The Real Solution – June 30, 2019
June 30, 2019
Peter and John were going to the Temple for the hour of prayer. And they weren’t alone! Many people were there. All good Jews in Jerusalem would go to the Temple for prayer at several different times throughout the day. That was a regular practice in their faith. And in these early days of the Church, Jesus’ disciples still worshipped in the Temple, right along with their fellow Jews. In fact, they still considered themselves to be good Jews.
So that’s the scene here. Many people were going into the Temple for one of the hours of prayer – in this case the ninth hour. And there was this disabled man, lying by the door, who was brought there so he could ask for alms from those going in to worship.
I think I’ve said before that alms were an important part of the worship of God’s people. The giving of alms was, in a sense, their version of a social welfare system. People who were disabled, widows, people without family, orphans – those kinds of people had no means of making a living for themselves. Think about that! So some would ask for alms, and the worshippers were expected to give alms as part of their “religious practice.”
So, this man is lying at the Temple gate, as he did every day. And then, with everybody watching, Peter healed this man of his disability. And he did so in the name of Jesus. And so he began a controversy that would last for several chapters in this book of Acts!
I’ve always loved this story, and I’ve always remembered the words Peter said to this man. He said, “Silver and gold have I none, but that which I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk!” (And I always remember it in the Revised Standard Version!) There was even a song about it. Anybody remember that? The chorus goes, “Walking and leaping and praising God…”
Well, I’ve been thinking about those words this week. Silver and gold would have helped this man in his daily living, right? (And he was given alms of silver and gold, or copper or whatever…) But, it was Jesus who turned out to be the real solution! In Jesus, the man’s disability was taken away! And so was his inability to make a living for himself! In Jesus, his situation went from hope-less to hope-ful!
And I’ve been thinking. Isn’t that a great metaphor for our world? In our world, people are always looking to silver and gold to solve all their problems. They think the solution for any problem is to throw money at it. Or they look to others to throw money at it. But isn’t the real solution the power of God in Jesus Christ? Isn’t that what we believe? Yet, people are so resistant to God, they’d rather eek out an existence on their own, relying on silver and gold, rather than being open to God. And sometimes we do that, too.
Now, we could stop right there, couldn’t we? We could leave here with just that thought! Wouldn’t things be better in our lives, if we would work more on looking to God as the solution to our problems, or as the means to cope with life despite our problems? And I add that last part because God doesn’t always choose to solve our problems! But he gets us through them if we seek him. If we would truly heed Jesus’ words to “seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” we might just find out that, indeed, “all these things will be added unto us.” That’s what he said in his Sermon on the Mount.
Now, I’m not saying we don’t need silver and gold. Don’t get me wrong here. As I said, this man didn’t just get to walk that day. He also got to work! He was given the ability to support himself. He was given his way out of his hopeless situation. Jesus solved his personal silver and gold problem.
We have to see that. Because I’m not one of those “Don’t worry, just pray, and God will take care of it,” kind of guys. That’s the engineer Father in me, I guess. We need to be “practical,” we need to be engaged with the world, we need to be responsible. We need to do all that stuff. Though, maybe I should listen more to the “don’t worry” part of that. Or as Paul said, the “Have no anxiety about anything but in everything” part of it. (I have that “worry bone” in my head!)
But I would never counsel anyone to do nothing, but just pray. But on the other hand, I do think that sometimes we forget the prayer part of it. Don’t we? I do think we forget that Jesus is the “real solution.” I think we forget that part of Philippians 4 that I just referenced. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Those are Paul’s words, and they echo Jesus’ own words from the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus had a whole section of that sermon dedicated to “Do not be anxious.”
I have a plaque in my house above one of the doors, and it says, “Pray more, stress less.” And the words “more” and “less” indicate a matter of degree, don’t they? Those are things that we don’t just “turn on,” like a switch, but rather that we “work on,” like a process or a practice. So that phrase means “Do more praying, and more praying. Keep working at it. And as you do, you will end up stressing less.” Do you see? There’s a process there. And I think that’s something we need to be thinking about all the time.
So, there’s a balance going on here. Yes, there are problems in our lives. And yes we do tend to see silver and gold as the solution to those problems. There’s a real belief in all of us, that, if we could just win the lottery, all our problems would go away! But, as God’s people, we need to be looking to him, more and more, and we need to be growing in the knowledge that he is the real solution!
It’s my prayer that you’ll be thinking about that as we see how this story plays out in the weeks to come.
Eternal God, help us to look to you more, to see you as the real solution, the real answer to the anxiety we feel when we look too much to the world for answers. Help us to know you better, to seek your presence, to love you more. We are glad to be your people, and we thank you, in Jesus’ name, Amen.