Originally published Wednesday, 03 January 2018.
I was recently reading the book of John in Chapters 19 and 20, as the story of the crucifixion and resurrection unfolded before my eyes. It wasn’t my first time or even my fifth or sixth or tenth reading the story. But for some reason, a vivid picture of the disciples filled my mind. Think about the disciples for just a moment. The disciples had left everything they knew to follow Jesus. They left their jobs, their families, the way of life they knew, to follow Him. For three years, they devoted their lives to His teachings – trusting and believing. And in a matter of a few days, the journey ended – abruptly and unlike anything they expected. The darkest time in the lives of the disciples was, likely, those three days between the death and the resurrection. This was the mourning period of all that was lost. They did not know what God had planned – even though Jesus had told them. In their grief, in their mourning season, they couldn’t see the promises of God. They only saw the mourning. But the third day came anyway. The darkest moments of our lives -- the moments when all is quiet, and the soil is dry, and the land seems barren --- God is still working. That is good news for us today!
Jesus rose on the third day to fulfill the promise of God. The first day and the second day were dark. They seemed hopeless. For the 40 days after his crucifixion, he ministered. He appeared to the apostles. Interestingly, they didn’t recognize him at first. When God starts to do something new in our lives --- maybe a fulfillment of a promise, maybe a season of dancing instead of crying – when God starts to move, isn’t it interesting that, many times, we don’t even recognize it?
When we read Acts 1:4-8, we see that Jesus gave an assignment. He said to wait. Stay here and wait. Stay your post. Waiting is tough, isn’t it? The gift (the Holy Spirit) doesn’t descend until Acts 2:2. So there’s some waiting that is taking place in the interim. Obedience comes before the promise. They waited. They obeyed. They worked. They were busy about their Father’s business --- even during the wait. (They nominated Matthias to replace Judas during this time. They gathered for meetings.) What assignment has God given you during this season? Your season, right now, may be a season of grieving of something that was lost. It may be a season of rejoicing for something that was given. It may be a new season with a fresh start. But whatever season you are in, I am certain there is an assignment for you. Waiting isn’t stagnant. Waiting is obedience, and it’s participation.
David waited 20 years on his promise. Abraham waited 75 years even to be told the promise and then another 25 years to receive the promise! What you are waiting on is important, but what God has assigned you to do while you wait is even more important. This is a time, very often, that I find the Holy Spirit working most significantly in my life -- during the wait.
Reading further into Acts 2:1, we see the believers gathered in one place. Spiritual disciplines are very important. We see in Acts 1:5 the reference to baptism. Baptism is important. We see in Acts 1:24, they prayed. Prayer is important. We see in Acts 2:1, they gathered. Gathering (with other believers) is important. Spiritual disciplines in your life are important. They create an environment ripe for God to do what only He can do. And then look at what happens in Acts 2:2-4. Suddenly. Suddenly. Suddenly. Spiritual disciplines are very important, but they don’t replace the sudden encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, counselor, advocate, conviction, guide, revealer, and teacher. The Holy Spirit gives us fruits of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us rest – despite our workloads, joy despite our challenges, and peace despite our pasts. This is what I’m learning about the Holy Spirit. I need the “sudden” encounters. I need the Comforter, the Advocate, every day.
I am reminded of one such encounter a year ago. It was 3:30 in the morning on August 16, 2016, when I received the call that changed everything. “Jennifer, you need to get out of the house. Your neighborhood is flooding,” my friend sobbed hysterically. Unsure if I was dreaming, I stumbled from my bed, down the hall, and out my front door. Stunned, I discovered hundreds of neighbors standing in their driveways and lawns, staring with the same awe that I was. We didn’t live near a body of water. We weren’t supposed to be affected by floodwaters. The area had not flooded in over 1,000 years. Yet, floodwaters were pouring into my neighborhood, more quickly than I can even describe. As if we lived in a bathtub and the faucet had just been turned on full-strength, we watched the waters rise. I ran inside, awoke my family, and grabbed a suitcase. Within 20 minutes, we were loaded in the car and fleeing the scene. It took only a matter of hours for the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016 to overtake my home and wash away virtually everything I owned – baby pictures, wedding albums, my children’s first letters, everything. The days that followed left me disoriented, confused, speechless, sleepless, and exhausted, as I scrambled to make sense of the horror that was now my reality. In the weeks that followed, I coped. I’d love to tell you I did more. I’d love to tell you I thrived and had some supernatural God experience in those days, but I merely survived. We worked 18-hour days ripping sheetrock from the walls and dragging every wet, soggy, and soiled piece of furniture from our home. And I cried a lot. I worked myself to exhaustion, fell to the floor and cried, then worked myself to exhaustion some more. It was hard, very hard. But in addition to all that crying and hurt, I also saw the Holy Spirit move. Despite my own loss, I was able to pray with others who also had needs. And do you know what was true in those moments? Even though I was exhausted and hurting, the power of the Holy Spirit rose within me and was able to comfort others as I prayed. That’s the power of the God we serve.
What do we do when a fire or a flood takes our earthly possessions? What do we do when we lose a loved one? What do we do when we lose our marriage? Our job? Our financial security? Our ministry position? Our health? The relationship with the one we thought we’d marry?
We cling to the power of the Holy Spirit. We allow the Holy Spirit to be our comforter. We allow the Spirit to be our advocate. We receive. We get ministered to. And then we rise up with the power that only the living God offers. Some of you need to rise up. You need to rise up against the devastation. You need to rise up against the attack. You need to stop wrestling with flesh and blood and get mad at the real enemy. You’ve been crushed and defeated, but it’s time for the power of the Holy Spirit to rise up in you and realize you are way stronger than you ever thought you could be.
You can read our prayer to the Holy Spirit to help guide and direct your thoughts in prayer and recognize his work in your life.
Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker, whose personal journey through homelessness, abuse, and multiple teen pregnancies is leaving audiences around the globe riveted. At 19, Maggio was pregnant for the fourth time, living in government housing on food stamps and welfare. She shares with great openness, her pain, mistakes, and journey to find hope in Christ. She ultimately became an 11-time Circle of Excellence winner in Corporate America. While a vocal advocate for abstinence, and sustaining today's marriages, Maggio recognizes that single parenthood exists and is passionate about seeing these parents thrive. She left her corporate successes behind to launch a global initiative to see single moms living a life of total freedom from financial failures, parenting woes, and emotional issues. Her passion is contagious, and her story has been used to inspire thousands around the globe. Today, Jennifer works to ensure that no single mom walks alone as the founder of the national profit, The Life of a Single Mom. For more information and resources, visit the website HERE.