Acts 3:11-20
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 28, 2024

Brad rented an impressive-looking office to start his new financial services business.  The day he opened it to customers, he didn’t yet have a receptionist; but his desk was just off the entrance, and he left his door open to welcome walk-ins.

When he heard someone enter, he quickly snatched his desk phone, pressed it to his ear as if he were talking with someone and, without looking up, gestured with his hand that he’d be just a minute and come on in.  He then spoke into the phone loud enough to be overheard.  He said, “Yes, Mr. Buffet, I’ll move those million shares…Right, by that account…Thank you, I find it a pleasure to work with you too, Mr. Buffet… OK, if you insist, Warren…Till next time, Warren Buffet!”

With that, he hung up and turned to his visitor asking, “How can I help you?”  The man replied, “Um, I’m here from Frontier to activate your phone line.”

We’re all tempted to try to impress people.  But, by God’s grace, Peter had gotten past such nonsense.  He’d ceased to care about what others thought of him, because all he cared about was what they thought of Jesus because of him.  So, when God gave him the power to make a lame man walk, he refused to take any credit.  Right away he set the record straight.  He insisted that the miracle was all Jesus’ doing and that he’d only made the next-to-nothing contribution of believing in His name.  Peter clearly saw he’d been given the gift to heal in order to give a witness to Jesus who wanted to heal and save even those who had crucified Him.

The miracle came about like this: Three o’clock one afternoon, Peter and John went up to the temple for the prayer service.  On the way there, somewhere along Solomon’s Portico (the covered walkway that ran the length of the east side of the temple courtyard) a crippled man asked for a hand-out.  Peter gave him a hand-up instead.  He invoked the name of Jesus and lifted the man to his feet – whereupon the lame man began to walk and leap and praise God.  Hearing his ruckus of rejoicing, a crowd ran over and gathered around to see what was going on.  Peter, noticing they were looking at John and him as if they were behind what had happened, called out, “Why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”  Peter urged them, not to look at the two of them, but to look through them to see the resurrected Jesus who was now reaching out to them to “wipe out” their sins and to bring them “times of refreshing” – if only they’d repent and believe in His name.

Peter gave this witness because Jesus had given him so much:  forgiveness and a second chance, the Holy Spirit and power, purpose and hope.

Actually, Jesus gives everyone who repents and believes in His name what He gave Peter:  forgiveness and a second chance, the Spirit and power, purpose and hope.  Should we then not also give witness to Him?

Of course, a lot of us don’t know what to say or how to say it.  But we can make a start at witnessing, not by talking, but by listening.

A church leader in Japan was teaching would-be evangelists how to bear witness in his country.  He held up a cup filled to the brim with water, and said, “The Japanese are like this full cup.  Their lives are busy and completely full.”  He studied the cup and then noted, “We’ve got to be careful about pouring on the truth – as important, great and glorious as it is.  For, if you pour water into a cup that’s already full, where will the water go?  It will spill on the floor, of course, and be lost.”  He then added, “Sometimes in our zealousness to share the good news, we overdo it, and pour it on.  And then the living water of the Spirit is wasted from our pouring it out into cups that have no room for it.

“But if we take the time to listen,” he remarked just before he took a long drink out of the cup, “open space is created.  And because we’ve listened and come to know what a person cares about and hopes for, we know what to pour out for them and in what portions.”

More importantly, he continued, we then know how to pray about them – and, if we pray with a humble desire to help them in whatever way works and with a willingness to speak of Jesus whenever God makes the time right, we’ll be surprised at how often the chance to give a witness to Jesus arises naturally in an unforced way.  And we don’t have to worry about saying all that much, all that well, all at once or all ourselves.  For each of us is but one witness among many; and, just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a new follower of Jesus, with many making a contribution.  It’s what Rich Stearns, former president of World Vision, calls the domino theory of spiritual impact.

Stearns invites us to imagine a long line of dominoes.  If they’re set up right, the falling of one starts a chain reaction that causes many more dominoes to fall.  Jesus set up twelve dominoes: the disciples whom He mentored, empowered and sent out to give witness.  That resulted in there now being almost three billion followers of Jesus in the world.  That’s a lot of dominoes!

Stearns also shares instances in more recent history of how one person can have immense impact, even if they don’t do anything impressive.  Take Robert Wilder, who longed to go to Asia as a missionary but whose poor health made it impossible.  So instead he urged fellow Americans to take up the task.  One domino fell.

While in Chicago Wilder spoke to a group that included Samuel Moffett.  Wilder’s appeal moved Moffett to pledge to become a missionary himself; and, within two years, he was serving in Korea.  Another domino fell.  A few years later, Moffett developed a friendship with Kiel Sun-chu, a Korean who’d grown disillusioned with his Taoist faith and who eventually committed his life to Jesus.  Still another domino fell.  Sun-chu later helped lead an evangelistic crusade in Pyongyang.  Then thousands of dominos fell.  And, out of all those people repenting and believing in the name of Jesus, an independent, self-sustaining Korean church was born.  That church, made up of many denominations, today numbers in the scores of millions and sends out more missionaries than any country but the US.  Now millions of dominoes are falling.

Stearns notes that all Christians are dominoes in the chain reaction set off by Jesus 2,000 years ago and that almost all consequent chain reactions start small – often with just one, seemingly insignificant domino.

Let’s each be a domino.  Let’s fall for Jesus and follow Him as we give witness to His love, no matter how inadequate we deem our witness.  For who knows how big the impact will turn out to be?  God has given us His best.  Let us give our best to give Jesus a witness!

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