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Surprise by Design

Acts 3:1-10


Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. [2] And a certain man who had been lame from his mother's womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. [3] And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. [4] And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, 'Look at us!' [5] And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. [6] But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-- walk!' [7] And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. [8] And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. [9] And all the people saw him walking and praising God; [10] and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (NASB) 

In the late 1980s, Dr. Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, wrote to 250 of the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, and intellectuals in the world. He asked each one, "What is the meaning of life?" 

Dr. Moorhead published the responses in a book. Some of these thinkers offered their best guess, others admitted they made up a purpose for life, and a few honestly admitted they had no idea. A number of the intellectuals Dr. Moorhead questioned asked him to write back and tell them if he discovered the purpose of life! (

Have you made the discovery?  Do you know your purpose?  James and John knew theirs. On their way to pray at the temple, Peter and John choose not to rush past an invisible man, instead they paused to minister to him.  And what unfolded in that ministry shows a lot about them, their character and their purpose in life because purpose is often fulfilled with unexpected people.  This was the type of man that disappears into the background the kind it is easy to look right past and not even give a second thought.  He could be a panhandler, like it was with Peter and John, or he could be an unattractive, intellectually slow person whose desk is across from yours in the classroom, or the person who speaks broken English who is taking your order at a fast food joint.  Do you have the capacity to look past their circumstances and see their soul?  I hope so, because we often fulfill our purpose in life among UNEXPECTED PEOPLE.

It also happens at UNEXPECTED TIMES. Think about it, isn't that usually the case?  Real ministry often happens during the journey, not after we arrive at our destination.  How many times did Jesus teach, heal and make a difference in somebody's life while he was going somewhere?  I can think of several right off the top of my head.  He met Zacchaeus on his way to Jericho and transformed his life.  (Luke 19) Right after he stepped off the boat returning from Decapolis Jairus stopped him and asked him to heal his daughter, and a woman with a 12-year chronic illness reached out her hand to touch him for healing (Mark 5).  Come to think of it, much of the meaningful ministry Jesus did was on the way to somewhere.  When He gave His church the Great Commission he knew from personal experience that real ministry happens "along the way."   The Message paraphrases the Great Commission this way, "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. [20] Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:19-20 MsgB) Real ministry happens "on the go" at unexpected times.

During worship services Pastors have commented more than once that the priest's sin in the parable of the Good Samaritan was that he was too busy to stop and help.  Now we don't know that for sure, he could have been too hardhearted, but we often speculate that he was in a hurry to get to a ministry appointment to offer ministry to the man in need.  It is great to be proactive as long as we don't miss an opportunity to minister on our way to ministry.  The most significant thing you did today may have been to help your mother get a brother or sister ready for church today, or to comfort someone who had a problem all of these things, on the way to church.

We often fulfill our purpose in life at unexpected times with unexpected people and in UNEXPECTED WAYS.

This man needed money, or so he thought.  Peter and John knew their limitations they said, "Silver and gold have I none."  The easiest thing in the world to do is to throw money at problems and by doing so rob people of the dignity that comes from learning to solve their own problems.  If Peter and John had given this man some money, all it would have done is prolonged his misery.  He'd spent his life begging for help.  He'd always been there, and he would always be there.  On the surface, most of us would believe the compassionate thing to do in this circumstance would be to give the guy what he was asking for, but Peter and John knew they couldn't.  Well, not exactly.  I'm sure they could have found a way to give the guy something at least enough to soothe their conscious and feel good about themselves.  After all, they had access to all the resources of a fast-growing church.  What they knew is that they could never have enough to make this man, and others like him dependant upon the church for their sustenance.   They wanted to give him more than a handout, they wanted to give him self-respect.

Yes, they knew their limitations, but they also knew their resources, they said, "but such as I have give I thee."  Last week we talked about the importance of being poor in spirit of knowing what we don't have.  We discovered that it is foundational to living the Christian life.  Notice that after Peter and John told the man what he didn't have, they were then able to give him what the did have. They had unexpected resources a gift that this man did not know to ask for.  He wanted sustenance in the midst of his infirmity; they wanted to give him freedom from his illness.  Let me make two quick observations before we leave this thought the typical Christian cannot say either of these two things honestly.  We cannot say, silver and gold have I none, and neither can we say and such as I have give I thee.  Why?  Because we spend more time pursuing wealth than we do seeking God's righteousness.  And because of that we are affluent, but spiritually powerless.  We don't see the sick healed nor lives transformed as a result of our Spiritual warfare, yet we wear nice clothes and drive nice cars. 

That leads me to the last thing I wish to point out about this text not of this was unexpected to Peter and John.  It wasn't UNEXPECTED because they had a clear idea of what their purpose was.  They said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."  They knew it was their purpose in life to extend God's grace to others, transforming them into radical followers of Jesus Christ.  In this case, it was by healing the lame man and bringing glory to God.  Acts 3:8 says, "And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God." (NASB) By fulfilling their purpose, they gave the lame man a new purpose for his life.

In his book, The Way of Holiness, Stephen Olford writes, "Nothing is more miserable than to know you are living a wasteful life.  One day you are going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and if your life has been self-centered, worldly, manifesting those sexual, spiritual, and social sins we've been thinking about, you are going to see that whole life of yours burned up. You will have the unutterable shame of pressing the charred embers of a wasted life into His pierced hands and saying, 'That's all I have for You, Lord.'" (

Life is too precious and too short to waste a single minute of it.  That's why I'm calling the church to forty days of spiritual renewal a journey of discovering our life's purpose and a call to commitment to living a radical life of discipleship. Will you join me in making a commitment to this 40-day journey?

Have you discovered God's purpose for your life?  If so, are you fulfilling it?  If you haven't discovered your real purpose, will you begin the journey of discovery with your church family?

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