Motivation Meditations in Acts : 5 : A Need to Do Something
Acts 1:15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers…..
Jesus has gone, the disciples have been told to wait, so they gather and pray and as they do, Peter starts reflecting on what has happened. Now I am aware that I am about to move on to controversial grounds, but examine the argument and see what you think. Peter has been thinking about the fact that Judas, one of the twelve is no longer with them and he feels that twelve is significant and that they ought to seek out another to take his place. Now examine Peter’s reasoning. He starts quoting psalms.
Now one thing we have to realise is that NOT everything in Scripture is to be accepted or followed as an example. If you consider parts of the arguments of Job’s friends, they are wrong! If you consider Solomon’s jaded writing near the end of his life in Ecclesiastes, it is only a partial picture that viewed life ‘under the sun’, for he’s lost his heavenly perspective! In the New Testament we find Paul and Barnabas falling out, surely not a practice to be recommended. So when we come to this passage which Luke faithfully records happening (without comment beyond the reason for it – that Judas died) we find Peter snatching verses out of the psalms to make his point.
Now the New Testament writers often did take verses from the prophetic scriptures and say, this is now fulfilled, and they then described how. When that happens they usually wrote, ‘and to fulfil the words of…” etc. but, to be fair to Peter, he doesn’t use that sort of language; he just takes psalms that were often quoted in the New Testament and implies they apply to Judas and so they need to appoint a replacement for Judas. I have a problem with this and is comes in various forms.
First, the Holy Spirit has not been given yet and there seems no indication of this being a divinely inspired action. Second, it is very different from the direction we find in Acts 13:1-3 when the prophets at Antioch had a clear directing by the Holy Spirit what to do. Third, this precedent of replacing a missing apostle was not repeated when James was killed by Herod (Acts 12). Fourth, nothing further is heard in Acts of the man they chose to replace Judas, Matthias, whereas another apostle was clearly chosen by Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and becomes one of the most significant of apostles in that time. Fifth, although Peter has been through serious refining through the Cross and through Jesus’ words to him in Galilee (John 21), he has been known for his rash and impetuous words and behaviour in the past, and we may be expecting too much of him to think he has changed so much in such a short period of time.
He has, after all, been called by Jesus to be a key leader in the church (John 21) and it is only very human to feel you ought to be taking a lead now in this time of waiting. Perhaps Peter felt that God could not move and send His Holy Spirit unless they had done all they could to ensure everything was right in the church.
In all of this we see a very common motivation, the feeling that we ought to be doing something. Now this is a difficult tightrope to walk because of course we are called to do good works (see Mt 5:16, Jn 14:12, Eph 2:10 and Jas 1:22, 2:17) but as the Ephesians verse shows, these are works that God has on His heart for us to do and therefore – “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25) i.e. we are to be led by Him. The New Testament, post-Pentecost, walk with Christ is to be a walk of faith, led by the Spirit. The greatest lesson we can learn, after those pertaining to our initial salvation, is how to listen to God. Learning to be sensitive to the Spirit is crucial for the believer who wishes to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and serve him.
Perhaps the greatest and worst example of someone feeling they need to help God out and do something is seen in the lives of Sarai and Abram. God had told them that they would have child in old age but when nothing appears to be happening, Sarai perhaps reasoned that when the Lord said, “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir,” (Gen 15:4) perhaps that meant that Abram could have a son through another woman and so proposed that he had her maid, Hagar (Gen 16:2). The result of that was Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations who have ever since been against the people who were descended from Isaac, the child of promise who Sarah eventually bore. Feeling we ought to do something can have catastrophic effects (even if God does use those effects in the long term).
I might want to be an evangelist but unless God gifts and anoints me, any such efforts will be doomed to futility. I know of one great leader whose testimony is that the Lord gave him a prophetic word that He would take him to South America and open up great doors of ministry for him. The man presumptuously though it meant straight away and instead of hearing the Lord saying He would take him there, he sold up everything and took himself and his family there. The ministry went no where and so the man gave up and returned home and it was only when, ten years later, that he found himself in South America with a successful ministry that he realised that it had all been a work of God.
We love to think we can help God out, that our gifts and abilities can do the job, but we have to learn that we go when He sends us, we go with the grace and power He gives us and we can only walk on water when he says, “Come!” On that famous occasion (Mt 14:25-30) at least Peter asked, showing his availability, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (v.28). Notice the words, ‘tell me’. He knew what the voice of Jesus’ command sounded like and if Jesus said it, then he could do it.
The order of things: we bring our will (with God’s help) to the place where, to the best of our knowledge, we can say, “Lord, I am available, please use me.” Then we stand still and listen and when we hear that still small voice say, “Come!” then we act. Does that mean we never do anything as a Christian? No, for we are called to express love and goodness in whatever we do anyway, and if we are confronted with a need, then it may be a place for action, but even then wisdom suggests we pause and ask, “Lord, please give me wisdom, show me what you want me to do here, how you may want me to act to meet this particular need.” Small, mundane things – do them. Things that have consequences, talk to the Lord as you make your heart available to Him. But don’t act because you feel you ought to, to bolster weak self-esteem in Christ, or to somehow ‘get God on your side’. Get those issues sorted first, and then you are available to be used – but still as He shows the way and as He leads! Amen? Amen!