Helping a Needy World Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Beggars often gathered around the temple entrances to ask for “alms”, or gifts for the poor. Peter and John entered the temple at a place called the Beautiful Gate, which Christian tradition has identified as the Golden Gate on the eastern side of the temple. There they met a lame beggar, who was particularly unfortunate because he had been born a cripple. The man was poor, and couldn’t do anything to support himself, so he had to beg and live off the charity of others. Friends carried him to the temple, every day at prayer time, and laid him down at the same place; and the man asked for alms from all who passed by.
What a contrast he was to the gate that was called Beautiful. Here was a beautiful gate; and here was a man who had to be carried. Man can make beautiful things, but man cannot improve himself. Of course, man can do some trimming on the outside. He can cut his hair, have his fingernails manicured, take a bath now and then; but man can never change that old nature which he has. This is the contrast we have here-a beautiful gate of the temple and a man came from his mother's womb. He was there to beg alms; because this is the way he lived.
When they entered the gate, he begged alms from Peter and John, and that is all he expected them to give him. Before his encounter with the people of God, the beggar was completely helpless. What happened after the encounter made him a completely different person.
In verse 4, Peter and John are not timid survivors; they are bold witnesses for Christ. Peter stopped, when the man requested alms, And fixing his eyes on him, Peter said, “Look at us.” Peter’s gaze was intense and piercing; but the man didn’t have to be asked twice to look at the apostles, since he believed, because of their response, that he was going to receive something from them.
Peter had absolute confidence that power would go along with the words that he spoke, and that the lame man would be cured. With the man waiting to receive some gift, Peter said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
An incident is told of one of the early saints of the Church in Rome, who walked in on the Pope as he was counting money. Realizing that he had walked in on something that was private, he started to walk out. The Pope said to him, “No longer can the Church say, silver and gold have I none.” As the saintly man continued walking out, he said: “Neither can the Church say, to the lame man, Rise up and walk.”
Today, the organized Church has wealth. I suppose that if one could put together all the holdings of all the Churches, all groups, and all denominations, across the country, we would find the Church is wealthier than any other organization. I think it is wealthier than Microsoft, Toyota or Ford Motor Company. Yet, the Church today lacks power.
Now, notice what Peter does. The beggar expected to receive alms, but Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have.” The apostles were poor, and they had hardly enough for themselves. Peter and John didn’t have any money to give him, but they had something that was much better; they possessed a power from heaven that would cure disease.
Peter told the diseased man to “rise up and walk.” They would have been empty words, if he hadn’t prefaced them with, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
Peter did not give the man what he requested. He gave him what he needed. The man thought that his only problem was that he couldn’t walk; but he really needed much, much more-he needed Jesus. We live in a crippled world that needs help. Sickness appears to damage millions. I have heard that in some countries in Africa, a quarter of the population has aids.
In America, our youth are said to be sick, because they are overweight due to the lack of exercise and bad nutrition. Terrorism has inflicted the whole world with fear. Millions of people starve to death in third world countries every year. Slavery is still practiced in some African nations. There is never a day that there isn’t a war being fought in some part of the world. There are countries in the middle-East and in Asia where Christians are persecuted and even killed. We live in a crippled world that needs help, but Jesus can and will change the world if we will present Him. It is not silver or gold that the world needs. The world needs Jesus.
We have seen that it was obedience that brought the Church to this point, and we saw that the obedient believers were praying. Now, I would like for you to see that the world needs someone to reach out a hand of faith to the people. It took faith to do what Peter did.
It says in verse 7, “And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” When Peter took the man’s hand, his feet and ankle bones received strength which was not their own. Peter had seen Jesus do this when He healed His mother-in-law, and at other times. When believers reach out in faith great things happen. Verse 8 says, “So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.” The man leaped up and walked, putting one foot in front of the other, and he accompanied the two apostles into the temple; but he was walking and leaping and praising God.
Those who were standing by looked on in amazement. Obviously, they recognized the man as the lame beggar who had been a familiar sight at the Beautiful Gate. The three men passed through this gate at the entrance to the Temple, and they made their way along the eastern wall of the outer court to the porch named after Solomon. Here a crowd of spectators thronged around the man and the disciples. They stood in amazement and were ready for some explanation.
The man was overwhelmed with emotion and was praising God. He knew that his healing could only come through the power of God; not by man, so he praised God, not the apostles, for what had happened. The prophecy in Isaiah 53:6 had been literally fulfilled, "Then shall the lame man leap as an hart.”
When believers start living in a way that demonstrates what they say is true, a struggling world will find the help it needs. The need today is for Christians to live the Spirit-filled life and to reach out to a needy world.
God will do mighty things to change crippled lives in our world when we fully trust Him. He has changed my life and the lives of millions of others. When I worked on this message, I was at the Lauren’s library. There was a lady sitting next to me, and she looked over my shoulder and saw that I was writing about God. She said to me, “Please don’t think that I am nosey, but I see you are writing about the Lord.” She began to tell me about her life, and I got to listen to her reveal how God had blessed her on her job-she works with retarded teenagers. She told me how her son had just recently been saved and how she had prayed that she would meet a Christian man-God answered her prayer by opening her eyes to a man she had known for twelve years but had never thought of him that way before. We had a blessed experience as we shared how good God has been to us.
The miracles that are recorded in the book of Acts can be repeated today if we become obedient people. The apostles received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and that was a miracle. However, the Holy Spirit is given to every believer today, when they come to faith in Jesus Christ. Every time a lost sinner receives Christ as their Savior, it’s a miracle. I have had other miracles in my life, and I bet that you have too. Those great experiences are wonderful, and they help our faith. But God’s constant presence is also wonderful and that’s how we get through each day.
We have learned today that prayer and obedience to God were what brought the Church from its small beginning to this point. Now, we need to reach out to someone and give him or her the Gospel of Christ. God is building His Church, in this needy world, through the witness of His people.
Let’s pray and thank God for the great miracle of salvation, and thank Him for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s ask Him to bless us and use us to tell others about His Son.