Read Acts 9:32-43
Today’s suggested scripture reading tells how Peter, a disciple of Jesus, conducted two miracles. The first was an instant healing of a man with a long-term illness. The second was bringing a dead woman back to life. Think about how Peter must have felt when God called him for these assignments. As far as we know, this is the first time that anyone, except Jesus himself, had ever done anything like this. These were awesome, impossible tasks.
Have you ever been faced with something like this? Not an instant healing or raising someone from the dead. But something important that you had never done before. Something really big. Something that really mattered. I think most of us, when called into that kind of situation, enter with one of two attitudes. One attitude is “arrogant self-reliance”. “I can do anything I want to do. I am self-sufficient. I’ve seen other people do this. I’ve read about and studied how to do this. Of course I can do this.”
That’s how I began my lay ministry as Director of Public Relations for the United Methodist Homes of New Jersey. That was 42 years ago. I was 34 years old, starting not just a new job, but a totally new career. It required that I engage in frequent public speaking engagements at local churches in New Jersey. I had never spoken in public before, except to make a few announcements and lead committees in my church. But I had attitude that said “I can do anything I want to do”. In this case all I had to do was adopt the techniques and practices of certain preachers and speakers who I admired. I would open my presentations with a joke and get laughs. I would tell stories that would bring tears to the eyes of those in the audience. But after a few weeks, it became clear that I was not good at public speaking. No laughs. No tears. Not much response of any kind. I began to look at myself as a failure.
The other attitude is “fear of failure”.”I could never do that. So I better not try. Stick to whatever I have been doing successfully. I don’t want to fail by trying something new and different”. That’s the attitude I had for about ten years when God was calling me to become an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. During all those years my response was “me, a minister, pastor of a church? Impossible. There’s no point in even trying. I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing. God is mistaken. There’s no way I can ever be a pastor. “
Before you get to the stories of Peter referred to in today’s scripture reading there are other stories involving Peter, the disciple of Jesus. In them we can see how, depending on the situation, he experiences both of these attitudes. Sometimes arrogant self-assurance, which results in failure, and other times fear of failure, which results in nothing happening.
But in the two stories in todays’ scripture reading, Peter is not the same prideful , yet fearful man he was before he received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Peter has been transformed. He knows he can do nothing on his own. He know that he is an instrument through which God’s work can be done. With that understanding, in the first story he says to Aeneas, the paralyzed man, “Jesus Christ heals you”. And the man is healed. In the second story, with the dead woman lying before him, he says “Tabitha, get up”. Then he prays. Peter knows that while God desires him to be the instrument through which the dead woman will be brought back to life, he will not be an effective instrument, unless he relies on God, through prayer.
Before, I said I saw myself as a failure when it came to public speaking, which was an important and essential part of my then new job and career. But one afternoon, a few hours before a scheduled speaking engagement, I did something I had not done before. I prayed, leaving everything in God’s hands. And I decided that when it came time to get up and begin my presentation that evening, I would let God take over. The result was that for the first time since I started my new job, the people responded positively.
Before, I also said that I rejected God’s call to ordained ministry, partly because of my fear of failure. But finally, I put my trust in God and prayed that God would use me as God desired. I then discovered that all I had to do was say yes to God, and God would do the rest, in God’s time and God’s way. I discovered what Peter discovered. If you really want to do something new, awesome, and significant, and it is what God wants you to do, you’ve gor to develop a new attitude. Get rid of the attitudes of arrogant self reliance and fear of failure. And instead take on an attitude of “humble trust in God”. Be aware that you are merely God’s instrument for accomplishing God’s work. Therefore, whatever God calls you to do, God will empower you to do.
God has placed each one of us in this world – in the right time and the right place, to do some important works. But everyone of us needs to be in communication with God, in prayer, to discern the works that God has in store for us. And then pray that God will give us the grace (everything needed) to do the works that God has in store for us. Then let God go to work. Based on my own experience, as well as on the experiences of others who I know or who I know about, I have discovered that if we do that, in God’s time and God’s way, the will of God will be fulfilled. Also, with an attitude of humble trust in God in all things, I believe that we will be moving a few steps closer to the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
(for more about how God has worked in my life, you might want to read my free e-book, Hopes Fulfilled – A Spiritual Autobiography, described at the end of this blog post)
Grace and peace, Ray
We welcome any comments and questions you might want to share with us and others. We expect to publish a new Bible study on or about May 2.
Grace and peace,
Patty Perez and Ray Gough
(you can contact us by e-mail at E-mail at (email@example.com)
We have also written an extensive reference – How to Study the Bible – which you can always access by clicking on the “Study Guide” tab above.
You might also find it helpful to view web-sites which contain complete texts of various versions of the Bible, as well as additional material helpful for Bible study, such as (www.biblestudytools.com) and (www.biblios.com)
We also invite you to view our other web-sites:
* Our blog, Today’s Enlightenment at www.rohmnj.wordpress.com.
* Ray Gough’s e-book , noted below, which can be read, downloaded, or copied free at http://www.pastorrayhopesfulfilled.wordpress.com/home
A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City