I’m reminded of something Jesus says before His ascension. Allow me to share it with you.
“Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’” (Luke 24:44-49 ESV).
In another place, Jesus says, “‘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’” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
We find in these passages the Great Commission. Christ is calling His people to spread the gospel message throughout the world. But He doesn’t expect them to accomplish this work on their own. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus commands His disciples to remain where they are until the power of the Holy Spirit comes.
In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes. Thousands of unbelievers are saved. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42 ESV). The Church—the expression of God’s mission—is on the rise. And it is full of power.
I sense discouragement among Christians today when it comes to the Church. Several congregations aren’t meeting due to COVID-19 concerns. A number of ministries have pushed pause or ended altogether. Attendance is low. Giving is difficult. The media has informed us of congregations getting fined. And people are worried about the Church being persecuted by the government. When all of these things are taken together, it’s easy for Christians to feel uncertainty when it comes to the future of the Church.
But there’s power for the Church. And this power isn’t found in perfect programs, government policies, or the lack of persecution. Rather, this power comes from the Holy Spirit.
There’s a reason why Jesus commands His people to remain in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. The apostle Paul tells the church in Ephesus, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14 ESV).
Churches can thrive in persecution. Churches can reach people in Muslim countries. Churches can grow during pandemics. Churches can have great influence in secular societies. But without the Holy Spirit of God, churches are powerless.
I write this to remind us of the hope we have in Christ. There is power for the Church. The mission of God is still underway. The Holy Spirit is still convicting hearts. And nothing can stop God’s promises—not even Hell itself.
Do you remember what Jesus tells Peter? “‘And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (Matt. 16:18 ESV).
Take heart, Christian. There is no pause button to the mission of God.