Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
There are several things I love about this verse we find in Acts, especially from the point of view of a volunteer or missionary. I love that it includes a promise and an invitation.
No matter the capacity in which you find yourself serving, there will be frustrations and difficulties. From my own experience as a volunteer English teacher in Thailand, I can tell you that I had incredible days and I had incredibly lousy days. Sometimes I felt like I was making a positive difference and some days I asked why I was even there.
I remember one particularly frustrating day, trying to teach an 11-year old Korean student the meaning of the word “opportunity.” I had never felt quite so limited as I did on that day, and in the end, I believe she was just trying to end my pain when she finally said, “Ah, ok, I understand.” Leaving that classroom at the end of the day, I felt empty, crushed by my own inability and feeling uncertain about my calling to serve.
That experience and many others were reminders to me of my limitations, and my need for intercession on a daily basis from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 tells us that “(we) will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on (us).” This promise, this assurance, makes those moments of struggle that much easier to handle. Just call on Jesus!
The second part of Acts 1:8 contains an invitation: “. . . and you will be my witnesses . . . to all the ends of the earth.” Now, initially this sounds like a commission, much like in Matthew 18. Jesus is telling us to go into the earth. But I believe there is an important implication in the word “witnesses.”
When you look up the word “Witness” on Google, the first two results are about the 1985 film, in which Harrison Ford plays a policeman who stays with the Amish. We will not be talking about that film today. The third result (and the one I actually wanted) provides the definition of witness.
Some of the definitions of witness, according to Merriam-Webster:
1: attestation of a fact or event: TESTIMONY
2: one that gives evidence; specifically: one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
3: one who has personal knowledge of something
The important fact about a person serving as a witness is this: they can only give testimony about something they have seen or experienced. Once a person has seen or experienced something, once they have witnessed something, they are usually compelled to be a witness about that thing. In the legal arena, a witness will often be compelled through a subpoena. In the religious world, we are compelled to be a witness to the things we have witnessed by virtue of those things being too important to remain silent about.
So, when Jesus tells us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth, yes, He is commissioning us to tell about Him. But He is also inviting us – to see Him, to experience Him and then to do the only thing a person can do after witnessing His majesty: to share it, even to the ends of the earth.
I invite you, as you go about your mission today: in all things, call on Jesus, accept his offer of power through the Holy Spirit; and accept His invitation to experience Jesus and share what you have seen.
Once a month, we send out a short devotional to our volunteers. This was written by Benjamin Speegle, and was sent to our volunteers on October 11, 2017.