Acts 1:6-8 (ESV)
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 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.”
The direct context of this conversation has everything to do with the consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth. The Psalms speak much of this Kingdom, with Zion as the Holy City at the center of it all. Indeed, all of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is the unfolding of this amazing plan. This is what is referred to as Biblical Theology.
However, for the purposes of this article, I want to focus on a more personal application to this text.
If you are like me, like most of us, you want to know what is coming. That is the reason we all invest so much money in our retirement, health insurance, car insurance, home owner’s insurance, etc. We want to know that everything is going to be okay. We go to the doctor for regular check-ups, the dentist for regular cleanings, and for those who are really motivated, the gym for regular maintenance.
The disciples were like most of us. They wanted to know what was coming too. Not only what was coming, but when it was coming. They asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They wanted to know when their nation’s day of exaltation would come. They were hopeful that they were standing right on the precipice of its inauguration.
What I want us to note is the way in which our Lord answers this question. He does not give them a “yes” or “no.” It would have been easy enough for Him to do so. He knew that the time had not yet come, just as He had known His time had not yet come to begin His earthly ministry. Even so, He chose to not give them a definitive answer. Not only does He not give them a “yes” or “no,” He doesn’t answer them at all. Rather than answer their question, He corrects their thinking.
To the disciples, their main concern was when Jesus would restore the Kingdom. Not to Jesus, and He makes that abundantly clear. He says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” In other words, not only was the timing not their main concern, it wasn’t their concern at all!
He could have ended the conversation with that response, but He doesn’t. He goes on to reorient their thinking to what their concern really was. He told them, “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.”
The disciples were not to sit around trying to figure out when the Kingdom would be restored. They weren’t even to spend their time being concerned about it. They were to use the power given them by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witnesses everywhere they went. This, and this alone, was their concern. This is reinforced later after Jesus ascends before their eyes.
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:10-11 ESV) The angel was both reinforcing the words of Jesus and calling them to move forward.
So, what, then, is the personal application for us? Well, have you ever wondered what God was up to in your life? Have you ever wondered when the next door would open for you?
Have you ever spent time trying to figure out where God is leading you and how to best prepare for the destination? Most of us have! I believe this brief exchange between Jesus and the disciples can help us in this area.
It is really not our concern what is next in life, where God is leading us, or when we will arrive at the next destination. Our concern is to “be [Jesus’] witnesses” everywhere we go. God has things all figured out, we don’t need to. What happens when we try to get in on God’s blueprints is frustration, stagnation and even devastation. What never happens, is peace, prosperity and productivity – not in God’s economy anyways.
This is similar to what Jesus told the disciples earlier in His ministry. He said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26 ESV)
When we begin to concern ourselves with where our finances will come from, where we are going to live and for how long, and every other thing the average American worries over, we begin a dangerous cycle. Our job is not to chart the course of life, it is to walk the path set before us.
This is a daily walk. One of the most over-used prayers in all of Christendom is also one of the most under-contemplated prayers. When Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He was pointing us to the reality of a daily trust in God. This is reinforced by Jesus’ words from His famous Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)
How do we apply this today? Stop worrying about what is on the horizon. God knows. It is enough for God to know. Another over-quoted Scripture is equally under-contemplated. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) You may have heard someone correct the misinterpretation of this passage.
It is easy enough to correct by simply reading on. But have you ever cut off the second half of this passage and simply believed the beginning? “For I know the plans I have for you.” If you can believe those words, you can rest in them. Meanwhile, like Jesus, let us “be about [our] Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49 NKJV)
God knows what is coming. He knows how it is coming, when it is coming and why it is coming. In all of this, God also knows the plans He has for us in the midst of it all. Let’s leave all of that to Him and simply live, in the power of the Spirit, as His witnesses today. He is taking care of everything else.