God's Plan and Power

Bible Book: Acts  1 : 6-11
Subject: Church; Christian Living; Holy Spirit; Witnessing; Growth, Church


Dr. J. Mike Minnix, editor, www.pastorlife.com
Acts 1:6-11

A man went to the hospital for an X-ray and was told that he would receive a report from the procedure within a couple of weeks. The man waited fearfully for the results of the text to be sent to him, and finally a note came from his doctor that stated that the X-ray came back with the following results: N.E.P.T. Well, the poor fellow nearly fainted, for he was certain that the letters stood for “Not Expected To Pull Through.” Nervously the called the doctor’s office and asked to speak with the doctor immediately. When the doctor was on the line, the patient explained what he had received and was wondering just how long he had to live. The doctor said, “Dear fellow, the N.E.P.T. on your report does not mean that you are not expected to pull through but rather stands for No Experience of Pulnoary Tuberculosis. You are fine and dandy.” When the man hung up the phone, he sighed with relief.

I can tell you that the N.E.P.T. report on many of churches might actually mean “Not Expected To Pull Through,” and we need to take seriously the situation our churches are facing today before it is too late. In order to properly understand the modern situation, we need to go back to the birth of the church and discover God’s Plan and Power for God's people to do God's Work. You see, we can’t just do whatever we wish as Christians and churches, but rather we are to follow God’s directives for our lives and ministries.

There are several things I could say today related to the needs of the modern church, but I want to address a central and critical issue. It is said that some years ago a cleric was showing a man through a great, expensive cathedral. Silver and gold objects were everywhere in the large, ornate structure. The minister turned with a smile to the man and said, "We don't have to say with Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’" The layman replied, “That’s true, but neither can you say, 'In the name of Jesus rise up and walk.'" You see, we may be richer than those who came before us but we are certainly weaker.

By what power did the early Christians turn the world upside down? Without all the modern tools we have to spread the gospel, they were able to shake the world with the message of Jesus. Just how did they do that? Their lay people were likely unable to read, and the ministers had little formal training. They had no great buildings, denominational assistance or powerful means of communication. Yet, with all the weakness they faced, they had a power beyond imagination. Where did they get it?

The answer for the church in every generation is found in the power and person of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God can enable us to do what God has called upon us to do in this world.

In Acts 1:6-11 we discover the instructions of Jesus that He gave to His disciples just before He ascended back to heaven. Let’s look at these words today and renew our commitment to the power He provides for His Church and His work in this world.

Acts 1:6-11: Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

I. First, we must Know What we are to be Doing

Our task is to carry out the orders of our Lord, thus we are not free to do anything we wish, for we are mere soldiers under His command. Paul once wrote, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:1-3) Again, Paul wrote, "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Our task is to follow our Leader and “please” Him who enlisted us as a soldier. No, we are not soldiers who fight a physical war, but rather we are to carry on the struggle in a spiritual war with an enemy who is stronger than we are. Yet, we are told by John in 1 John 4:4, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Though we may be weak in ourselves, God's persence and power within us as believers we greater than any enemy that we can possibly face.

Some years ago, in a battle fought along a row of hills, soldiers were told by move extremely heavy guns to the top of a high knoll.  They sat there looking up at what appeared to be an impossible task. The captain came over and said, "It must be done boys, I have orders in my pocket." God has given us orders and they seem impossible at times. But, He never asks us to do that which He fails to enable us to do. We are to rise up and get moving with the faith and knowledge that He will provide what we need when we need it.

So, think with me about our work to live for Christ - to meet the financial needs of His Church, to teach the Word, to care for the needs of those around us with His love and to take the gospel across the street and around the world so that people may be saved. It is an incredible task, but clearly it is ours to do.

A. The Glory of this Work - witnessing unto Christ

In our passage today, Jesus states that our work is to witness unto Him. We are not just witnessing to the world, we are giving witness to Him and the salvation and grace He has placed in our lives. When we point to Him, we are actually telling the world that He has changed us, and He can change their lives as well. Yet, if we do not live as those who are walking in the presence of our Commander in Chief, our precious Lord and Savior, how can we possibly do this work?

Listen, this is a glorious work!

  • We serve the King of Kings.
  • We serve the One who made everything that exists.
  • We serve the one who died for our sins on the cross, and who rose from the dead for our justification.

We can’t go around with our faces hung down and hearts heavy and expect to reach the world with the gospel. We are told to count it all joy when we suffer for His name. Out task is to honor Him who has so richly blessed us. This is a glorious work.

Sadly, many today serve the Lord as if it is pure obligation rather than serving with the awareness that it is a precious opportunity.. Someone asks, “Do I have to tithe?” No, you GET to tithe! It is an honor to give. Another asks, “Do I have to witness?” What a shame! We GET to witness to His glory, love, power and grace. This is a glorious work and we ought to accept it and enjoy it, no matter how difficult it may seem to us at any given time.

So, first this is a glorious work, but notice also …

B. The Godliness of this Work - this is why Jesus came

We must recognize that what we are called to do in His name is a godly work. We are not serving in the flesh, at least we better not be. My strength is not sufficient for God’s work. No, Jesus came to redeem those who believe in Him, and that is a godly work. We have too many mild-mannered preachers, speaking to mild-mannered people, with a mild-mannered messages about how to be more mild-mannered. We better remember who we are! We are God’s people – saved by grace. Let us remember that we are working for the King of Kings. This is God’s work – no our work – and that calls for our best.

Also, note …

C. The Gravity of this Work – a lost and hopelessness world!

If we fail … what then? Dear people, we dare not fail our Master. The world is lost and is suffering under the weight of Satan’s power, and Jesus is the only hope available for the soul. Our generation is steeped in entertainment, sinking in social networking, stumbling on the drugs that promise what they cannot provide and seeking in the world what the world does not possess. Sadly, many of us as Christians are living just like the world. We are playing games on our computers while the people perish. If we do not see the gravity of the situation, God help us!

Jesus ascended back to heaven and left us with His work. He saved us and He meets our needs according to His riches in glory. There is a great weight upon us to carry on what He has given us to do. Others came before us and were hunted like animals, they were skinned alive and burned at the stake for their faith, but they never gave in or gave up. Some were hauled into the great Roman Coliseum to be eaten alive by rabid dogs or lions. Men, women and little children huddled together as the emperor and the Roman citizens screamed with delight for the animals to be loosed on the Christians. The believers prayed as the beasts attacked, but they did not renounce their faith or back away from the work they were given to accomplish. Our complaints and excuses are lame in the face of those who came before us.

So, we have this work of giving witness to Jesus, for that is what He told us to do. But, notice something else involved in our life for Him.

II. We Must Rely on the Power of God to Do What we are to Do

The power to serve God is not our own and God never planned for it to come from us. He knows we are incapable of carrying out His work, so He gave us a power from above to do the work below. We must understand and depend upon the power He provides to do His business in this world.

When Jayne and I were in England a few years ago, we visited a working wind mill. Inside that structure was a large grinding stone which no man could possibly turn by hand. Grain was poured into a large spout from above and the stone began to turn and the grain was made into meal. Outside the structure were two huge blades set precisely to catch the wind and turn the immense grinding stone. Without the wind, the mill was just a big blob sitting idle and inactive on the hillside, but with a full wind and the right pitch of the blades, the great stone moved over the grain with ease. The meal was produced as fast as the workmen could catch it in sacks coming from the chute. It was amazing to watch that process occur before our eyes.

Listen to me, church! We have a stone to turn that is too big for us to move. It is the earth itself! We can’t move the world toward Christ on our own, but we do have a way to accomplish the task. God has what we need in the person of the Holy Spirit and His Spirit can move anything and everything.

Note some facts about God’s power…

A. This is not a Physical Power like that of Samson

You remember Samson from the Old Testament. He had power to do things that seemed impossible, but He wasn’t doing it on his own. God’s Spirit was upon Him and he surprised everyone around him with the muscle and might that he possessed. Yet, Samson failed to understand the means by which He did these mighty deeds. He became lax and worldly, and that caused him to allow his own passions to strip him of the power that God provided. Thus, he fell into the hands of God’s enemies and was mocked and shamed for it.

Make note of this, we cannot do God’s work without God’s power. If we try, we will seek to do what those before us did, only to realize that they had something we are missing – they had the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Samson-like power will not do – it must be God-like power which Samson had and lost. Though a Christian cannot lose the Holy Spirit, he can neglect and grieve Him. He will not work in those who are playing games while a great battle is going on in the spiritual world.

B. This is not a Mental Power like that of Solomon

Solomon! What a man he was! Wiser than any man, and yet looked what happened to him. At the peak of his dependence upon God, there was nothing Solomon could not accomplish. Yet, in his later years he gave in to earthly desires that ended up weakening his kingdom so much that by the time he died the entire nation of Israel was split in two. God’s hand was not shortened that He cannot save, bless and empower, but the foolishness and lax living of His peopel can cause God to withdraw His power. Is that what we are doing today? Are we fully dependent upon Him? I’m convinced that some of the greatest minds every found in the kingdom exist today, but great minds without God’s power cannot accomplish God-like results.

You see, we cannot invent or produce this power on our own. We cannot earn this power or enlarge this power through our own efforts. We can only discover this power when we yield to the Lord completely and totally. We cannot grab or gain this power through our strength, position, or mental gifts, but we can obtain His power by simple resignation to His Person.

Bernard Palissy, a French potter is recognized as the person who invited learned how to imitate Chinese porcelain. He worked on the task for sixteen years, day after day. One day he was firing some china and decided that the real problem was a lack of heat. So, he called to his servants to bring more wood for the kiln. They threw everything they had into the fire. Yet, Palissy still wanted more. They cried out that the fire might explode, but Palissy said, “More heat, more wood!” When they ran out of wood, Palissy told them to break up the furniture in the room and throw it on the fire. Finally, when he withdrew the porcelain, he had what he had been seeking all those years.

Dear people, what we need to produce God’s beautiful work in this world is the fire of heaven – the Holy Spirit from above. We must throw all we are and all we have into it. We must submit to Him so that He can heat a fire that the world cannot deny. God will burn in us and through us when we are fully dependent upon Him and upon Him alone.

Are you burning with the fulness of the Holy Spirit? That is the need of the hour. We can’t play games and win the war God has called us to fight. The Spiritual war calls for Spiritual power – we need the Holy Spirit to fill us and to fire us up for God’s work.

Now, let me mention one more thing…

III. We Must Do What We Know To Do With The Power To Accomplish It

Many Christians desire the joy of the Holy Spirit. We all desire, at least all of our who are truly saved, the overflowing joy of God’s presence. But, note that eating big meals without working only makes us bigger and slower.

I was talking with a person some weeks ago who talked about how much her father used to eat for each meal. He ate a great breakfast every day, a full lunch with meat and potatoes, and then sat down to a full meal every evening. This lady said her mother spent all her time cooking. Then she said, “After all my daddy ate, he never weighed more than 175 pounds.” I asked her what he did for a living. She said, “He was a farmer. He got up everyday around five in the morning and worked a good two hours before breakfast. Then he went right out to plow, hoe the ground, plant or reap the harvest. He took care of the animals, built his own barns and buildings and took care of everything around the house.” Well, my goodness! No wonder he never gained weight. He ate but he worked with the energy he received from it. Brothers and sisters, I fear we like to eat at the table of the Lord but we don’t like the work in the field of the Lord. We become bigger and slower and can't accomplish His work.

I suppose everyone listening to me today can think of a church that was once effective and filled with people but today that same church is just a large campus with buildings that are mostly empty. I fear that the power that built some of those churches was abandoned somewhere along the line. The church began to think that it was effective because it was large, but the truth was that large because it had once been effective. Today churches like that cost more to keep up than the small congregation can afford and are being sold to be theaters, restaurants and even for secular music venues. One large church in Atlanta, a church that housed thousands of people, was sold to be a "House of Blues,"

We don't do God's work - God does His work through us. If we try to do His work with our programs plans and power, we fail. When we allow Him to infill us with the Holy Spirit, nothing is impossible.

Let's note some problems which keep us from being empowered by God in today's church.

A. Indifference

Indifference is a great problem. C.S. Lewis, in his book the The Screwtape Letters, has the devil tell his nephew Wormwood to work on the people so that they simply do not care. It isn’t necessary to get people to go out into the world and live ungodly lives, all that is necessary is for God’s people to sit down and do little to reach this world for Christ. I've noticed through the years that some members and leaders in the church become entrenched in a progam and are totally unwilling to change. They say, "We've always done like this and we're not changing it." They are not indifferent to the program - in fact, they work hard to maintain it. The problem is that God left the program a long time ago. Those leading many of those ministries have long since quit loving God and fell in love with something they were doing. They began to own the program and dare anyone to touch it. Be assure that most Spirit-filled people don't want to touch your old dead program anyway! Sit there long enough and they will bury you and your program. Don't look at me like you don't know what I'm talking about. We all know someone like that. God help us to fall in love with Him afresh and discover new things He desires to do in us and through us.

There is the story of a boy who used to walk across the church lawn to get to school. He had been a trouble-maker, so someone at the church asked him not to walk on the church grounds. The story is that the young lad grew up to become Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot and killed President John Kennedy. I don’t know if that story is true, but I would not doubt it.

Back in the 1970s I persuaded the church I pastored to obtain buses to bring poor children to the church. In no time we had two school buses full of kids every week coming to the services. One man in the church said to me, “Pastor, those children make a lot of noise running up and down the hall and they make a mess in the building.” We paid little attention to such complaints and continued our ministry to those children and their families. Then it began! One Sunday an entire family came down the aisle to accept Christ. We had started out picking up those children while their parents slept off their Saturday night partying, but at last they saw their need and God drew them to His Son. Then that happened to another family, and then another. Thank God for people who understand a church is not about us but is about reaching souls for the Lord. I would rather have a dirty children’s area at the church with people being saved than to have a beautiful building with the neighborhood going to hell! Only the Spirit of God can change people and shake them out of their indifference.

B. Insubordination

Another problem is insubordination. When Jesus was taken up into heaven, an angel spoke to the disciples. He said, “Why do you stand here gazing up into the heaven…” In other words, “He’s coming back, so get busy!”

If we are not carrying out His work, with His power, we are being insubordinate to the Master.


Let me close. Listen, we have a work to do that we cannot accomplish on our own, but He who resides in us can enable us to do what we cannot do without Him. “Fill us, Lord,” must be our plea. “Use us, Lord,” must be our request. "Lead us, Lord," must be our submission.

A woman was pulled from a burning building and was sitting by the curb crying. She was shaking and trembling. A firefighter came over and said, “Ma’am, it is alright! You are safe.” The woman looked up at the firefighter and said, “You don’t understand. I’m not upset or frightened now.” He asked, “Then why are you crying?” She said, “I crying because I got out of the building but I didn’t help anyone else escape. I didn’t help a single soul,” She wept out the words.

We are saved, but we ought to weep and sob if we are not working to help others escape the coming judgment. Now is the time for us to be filled and faithful – now, before it is too late.