All Things are Possible with God

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            Tonight, we continue to study this wonderful book of Acts. I am so glad that God has given us his word so that we can know his mighty works and deeds in history. Aren’t you? The Bible describes countless acts of God in history. Beginning in Genesis, we read about the work of God in creation and how he sustains it. In Exodus, we read of the ten plagues that freed the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. In Joshua, we read of God’s hand in bringing his children into the Promised Land through the destruction of Jericho and the sun standing still at one battle.

            God not only worked in history, but he worked in the lives of his people. For example, David as a teenager was able to slay a giant with a sling shot and some rocks, Elijah was able to raise a widow’s son and defeat the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elisha was able to help a widow’s oil not to run dry when that was all she had in her house, raises a Shunammite’s son, and instructed Naaman on what to do to be healed from leprosy.

            In the New Testament, we have the mighty works of Christ from the healing of the sick, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, and the mute speaking. He fed five and four thousand respectively, he walked on water and turned water into wine. In case you forget, the greatest work was his resurrection from the dead which is the guarantee for ours.

            Now we come to the book of Acts and God’s hand is on his apostles performing miracles, signs and wonders. There was a lame beggar healed in Acts 3 through the Apostle Peter. The sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits were brought to them for healing. Yet, one of the greatest miracles seen in this book is the conversion of a soul. There were three thousand saved on the day of Pentecost and in another sermon two thousand were added to the faith. This does not count for all the others who were added daily to the fellowship of Christ. And last Sunday evening and this morning, we witnessed the dramatic conversion of Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul.

            So God has been doing the impossible in history for a long time and I believe he is still doing the impossible. Yet, as I stated this morning, our tendency is to think that things will never change but will remain the same forever. We need to admit that we think like that from time to time. In fact, we believe that many situations will go from bad to worst.

            I quoted John Piper this morning, but I believe worth repeating tonight. He said, “But one of the messages of the book of Acts is that this is emphatically not true. Jesus Christ is not dead and he is not distant and he is not silent and he is not weak and he is not uninterested in the world and the progress of his mission and in your life. He is alive and what he began to do in his earthly life he is continuing to do. He is full of surprises for churches and for nations and for families, and for individual people.”

            Folks, God is in the business of turning things and people around. And the exciting thing about all of this is that he uses people to minister these great feats. I was reminded this week by the weather man James Spann who spoke at our children’s home school group on Tuesday that God has left us here to help other people. If you want to the biblical word for that it is called ministry. So God didn’t leave us here for us to satisfy ourselves or pamper ourselves or indulge ourselves, but to help others. So what are you doing for others?

            Well, that is the message in our passage this evening: God doing the impossible through his people to help others. So turn in your Bibles to the book of Acts the 9th chapter and the 32nd verse. I see two miracles that Peter was involved in: the miracle of restoration and the miracle of resurrection. First,


            The scene shifts again from the life of Saul to the life of Peter. If you recall the last time we saw Peter in action was back in Acts 8, when he and John went to Samaria to help Philip with the harvest that was being reaped as a result of Philip’s preaching. In 8:25 we read, “Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.”

            So Peter was involved in the ministry. He didn’t sit idle by until it was his time to get in the limelight. While Luke was telling us about Saul, Peter was still preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And here Luke stated Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived in Lydda.

            John MacArthur stated that he noticed in over forty years of ministry an important principle that has emerged around this issue of involvement. The people who are already involved in what God is doing are usually the ones that are given the more fruitful ministries. God keeps His richest ministries for His busiest saints. I am finding the same thing to be true in my ministry from the conferences I attend to my own personal experience. There are some who are so involved in the ministry that you wonder when they rest and I noticed the more I am involved in God’s work the more opportunities arise to serve him.

            “It's a lot easier to handle and steer and operate somebody that's going somewhere.  When God's got a job to do, He doesn't go up to the dusty shelf of the dilapidated, impotent, non-functioning Christians and say I think I'll dust off Joe and give him that job.  God uses people who are already in the mainstream flow of what He's doing.  And that's why some people have abundance of ministries while other people are sitting around saying I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. Everybody who's active seems to be able to find enough to do.  The little principle the rich get richer can apply in terms of spiritual richness.  Boy when you get into rich ministries you'll find that you'll...first of all, you'll bear fruit and then you'll bear more fruit and then before you know it, you'll bear much fruit.” So find a ministry and plug into the service of God’s kingdom.

            So peter comes down to the saints in Lydda, which was the Old Testament town of Lod. It is about ten miles southeast of the seacoast city of Joppa, where Peter goes next. In the NT era Jewish sources emphasize the importance of the city, at that time named Lydda. It had a large market and was noted for the raising of cattle. Textile, dyeing, and pottery industries flourished there. And it was the seat of a Sanhedrin; famous Talmudic scholars taught there. This, then, was the kind of bustling, flourishing community that existed when Peter visited the city and ministered to its Christians (Acts 9:32–35).Today it is the location of Israel’s international airport.    

            There is a man by the name of Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and would probably remain in that condition the rest of his life. In other words, he was beyond the help of the medical knowledge of that day. More than likely this man was an unbeliever because in the next scene Luke describes Dorcas as a disciple and does not make that claim for Aeneas. Either way, God had a purpose for his illness and healing.

            Unlike the many preachers who perform healings today in large auditoriums among large crowds, Peter was will to go to this man and minister to his need. In other words, peter was not in the gospel ministry for himself, but for the glory of the Lord. Folks, that is the only reason for you and I to do real ministry. We do it because of what God has done for us.

            But I want you to notice what happens next, Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you, rise and make your bed.” Peter performed the miracle in the name of Christ because it is only Christ that can actually heal. Again, I say that he was not seeking his own fame or fortune, but the glory of the Lord. William Barclay wrote, “We think too much of what we can do and too little of what Christ can do through us.”

            Folks, this is a miracle. A man who had the incapacity of getting up on his own accord. Chuck Swindoll said, This was really power! Some of us for years have been saying, ‘Arise and make your beds,’ to your teenagers with no result!” So Aeneas was immediately healed by Christ.

            As a result of this miracle like most of the miracles in Acts, it led to the conversion of souls to Christ. Luke said, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” All seems a little far fetch at such a miracle, but God saved those in Lydda and the surrounding plain of Sharon. They turned to the Lord, which means more than just a change of mind, but a change of direction.

In a number of languages it is not sufficient to simply translate ‘to change one’s manner of life,’ for this could either be neutral or even suggest a change for the worse. Therefore, it may be necessary in a number of instances to translate ‘to change one’s way of living as God would want’ or ‘to change and live like God would want one to live.’ Conversion is an about face from one belief and behavior to a completely opposite commitment. So first is the miracle of restoration. Next,


            Again, we see that principle that I mentioned earlier that when you make yourself available for ministry God will provide you with more opportunities to serve him. In verse 36, we are introduced to a lady by the name of Tabitha and in Greek is called Dorcas. Her name means gazelle, which is a graceful creature.

            Luke says that she was a gracious woman because she was full of good works and acts of charity. In fact, the widows who were mourning her loss show Peter some of the things she had made. So again, here is another servant making herself available in kingdom work.

            We can find all kinds of ways to minister in the name of Christ. For example, there are 21,800 patients per year who receive chemotherapy treatments in Louisville, Kentucky, and most lose their hair. When Lynette LeGette discovered this, it brought her to tears. She also learned that patients complain about being cold during the night and wrap pajamas or towels around their heads to keep warm. This gave Lynette an idea, but a challenging one. She said, "I thought I couldn’t possibly meet that need. It seemed an overwhelming project."

            Lynette’s project was to create turbans for cancer patients who lost their hair. Some of her first creations were sent to a mother in Kansas. Lynette made the woman many caps for both winter and spring. Later, when Lynette met the woman’s 7-year-old daughter, the girl ran up to her, wrapped her arms around her legs, and said, "You made my mom so happy she has a hat to go with every outfit."

            Lynette is known as the Hat Lady. From July 2002 to December 2004, Lynette and her now six volunteers made 1,000 turbans providing them at no charge to those in need.

            Lynette is a modern day Dorcas. She says, "When you ask the Lord what you should do, you need to be willing to listen for the direction and recognize the opportunities he gives you."

            Also, you can find ways to serve even when you think you cannot do anything because of an ailment or sickness or some other setback. Mary Webb (1779-1861), frail and confined to a wheelchair, nevertheless was the driving force behind the formation in 1800 of the Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes, the first missionary organization for women in America. The Female Society engaged in both city mission work and the support of foreign missions, and was a forerunner of the national women's mission societies formed later in the century.

            So Tabitha became ill and died, and the people of Joppa prepared her for burial as was the custom of washing the body. But instead of burying her as was the custom they laid her in an upper room. Maybe they had something else in mind. Well they did as Luke records in the next verse.

            They had heard about Peter being in Lydda, which is about ten miles from Joppa. They had heard probably of the miracle that had just been performed on Aeneas and the people that came to know Christ as a result of that miracle. So they send for Peter to come which would have taken him about three hours to get there. They begged him to come immediately and Peter made himself available and went with these disciples to Joppa.

            So when Peter arrived they took him to the upper room where she laid and the widows who were weeping over their loss. They showed Peter the kind deeds and acts that Tabitha did among them while she was alive.

            So Peter, in verse 40, did as the Lord did in raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. He sent them all out of the room and knelt beside her bed to pray. You see Peter knew where his source of power came from and he did not presume on his own strength to perform this miracle.

            Folks, prayer is the key for any successful ministry. It is essential because it recognizes our dependence upon God. Five young men one time were in London years ago, and they were Christians, and they thought it would be interesting to go to Spurgeon's tabernacle and hear the great master preach.  So they arrived a little early, hoping to get a seat, and the doors were still locked.  They were standing on the steps in the front, and a gentleman walked up to them and introduced himself by this statement.  He said, "Young men, would you like to see the heating apparatus of this church?"  They look at each other and thought, "The heating apparatus, who wants to see that?"  But they didn't want to turn away their friend that they had just met, and so they said, "Why, fine, if you would desire to show that to us, yes," being gracious young men.  So he proceeded to take them in the door.  They went down long steps, and they came to a hallway that looked like a dead end.  They went to the end of the hallway, and a man opened the door, and there was this large room filled with 700 people on their knees in prayer.  At which point, the gentleman turned to them and said, "There, my young men, is the heating apparatus of this church."  They later found out that their unknown guide as Charles Haddon Spurgeon himself.  You see, he recognized the power was not his, but the power was God's, and it was unleashed in prayer.  You know what prayer is?  Prayer at this point is simply the admission that I can't do it, and God can.

            So I encourage you to make prayer a priority in your life. Prayer is speaking to God about things you can’t change but he can. So pray fro growth in grace because he has the ability to help you. Pray for those love ones who are lost because God has the power to save them. Pray for those circumstances that seem impossible like a wayward child or a rocky marriage or unemployment because has the ability to change any one of those scenarios and many more.

            So Peter prayed and after praying turned to the body and said Tabitha arise and she opened her eyes and he took her by the hand and raised her up. In verse 41, Luke said that Peter presented her to the saints and widows that she was alive. In other words, God was performing this miracle not for the benefit of Dorcas or these folks who saw her, but for the people of Joppa. Again God performed a miracle for the purpose of evangelism.

            God was going to use this ministry to allow the gospel to be spread because verse 42 says that many believed in the Lord. God has done this repeatedly in the book of Acts. Pentecost saw many come to Christ, after the healing of the lame beggar people came to Christ, and here in our passage people came to Christ through these two miracles.

            Folks, the ministry that you perform may be a vehicle for God to use in bringing someone into the kingdom.  So don’t determine in your mind how effective a ministry is gonna be just believe God for it. Can I remind you that the power of the gospel does not rest in the eloquence of the person presenting it. If this was the case then men would be the converters of souls. Spurgeon said, "We might preach till our tongues rot, till we exhaust our lungs and die, and never a soul will be saved unless there is the power of God moving in.”

            Finally, God was preparing the church to be a witness to the world. The gospel has been preached in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And now it was going to be preached to the end of the earth. God was about to transition the church out in the world to places where the gospel had not been heard. This is what the final verse of this text says. Peter stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, the tanner.

            Well, that doesn’t sound like very important information, but believe me it speaks volume. You see God was breaking down the walls of prejudice in the life of the apostles, which only consisted of Jews. Well, Jews despised Gentiles, but God had a plan to include them in his kingdom.

            By noting that Simon was a tanner, Luke was saying a lot. Tanners were considered to be ceremonially unclean because they were constantly in contact with the skins of dead animals (Lev. 11:40). Strict observers of Pharisaic opinions avoided tanners whenever possible, because their stripping of animal hides continually involved them with unclean carcasses. Second-century teachers reported (not necessarily accurately) that tanners had been forbidden in Jerusalem (many rabbis were more lenient if the tannery were near water, as Simon’s house is—10:6).  

            These people were ostracized and had to live at least 50 cubits (24 yards) out of town. If a woman is engaged to a man involved in tanning, she could break the engagement. So God was preparing Peter for what he was about to do next and that share the good news with Cornelius the Gentile.

            In this verse, I think the lesson is clear. Prejudice can devastate any ministry. The sign of a maturing Christian is that their prejudices are dying. We need not worry what they look like or the color of their skin or anything else. We need to remember that they are soul created in the image of God and need to be saved like all of us need to be saved. Remember all things are possible with God.

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