Faithlife Sermons

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*Divine Opportunities*
*August 20, 2000            Acts 9:32-43*
 
*Scripture:* 1Peter 5:1-7 (Peter's philosophy of ministry.)
*Introduction:*
 
          How do you like being disturbed?
Most of us may identify that question with a mental disorder, and there is plenty of that going around, but I am referring to incidents of interruption.
If you are like me, I tend to focus quite strongly on whatever I am doing at the time.
This quality has become mitigated or appropriately modified over the years.
But, frankly, none of us like to be stopped in mid-sentence, mid-project, mid-sleep, mid-meal, mid-worship, mid-prayer, or mid-bathroom break.
Some people just seem to have a habit of what seems to be inappropriately disturbing us, having little sense of our sovereign sanctity.
And we feel "put out", so to speak.
Have we been discounted?
Perhaps not.
Is our child discounting us when they interrupt us with some need that seems urgent to them?
Now, they may need to learn some manners, but another way to see this is from their perspective.
They know we can meet their need.
They see us as more powerful, wiser, trustworthy, and in control of our lives and possessions – all of which we can use to help them.
Our daughter, Amy, called Tuesday night at about 10:30 after we were in bed and asleep.
She wanted to share with us how the "Prayer Portions" book we had given her recently was meeting her spiritual need in the midst of continuing crisis.
And she wanted more affirmation and more advice.
I'm so glad she knew that she could call and wake us up and know that she had value.
I heard Dr. Dobson say one time that when our children get to be teenagers, we can't just talk to them when some spiritual instruction is on our own mind and expect to be heard.
We have to be willing to even be awakened if that is the time they want to talk or need us or know something, since that is when God is talking to them to be able to use us in their lives.
The windows of opportunity for truth with most teenagers are brief and sporadic.
But truthfully, most of us really don't grow much beyond that same condition.
Put yourself in the same place with your boss at work.
Why are they there?
They are there because they are supposed to meet the need of the employee to accomplish the goal of the workplace.
We should be able to come to them with our legitimate needs, at least to us, without fear of being rebuffed.
And God is no different in his relationship to us, except that he is perfect and he perfectly meets all our needs, even in ways we cannot fully understand.
But the greatest thing about God is that he wants us to disturb him.
He wants us to come to him with whatever is on our hearts.
He wants to take the opportunities that life gives us to meet our needs, and he doesn't belittle us from coming, even when we are foolish.
I always liked that phrase that often gets tossed out to the class by the instructor at the beginning of each semester of school, "Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question."
This falls into the realm of, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
But I wonder why I still sometimes feel stupid when I ask questions.
The wise instructor will treat you in such a manner as to keep you coming back for more insight.
He knows that stirring the imagination sometimes creates some false starts.
But let us also consider ministry.
Ministry, more than any other calling, is a calling founded upon interruption – or should we say, opportunity.
It is not that ministry gets interrupted more than any other profession, but that the interruptions are divinely ordained and used by God to further his program and build his kingdom.
Why is this?
It is because with God, people are most important.
And people can sense their importance with God when his servants, you and I, take their interruptions as divine opportunities to serve and teach and pray and heal and help and love them.
We must be willing to be interrupted with peoples' needs as divine opportunities in order for them to know that they have value with God and with us.
By the way, that in itself would be enough to heal many people that come to us with needs.
Those of us who minister, and that includes all Christ's disciples as he directs us, must always seek to be open to these heavenly interruptions as opportunities for the gospel.
We must be reminded that Jesus always had time for people and their needs.
He took every opportunity to teach truth and be concerned about people.
I know that I have always been impressed with those ministers who are not flustered by the press of need and seem never to be in a hurry.
Their faith seems confident to allow God to equip them and fill in the gaps where they are not able to put any more time into it.
As responsible servants who use their time wisely, they know that God will enable whatever he allows.
They see every interruption as an opportunity for bringing people closer to God.
I strive to be that kind of a servant.
I hope and pray for God's grace to make it so.
And God continues to do it.
As I worked on this message this week, I had seven opportunities for ministry present themselves to me as examples of what I need to personally incorporate according to what I would preach today.
(Chris D., Virginia M., Diane Simons, Amy C., Selena & Miguel, Martin, Amanda P.)
 
The last couple of messages in Acts have dealt in some manner with the idea of barriers to the gospel.
Philip dealt with spiritual, cultural, and physical barriers that the Holy Spirit was at work in overcoming.
Saul had an intensely prejudicial personal barrier that Jesus himself dealt with as Saul was on the Damascus road on his way to persecute Christians.
Now, in this morning's passage in Acts 9:32-43, we will rather deal with some opportunities for the gospel that present themselves in Peter's ministry as he visits the saints in Joppa and Lydda between Judea and Samaria.
We will learn that the church grows not only by the help of the Holy Spirit in overcoming barriers outside of it, but also by taking advantage of the opportunities within it.
We can advance the cause of the gospel not only by a purposeful reaching out beyond the church, but by what the church is called to be from within itself.
Do you recall in Acts 8:25, that when Peter and John left Samaria after giving the Holy Spirit to the believers that were evangelized by Philip, that they then returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages along the way?
Now we see Peter leaving Jerusalem and going back into this area to strengthen the churches that were established.
They could have been established by Philip, by Peter and John on their return trip, or they could have been started by the believers that left Jerusalem when persecution broke out after the stoning of Stephen.
But however established, Peter's ministry this time is to travel about and visit the saints that were there.
We see him carrying out the Acts 1:8 commission that Jesus gave him.
*Big Question: *
 
What opportunities for ministry within the body of believers might the Holy Spirit reveal to us in order to reach those who have yet to come in?
 
*I.
Cycle One*
 
*          A.
Narrative (vv.
32-35)*
 
          So as Peter traveled about he came to the saints in Lydda.
This is the first of two places mentioned in our passage today.
And Lydda is on the way to the other one, Joppa.
Lydda is 26 miles NW of Jerusalem and Joppa is 38 miles NW of Jerusalem and it is the only natural seaport in Israel.
Now, if these pronunciations seem strange to you, it is because I looked up how they are to be pronounced.
A professor in preaching class last year had told the class that we needed to do that since we might have some person knowledgeable of Greek and Hebrew in our congregation who would surely correct us if we didn't know our stuff well enough to pronounce the words right.
Anyway, we get a clue here that Aeneas must be a believer since, presumably, Peter found him among the saints he was visiting.
It is important for us to realize this since I believe today's passage speaks about the value of our ministry inside the church.
Now, Aeneas had been a bedridden paralytic for eight years.
He would have been a paralytic before he came to faith in Christ since the church was very young at this point.
Not everyone is immediately set free in fact from all their ailments at the moment they believe.
But we are all set free in potential – either in this life or the next.
But here is a suffering believer.
Presumably, all is well with his soul if not his body.
Here we see a beautiful picture of ministry within the church.
As we read Peter's philosophy of ministry this morning, he desires to be a humble shepherd of God's flock as Christ told him too, "If you love me, feed my sheep," Jesus told him three times.
Peter is eager to serve as an example to the flock.
He knows that since Christ cares for him, he must care for others.
And so Peter says to Aeneas, "Jesus Christ heals you."
He did not say, "Jesus is engaged in healing you."
He did not say, "Jesus has healed you."
But he did say, "This moment Jesus Christ heals you."
This is something we should all take to heart.
There is present truth and power in Christ for every moment of our existence.
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