They had seen, heard and handled the Word of Life, then he was gone. Of course, they had been left with promises, assurances and the certain hope of his return. They had received instruction on where they were to go – Jerusalem – and to wait for the anointing.
They dutifully obeyed. They did not spend their time in bewilderment and idleness. They prayed, shared fellowship, broke bread together with one accord and chose Matthias to take the place of Judas. No doubt during this time they reflected on their faults, failings and spiritual blindness, but they did not let these things overwhelm them. Their faith held strong.
They waited and waited until the day of Pentecost. Then they were gloriously anointed, filled with the Holy Spirit and enabled to fulfil the task they had been given. They displayed wisdom and grace amid growing opposition and fulfilled their calling to preach the gospel of repentance, mercy and grace.
All of us have experienced a long waiting time during the pandemic, bereft of physical fellowship and worship. I trust we have followed the example of the apostles and those who believed by using this time wisely – considering God’s promises to us and prayerfully preparing for our return.
What have we learnt during this time? Of course, we still have some time left to contemplate and, for many, to mourn. How do we see the way forward?
How we need a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit! On the day of Pentecost, although they were together in the same place, each one of the disciples was anointed separately – individually prepared for the way ahead by being enabled and empowered for their specific tasks. At first together, but later persecuted and scattered, each fulfilled their calling. Their methods were prayer, the word of God, reliance on the Holy Spirit, worship, the preaching of a simple gospel of salvation found in Christ alone, and letters of challenge and encouragement to new churches and individual believers. Some were imprisoned, some were martyred.
Are we just going to trudge on as before or are we individually and corporately going to look to God for fresh direction? Peter had to leave behind his denial. All of them had to renounce their cowardice in keeping their distance at the time of Christ’s passion and their failure to believe the resurrection promises. Thomas had to give up his see-and-believe mentality, and those on the road to Emmaus their misunderstanding until they saw Jesus. Seeing him was, of course, necessary to their witness of the Resurrection. However, their need to see him before believing was reprimanded. Thankfully, they spent their time wisely, until they were anointed to complete their task – then they turned the world upside down!
The pandemic has turned our world upside down. As with many others, I took so much for granted. I pray we may all take a long, serious look at our position before God, well before we open our doors and restart the corps programme.
Believers and non-believers alike have been badly shaken and bewildered. There will be many things to consider. For example, bereaved people who were not able to see their loved ones when most needed and had basic funeral arrangements with few or no relatives may desire memorial services and advice. If we have a thanksgiving service once the pandemic has ended, it surely must be balanced with what has gone before. There will be need for sensitivity but also a boldness to present the gospel of hope. We need the guidance of God in our waiting time that we may serve him as we ought.
MAJOR HOBBINS LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN ABERYSTWYTH