If you think you have ever faced a difficult task, listen to what Jesus told His disciples to do: “. . .you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, ESV)
How were 11 men and the other few faithful followers of Jesus at that time ever going to be able to accomplish that mission? They didn’t even know yet how large the earth was, let alone how to get to all of it!
If you think your work for the Lord is overwhelming or impossible, then you’ve forgotten that God’s mission is fueled by God’s Spirit. It is easy to begin working out of human strength to do divine work because we are naturally proud. We have the intellect or skills to get the job done. Or so we think.
If you keep reading in Acts, you will see how Acts 1:8 unfolded.
Jerusalem. The believers were in Jerusalem when Acts 1:8 was spoken, and once the Holy Spirit was poured out on them at Pentecost (recorded in Acts 2), they began proclaiming the good news about Jesus. Their ministry focused in Jerusalem until Acts 8, after Stephen’s martyrdom: “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1)
Judea and Samaria. So, ministry began in these regions when believers were dispersed from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:4–5, ESV).
It wasn’t like the disciples sat down one day and drew out a map of how they could get to the end of the earth—they didn’t even know where those places were! The Holy Spirit will orchestrate God’s plan better than you ever could.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I was really disappointed after my first Easter weekend at my current church. So much planning went into the events of that weekend several months before. The events were organized well, the promotion was catching, and the services were very thoughtful and designed for impact. Lots of time and work went into it and when it finally came around, less people attended that Easter service than what the attendance had been for the couple weeks before.
I spent days wondering why more people didn’t show up and why there weren’t salvation decisions and people coming forward for prayer. I realized with some help from godly men that I am not in control of the Lord’s work. I’m just the vessel he occasionally chooses to use, and the Holy Spirit empowers the work just like He did with the disciples.
It was the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit that moved God’s people out beyond Jerusalem, and it is the Holy Spirit who continues to empower the work of His servants in taking the gospel to the end of the earth.
It’s true—serving the Lord can be depressing if you forget that God’s mission is fueled by God’s Spirit.