In John 3:8 Jesus speaks of the total freedom of the Spirit of God to move when he wishes as he wishes. The Spirit is not controlled by any one. He, like the wind, blows where he pleases. We hear his sound, but we cannot tell where he comes from or where he is going.

Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:3-8 speak of our utter dependence on the Spirit to do serve Christ. Jesus, having commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes to them, before starting out on their mission. Yes, there was an urgency to the mission, but not without the Spirit’s empowering and guiding. We must adjust our sense of urgency to the parameters of the kingdom.

We know very little about times and seasons; we have almost no concept of the specific circumstances that determine how and when God will act in the world. Yet, we are given an assignment within the kingdom. How are we to know what to do?

This utter lack of knowledge of when and how God will act is likely to make us very uncomfortable. In fact, we are so uncomfortable that we resort to our best human resources to come up with plans to do what God asks us to do. We try to make up for the fact that God has left us in the dark about his plans and agenda by coming up with our own. When we do this, we fail to understand something very basic to being people of Christ in the world. What is this very basic thing?

Here is essentially what the Lord seems to be saying to us about our role in his work: ‘I will tell you very little in advance about what I will do next and what specific part you will play. Instead of giving you advance knowledge, I will give you my constant presence. What I ask of you is to stay close to me, wait for me and follow me to the degree that you see and understand me’. Jesus concludes his instructions to the disciples in Matthew 28 with the words, “and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Instead of giving us advance knowledge of the plan, he gives us something the he determines is much better: his abiding, guiding and empowering presence.

I believe Jesus meant for us to feel relieved by witholding from us control of the process and energized by the promise of his presence. He takes from us the burden of knowing and controlling the steps of our obedience. As he said before, he can make even the stones to praise him; he can send his angels to do the work of world evangelization if all he cares about is the task. Instead, he wants us involved, and has made us integral part of plan. It is not about the task, but about our fellowship with him as he goes about the task. Our effectiveness in the task is more related to our familiarity with him, our closeness to him, than it is with our mastering of times and seasons. Should this not bring us immense relief? Apparently not, if measured by how we go about serving him.

What I see in myself and my missions colleagues instead of walking closely with Christ is a fair amount of anxiety, of frantic attempts to fill in the knowledge gaps Jesus intentionally left. We still want to serve him well, and we fear that unless we know the details and grasp the controls of the process, we will fail him. Yet, the truth is the opposite. The more we try to fill in the knowledge gap that he left , the farther we risk missing the mark of his intention for us.

How are we then to respond? If he has given us his presence instead of plans and timetables, I strongly suspect that the best way for us to be obedient to his command is to learn how to stay close to him. If his presence is described as the wind of the Spirit blowing at will on us and in the world, our hope is in learning how to sail. We need to learn how to discern the sound of the Spirit’s voice, and how to stretch our spiritual sails to receive the wind and trim our souls to best be moved by him where he wants us to go.

What does this say to our existing approaches and structures of obedience? How are our organizations structured to catch the wind?