This post is derived from the book Becoming A Contagious Christian (BACC) by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg.
Do you know what it is like to be desperate? It comes in many forms. In Acts, Peter and John encountered a desperate man.
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” Acts 3:1-10
What I Have I Give To You
I sort of wish scripture had recorded the name of the beggar in this account. “Now, Tom Smith, a man crippled from birth, was being carried to the temple gate…” “Peter looked straight at Tom, as did John…” “Tom jumped to his feet and began to walk!” This was a real person with a desperate need. Perhaps, in some sense, we can all identify. Maybe you can put your own name and need in that story? Or someone you love? Or someone you encounter while out walking? What are the needs in your corner of the world?
What Do All People Need?
As different as we are from one another, our needs sure don’t seem all that different. Food, water, clothing, shelter, medical care, safety, rest, affection, and a sense of purpose seem like pretty universal needs. Sometimes, we think we need more than what we actually do, but these are substantive things. You don’t have to be a genius to understand how a lack in these areas will affect somebody, because you know it affects you.
There are at least two things to take away from the account in Acts related to what people need.
1. Peter and John did not ignore the man’s physical needs.
This beggar was at the temple gate every day apparently. Everyone knew about him. He couldn’t work. There wasn’t a government disability program for him then. He relied on gifts to survive. I’m sure some had compassion on him and gave him aid regularly. Clearly someone carried him to the gate. He wouldn’t have sat there every day begging if he wasn’t getting help. But you can imagine there were probably a lot of people that just passed by him each day, some without a thought for his welfare, others who didn’t think there was anything they could do, and many who figured others were helping him. When Peter and John looked at him, I think they saw something more than just some beggar at the gate. They saw “Tom Smith” a person God loves.
It’s important for followers of Christ to see people the same way when looking at the needs in our world. Of course no one person can carry the weight of the world, its needs are too many, but just like Peter and John, who said “What I have, I give to you,” there are needs we encounter that God has uniquely equipped us to meet. If it is within our power to give of ourselves to help others, we should do it. It not only blesses the person in need, it blesses us. Who does not feel the love of God when giving God’s love?
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:32-35
2. Peter and John saw the deeper need.
Without recognizing it, the whole world is starving for God’s affection and the sense of purpose that comes from knowing how deep his love is for us. Peter and John, by putting God’s power to work as he had uniquely equipped them to serve, established a testimony to God’s great love for this man to see. And not only him, but for everyone around him to witness. It led to solving the greater problem of eternity that outlasted their temporary needs. Eventually, all of these people died and went on to face eternity. In Christ, the beggar and others found permanent salvation.
You might think, because of the miraculous nature of this event, it is too far removed from your life to be of any value as an example to apply, but that’s not actually the case, at least not if you’re truly in Christ. In Christ, God’s Spirit lives inside of you, uniquely equipping you to perform works of service that testify to his love. The world is crippled by spiritual blindness, lulled to sleep by the concerns and desires of this life. When you personally sacrifice yourself to help others it is a powerful draw to him. It helps pull sleepers towards the light.
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Give It Up
The one-two punch of love demonstrated by Peter and John led to people discovering the water Jesus described when he said he would give us living water.
“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” John 4:5-10
All of us are in need. In the same way we are blessed when someone gives of themselves to show us love, we must lift up others, helping them with their temporal needs so they can rise and walk in Christ.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.