Empty Cisterns

The story of Pentecost (Acts 2) is fantastical in every sense of the word. Not only must this have been an absolutely terrifying and awe-inspiring display to witness, but this moment also changed the Kingdom of God forever. This wasn’t a one-time display, like Samson being filled with strength to commit his dying act of vengeance—this was the inauguration of a new way of life, a new way of God interacting with men.

But there’s another life-changing revelation we can gather from this story, if we open our hearts to the possibility: God wants to have another Pentecost.

I’m not merely referring to each individual’s infilling with the Holy Spirit—although God definitely desires that each believer have a “Pentecost moment.” But beyond that, I believe God wants to have another public Pentecost, another monumental group infilling, in which He rains down on families, ministries, churches, and groups of believers in visible and figurative fire, enabling them with power to touch the nations in instantaneous, public displays of glory.

For many, even accepting that the Holy Spirit wants to make public displays—and not simply whisper to people in the quiet—is a life-changing theology in and of itself. But while we don’t have the ability to fully address this revelation here, we can address the practical question that is sure to immediately follow: What can we do to get a second Pentecost? How can we prepare ourselves? Can we encourage God to choose us?

The answer is yes! We can prepare our “fallow ground” and make ourselves an appealing resting place for the Holy Spirit. In fact, an in-depth study of the Scriptures reveals that God seeks a place that has been prepared. There are times where He will forcibly “rain down” on an elected person to accomplish purpose, but more often than not, the Holy Spirit searches the earth, asking, “Whom shall we send?”—and He’s waiting for someone to volunteer.

So the question is—how? How do we make ourselves attractive to the Holy Spirit? Although the Bible is filled with reflections of God’s heart—principles that shape us into a welcoming environment for the Holy Spirit—I think the biggest key is hidden in the story of Pentecost itself:

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Luke 24:49 NLT)

Or, as other translations put it, “Tarry ‘til I come.”

Although we will never know how many of the original disciples followed this admonition, we do know a sizable group of them remained faithful:

“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.” (Acts 2:1 NLT)

God told them to wait on Him, and they obeyed—and they were immensely rewarded. Certainly, other disciples who were not gathered at Jerusalem received the Holy Spirit later, but they missed their opportunity to be a part of this dramatic initial outpouring. Clearly, when God says to wait until we are endowed with power, we would do well to obey.

But what does God mean by “wait”? Most of us have not received a specific command from God to wait in a certain city for a certain timeframe. In general, God probably wants to fill you where you are, so your physical location is largely irrelevant. So how can we submit ourselves in obedience to the principle demonstrated here? How can we spiritually “tarry ‘til He comes”? Does that mean simply stand around waiting?

Heaven forbid! The First Century believers were doing anything but. They were gathered together “praying.” Their waiting was intentional, expecting. They were waiting for something, and so their gathering was an invitation, a preparation, like the virgins waiting for the return of the bridegroom (Matthew 12:1-13).

This is not an empty wishing. It’s also not mindless praying, simply begging God to arbitrarily act. This is self-preparation, like a bride dressing up for her wedding day, like Esther going through a strict beauty regimen before seeing the king (Esther 2:8-13). But if we aren’t commanded to just endlessly cry in prayer, what are we do to? How can we, as the church, be preparing our robes and anointing ourselves with oil in preparation for the arrival of God?

Mercifully, there are several ready examples in Scripture of people who were commanded to wait with expectation. By looking at the preparatory actions of these other holy men and women, we get a clear picture of what “tarrying fruitfully” looks like.

1) The commission of Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-18): Most of the time we interpret Elijah’s statement in verse 10 as a test for Elisha, and perhaps it was. God certainly tests the faithfulness of His potential servants, as we see elsewhere in Scripture. But I believe the greater lesson is more plain: “Stay affiliated with your teachers and leaders.” Elisha could have gone off and “started his own ministry,” but only by staying faithful and serving Elijah until the end of his reign was he able to receive the full commission from God. Are you willing to “tarry” in your current ministry or church, serving someone else in their calling until God bestows you with yours?

2) The widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7): What we can imply from this story is that—the more jars the woman had gathered, the more oil she received. What if she had gathered only a few jars? What if she had gathered twice as many? The Holy Spirit can fill us only insofar as there’s room for Him. Are we constantly gathering as many jars as we can, or are we selling ourselves short and only keeping two or three on hand? When the Spirit does come, how much oil will be able to receive?

3) Turning water into wine (John 2:1-12): Sometimes, just having the empty jars isn’t enough. God wants us to fill them with water—and not clutter the space with something else. What would have happened had the servants not obeyed Jesus’ instructions? God can’t turn our water into wine if we don’t first gather the water, so when God tells us to “put up in storage” worship, good works, and other seed, we should stockpile as much as we can.

There are many more examples throughout Scripture of people who put themselves in alignment before God chose them. But what we can see even from this brief glance is that God wants us to wait—until we are called, filled, and empowered—but this is not an idyll waiting. This is an expectant waiting, a fruitful tarrying, in which we prepare our kindling to receive the spark of God.

Because fire will quickly burn out if there is no wood—and rain water will simply drain away if there is no empty cistern to collect it.

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