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Many People Believed in the Lord

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Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Reading about a situation like this in the Bible answers a number of questions, but creates new questions as well.  It answers a basic question of prayer: Does God actually respond to prayer requests by giving healing?

Well, yes; we can point to several times in the history of God’s covenant faithfulness when God used various prophets to restore people to life.

Ø  Elijah – raised the widow’s son

Ø  Elisha – raised the son of the Shunammite woman

Ø  Jesus raised the widow’s son during the funeral procession outside Nain

Ø  Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter

Ø  Jesus raised Lazarus

Ø  Jesus himself rose from the dead.

There is no question that God is able to restore people to health in response to prayer.  God even can restore people to life after they’ve died.

In the earlier part of Acts 9, when Peter arrives in Lydda, the risen Lord Jesus heals Aeneas of paralysis through Peter’s words.  In the passage we just read, Jesus raised Tabitha for dead in answer to Peter’s prayers.  But this raises other questions that make us scratch our heads:

Ø  Why did the believers in Joppa need to send to Lydda and fetch Peter? 

Ø  Why didn’t the believers there just pray for healing or resurrection? 

Ø  Why don’t we hear more often today of God healing people in response to our prayer?

These are uncomfortable questions that arise as we take God’s Word seriously and apply it to our practise of prayer – interceding for those who are sick.

As we read and study the Bible, we find the reason why the disciples of Joppa needed to send for Peter.  Peter  is blessed with the gift of healing. 

Reading through the first number of chapters in the book of Acts, we quickly notice that the Lord often used Peter to restore people to health.  He became so well known for miracles of healing that Luke describes the apostle’s healing ministry in terms even more remarkable than Jesus’ healing ministry.  In Acts 5 we read:

People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. [1]

And in Acts 19, Luke records how

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. [2]

This is a gift; Jesus gave Peter the ability to pray for healing so that the whole church will benefit. 

Now it’s obvious that not all people in the church have the same gifts.  I have no problem leading worship and preaching, but I wouldn’t find much pleasure in doing the bookkeeping.  And you probably wouldn’t want to put me in charge of repairing the plumbing or electrical.  I don’t have the knowledge, the ability, or the gifts to take care of those things for the church.  So, God calls other people to work in those areas with the skills, training, and gifts God has given them. 

That’s the way Paul writes about gifts in his letter to the church in Corinth:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?[3]

The answer to all these rhetorical questions is “no.”  Not everyone works miracles, have gifts of healing or speaks in tongues.  We confess that God distributes certain gifts within the church so that those gifts can be used for the benefit of the whole body of Christ. 

That’s one of the reasons for the prayer initiative, to help people discover who has gifts for intercessory prayer.  If it’s something you really enjoy and find to be a blessing for you and the congregation, keep it up, even after the 5 weeks are over.  We are responsible to find and develop the gifts God has given to us as individuals and as a church family.

Peter, then, uses his gift of prayerful healing for the benefit of Aeneas in Lydda and for Tabitha in Lydda.  Reading about these miracles gives us a hunger, a longing, to recognize God responding to our prayers in miraculous ways.  That’s a good hunger . . . to a point. 

These events were not recorded in the Bible for us to covet God’s gifts to the early church in an unhealthy way.  No, these events are recorded so that we can see our God more clearly.  Two things stand out, that I want to draw to your attention:

1.      By answering Peter’s prayer in such a speedy and miraculous way, God demonstrates his loving concern.  At that time and place, God was able to reveal his care for the body of Christ by restoring Tabitha to life and health once again.

Tabitha was able to pick up where she left off in her role of lovingly caring for others and providing for those who were needy in that community.

2.      This demonstration of God’s love and concern allowed the church and surrounding community to put their trust in God. Luke records that this miracle, “became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”  It opened an opportunity for Peter to stay there, as a witness of Jesus’ ministry and  resurrection – we read that in Acts 10 – how Peter was able to go from Joppa up the coast to visit with Cornelius the Centurion.

What do we take from these events for our own Christian walk, then? 

We’ve talked about the gifts God gives to the community of believers.  We’ve talked about God’s loving concern for the church family.  We’ve talked about the way God’s intervention was helpful in spreading the Gospel. 

How does all this help us in our prayer ministry and in the life of our congregation and community?

There are many in our community who would benefit from a miracle of healing.  We might promise to praise God publicly if he answers our prayers for healing.  It seems reasonable, doesn’t it, to describe to God how helpful you think a healing miracle would be to our Christian witness?

Well by all means.  Prayer is a way of pouring all our concerns, regrets, hopes and fears before God’s throne.  We can be transparent with God about our hopes desires and motives – he can see through our pretences even if we aren’t completely honest about it.

I want to conclude by saying that this miracle in Joppa reaffirms our confidence that God is loving and concerned for his creation; his covenant people.  He has moved mightily to restore life and health through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and he is constantly at work, listening to the requests of his people and intervening in a way that brings glory to his name, but also reveals how he is actively establishing and demonstrating his rule over all creation.  Physically, mentally, and spiritually, he restores health and strength among his people – to draw people close to himself and to reveal that he is faithful and trustworthy.

By raising our prayers and petitions, we demonstrate our trust and hope in God, our confidence in his goodness and power to draw us close to himself, whether through miraculous healing OR through a prolonged period of sickness and difficulty.


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[1] Acts 5:15-16 (NIV)

[2] Acts 19:11-12 (NIV)

[3] I Corinthians 12:27-30 (NIV)

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