Intro: What Do You Do When You’re Not Doing Anything? We don’t know how to do nothing. We distract ourselves. Distraction Inevitably Leads to Inaction.
“Distraction leads to Inaction. Don’t let today's pleasure destroy tomorrow's treasure." - Alexander Den Heijer
Its a cycle: We have a period of pause, and so we fill it with distraction. Now, because we’re living distracted lives, we miss opportunities. Instead of seeing those opportunities, we fail to take action. Our inaction leads us to more periods of pause, And what do we do? We fill those periods of pause with more distractions and we’re back in the cycle. Distraction Inaction leads to distraction, leads to more inaction. Pretty soon we are wasting our lives.
What we do in our downtime matters.
Can be in personal life, business, life of an organization, because we’re always going to go through moments of pause and moments of productivity, seasons of pause and seasons of productivity.
As we continue the series we began last week in the Book of Acts, we see the Apostles in a moment of pause. They have been commissioned by the risen Jesus before he ascended into heaven. Remember they asked Him if it would be at that time that He would be restoring His Kingdom to Israel? His answer must have shocked them, for He said to the them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” and then He up and left them starting into the sky. And so He’s given them a task to do, an assignment, that they will be His witnesses to the world, but He’s also told them that they are not ready, that there will be a pause before the productivity, for he ordered them in verse 4: And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” And so he tells them that there is going to be a pause before the power, and that the first thing they are to do, is nothing. Nothing but “wait”, or and that is what we are so bad at, isn’t it. Don’t you love it when you have a job that you are assigned to do but you can’t do it? Some of you guys have had the experience of being employed by the government, but it takes weeks or months for you security clearance to come in - good times, right? We are not a patient people. Yet these apostles had been trained by Jesus, and they knew what to do when they we doing nothing. Christ’s People Fill Period’s of Pause With Prayer and Preparation. Instead of falling into the distraction cycle, Christ’s people use period’s of pause for God’s purposes.
Acts 1:12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In verses 1:12-14, we see the apostles acting in obedience to Christ’s command to wait upon the Holy Spirit. They return to Jerusalem, and waited, along with the women and Jesus’ family, who had come to faith in Him after His resurrection. And while they waited, they filled the pause with prayer. The phrase, “devoting themselves” suggests to us that this is a manner of life to which they are resolutely committed. The weeks between the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit were committed to one pursuit, that is prayer. And not to personal prayer alone, but prayer that was “with one accord” with one another.
This is how we see the church pray in the book of Acts. Sometimes they pray in moments of pause, and sometime they pray as they are making decisions, and sometimes they pray as they are ministering, but they pray. It’s what they do. They prayed, they prayed and fasted, they prayed through the night. They pray hear in Acts 1 waiting for the Holy Spirit, and the pray in Acts 4 to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Its their first response in times of pause, and their first response in times of productivity - God’s people pray.
Prayer short-circuits the cycle of distraction/inaction. The distraction/inaction cycle can be faith draining - this is how apathy festers and faith grows cold. When we are praying however, periods of pause become not wasted time but focused time. Prayer leads to expectation and build our faith that Jesus will in fact show up in our midst and empower us for the next period of productivity.
I get distracted a lot on my phone, my wife can tell you. I’ve developed a habit of distraction. leading to inaction. So I was convicted this week as I was working on this message. I want to develop a habit of prayer. So I downloaded a couple of prayer apps until I found one that I liked. I put all of you in it. and I set it up. I pray for my family everyday. And then I divided the congregation up into different days of the week. Now, because I have a habit of going to my phone in times of inaction, I put the app right there on the front page. And I see it, and I open it up and I start praying for you, for our church and for our witness.
You might say, “I’m too busy to pray.” No. We’re too busy not to pray. Filling the pause with prayer is never a time waster. In prayer we often get clarity, calmness, peace and power from God to be productive. And pray with God’s people. Be in a connect group. Women’s prayer group. Pray in the Spirit. Above all, pray for God. It may be that the main reason that these apostles devoted themselves to prayer was that they missed Jesus. They had walked with him for 3 years, and now he was gone and they missed that intimacy they had with Him, and so they prayed.
So first, Christ’s People Fill Period’s of Pause With Prayer and second, and Christ’s People Fill Period’s of Pause with Preparation.
Acts 1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’
Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
We see Peter taking the initiative and addressing this small gathering of believers. We’ll see the prominence of Peter throughout the first part of the book of Acts. But what Peter says is very revealing. It seems that as the apostles devoted themselves to prayer, they also were devoting themselves to scouring the scriptures for insights about Jesus and the times to which they were called. They prayed with their Bible and their minds open.
And one of the things it seems that Peter was praying about and thinking about was about what had happened with his former friend Judas, who had been numbered among the apostles and had been allotted a share in the ministry with them. Jesus had after all told them all while Judas he was still with them that they would sit on thrones in His kingdom judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Yet Judas, who had been one of them, fell away, and “became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.”
And so Peter is searching the scriptures and praying in the pause, and he comes across Psalm 69 and 109, both of which speak of the fate of those who betray and oppose the Messiah.
Now the verses in Psalm 69 are very general, it is a prayer that the foes of the Psalmist be struck down, and that none would dwell in the houses of those who have struck down the Messiah, and Peter sees this as applying quite literally to Judas’ case, who apparently hung himself over a field that he had purchased and quite gruesomely fell from a substantial height onto the field, so that the field was deemed cursed and unfit for no dwelling but the dead. So Peter sees the words of this Psalm as having come to fulfillment in Judas’ sad fate. Psalm 109 is bit more specific, as verse 8, quoted here by Peter, declares that another is to take the betrayer’s office. And so Peter, who remember has seen the hand of God bringing all that the Old Testament spoke of the Messiah come to pass in Jesus, realizes that the fulfillment of prophecy had not yet come to completion. He realizes that Judas’ betrayal was no accident, but was foretold in prophesy, and accordingly, if the apostles are in fact to sit in thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, another must take the place of Judas. Notice that this is a one time thing, this filling of the office of apostle. There is no such apostolic replacement made in chapter 11 after James is killed by King Herod. Remember that the book of Acts begins in Jerusalem with the mission to the Jews, and thus 12 apostolic witnesses are prepared in this time of pause, that they might be ready to proclaim when the power comes.
Peter sets the criteria: the man chosen must have been a witness to everything that happened from the beginning to the end, in particular, that man must be a witness to the resurrection. The gospel rests on the historicity of the event of the life, death burial and resurrection of Christ.
Two appropriate candidates are set forward . Note again inverse 24 that the church again prays and puts the decision into God’s hands through the casting of lots, which was a means that the Jews used to determine God’s will.
Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
They were not leaving the decision to chance. This was not a choice between good and bad, and “oh, we’ll flip a coin and hope it works out” They had two good choices, two men that met the criteria, and they trusted the Lord to lead them. Would we do this today? If you’re interested in that question, you’ll have to come out to our Acts Course! And in such manner the Apostles now again number 12, and the Jerusalem mission is ready to begin, as soon as God sends His Power from on High. They have used the period of pause to pray and prepare. They are now ready. I love this: they’ve got a 12 men ready for when the masses come. They got a mega-church staff before the mega-church.
Now, although there is a lot here that is specific to the Jerusalem mission and the age of the apostles (like, I don’t think this passage is saying to us that we need 12 board members), what we do see repeated through the book of Acts is the continual emphasis on prayerfully raising up new leaders in the church. Before the church can expand numerically or geographically, leaders must be prepared as vessels for the Spirit to fill.
We’ve been in a period of pause. But we having been praying. We’ve been in a period of pause, but I don’t know if I’ve been doing a good job of preparing leaders. Here’s a couple of things I am pretty convinced of, that soon we’ll be moving into a new phase of our mission as we re-plant our church in a new neighborhood. This is the time for us to pray and prepare. We have been working on church-replanting strategies. I also know that we have some holes to fill in our ministry. We’ve had some brothers and sisters who have moved away or have left to join other church plants, and we need, each one of us to be ready for what God might call us to do, to step into roles that we may not yet feel prepared for, and the trust the Holy Spirit has the power to equip us and use us for his purposes. I don’t mean that we have to get more busy. I do mean that today you can commit to praying and preparing with us for the mission God sets in front of us.