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Worship Theme: The Nature of Christian Love: Love has a purpose.
Sermon Theme: What Do You Have to Give?
It can be really frustrating when it happens. And it’s probably happened to almost all of you here today! Someone makes a request of you, but there is no way for you to fill that request. You want to help but you can’t. It’s not that you won’t help, it’s that you can’t!! Someone needs a piece of furniture moved from the basement to the second floor, but you just aren’t strong enough to lift heavy furniture. You want to help, but you can’t. Someone needs a ride to the airport, but you are out of town that day! Your friend’s car is broken down and that definitely puts them in need, but you don’t know anything about fixing cars. And you don’t have a spare car that you can lend them. You’d like to help but you just can’t!
Today we meet two disciples of Jesus - Peter and John - and we see how they helped a man who was in need. They couldn’t provide him with what he wanted, but they gave him something far better. They gave him what they had to offer and his life would never be the same. May God grant us the same opportunities in our lives, that we might be a blessing to those around us! May God help us to ask of ourselves and find his answer to the question: What Do You Have to Give?
It might be helpful to put this event on a simple timeline. The events that are before us take place not long after the events in the Gospels, not long after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Acts chapter 1 begins with the Ascension of Jesus, which we know took place 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead. Acts chapter two is Pentecost, named such because it was 50 days after Easter or 10 days after Ascension. And our text is the opening words of Acts chapter three. That means that we aren’t talking too long after Pentecost. Days? Weeks maybe? We don’t know for sure, but we aren’t removed terribly far from those events. The disciples are still in Jerusalem. It seems that their fear after Easter was broken by Jesus’ promise of power coming true on Pentecost. They are empowered and emboldened and ready to take the gospel to the world. But just like Jesus commissioned them to, their work began in Jerusalem:
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. (Acts 1:8). They hadn’t left Jerusalem yet; their mission was only first beginning.
One day, as Peter and John were heading to the temple for worship, they encountered a disabled man. He couldn’t walk and relied on friends to carry him everywhere that he needed to go. It was pretty common for people with disabilities to sit in the Temple courts and beg for money. They figured that they could interact with people who were on their way to worship and maybe a few of them would practice what was being preached and offer them some help! And that’s how that man met Peter and John that day. The only problem was that they didn’t have any money. But they didn’t use that as an excuse not to help. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.
And God can use us to help people, just like he did with Peter and John. Now, you might wonder if that statement is true, so I’ll say it again “God can use us to help people, just like he did with Peter and John!” You might protest that statement because Peter and John were given power to perform miracles. I’ll admit that is true, but I’m sticking by the statement: “God can use us to help people like he did with Peter and John.”
Here’s the point: God asks us to give what we have. God gave Peter and John the ability to perform miracles and then he asked them to use that ability in service to others. He has not given you or me that ability and that’s why he doesn’t ask us to do the same. He never asks us for things that we don’t have. He doesn’t ask people who don’t speak Thai or can’t learn it to go on a mission trip to Thailand and just figure it out. He doesn’t ask people who haven’t been trained or gifted or called to stand in a pulpit and preach a sermon. He doesn’t ask people who he hasn’t given the ability to trach to stand in the classroom as a teacher. He doesn’t ask people to use or to give gifts that they don’t have.
But God definitely does ask people to use the gifts they do have to help those around them! He gives gifts to us generously and then asks us to consider the question “What Do You Have to Give?”
But here’s the sad reality! By and large, we don’t like to give anything to anyone! We love to make excuses like thinking “I don’t have anything to offer.” Maybe we think “Someone else who is more gifted will come along and they will help!” We excuse away our laziness or greed and sugar coat our apathy to the needy by pretending that there is nothing we can do. We neglect the opportunity and responsibilities that we have with excuses like “I’m too busy to help” or “I don’t know how to help,” but the reality is that too often in our hearts, we simply don’t want to help! We don’t want to help others because we’d rather help only ourselves. We don’t want to spend time or money or effort on anyone else, because we want to spend it all on us!
Thank God that Jesus didn’t have that attitude! Thank God that Jesus was the opposite of us. Our rotten and selfish attitudes earn for us death, but Jesus earned the opposite – life. We are focused only on ourselves, but Jesus was focused only on you. He had something that he wanted to give, so he gave you, his perfection. He earned life through his obedience and then he gave us that life as a gift! He has mercy and compassion in his heart and he gave us both as he won forgiveness for our sins. He gave us what he had and what he was because that was his mission – he came to save us. Jesus’ life was not about getting but giving! That’s why he said of himself, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Jesus sat in the Upper Room with his disciples. He had preached all that he was going to preach to them. He had taught them the lessons that he could teach. He had spent as much time as he could have with them. It seemed like there was nothing more that Jesus could give to them – but he gave them what he had. He gave them himself. He offered them his body to eat and his blood to drink, so that they could be forgiven and that they could be strengthened in their faith. He gave them himself as a lasting meal and a foretaste of heaven. He gave them a meal in which they could be built up in their faith and brought together in Christian fellowship. And we can rejoice that he gives us that meal as well.
And having given us faith, forgiveness and life, now the Spirit gives us spiritual gifts as he sees fit. We’ve been uniquely gifted, but we have the same calling from God to ask ourselves “What Do You Have to Give?”
What Do You Have to Give? Has God given you the gift of encouragement? Give that encouragement to others. Be a blessing to them by giving what you have! Pick up a friend who is down in the dumps! Cry with a dear one who has lost a loved one. Be a shoulder to lean on and a source of strength when others are weak! If encouragement is what has been given to you, then give to others what you have to give!
Do you have the gift of hospitality? Give of that gift to others! Welcome them into your home or plan a night of fun together. Be the friend that they might not have in anyone else. Use your gift to be a gift to others.
Do you like to cook? Make a meal for a person in need, or just to give a busy person a night off! Bake a dessert and surprise someone to brighten their day! Think of how such a gesture would brighten your day. You could give someone else that gift.
Do you have the gift of strength and health? Then give that gift to those whose health is failing or who strength is diminishing.
We may not all be millionaires, able to support every good cause that comes before us. But God has blessed us in special ways, by making us special and unique people. God doesn’t call on us to give what we don’t have or do what we can’t, but what he has given us he calls on us to use so that others might be served. He blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others.
And maybe, just maybe, as we fill those physical needs of those around us…Maybe, just maybe, as those relationships are built, we might be able to give something else that we have. Lord-willing, we can use those relationships to give the most important thing that we have – Jesus! God has put faith in our hearts to know and believe that Jesus is our Savior! He’s given us the faith to know that heaven is our eternal home because Jesus has taken our sins away. We now have a sure and certain confidence in the heavenly future that Jesus has won. We now have the joy of knowing that it’s not about this world but it’s about the world to come – and an eternity of standing at the side of Jesus.
Your Savior has given you that, and he asks you to look for opportunities give it to others. And as you do, he’ll give you joy. Proclaim a message of hope in Jesus and then stand back and watch the Holy Spirit at work before you and through you. What a blessing it is! What a joy can be yours! You won’t be able to wait to get at it again, to share Jesus with more people because you’ve seen how God blesses your efforts and how he powerfully changes lives through the gospel.
It’s my prayer that 1) God help us to see and know ourselves well enough to have some answers to the question “What Do You Have to Give?” 2) that he motivates us to see and know others well enough to know what gifts to give and how to give them, and 3) that he gives us an opportunity through our actions and through our words, that others might see and know Jesus as the only source of hope and life. God grant it – to us and through us – in Jesus’ name! Amen.
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