June 5, 2016
Going back through my list of Sermons, I realized that I have a lot of “Power” sermons. “The Power in the Name,” “The Power of Love,” “The Power of Prayer,” “The Power of Words,” “The Power of Religion,” “The Power to Become,” and there are a number of others. …Do you think maybe I’m obsessed with power? Well this is another one. “The Power Revealed.”
A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Trinity, and that was right after Pentecost, which was about the coming of the Holy Spirit. And then last week I took that a little further and talked about “The Power Within.” (Which was, of course, another “Power” sermon!) That one was about having the “power within us.” And it was the power to live a life of joy, and peace, and fulfillment. That’s the life that God wants for us.
That’s part of what the Holy Spirit does for us. He gives us the power to live that life, no matter what the circumstances! In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “I have learned, whatever state I am in, to be content.” And what was the “secret” that allowed him to do that? Do you remember the scripture for last week? “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11,13)
As I said, those words from Philippians 4 are some of my favorite words in all of scripture! They show a lot of wisdom about how to face the challenges and difficulties of this life. I hope they do that for you, too! So take some time and go back and read that stuff again! It’s great stuff!
For today, we’re going back to the book of Acts, and we’re looking at this story of what I’m calling “The Power Revealed.” And here we find a story in which the Holy Spirit works a powerful miracle through Peter and John. This man who had been unable to walk for his whole life, is now walking and leaping and praising God!
I’ve said before, that this book, “The Acts of the Apostles,” could easily have been called, “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Because it is the power of the Holy Spirit that is causing all these “acts” to happen. But in a way, the “original” title about the Apostles is appropriate in this case, because it is the Apostles who “acted” here. And through them, the power of the Holy Spirit was revealed.
When I think of this story, it always amazes me how bold this was. Because I find myself wondering, what if it hadn’t worked? What if nothing happened? Did you ever wonder what that would have been like? It’s hard to do that because, again, we know this story. We know what was about to happen! And we know that it was going to “work!” But try to imagine what would have happened if it didn’t? What would the people have thought about Peter and John? And what would Peter and John have thought? (How embarrassing would that have been? How devastating for the ministry that was just beginning?!)
Every once in a while, I’ve heard stories of people who try to do such things. They think they’re hearing the Spirit speaking to them, and they make a bold, public statement of some kind. But then, whatever it was that they were asking for, doesn’t happen! Did you ever hear of something like that happening?
I remember being told of a man who believed he was “healing” a boys hearing problems. He touched his ears, and then he dropped his hearing aids on the , and stepped on them! And nothing happened! That kind of thing can really look bad! What are we to think? Did that person maybe not hear from God? Was he trying to draw attention to himself? I suppose we could talk about that for a long time. Because such things are always difficult to deal with!
But for now, just think what would have happened here. Peter and John were bold in performing this miracle. And this didn’t happen in some private room, or at some time when nobody was around. This took place in full public display! And it did happen! The man was healed! And the people were astounded! They saw this man following Peter and John into the Temple. (The disciples were still worshipping with everyone else at this time.)
It was amazing! And it was all for the glory of God! Because, of course, the people wanted to know what had happened. So, Peter told them. He used this occasion to deliver the second Christian Sermon. And many more people believed! (Not bad for a lowly fisherman!)
This became a wonderful scene! But it wasn’t wonderful for everyone! Because part of this was about the boldness of Peter and John and the power revealed, and part of it was about the people believing. And for some, what should have been a time of great rejoicing in God’s power, became one of suspicion, anger, and denial.
That’s how some people react to such miracles. They don’t want to believe. They start to explain them away. And that’s what the religious leaders did here. They couldn’t accept what had happened! Remember that they thought they had “dealt with” this Jesus – just weeks before! And now they realized it wasn’t over. And if they didn’t do something fast, it might only be the beginning. This then became a controversy that took up a great deal of the next 3 or 4 chapters in Acts.
And in all that, as they dealt with Peter and John and the others, imagine what all the rest of the people felt! Their leaders (who had just been involved in the death of this popular man, Jesus) were seeing this miracle and denying it. They were trying to squelch the power behind it. And hey were trying to silence the people through whom it happened.
We know that these religious leaders were people of such great irony! They were so wrapped up in their own point of view on this, they missed seeing the big picture! They missed seeing this great movement of God in history. And more than that, they missed seeing this great miracle! It’s easy for us to see the irony there. But do we ever see it happening to us? Are there times in our lives when we insist on our own view of the world, our own interpretation of events, and in doing so we miss Acts of God?
Peter and John were bold that day! But could we ever be that bold? Perhaps they were thinking about the words they had heard only weeks before in the upper room. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12. (That same farewell address where he told them of the coming of the Holy Spirit.)
But what about us? “Greater works than these will you do…” Isn’t that one of those statements we’re just not sure about? Jesus told his disciples they would do “greater works” – and they did! But did he really mean us, too?
Now, I’m not suggesting that we should all become “faith healers.” Not that there isn’t a place for such people. God works in ways that are beyond us – and beyond our control! And that’s perhaps the most uncomfortable thing of all, isn’t it?
What I am saying is that we should strive not to miss the “acts of God.” We should strive to grow in our expectation that God is working and that God will work in our lives! We should resist the temptation to think that, just because the Spirit does not seem to be doing “greater works” in us, that he’s not doing any works! That is our conclusion sometimes, isn’t it? Because we want the control. We want the final “interpretation.”
So then, I “exhort” you today to look for what the Spirit might be doing in you! Look for the “Power” to be “Revealed” in you! And don’t look only for what you think the spirit might be doing. Be open to what the spirit might be doing that is beyond your imagination! That’s what Paul says about the power of God. To the Ephesian church he wrote, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever, Amen.”
Eternal God, maker of all things, help us to see beyond our sight, signs of your kingdom. Give us your vision. Help us to see the world through your eyes. Help us to have the faith that Jesus called us to have. Help us to know of your Power revealed through us. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.