There’s an old tale about two farmers whose crops were in desperate need of rain. They both cried out to God in prayer, asking Him to send the much-needed rain. But only one of them then went out into his fields to prepare them for the rain when it arrived. The question that this story presents is simply this – which of those farmers truly had faith?
That story came to mind as I was reading the first chapter of Acts last week. As a church planter and a bloke who just loves exciting stories I’ve read the Book of Acts A LOT of times. However, I’d never noticed this sweet little nugget in chapter 1…until now!
Chapter 1 begins with our Saviour promising His disciples that a special gift is on the way:
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v4-5+8)
Jesus then steps onto His epic cloud elevator and ascends to heaven, leaving His disciples to wait for the ‘gift’.
Acts 2 then famously charts the spectacular arrival of that gift – the Holy Spirit – on the day of Pentecost and from that moment on it was game on! The church literally explodes and the world is never the same again.
But where’s this nugget I’m banging on about?
It’s found in the bit that happens between the promise of the Holy Spirit and the arrival of the Holy Spirit:
“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. “Brothers,” he said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.” (Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”) Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’ So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus—from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.” (v 12-26)
Let me summarise what’s going on here – Jesus had promised the much-needed Holy Spirit to come and empower the early believers for the task of turning the world upside down with the gospel. In other words, Jesus had promised them rain! The believers’ response was to faithfully prepare their fields.
This is what that looked like: “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer“ (v14)
It was out of this of togetherness and prayerful unity that Peter spoke to the disciples regarding leadership. He explained that Judas’ betrayal and grizzly demise had left their leadership structure weak and in need of strengthening. After a prayerful game of Rock, Paper, Scissors Matthias became Apostle number 12. With the leadership situation addressed, the field was now ready for the ensuing monsoon! By the end of the following chapter the church had grown by some 3000 people and the church was off to a flyer!
So what’s this nugget teaching us?
I guess it’s simply this – if we are seeking God to move in power, to save to the uttermost, and to unleash the Holy Spirit in our midst and in our generation – I guess we need to be doing more than simply talking and praying about it. We need to be preparing for it. Are we identifying, raising up and releasing leaders who will humbly serve, lovingly lead, faithfully disciple and courageously commission others? It’s a challenge for all church leaders, church planters and gospel ministers. But it’s a challenge that we must rise to in faith. (For your prayers, it’s something that we as elders are looking at with real purpose at Hill City right now!)
So let’s follow the example of the 2 farmers and the Acts 1 believers:
Pray for rain.
Prepare for rain.
Reap the harvest.