Effective Ministry

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Effective Ministry

Riverside Indonesian Fellowship
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2023 · 29 January 2023

We've come to Acts 9:32, and we have seen here a narrative of two miracles that Peter does in the power of Christ. One is the restoration of a man eight years sick with paralysis. The other is the raising of Dorcas from the dead. Both of these are accomplished by Peter in the power of Christ. These two miracles from the life of Peter introduce us to his personal ministry.

We hear Peter preaching to great crowds and proclaiming the Gospel to the Sanhedrin, and we see him moving about in Samaria with John preaching in various cities. This is really a public ministry. And here, for the first time, apart from dealing with sin, we see him in a very personal ministry. He had the energy of the Spirit once he was really committed on the Day of Pentecost.

He became the leader of the Twelve. He became the fearless apostle to the Sanhedrin. He was the teacher of the early church. He went everywhere preaching, teaching, working miracles. He was really the opener of the Gospel, both to the Samaritans and to the Gentiles. Whenever the Spirit of God came on the next dimension of the church, Peter was always there as the point of contact.

In Acts 1 till Acts 12, Peter dominates the action. And so as we look at his ministry post-Pentecost, we learn a lot of really positive things about our own ministries and how to make them effective. And in terms of learning principles, we not only need theory, we need action. When somebody says, "This is a principle. I tried it, and it works," then I pursue that. And Peter shows us those principles.

Many of us want to know how to preach. Listen to preaching in Acts 2 and 3 because, as you listen to Peter you find the characteristics of effective preaching. He begins with a dynamic gripping, attention-getting introduction. Then he moves fast into a theme, which is always Christ, and it's supported by Scripture. Then he comes to a response. It's always direct and always very positive.

And when you go to Acts 4, you learn how to handle persecution. Peter shows us that when you get persecuted, you should be submissive to it. You should boldly use it as an opportunity to preach Christ. You should be obedient to God at all costs. You should be close to other believers for strength. And lastly, you should pray that God would give you even greater boldness.

Then in Acts 5, Peter teaches us how to handle sinning Christians, because he runs into Ananias and Sapphira. He boldly confronting them in their sin and saying what it is in face of the whole church community. And so we see Peter in many ways in an example fashion teaching us spiritual principles. It's not enough to just tell you what it says. It has to be acted out so you can live it.

Now, in Acts 9, Peter's got some more principles to teach us. They just are apparent in what he does. Now, he wasn't always preaching to crowds. He got involved with people. It's not enough to be involved only with crowds. There must be personal involvement, and Peter had that; and here we see two just examples that indicate what made him effective in personal ministry.

Number 1, he was involved. Number 2, he was Christ-exalting. Number 3, he was available. Number 4, he was prayerful. No. 5, he was fruitful. No. 6, he was free from prejudice. Now, these are the things that made Peter's ministry effective. These are things that we need to learn how to do. These are things which can be translated into our lives that we too might be effective.

No. 1, he was involved, and Peter was always going. So verse 32 says, "Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.” God always chooses those who are already active in the ministries for His choicest tasks. Isn't it amazing how some Christians never seem to get in on anything, and others are doing everything?

He goes down from Jerusalem, to a little town called Lydda. Verse 33, “There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.” Because he was involved, God led him to this place; and God used him to raise this man. Verse 34, “And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately.”

As a result, verse 35 says, “So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Here is a tremendous ministry just waiting in Lydda, but it needed a man who was on the move for God to accomplish what God wanted. So involvement was first. The second thing about Peter was he was Christ-exalting. He had no desire for his own exaltation. Peter would've hated above everything for the Catholic religion to teach people to worship him.

You know what happens if you lift up the Lord? People turn to the Lord. Don't ever credit yourself with the victories, always exalt Christ. The third thing is he was always available. So many Christians say, "Well, I'd sure like to be able to do that, but I my schedule doesn't permit it." My friend, God wants you to be availability so that He can work through your talents and gifts.

Verse 36, “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.” Now Lydda is about ten miles southeast, and in Joppa there's this lady named Dorcas. Now this miracle hinges on the power of God, and on the availability of Peter. Peter was close to Joppa, and so God worked through him.

This seaport city of Joppa is today called Jaffa. It's really a coastal suburb of Tel Aviv. Now, this woman was a wonderful, it says she was full of good works. We are to be full of all the fullness of God, which she was. So fullness means totally devoted to, totally controlled by. She lived to give to others, she gave alms, which were gifts of charity. Specifically, she made clothes for them.

She was the one who did things for the poor and the needy. She was a woman who was the personification of what a Christian should be. The word disciple is given to her. It's the only feminine form of disciple in the New Testament, and she really deserves that honor. She is everything a disciple should be, because she was fulfilling God’s calling to be a virtuous woman.

Verse 37, “But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.” Now, the custom of the Jews at death was immediately to bury the body, since they did not do any embalming. But in this case, they didn't bury her, which was very unusual, because dead bodies were a very unsacred thing in Israel to a Jew.

Verse 38, “And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them.” They know that Peter has the power to raise the dead if that is the design of God; and so they take her body to the upper chamber. "They told him, "Do not delay to come to us, Peter, please come."

Verse 39, “Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them.” Peter was really busy but he listened to them and the Holy Spirit. Peter doesn't say, "Well, praise the Lord. She's with the Lord.” Because it wasn't for her benefit.

"When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber; and all the widows stood by weeping.” God has given us in the church, many marvelous women who have been used of God in mighty ways and are being used of God right now. There are deaconesses who go out and minister, visit shut-ins and sick people and work with women who have needs and spiritual problems.

In 1 Timothy 5, you read about the wonderful potential of ministry for widows. Paul say, "They ought to be the kind of widows who have entertained strangers. They've got open homes. They're humble. Paul talks about Lois and Eunice, and then to the Philippians, he talks about Euodia and Syntyche. You know, he had a high regard for women. He said, "They labored with me in the Gospel."

Women can have the marvelous responsibility of raising their children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. You can make the effect that you want on the world by raising your children. All these women that are running around screaming bloody murder about women's lib are neglecting the one thing that they could do to change the world, and that's go home and take care of their children.

Now, as we see in Acts, a ministry going on to women and with women. These widows, they were being ministered to by a woman. You know, the church has the responsibility, according to 1 Timothy 5, to care for the widows. If you're a Christian, and you have a widowed mother in your family, you're to care for her. If she has no family to care for her, the church should care for her.

Verse 40, “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” This again is a miracle from God through Peter. And, it's amazing to realize that when Peter got there he stayed a couple years, and it never bothered him. That's how he was to move in the mind of the Spirit.

Now, the fourth one, he was prayerful. She's been dead for a minimum of 36 to 48 hours. When Peter said, "Arise," everything in her body was reversed like running the film backwards. All the rot and decay that had begun to set in was reversed, and she came out of there as fresh, clean, and whole as new. God performed a miracle, which came about because Peter was prayerful.

Peter acknowledged where the source of power was. Look at it in verse 40. He kneeled down and did pray. Aren't you glad it doesn't say he kneeled down and said, "Tabitha, arise"? Because it reminds us that we need to focus on God’s power, not ourselves. It would've been easy for Peter to think he really had power. He'd been healing people to where it was getting to be a commonplace activity.

In Acts 5:16, "There came a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem bringing sick folks and them who were filled with unclean spirits; and they were healed, every one." People even tried to drag their people out into the shadow of Peter because they thought they would be healed. It would've been easy for Peter to just go in and say, "Tabitha, arise," and nothing would happen.

It's a temptation, Christians have a little success and then think they did it. If you ever led somebody to Jesus Christ and found yourself saying, "I led somebody to Jesus Christ." I preach a sermon, and somebody says, "That was a good sermon." And you begin to think, "I did it." Paul says, "I will not speak of those things which the Lord Jesus Christ caused, because anything good in me He did.”

Verse 41, “Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.” Can you imagine the joy? Dorcas must have considered it a joy to see the joy of her friends, and they considered it a joy because their loved one was in their presence. But God had a whole different thing in mind. He didn't do it for Dorcas' benefit.

Verse 42, "And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.” Just the same reason that all of the miracles had been done, as confirming signs to prove to the world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true. God had evangelism in mind. This is God's process of multiplication. The power in the Gospel doesn't lie in the eloquence of the preacher. It doesn't lie in the wisdom of men.

The fifth point is that He was fruitful. He did the miracle through the power of God. The fruit came as an indirect result, but fruit comes. We mean Christ-likeness. Praise is fruit. Giving to the needy is fruit. Blessing other people is fruit. Holy living is fruit. But most significantly, converts are fruit, people that come to Christ. So the effective servant of Jesus Christ will bear fruit. People will get saved from your ministry.

If we love Jesus, everything we touch in our ministry can result in fruit. Sometimes just working with one individual may bear far more fruit than speaking to a mass of people about Christ. Verse 43, “So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.” A tanner, is one who works with the skin of dead animals, making leather. No Jew would have anything to do with a tanner.

He was despised; and not respected. Not only that, it was ceremonially unclean. In Acts 10 Peter has a vision, where he sees all these animals, and the Lord says to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." And Peter goes, "I can't do that. I have never eaten anything that is unclean." God says, dietary prohibitions are gone. Even non-Jews are now to be embraced. Christianity around the world are just prejudiced.

It says, "It came to pass he stayed many days." The same phrase used earlier in the chapter to speak of Paul's three years in Arabia. He stuck around for a couple years, and the whole time he lived in Simon's house, and he never turned him into a carpenter. He let him be what he was. He didn't make him change. God changed Peter to not be prejudiced by even a tanner. Let us pray.


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