Suddenly. It describes events that take place quickly and unexpectedly. They can be both wonderful and tragic; overwhelming and welcome; exciting and terrifying. From experience, a driver running a red light and crashing into the side of my vehicle is tragic and terrifying. It changes a person for many years.
One of the Greek words translated “suddenly” is aphno which means unawares, unexpectedly and appears only three times in the New Testament. There are other appearances of the English word “suddenly” but are translations of a different Greek word.
One appearance of aphno is in the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Malta. While building a fire, he is bitten by a poisonous snake and the people expected him to suddenly swell up and die. When he didn’t, they decided he was a god.
Take a moment to read the other two, noting the similarities.
2Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.Acts 2:2
26Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!Acts 16:26
While I would love to sit and hear your observations of these two passages, that’s not possible. (Feel free to comment or send me an e-mail if you’d like.) Both of these verses refer to an unexpected and immediate move of God in some way. In the first, it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit falling on the fledgling church gathered after Jesus’ ascension. The second occurs when Paul and Silas are imprisoned for preaching.
The fact that God moved is not what primarily interests me. It is what was happening before this suddenly occurred. Were the participants focusing on God intervening or something else? Did God move in response to their activity or independent of it? Perhaps the context provides a clue and some direction for life in this century.
14They all met together and were constantly united in prayer . . . 1On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.Acts 1:14; 2:1
25Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.Acts 2:25
As I read and reread these passages, it is apparent to me that prayer and praise moved God. I don’t believe God is sitting in heaven tapping his foot waiting for me to “act right” before he moves. But obviously there is something that happens when we pray and praise. Is it in me or in the heavenlies or . . . ?
I don’t pretend to know but I was challenged in a fresh way to consider my ways. Am I turning to prayer or to despair? Am I filled with praise or pouting? Am I missing out on the sudden move of God in my situation?
Let me be clear — I don’t believe this is a formula. I like formulas, especially with God. If I do A and B then C will follow. But there are no formulas with God. He loves us and he sees all things and he moves in ways that are best for me in every situation. He doesn’t follow a formula.
At the same time, it is obvious to me that praise and prayer were followed by a sudden move of God. I’m still pondering this, but for now I will praise God in the midst of all the ways I want to see him move suddenly!
Will you join me?
4You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. 5O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts.Psalm 92:4-5