Last week we left the disciples looking up into the sky at Jesus who was ascending to be at the Father’s side. In Chapter Two the amazing story of the Day of Pentecost. Visible presence of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. A Gospel sermon from Peter that focused on the fulfillment of OT Prophecy. A realization by those present that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. They were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do?”
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”Acts 2:38, 39 NLT
3,000 people were baptized that day and the church was born. The rest of the chapter gives some details about the life of that first church and the fact that they were growing rapidly.
Our text for today follows that great event. In this brief story I want to notice four principles for thriving in our spiritual lives no matter the circumstance.
Establish a Rhythm of Prayer and Worship
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.Acts 3:1 NLT
Peter and John were Jews and they followed the pattern of Hebrew prayer times – even as they became followers of the Messiah and Christians. Peter and John are often together in Scripture. They were partners in the fishing business (Luke 5:10). They prepared the last Passover for Jesus (Luke 22:8). They ran to the tomb on Resurrection Morning (John 20:3-4). They ministered to the Samaritans who believed on Jesus (Acts 8).
The prayer times were traditional and had been practiced for centuries. Remember Daniel prayed three times a day. Jospehus tells us that the stated times for worship were the early morning for prayers, the ninth hour (3:00 pm), and the evening sacrifices at sunset.
An established rhythm of prayer is one of the most difficult things to do today – we are multi-taskers always running behind – lots of noise around us … but it should be our effort to ground ourselves in the Word and in Prayer. It is a time like we are living in now that we realize that the troubles of life are bigger than we are – we need to trust in the strength of God to get through.
Engage the World Around You, Particularly the Broken
Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.Acts 3:2-5 NLT
They approached the temple, they were near The ‘Beautiful Gate’. There is some uncertainty about which gate this is, but many scholars believe it is the “eastern gate” that led into the court of the women. Made of Corinthian bronze, Edersheim says it was richly ornamented; and so massive were its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them.
The beggar asked Peter and John for money, but they had none to give. It would have been easiest to just walk by. I admit that I walk by many of the ‘professional beggars’ today. I know it’s a judgment call, and you might think poorly of me for it. I think we should seek to help people who are genuinely in need and help them make steps forward in life.
Lloyd Ogilvie tells of walking the streets of Edinborough and noticing a woman who was a professional beggar. He noticed she looked for a certain kind of person likely to give her something. She stopped him and told him a terrible tale, and he gave her some money. The next day he came by she stopped him again, but looking at him said, “Oh, I’ve done you before. On your way!”
With no social system in place to help – and a belief of some religious people that a physical problem meant that God was repaying you for sin – beggars in the first century were in a much more dependent situation than today.
Peter and John did stop and were willing to engage the man who asked them for funds. I think this says something about noticing the people who are around us – reaching out when we can, using the resources God has given us to bless others, and doing so in the name of Jesus. The truth is that the man thought his greatest need was a few coins. The Bible says he EXPECTED something from them. His greatest need was Jesus! His greatest need was not coins or even healing. Notice it was in the name of Jesus – that was the source of the power of healing, strength, and it is the source of our salvation.
In a world that is feeling pretty desperate with an invisible virus around, we should be even more aware of our need to be alert to the broken around us, and alert to their greatest need: the Savior Jesus Christ.
Enable Blessings in the Lives of Others as You Can
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” – Acts 3:6a
What Peter gave to the beggar in terms of healing was worth more than all the elaborate metal that decorated the huge doors of the Beautiful Gate. It was truly beautiful because it reflected the generosity of God flowing through the loving actions of his children.
We can all think of things we can’t do. What CAN we do? That’s what matters. Life in the COVID-19 pandemic is characterized by many things we cannot do at the moment. The question for us is what CAN we do? We do not have to be able to answer every question and address every dilemma, to heal every hurt or to bring joy into all sadness – but we know a Savior who can do all of that and more.
Exercise Your Faith to God’s Glory
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.Acts 3:6-10 NLT
This is an amazing story that reminds us of the power of Jesus – and it all points to Jesus. Peter and John did not claim credit – they pointed to Jesus.
Acts 3:16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
The healed man did not worship Peter and John – he went into the temple courts praising God. The people were filled with amazement.
What we are going through now is hard – it challenges us … it can overwhelm us … but our focus is to point to Jesus in all of it.
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.Matthew 5:14-16 NLT
So, four principles for thriving in our spiritual lives no matter the circumstance. Establish a Rhythm of Prayer and Worship (1), Engage the World Around You, Particularly the Broken (2-5), Enable Blessings in the Lives of Others as You Can (6-8), Exercise Your Faith to God’s Glory (9-10, 16).
Just like this beggar was laid at the Beautiful Gate, so there are opportunities to love and bless others in beautiful ways that will bring credit and glory to God.
And just so we remember that Peter and John were living out their commitment to Christ in a difficult and threatening world, about the time Peter finishes the sermon in the second half of this chapter, the Temple police arrest him. Struggle is never very far away.
Shine brightly friends! Everybody needs Jesus!
Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12). David C Cook.
Ogilvie, Lloyd J.. The Preacher’s Commentary: Acts. Word: Nashville, 1987.