Are you aware of the work of the Spirit around you? Do you watch and listen to see what He is doing and where He is leading, so that you can join Him in what He is doing? Or do you still ask God just to bless your activities and efforts?
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a 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. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 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!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
This story is extremely interesting in many ways. The first thing that stands out to me is the fact that the man who was healed was neither seeking healing nor had part in the faith that brought the healing. Often when Jesus was healing people, he interacted with them specifically in regards to their faith. Sometimes He would ask them what they wanted Him to do for them, sometimes He would simply ask if they wanted to be made well. Sometimes He would test them and not go, or refuse help and their faith would shine through for all to see. But this man was unable to walk and he sat at the gate of the temple begging. Every. Single. Day. Jesus had to have passed by him countless times. But Jesus never healed him.
But one day, after having received the indwelling Holy Spirit, Peter and John went to the temple to pray and on their way in the gate they saw this man begging. Peter looked at the man. Scripture says he “fixed his gaze on him”, and understood what the Spirit intended to do. When they called his attention, the lame man thought nothing more than that Peter and John were going to give him money. He did not think that they would heal him. He did not expect anything from them, other than a few pennies, perhaps. Peter and John had walked past this man before. Jesus has walked past him. But this day was the day that the Spirit intended to heal Him. And Peter was listening.
Sometimes we think our healing or success in a situation is based on our faith. We lie to ourselves, saying that if we believe enough whatever we want will happen. But in this situation, the faith is completely outside of the one who was healed. What exactly does that mean? Peter explains it briefly:
“And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.”
– Acts 3.16
The beginning of this verse is a bit wordy and difficult. But careful examination shows us that it is the name of Jesus which has power, and faith in the name of Jesus which brought the power for healing. There is power in the name of Jesus. This is not some mystic teaching that uttering the name of Jesus will make miracles happen, the power is in the person. And faith in Him does not mean that you can manipulate Him to do what you want, simply by praying hard enough or believing strongly enough. It means knowing Him intimately, recognizing His voice, seeing what He is doing and intending to do, and being ready and willing to join Him in His work.
The Holy Spirit chose that day to heal that man. The lame man was merely the recipient of the blessing, and Peter was the willing mouthpiece – the one who had faith, but Jesus was the healer.
What then was the intention? If the man did not have faith, and was not seeking to be healed? The intention was to get to the Gospel. The man lept and praised God. Peter got an opportunity to preach the Gospel. Peter preached it in the presence of everyone who gathered because of the healing and 5,000 men (plus women and children) believed! The healing is not the end goal, it points to the end goal. Miracles are not the pinnacle, they point to the pinnacle. Our purpose should always be to preach the Gospel. Sometimes God will give us extraordinary opportunities to do so, and if we are alert to the moving of the Spirit, He may show us a man He intends to heal, so as to take the Gospel to many.
Are you listening? We should never ask God to “be in the center of our plans” or to “bless us as we do [x, y and z]”. Instead we should stop, ask God what He wants us to do, listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance, make the most of every opportunity to share about Jesus, and watch in amazement as He pours out His power on those who do not yet believe.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
– John 10.27
Do you know His voice?