How You Can Change Your World
Dr. Jim Denison
A new series of New Testaments has just been released for evangelistic purposes. It profiles well-known athletes who talk openly about their faith in Jesus. For instance, the football issue profiles Dallas Cowboys tackle Chad Hennings, who says, “God showed his great love for us by sending his Son, Jesus, to die for us. That love is available to us just for the asking. And that love is the answer to life. The more I live, the more I find that fame is not the answer. Neither is social status or money. The things of this world will fail you. People will fail you. Christ is constant. That’s where you can put your faith and trust. He loves us no matter what, and he will give us the strength to handle whatever comes our way.”
Other Christian football players profiled include Greg Ellis, Kent Graham, Danny Kanell, Aeneas Williams, Tony Boselli, Jason Sehorn, Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Brent Jones, and Trent Dilfer.
Christian basketball players include A. C. Green, Hersey Hawkins, Nancy Lieberman, Kevin Johnson, Mark Jackson, and Mark Price. Christian baseball players and managers include John Wetteland, Johnny Oates, John Smoltz, Tony Fernandez, Orel Hershiser, Keith Lockhart, Felipe Alou, Brett Butler, John Olerud, and Joe Girardi.
Today we conclude our week of prayer for global missions with a very simple point: God can use anyone. He can give every one of us a sense of fulfillment and significance, and use us in ways which have eternal impact on our world. Any one of us.
I want to show you that it’s so, biblically and personally.
Our text opens with Peter and John on their way to the Temple at the time of prayer, 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Here they meet with a beggar, a man born lame, now over forty years old (4:22). Laid there daily, to beg from those who go by. The same steps, the same gate, the same ritual, even the same beggar, week after week, day after day. The same helpless situation, year after year.
Of all the people in the crowd who could help this man, they would be the least likely, wouldn’t they? They have no money to give him—”Silver and gold I do not have” (v. 6). They have no medical expertise to offer him. But it turns out they have something better. Something every Christian in this sanctuary has to offer the crippled and hurting people who surround us today.
Our text says that “Peter looked straight at him, as did John” (v. 4). The Greek word means to stare with intense purpose. Others looked, but Peter and John noticed; others heard, but they listened; others rushed by, but they stopped. Why?
They see the need. This is where all ministry begins. No seminary degrees required. No special gifts or abilities are needed. No sin or failures in our lives exempt us. Every one of us can do this.
Next, they trust the name: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Not in their name—they have no power to help him. Not in the name of the Temple, for it cannot heal; not in the name of religion, for it cannot restore; not in the name of their faith, for it is not his. In the name, person, authority of Jesus Christ, and in no other. Because no other can help.
They know that Jesus can heal this man, that he can meet any need and solve any crisis. Do you know that?
Finally, they touch the hurt. Many in their day believed that people with physical handicaps were somehow under the judgment of God. This is unbiblical and wrong, but it was their popular theology. So, you don’t touch a person like this, lest you become contaminated spiritually.
But: “Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up” (v. 7). Peter actually “grabbed” the man, the Greek says. He got involved personally. Again, no special skills, training, or background are needed. Any one of us can who will.
And here’s the result: the man is instantly healed, physically. And spiritually: “he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”
And he becomes a powerful and remarkable evangelist himself: “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” (vs. 9-10).
Peter, John, and this now healed crippled man make perhaps the most unlikely evangelistic association in Christian history. And among the most joyful. Because God can change our world, and use us to change the world.
Can God use hurting people?
Is this still true? Can God really use anyone who wants to be used, no matter our background, pain, mistakes, or circumstances? Can God use hurting people?
Perhaps you saw the USA Today story about Eddie Timanus. He is a sports writer for USA Today, can hit a 70-mph fast ball, play football and beach volleyball, and recently won $70,000 and two cars on Jeopardy after five straight wins. He also happens to be blind. Does pain or disability disqualify anyone in life?
Or with God? Peter denied he even knew Jesus, three times. Did God use him here, and for the rest of his life?
I’ve discovered personally this fact: hurting people can best help other hurting people.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, the people who most encouraged her and us were cancer survivors.
When my sister-in-law went through a divorce, the people who most encouraged our family were those who had experienced such a tragedy themselves.
Linda Sharp was my friend in college. I attended her father’s funeral after his death to cancer, and then six months later, her sister’s funeral after she was killed by a drunk driver. When my father died, she helped me more than anyone else.