Introduction: Have you ever faced a crisis in your life when someone let you down? You had a certain plan for the future, but then your plans all changed. Do you remember the turmoil in your mind? You did not know what to believe and you did not know what the future held. I think that is where we meet the disciples in this lesson. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!
Read Mark 10:35-36. Have you ever had someone ask you, "Will you do something for me?" or "Are you free Tuesday night?" Do you answer those questions, or instead ask your own question: "Why?" (I know those questions are almost always trouble, so I don't answer unless I find out what they have in mind. We see that Jesus is equally cautious.)
Read Mark 10:37-39. Jesus tells them that they do not know what they are asking. This is undoubtedly true. What do you think that they believed they were asking? (They spoke of "glory." They thought Jesus was going to be King and they wanted to have the top places in His kingdom on earth.)
Read Acts 1:6-7. Are James and John the only disciples thinking that Jesus is going to "restore the kingdom to Israel?" (No! Even at this late date, immediately before Jesus is about to return to heaven, the disciples still have the wrong view of the future.)
Read Acts 1:4-5 and Mark 10:32-34. This is what Jesus said just before James and John asked their question and the disciples asked their question. How do you explain their failure to pay attention? (They should have been focused on the coming Holy Spirit or that fact that Jesus just said He was about to be killed. Instead, they considered what they wanted to happen, and seemingly paid no attention to what Jesus actually said.)
Read Acts 1:8-9. What future did Jesus have in view for the disciples? (They would be witnesses on earth, not rulers.)
If you were a disciple, how would you react to that change in your plans?
What general plan does Jesus set out for witnessing? (Their place of witnessing was an increasingly large circle, to include the entire world.)
When the disciples asked about restoring the "Kingdom to Israel," do you think they meant just Israel, or that Israel would rule the world?
Read Acts 1:10-11. What were the disciples thinking when Jesus rose up into heaven?
What were their thoughts when the angels told them Jesus was coming back?
Read Luke 24:44-52. This is another look at the time Jesus returned to heaven. It reports that the disciples were filled with "great joy." How did that happen, considering that just a while before they were confused about the future?
How did that happen when I'm sure they must have been bitterly disappointed not to be rulers on earth? (I'm not sure they completely understood, but I suspect they thought that if they completed their witnessing goals, Jesus would return and set up His Kingdom. That gave them joy. It was merely delayed gratification.)
Read Acts 1:12-14. If life is going the wrong way, or if you are confused about the future, what should you do? (Pray! That is what the disciples and Jesus' closest friends and family did.)
Read Acts 1:15-17. Consider the words of Peter, and tell me what you think was the subject of the prayers in the upstairs room? (Peter talks about the Scripture and prophecies. He talks about the Holy Spirit. I think they were going over the prophecies about Jesus, and asking for the direction of the Holy Spirit. No doubt they wanted to know where they went wrong in their future plan. No doubt Judas' failure was a sobering warning about missing the mark on God's plan.)
Read Acts 1:18-20. What direction does the Bible give with regard to future leadership? (It says that someone should take the place of Judas.)
Read Acts 1:21-22. What qualifications must the replacement disciple possess? (Some man who is an eye witness to all of Jesus' ministry, including His resurrection.)
Think about this. Why would this be what they needed in a replacement disciple? (This shows they have caught the correct vision for the future. They are looking for a witness, not a political leader. They now understand their future on earth.)
Read Acts 1:23-26. Why does the Holy Spirit have to choose between the two men previously selected by the group of believers?
Why not let the Holy Spirit chose from among all 120 believers?
Some churches still choose leaders this way. Why don't all churches?
What does this teach us about decision making in our life? (We see that in the big picture, we might well have it wrong - and God will correct us. But, we also see a strong component of human judgment and choice. What we see here is a joint project between the Holy Spirit and humans.)
Read Acts 13:1-3. Why does the Holy Spirit unilaterally make the decision here?
Read Acts 16:6-10. Here we see the Holy Spirit physically (it seems) preventing Paul from preaching in certain areas. Why not make a joint decision with Paul?
When Acts 16:10 says that Paul and his fellow evangelists were "concluding" that God called them to preach in Macedonia, what does that say about the certainty of their decision? (This seems so much like us. We are not sure what to do. We want to do God's will. Some paths we wanted to take are blocked, but then we see a sign that we should take a certain path. We "conclude," as best we can, what God wants. We don't have the certainty that we would have with divine lots or the Holy Spirit giving a special message.)
What direction do these texts give us when it comes to choosing church leaders and making future plans for the church? (If we are looking to God, he will direct our plans. It is just fine for us, based on prayer and common sense, to make plans. But, we need to invite the Holy Spirit to either make small or large changes in our plans to advance the Kingdom of God.)
Friend, have you been disappointed about the future? Did your plans not work out as you thought? Did you pray and invite the Holy Spirit to direct your future? If you did, then you should start with what you think you should do, and look for the Holy Spirit to direct your paths.