A Legacy Of Service
In this week's lesson from Acts chapter 9, we turned our focus from Paul back to Peter, and we heard about some miraculous signs that he performed. First, in healing a paralyzed man, and then bringing a dead woman back to life. There are many places we could focus our attention in these passages. There are, of course, the miracles. There is the faith and humility of Peter at work in these miracles. There is the faith of the friends of Tabitha at work as well. There are so many glaring "teachable moments" here, it's hard to narrow it down to one upon which to direct our attention. In all of those, there is one though that we may be quick to overlook; and it is there where I want us to direct our attention...and that is, the life of Tabitha (or Dorcas).
There are but a few sentences devoted to Tabitha in the entirety of scripture and very little we know of her. However, the little bit of information we are given tells us a great deal about the type of person that she was. When Tabitha falls ill and dies, the people, whose lives she has touched, are so distraught at the loss that they are moved to action. Not willing to accept that a woman who has meant so much to them could simply fade out of this world, they hope in the only thing they have left, their faith in Jesus, and reach out to Peter for help.
They knew Jesus had overcome death and so they hoped that his power, flowing through Peter, could beat back its grip on their beloved friend...and they were right! Peter arrived and was able to miraculously bring her back to life. This miracle (as with all miracles) has great significance and meaning. Miracles are never random. Nor are they simply meant to amaze us. They are always a sign that points to something greater...namely the power and sovereignty of Jesus as Lord over all things. That's supremely important for us to understand, but mustn't overshadow the more subtle truths we see hidden (like gems) in the narrative unfolding.
What is it about Tabitha that makes her a "character" in the story? She surely wasn't the first person to die, nor was she the last. Everyone eventually dies. Some from old age, others from disease. And her death, unlike some of those recorded in scripture, isn't particularly memorable (compared to Stephen, for example, in chapter 7). Sure, the miracle, from a story arc perspective, creates some interest, but there seems to be more than just that.
I think the really interesting thing about Tabitha isn't necessarily what we know about her, it's what we can infer about her...the story that lies between the lines. You see, Tabitha wasn't just another woman. She wasn't even just another Christian woman. She was a woman who had been radically impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the transformation in her life impacted everyone she came in contact with. What we are talking about here is legacy. What is the story we are writing with our lives?
Tabitha's story affected many people. Her love and generosity had blessed many. She wasn't just a person who had been impacted by Jesus, but that impact spread out from her like a ripple in water. The grace of Jesus shown to Tabitha in her own life enabled her to then touch the lives of countless others. This was a person who was so beloved and important to those around her, that the thought of daily life without her in it, drove them to seek extreme measures. That speaks volumes about the legacy she left behind...the story that she was writing with her life.
All men share a common problem. Sin puts us all on even ground. Whether you are rich or poor, strong or weak, important or insignificant, by worldly standards, we all find ourselves in the same lowly position before a holy God. We are guilty and there is nothing we can do about it. Yet, by grace, God has pulled us up from the muck and the mire and set us upon a firm foundation in Christ. But this grace, this greatest of all miracles, that brings us from death to eternal life, is not about us...and it will never be about us!
We are redeemed for a purpose. To be a chosen instrument through which more and more and more people are brought into the life that we have been privileged to experience. If we receive the gift of grace and store it away for ourselves, we fail to accomplish the purpose for which we were saved in the first place. Think of it this way...who has ever accomplished anything by doing nothing?
Believer, you were saved for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring glory to God as his chosen instrument to make his glory known to the world. That means that your are called to live a life that is poured out for something greater than you. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. Feet go and hands serve. That's their purpose. Tabitha is an example of someone whose life story reflected living a life of purpose.
When we don't live according to our calling, we become consumers. We experience all the benefits of membership within the community of faith, but all of those benefits end with us. They don't transfer to those around us. We aren't feet that go, nor hands that serve, but rather we are like corpses. Why would Jesus pour out his blood upon the cross to save us from death in order for us to continue to "live" lifelessly?
What kind of legacy are you leaving? What story are you writing with your life? One day, when your time on Earth is finished, will people remember you for the way you sacrificially gave of your time, resources, and talents to impact the lives of everyone you came in contact with..like Tabitha? Or will you fade away and be forgotten like so many whose names aren't a part of the story?
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 22 - Aeneas & Dorcas
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. Why did Peter heal those two people?
2. Why is Peter filled with the Holy Spirit?
3. What is the ultimate consequence of a spirit filled ministry?
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