“Everybody in the hospital was awaiting a visit from Pope John Paul II. A doctor with a handful of paperwork took a seat in a wheelchair and busied himself with his notes. The Pope swept in, and blessed the doctor, who immediately stood up and walked forward. The devout in the Pope's entourage crossed themselves and rolled their eyes upward.”
Some miracles are too good to be believed—but others are made good because they are believed—and God responds to people’s faith with a blessing. It’s this second kind that I want to talk about today: real miracles which result from real faith.
Acts 3.1-10 tells the story of a crippled beggar at the temple, who recovers the use of his legs through a miracle God performs by the obedience of the apostles Peter and John. At three o’clock in the afternoon, the usual hour for prayer, they meet a lame man begging alms at the gate. A brief exchange takes place, and in the time it takes for you to read this article, the man is up on his feet, walking and leaping and praising God. This dramatic event hinges on several key elements, that must be in place before such a thing can happen.
First, this miracle depends on Peter and John’s faithful attendance at the temple. In other words, though it almost need not be said, the apostles need to be there in order for God to use them in a miraculous way. Likewise, if you want God to use you to do great things in the lives of others, you have to be constant at prayer and worship, and you have to show up at the place of need.
Second, we meet the lame man as he is carried in, presumably by his friends. Again, risking the obvious, I’ll point out that the crippled man needs to be present at the place of healing in order for this miracle to take place. Every day I meet people who need miracles in their lives, yet so often they place themselves far from any environment that is conducive to the working of wonders. If you have someone in your life who needs an act of God, then why not be that friend who leads them in the right direction?
As we read this story we realize that this miracle will never happen if Peter and John avert their eyes. Yet they direct their gaze right at the man who needs their help. When we see need on our doorstep, it’s easiest to look away, to pretend that we don’t see the beggar before us. Instead, God wants us to gaze upon those who need His touch. Only when we see the fallen and huddled as fellow humans will we reach out with God’s love.
Next, this scripture reminds us to focus not on what we don’t have, but on what we do have. In verse six (NRSV), Peter says, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” When we see a financial need yet have no money to solve the problem, we often shrug our shoulders and say that we can’t help. Or, we spend energy we don’t have in order to procure what we can’t get, just to help a little. Instead of operating outside of our giftings or becoming discouraged because we can’t meet the first need, we might discern a second or third need that we can meet. When trying to help someone, don’t focus on what you don’t have—use what you do have for God’s glory.
Then, we see that the man doesn’t rise and walk just because Peter tells him to—but because Peter helps him to. When people come to Christians for help, we fall into the trap of pointing them to the help they need, all the while hoping that we don’t have to reach out and touch them. God works miracles in people’s lives when Christians take the fallen by the hand, and help them to their feet.
The final thing necessary for this miracle to occur is that the beggar responds to Peter’s command. The apostles could have pleaded with him until they were blue in the face, telling him that rising and walking is the very best thing for him. Yet it’s not until he puts his faith into action and puts his feet on the ground that this miracle transpires. So too when we care for the needy, we might do everything right but se no result, if they are unwilling to take a small step in helping themselves.
The result of Peter and John’s faithfulness is found in a man who doesn’t shuffle around the temple, but who dances and jumps and shouts glory to God. What will be the result of your faithfulness as you make prayer and worship a priority in your life? How will God work through you as you focus your gaze on those in need, as you work from your strengths to help them, and as you reach out to get them on their feet? God’s still in the business of working miracles—and He uses His servants as vessels to perform them. I pray you’ll be willing—I pray He’ll use you.