The most amazing thing about the gospel isn't that God saves sinners . . . it's that He saves the worst sinners. Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. Is that you?
In this sermon, we will explore the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the story of Tabitha (also known as Dorcas). Tabitha was a woman who was known for her kindness and generosity. After she died, Peter raised her from the dead. We will learn how the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope in the midst of death and despair.
“The God of Lost Causes”
1) Healing people and raising people from the dead was a specific Apostolic gift.
Matthew 8:5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. 9 “Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts (apply this phrase!!!)
2) Prior to the scriptures being written, these supernatural gifts were used to prove the Apostles were indeed commissioned by God to reveal His new plan of salvation for the world.
Hebrews 2:3 How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
3) After the church had the scriptures, the litmus test for authenticity was an adherence to Biblical doctrine.
Galatians 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
Chuck Swindoll writes in his notes on the Book of Acts: “Today, God does not work miracles through us like He did through Moses, the prophets, Jesus Christ, or the apostles. Instead, we have something previously unavailable to help us discern whether God’s presence validates a ministry - we have the finished word of God.”
John Walvoord, the chancellor of Dallas Theological seminary adds, “With the competion of the New Testament, the need for further unusual display of miraculous works ceased. The preacher of today does not need the outward evidence of ability to heal to substantiate the validity of his gospel. Rather, the written Word speaks for itself, and is attended by the conviction power of the Sprit.”
4) While healing the sick and raising the dead was God’s supernatural gifting, it wasn’t God’s will for the Apostles to heal nor raise everyone from the dead.
In Acts 7 Stephen, the beloved, fearless leader of the church in Jerusalem was stoned to death. If there was ever someone the church needed back, it was Stephen. If there was ever a worthy person of faith it was Stephen! Yet they did not raise him from the dead.
In fact, of the four illustrations beyond the book of Acts that refer to sick believers; only one was restored to health:
1) Epaphroditus - was healed (Phil. 2:25-27)
2) Timothy - referred to medicinal use of wine (2 Tim. 5:23)
3) Trophimus - was not healed (2 Tim. 4:20)
4) Paul - was not healed (2 Cor.12:7-10)
You might remind yourself of the fact that miraculous healings were never permanent - sickness and death eventually returned and every healed person eventually died.
5) The miracle healing ministry of the Christ and His apostles was never an end in itself, but a validating sign of God’s approval.
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know.
2 Corinthians 12:11b-12 11b. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
If the healing was the end in itself - in other words, if Jesus Christ and the Apostles healed simply because people were sick, then they were incredibly cruel - because they didn’t heal everybody. They were surrounded by impoverished sick people, why not erect a tent and call all of them to come - why not walk through the sick wards of their day, why not cleanse entire leper colonies - becuase sickness and death is the result of the fall of mankind - it is the irrefutable reminder that our redemption will be beyond this earth that now groans for re-birth.
To rid humankind of sickness and death would be to overturn the consequences of sin.
It would be to render the need for spiritual health and redemption unecessary.
And so Jesus only healed one man at the pool of Siloam; he healed only a handful of lepers; he raised only three people from the dead instead of emptying entire cemeteries and returning the deceased to their grieving families.
There was a purpose in what He and the Apostles did - their miracles of healing were for a sign to the people that God was instituting a new era - a new age - we call it the dispensation of grace.
Now, am I suggesting that God never miraculously heals? He certainly does miraculously heal.
Does this mean that we can’t pray for healing today? We certainly can - just as the Apostle Paul prayed three different times for God to remove his physical infirmity - yet, God chose not to heal him, so that, as Paul himself wrote, “God’s grace and strength would be made evident in my weakness.”
What I’m trying to help you distinguish is the difference between Divine healing and Divine healers.
The Apostles were divine healers:
-a divine healer didn’t require faith or prayers on the part of the sick
-a divine healer may or may not have prayed himself before healing
-a divine healer was 100% successful
-a divine healer healed external observable physical maladies
-leprosy; blindness; lameness; what could be more observable than raising someone from the dead.
Critical point - for those today who believe Divine healers should exist today, simply because the Apostles healed in the Book of Acts, must remember the Apostles not only healed, but they raised people from the dead.
For those to say, look, Peter healed a paralyzed man - we should be able to do that too - is to overlook the last part of the chapter and discover that Peter raised a woman from the dead.
I will raise that standard today in order to test the spirits. Let all who claim to be divine healers meet me at the funeral home - stop claiming the apostolic gift by healing somebodies blood pressure, or bursites, stop casting out the demon of cigarettes and the demon of chocalate - let’s get down to Apostolic business - let’s empty a coffin or two.
Why is it important to understand the temporary gift that these Apostles had - becuase it addresses the nature and purpose of the church today.
Our mission today is miraculous - but it revolves around the miracle of changed lives - the miracle of redemption - the healing of the soul.
And if all we are pre-occupied with is the healing of our physical bodies, and the elimination of pain and discomfort, the gospel is nothing more than something better than surgery or extra-strength tylenol - we forget the spiritual nature of our mission - we are commissioned to go make disciples and to reach the world.
The Apostles had the miraculous signs to prove their message - we have the Holy Spirit to validate the word of God - the results should be the same - people come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.
That’s exactly the result of Acts chapter 9. Acts 9 reveals the case of two lost causes - human intervention was hopeless - only a miracle from God could change the course of these two individuals lives.
Before we dive into the text, you ought to notice that the spotlight of attention once again swings to the Apostle Peter. Nearly three chapters have gone by without a mention of this man - I think it’s fascinating that it will be Peter, himself a lost cause, now used in a miraculous way.
The first lost cause in our paragraph of scripture is perhaps the most tragic of all human disabilities.
We’re not told how it happened, we’re simply told how long it’s lasted - a man has been paralyzed for 8 years.
Acts 9:32 Now it came about that as Peter was traveling through all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas (Eyenaus), who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed.
The man had been paralyzed for 8 years - long enough for his entire village to know - he was medically helpless - he was a lost cause.
8 years is a long time to be sick in bed - day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year, and no cure in sight. No doubt this man has tried every physician he could afford - they had all reached the same conclusion - no hope.
Add to that the feelings of uselessness; the nagging sense of being a burden to others; the question of “Why me?”.
My wife and I had the privilige of meeting and talking with Joni Erickson Tada. A woman paralyzed from the neck down - who writes of her struggles and ttriumphs in best selling books - a believer who has had to come to terms with the fact that God’s plan for her life was to remain paralyzed.
She wrote in her book, “A Step Further” about her hope and prayer for healing: “On a rainy afternoon in the early summer of 1972, about 15 people gathered together in a tiny oak church not far from my home. The group consisted of close friends, family, and church leaders whom I had called together to pray for my healing. By the time our brief service was over, the rain had stopped. Exiting through the front doors of the church, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow in the misty distance. It gave me just one more reassurance that God had heard our prayers. God had indeed heard . . . but He did not heal.
If you’ve ever met her or heard her speak, you have been struck by the peace of Christ that eminates from her face and testimony.
But for this man named Eyenaus, the story would be radically different -
34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise, and make your bed.” And immediately he arose. 35 And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, (and they marveled at Peter’s gift! - had healing gifts been an end to themselves - Peter would have simply revealed his power to heal - but healing was a means to another end - the salvation of many; so the text reads) and they turned to the Lord.
Cause #2 - A Deceased Woman!
36 Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. 37 And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, “Do not delay to come to us.” 39 And Peter arose and went with them. And when he had come, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter sent 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. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.
Lessons Learned At A Funeral
1) If you want your influence to last, put Christ first, people second, yourself last.
Dorcas could have sewn garments and sold them for money she herself could have used - the text implies by its silence that she was a widow too - no mention of a family or husband - evidently wealthy enough to buy fabric - yet her life was a constant source of giving.
2) People will not remember you in the future, for something you are not now.
do you want to remembered as gracious - are you gracious now
do you want people to remember you as loving, forgiving
do you want the pastoral staff to remember you as committed, involved
do you want your family to remember you as faithful, enjoyable
3) Live so that when death comes, the mourners outnumber the cheers.
The God of lost causes still operates with omnipotence today. He works in hearts - performing invisible miracles daily.
-the miracle of redemption
-freedom from the paralysis of fear
-healing for those who experience the death of dreams and plans
-those who struggle with terminal hoplessness
You can trust him with your health, He, the great Physician has had 1,000’s of years of experience.
You can trust him with your trials, He, the great Comforter often reveals His greatest treasures only after darkness comes.
You can trust him with your life, He the great Shepherd, never loses His footing as He leads you over mountain top and through deep valleys.
With God there are no lost causes - for that one lying on a sick bed or in a coffin - what we would consider lost causes are really lessons created for us to learn more of His nature, His grace, His will, His perspective and His power.
So it isn’t, “Lord how can you get me out of this, but Lord, what do you want to teach me through this.”
So that ultimately, my life is such a reflection of your life and power that all those in my town, my corporation, my family, know that you are the great Redeemer and Savior of mankind.