What Jesus Says About How to Live on Mission
Jesus did a lot of unexpected things in His time on the planet. But perhaps most surprising was the way He left. We read about it in the beginning of the Book of Acts. Jesus’ first followers were already in a state of shock that their friend, teacher, and Messiah was alive after being brutally crucified. To them, anything must have seemed possible at this moment. The risen King was with them. It makes sense, then, that they would ask:
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” – Acts 1:6
They were curious about what was next. Any of us who had seen a friend predict His own resurrection and actually pull it off would be, too. In their minds, they thought this would mean more power and prestige for them and the entire nation of Israel. God’s people had been oppressed by the Roman Empire for a long time, and they assumed Jesus would do something about it.
But Jesus responds to them in a surprising way. He says,
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:7-8
He tells them to stop thinking so much about the future and to focus on something in the present: a big mission of sharing the Good News with the entire world. If that wasn’t surprising enough, He then does something even more unexpected. He leaves.
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” – Acts 1:9
I think the writer of Acts understates this a bit. Imagine if you were there how shocking this would have been. My jaw would have hit the floor, and my eyes would have been as wide as saucers as Jesus went out of sight.
Once reality set in, I wonder if the disciples started looking around as they pondered Jesus’ call to live on mission. There were only about 120 believers at this time, and none of them were highly prominent people. Why would Jesus leave His mission to them? And, more applicable now, why would Jesus leave His mission to us?
God has decided to intimately involve you and me in revealing Himself to a broken world. I don’t fully understand it. I’m not sure it’s the way I would have done it, but I’m not God (and the world is better off for it).
When you think about it, though, it starts to make sense. God is love and is shown through His love for us and our love for others. And God is strong, and His strength is best shown in our weakness (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Like the disciples, we, too, have been left with a mission from Jesus to share the Good News about who He is and what He has done with a broken world. So, how should we think about our role in what He is up to in the world?
Here are three ways Jesus’ final words help us think about how we are to live on mission today.
Three Ways We Can Live on Mission Today
First, we need to think bigger about the role we have to play. Notice how Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them. On their own, they would be pretty limited in what they could do. But they weren’t alone. They would be given the Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us, too. That’s a lot of power! The implication: we probably all need to think bigger about what God wants to do through our lives.
The Spirit has gifted each of us in particular ways to build up the church and engage in God’s mission. The New Testament provides a few lists with examples of how He does this (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). This is significant because it means each of us has a unique role to play in what God is doing.
It is worth spending time thinking through how God has specifically wired you. Think about the gifts, talents, and strengths that make you uniquely you. He’s given you those things for a reason. It’s easy to focus on the gifts we don’t have or to compare our journey to others. But God has a unique race for you to run as you live on mission. Each of us needs to think specifically about what that is.
In Acts, Jesus tells the disciples to go to Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. He gives them stages for them to think through—to start in their immediate context and then work their way out. I’ve found it’s helpful to think of my own life in stages, too.
Take a moment and dream about what you would want to see God do in and through you in one year. Then think about what you’d want to see in five years. And then ten. If we only focus on the ten-year goal, we may forget to strive for immediate progress today. If we only focus on the one-year goal, we’ll become too short-sighted.
As you think of these increments, consider what stage of life you may be in at each point. As the father of young kids, there are unique opportunities to take advantage of and challenges to address that won’t be as prevalent ten years from now.
Thinking in years and stages can help us stay on mission, thinking appropriately about what is possible today while also dreaming big about where we want to be tomorrow.
As you think about the mission Jesus has called you to today, do you need to think bigger? Or do you need to consider how God has specifically designed you? Or do you need to drill down into what He would have for your current stage of life as well as the seasons to come?
We’re on a huge mission. For some reason, Jesus chose to involve you and me in what He’s up to in the world. Until the day He comes back to make His Name great, let’s encourage each other to share His Good News and to live on mission.