Meditating on Acts 1:6–8, President Stumbo reflects on the disciples’ question posed to Jesus and His response that changed everything—even for us.

As The Christian and Missionary Alliance, we are one of God’s end-times families that He has raised up to complete the Great Commission. Today we’re going to look at one of the core Scripture texts that give us that calling. As you can guess, I’ve opened my Bible to Acts 1:6-8. The disciples are gathered with the Lord Christ on the hillside, and they get to ask what becomes their final question. Now, we’ve all been told that there are no stupid questions, but we also know that sometimes our questions reveal how little we still understand. And after three years with Jesus, the disciples still have significant misunderstandings, which are revealed in their question. Jesus does not scold them, but He does correct their misunderstandings in His answer.

Let’s look for these three misconceptions in this passage. They start this way: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom?” They think they get to know the “timing” question. This is the “when” question. And our Lord says to them, as you know, “It’s not for you to know the times or the dates that the Father has set by his own authority.” How often have we asked the “when” question? They did throughout the Scriptures. The Psalmist often has that “How long, oh Lord?” heart cry or the prophets do as well. It’s okay to ask. It’s okay to wonder. But it’s also okay to realize, we’re rarely going to get to know the timing of things. Waiting rooms seem to be one of God’s favorite places of discipleship. So, I’ve concluded that only God is big enough to know the future and not have it mess up the moment, that I’m not that big.

If I had known on that beautiful October day in 2008, as I was standing before the Salem Alliance congregation that I pastored, that I was giving my final message to them as senior pastor, I could not have handled that information. Later that week I would become ill, and I would never serve as their senior pastor again. We’re not big enough to know the future without significantly impacting the moment. And so, the result is, we just have to trust that a loving, sovereign God has what is good in His own timing. When the day of healing came 18 months later, it was so unexpected, unforeshadowed for us, and that’s when I realized that our God can do anything at any time for anybody. But often He waits for a very specific moment so that we know that it was He that was the One who did it.

So, the first misconception of the disciples is that they’re going to get to know the “when” question. Second misconception—the “what” question: “What was He going to do?” “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They would not be the first nor the last people to try to put themselves in the headline. Jesus’ response is that they will be in the storyline but that the story isn’t just about them. He says, “You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The “what” question. They wanted it to be about them, and Jesus is saying it’s a much bigger storyline than that.

We love it in The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and from our earliest days, Dr. Simpson had a “here, there, everywhere” mindset. He started in New York City, his Jerusalem, but he didn’t get stuck there. He was aware of his Judea; he was aware of Samaria—the new immigrants that were coming into the region—and all the way to the ends of the earth. This has been our four-part focus from our earliest days. We have a fourfold gospel—Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King—and we have a four-part expression of our reach—Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth. This is what we’re about—starting right where we are but not getting stuck there, being passionate for our towns, weeping over our own cities, seeking to lead them to Christ, and then looking across the river, across the freeway, or some other rival sports team in the region, and saying, “Our Judea matters as well.”

So, right now in The Christian and Missionary Alliance, you know that we have a goal of planting one new church a week in the United States for the next two years. We’re a little bit behind that goal right now, but there are dozens of church plants in progress, and we’re excited about the church-planting momentum that’s taking place right now in the Jerusalem-Judea aspects of this ministry. Samaria—never before has there been so many people on the move in this world; we’re experiencing that. In every community that I go to, there is an expression of Samaria, where in many of them, there was not some years ago—people who live close to us who have a different linguistic, cultural, and/or ethnic background—that becomes a tremendous opportunity for us to expand our gospel influence.

And so, I’m delighted to see what’s taking place in Alliance church after Alliance church, where eyes are being opened and hearts are being warmed to, “How do we minister to other cultures, in other languages?” I was recently translated into four languages in one Alliance church service alone. This is a good day for us to have this Acts 1:6-8 heart, a heart that Christ gives us for the Samaria among us. And all the way to the ends of the earth, we’ve always had a great focus on this from our beginning, and we’re not backing off at all until that job is complete. You know that right now we have the goal of sending one new international worker per week for the next two years. We’re on target with that goal as we prayed that the Lord of the Harvest would rise up and send forth workers into His harvest field. He’s been answering that prayer.

We’ve been getting lots of inquiries for missionary service, and so, thank you for your prayers, thank you for your sending, and thank you for your participation in the Great Commission Day offerings so that we can actually get everybody out there that’s being vetted and released to go. So, we’re on a good journey here as the Alliance family at this moment in time to continue this “ends of the earth” emphasis that we have. And I’m delighted to announce that because of your generosity, that we’ve been able to purchase five tons of food in Poland and take it across the border to the war-torn churches of Ukraine. There’s 138 street children in Senegal that are receiving weekly ministry. There’s a prison in Uruguay where a revival is taking place, and men are coming to Jesus with tears every week. Beautiful things are happening across the globe because of your generosity. Thank you for your faithfulness.

The disciples are asking the “what” question, “What are you going to do?” And Jesus says, “I’m going to use you as my witnesses to every segment of human society.” And we, as an Alliance family, are seeking to live that out every day. The third misconception that’s buried in their question is regarding the “who.” “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom?” And He says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” One “you” going up to Him, and three “yous” coming back to them. Jesus was going to do something, something of greater significance—give us His Holy Spirit.

How often have we asked Him, “Lord, what are You going to do about this? Why aren’t you doing something about that?” And I believe that His answer is still the same today: “I want to empower you to be My hands and My feet and My voice and My heart and My eyes and My gospel carriers in word and deed.” A Holy Spirit-empowered form of us is the strategy of our Christ for completing His call.

This blog is coming out just days before Pentecost Sunday. I confess, I didn’t really plan it that way, but I’m standing here now appealing to us from Acts 1:6-8 saying, Alliance family, let’s be people of the Spirit, who perhaps honor the day itself, but more significantly, have this hunger and heart cry for the fullness of the Spirit in our lives and ministry. I’ll confess that while as a pastor, we celebrated Christmas and Good Friday and Easter and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and other things, that rarely did I even remember to acknowledge Pentecost Sunday. It’s not so much about a church calendar, but it is about a posture of desire and dependence upon the provision and the person of the Spirit that Christ gives to us. So, the “who” is you, the Holy Spirit-empowered form of you.

So, this is a place that I have been living in in these days. “Lord, help me trust You with the timing of matters. Lord, keep me on assignment for the global task that we’ve been given. And Lord, I have to come back to You every moment of every day for the empowerment so I don’t miss the people or the opportunities that You’ve set right in front of me.” Join me in this prayer.