You Can’t Give Away What You Don’t Have |07.07.24| Actions Speak Louder! pt.4
Drew Williams   -  


Pastor Drew Williams


The last few weeks, we’ve been talking about what it LOOKS like to follow Jesus with our actions, not just with our words, and I came across this story that I wanted to share with you.


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This is from pastor and author, John Ortberg:


“A man is being tailgated by a woman who is in a hurry. He comes to an intersection, and when the light turns yellow, he hits the brakes. The woman behind him goes ballistic. She honks her horn at him; she yells her frustration in no uncertain terms; she rants and gestures.


While she is in mid-rant, someone taps on her window. She looks up and sees a policeman. He invites her out of her car and takes her to the station where she is searched and fingerprinted and put in a cell. After a couple of hours, she is released, and the arresting officer gives her her personal effects, saying, “I’m very sorry for the mistake, ma’am. I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, using bad gestures and bad language. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ window sign, the Christian fish emblem on your trunk, and I naturally assumed you had stolen the car.”


The world gets pretty tired of people who have Christian bumper stickers on their cars, Christian fish signs on their trunks, Christian books on their shelves, Christian stations on their radios, Christian jewelry around their necks, Christian videos for their kids, and Christian magazines for their coffee tables but don’t actually have the life of Jesus in their bones or the love of Jesus in their hearts.”


It’s a pretty heavy warning at the end, but I couldn’t help but relate a bit with the story. Not because I make a habit of cursing and gesturing at other drivers! But because I know that my actions don’t always reflect Jesus. Sometimes, the way I act and speak make me look no different from everyone else around me. Sometimes the way I act and speak send the signal that I care more about myself than anyone else, or that I trust in money or my own effort to be able to provide for me.


In that little story, I don’t know what was going on with the lady. Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she was late to something. Or maybe that was the way she always drove: where she felt like everyone in her way was a nuisance. Where she thought every distraction and delay along her day was a problem that she needed to fix by muscling through.


I can be impatient, too. I can get so focused on “my” plans that I see any delay or change as an obstacle that I need to remove.



But in our story today from the book of Acts, we’ll see a delay that was set up by God. And we’ll see someone have an opportunity to put their trust in something better than money or effort to solve their problems.


So open your Bibles with me Acts chapter 3, which can be found on p92 of the NT in the black, seat-back Bibles. The last few weeks, we’ve been looking at how Jesus’ followers start to live out what they’ve learned from him after he leaves and ascends to heaven. He sends his spirit to live and work in them, and they’re figuring out what it looks like now that their lives are being transformed to become more and more like Jesus in their everyday activities. Let’s read…


[ACTS 3:1-10]


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Okay, as we start to dig in to this passage, I’ll tell you that what stands out to me is a delay, the topic of trust, and a lesson on generosity. And we’re going to look at this story from a few different perspectives. Let’s start with the delay.


Peter and John are headed in to church, expectant to connect with God, on their way to go pray. They haven’t gotten there yet, so who knows if they are chatting about something else or just walking to the temple in silence.


Our scripture last week told us that this was an every day occurrence for them. They had devoted themselves to gathering at the temple to pray and worship God, and then that would lead to conversations about Jesus, and then that would lead to new friendships being invited to dinner to be welcomed into this new family being formed around Jesus as the savior.


And it’s been working! More and more people are hearing about the grace and love of Jesus, and they are actually SEEING it be lived out among the group of his followers, and they want to be a part of that. For once, there is a group of people who seem to actually LIVE out the things they say they believe.


So I imagine Peter and John are headed in to the temple getting ready to see who God puts in their presence today so they can point to Jesus and offer an invitation. What I’m NOT sure about is whether they were ready for the person that God DID put in their path.


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Because this wasn’t a guy in the temple who was hungry to connect with God. That’s the type of person that the disciples had been connecting with: people who were already trying to follow God, but just needed to hear the good news of Jesus and see how his way of life is actually available to them NOW.


But today, this is a different type of guy. This is a guy who has been lame from birth. Always dependant on the help of others to provide for him. Unable to work, unable to walk. Unable to participate in regular society.


And as we’ve talked about before, in that culture, there would be more than a few people who looked at his situation and thought to themselves, what did that guy do to deserve that kind of life? Did he sin so bad that God punished him like this? Did his parents sin so bad that God punished them with a son like that?


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And there would have been others who thought to themselves, you know, I don’t know why that guy has a messed up life, but I don’t want to accidentally get any of his bad luck rubbing off on me, so I’ll just keep a WIIIIIIDE distance between me and his family. Better if I just ignore his existence.


So this guy has grown up with whispers all around him, the only time people look at him is with pity or judgment, and he’s been stuck. His whole life. He can’t work to provide for his family, so the only thing he’s able to do is sit by the side of the road at the entrance of the temple and beg. Because it’s in Jewish custom that it’s good to gives alms to the poor…to give them change or some leftover food or whatever.


So he figures that the best spot to meet people like that? Right outside the temple.


And this has probably been his daily life for YEARS. Wake up, get carried to his spot. Spend the whole day hoping that enough people take pity on you. Wait for your cousin or whoever to come back around at the end of the day and carry you back home. Repeat.


His whole life was just sitting in one spot, down at ground level, watching the feet of people walking by. Saddened that his feet don’t work, wishing he never had to look at someone else’s healthy legs ever again, but KNOWING that he needs people to walk by in order to beg from them.


At the beginning, all the money he got was saved up to try and have different doctors or shamans or miracle workers come take a look at him. None of them were able to help. None of the miracle springs in town had worked. None of the ritual wash-five-times-with-this-herb things worked.


Now, the only reason he stuck with it was because for some reason God hadn’t let him die yet, and he was a burden on his family, so at least this way he could contribute a little. And every time a passer-by slowed down long enough to drop a coin in front of him, it was reminder of the the fact that he was at the bottom of life.


They had. He had-not. They were able to work and earn money. He could only receive pity-offerings. They could walk. He had never walked in his life.


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And all of a sudden the two pairs of working feet had stopped in front of him, but hadn’t dropped a coin. One of them said, “Look at us.”


Now, back to Peter and John’s perspective. Remember when I said that they were on their way in to the temple? Because that’s where they were doing the best at telling people about Jesus and helping them accept his invitation to a way of life.


But here’s this guy…in their way…begging.


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I mean, just imagine if Peter and John reacted to this delay like the lady in our story at the red light? They were on their way to somewhere! They were on a mission…for the Lord and Creator of the Universe! There is NOTHING more important than that, right?


But for some reason, Peter and John didn’t react that way. Somehow, they saw that perhaps God put this delay in their path. Perhaps God put this person in their path.


They actually SAW the guy that most people looked past, hurried past. They saw someone who had a need. Jesus LOVES people who have needs. And how amazing that this guy had his need on display, because most of us live in secret, don’t we?



Secret needs are harder to have met. Secret hurts are harder to heal, because God loves to work through people, and if we aren’t letting people close enough to see… they might miss what God is trying to do in you.


But this guy had his needs on display, he’s actually out there ASKING for help, even if it is in a dejected way. And even though everyone else had looked past him, Peter and John stopped and SAW him, they looked long enough to perceive that this was a God moment, a Jesus-opportunity.


They stopped, but he hadn’t seen THEM yet. “Look at us.”


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Our text tells us that the lame man “fixed his attention” on them. He looked up from the ground-level-view to connect with their faces for the first time. He didn’t know why they hadn’t just dropped a coin and kept moving like everyone else, but he looked up “expecting to receive something.”


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Can we pause again to just say that this lame beggar, even though he was living his whole life an experience that we can’t understand, actually had a lot of faith? He couldn’t provide for himself, so he HAD to trust that his providence would come from somewhere else.


The only issue is that he’s putting his faith in people and money. He’s putting his faith in his ability to seem pitiful enough to elicit compassion from passers-by. He has hope, but it’s hope that people will give him enough money, and then he HOPES the money will take care of his needs so that his family won’t view him as a burden and then his whole existence won’t be a negative one.


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So he’s looking expectedly at Peter and John, ready to receive something from them, and Peter speaks, “I ain’t got no money for you, but what I do have, I’ll gladly give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk.”


And he didn’t give the guy any time to process the words, but reached down and grabbed his hand. For once, the lame man wasn’t being passed by. For once, the hand that was reaching down wasn’t just dropping a coin and moving on, it was taking his hand. Someone was reaching out to him to CONNECT.


And Peter reached down and raised him UP. This wasn’t another instance of economic imbalance. This wasn’t another statement that the lame man was at the bottom and everyone else was higher than him. This wasn’t another meeting of the haves and the have-nots. Peter reached down and raised him UP, to bring the lame man up to an equal place of dignity.


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And IMMEDIATELY his feet and ankles were strong. And I love how the lame man skips walking entirely and goes straight to jumping. And he doesn’t stay in “his spot” outside the temple, but walks right in with Peter and John, leaping around and praising God.


He doesn’t need to sit outside the temple to beg for alms anymore. He’s received a gift from God. And any time any of us receive a gift from God it’s supposed to propel us into the presence of God!


He received a gift from God and he didn’t waste any time USING that gift! He’s walking and leaping and praising God. It’s no secret any more.


How many of us make it a regular habit to USE what we’ve been given and PRAISE God about it?


That’s actually a habit I picked up from a friend of mine, Lee. Any time anyone gave him a compliment or connected with him, his first response was always, “Praise God.” And I’ve picked that up, too. You might notice if you ever talk to me and say something like, “Nice message,” or if you talk about how wonderful your experience was with your life group, or how much fun you had connecting with others at Serve Day, I’ll always start with “Praise God!”


It’s a habit now that is a reminder to me of exactly where that gift came from. But it also has the other benefit of pointing to Jesus out loud so that others can be encouraged, too.


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And so, because the guy was jumping around and praising God out loud, “ALL THE PEOPLE” saw him and recognized exactly who he was, who he HAD been, and they were “filled with wonder and astonishment.”


They didn’t even understand what had happened. They were filled with wonder. No one was wondering how he had sinned to end up lame his whole life anymore, but now they were WONDERING “how in the world did he get healed?”


And all the while, this guy is walking around, praising God. His transformation and healing isn’t just being able to walk. Because God healed his heart, too! He went from being resigned to his predicament and trusting in people and money, to being transformed to realize that God is the true provider for his needs!


His whole life before, he had been relying on others to care for him, others to give money to him, but now he realized that it was GOD all along. God had been caring for him THROUGH the work of others. God had been providing for his needs THROUGH the generosity of others.


He had never seen it before because he was trying to solve his own problems in his own power. And we all do that, don’t we?


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We usually try to solve our own needs, instead of asking our Father for his help in HIS way. Because what we SAY we need isn’t always the same thing as what we ACTUALLY need.


Some of us are feeling lonely and want companionship. Maybe we’ve been trying to solve that need by coming on too strong with new friends, or by searching out new relationship after new relationship. Or maybe we have relationships, we have family around us, but we’re still feeling lonely, so we try to solve that through some sort of numbing.


But what we REALLY need is communion with God. What we really need is to go deeper in connection with our Father who speaks love and purpose into your heart. And that might come in the form of a spouse or a dear friend, and it might come through a personal prayer habit.


Some of us are feeling listless, unmotivated. Our job isn’t giving us satisfaction anymore, or we’re retired now and we’re looking around for purpose or pleasure. We try to solve that problem, and sometimes we do it in ways that are helpful for our soul’s growth, and sometimes we do it in ways that hurt our soul’s growth. We pursue hobbies or distractions or vices that pull us away from God and the people around us.


But what we really need is to ask God where he is working and then join in. The greatest purpose and pleasure we can ever have in life is to partner with God. That’s what we were created for. And if you’re still breathing, he still has a purpose for you. He’s still joyfully inviting you to join Jesus in a project that points to him.


We don’t need to try to solve our own problems with our own power when we realize we have a good Father.


Some of us are feeling stressed and anxious about finances or our health. And we try and solve that problem by working harder, or constantly obsessing and trying to CONTROL every little detail of our lives and the lives of those around us. Because we think that if we can just stay on top of things, if we can just maintain a level of control, then maybe we can stop the worst-case scenarios from happening.


But what we really need isn’t control, it’s peace. We need the peace that passes understanding that only comes when we put our trust in our Provider God, Jehovah Jireh, to take care of us and bring us into his plans. It might not happen the way we would do it, but he’s not going to let us languish away from his love!


Because when we truly slow down enough to realize it, we see that God has already provided EVERYTHING we have! Every single thing in our lives is a gift from God. And he daily, generously gives us new gifts that we get to praise him for and share with others.


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And EVERYONE has something to give. Did we notice that from our passage today? You can’t give away what you don’t have, but everyone has something to give.


When the lame man asked Peter and John for money, they could have just kept walking and said something like, “Sorry, I didn’t go to the ATM today, so I don’t have any cash.”


They could have discounted themselves from an opportunity for generosity. But they didn’t. They stopped and connected with the guy, and Peter said, “No to your first request, but I WILL give to you what I have.”


Peter, the guy who started his journey with Jesus unable to catch a single fish had seen exactly how generous of a bounty of fish comes when you obey God. Peter, who had reacted out of fear at Jesus’ arrest and tried to protect what was his, had seen what amazing things happened when Jesus gave away everything he had.


Peter, who didn’t have a coin that day, didn’t discount himself from the habit of generosity, so he gave what he had, which was an incredibly deep faith that Jesus can heal and can provide exactly what we need.


We talk about the spiritual habit of generosity here at New Life, and a lot of the time, that sounds like growing in the habit of trusting God with our money. And that is good. Jesus talked about money more than any other single topic because he knew that money has a unique power to convince us that IT is the savior we need. So growing in the habit of generosity and giving money to God’s work at the church, giving a ten-percent tithe, that is absolutely a beautiful way to grow in the habit of generosity.


And it’s not because God needs your money. It’s because he wants your heart. God doesn’t need anything FROM you, but what he wants FOR you is to live free of the anxiety and greed that money inevitably burdens our hearts with.


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But the truth about generosity is that God doesn’t ask you to give what you don’t have. He asks you to trust him with what you DO have.


So if you’ve got lots of money that God has provided for you in this life, ask him how he’s inviting you to trust him even more with that resource. I can guarantee that he’s provided enough for you to take care of yourself and your family AND to be involved in some work he’s inviting you to join in.


If you have very little money, you STILL get to ask God how he’s inviting you to trust him more. So that you don’t have to be like the lame man who’s only hope is the little money he can scrape together each day. Maybe God is inviting you to start giving so that you can start the process of freeing your heart.


That’s why I love the wisdom of a ten-percent gift back to the Lord, because it’s always perfectly in proportion to how he has already provided for you. It’s not about comparing to how much others are able to give. It’s all about recognizing how God has provided for YOU and then growing in trust and generosity.


Because God isn’t going to ask you to give what you don’t have. So what have you been given? Just like Peter, he didn’t discount himself from a moment of connection and generosity, he gave what he HAD.


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So what do you have? What has God give you that you’re able to share?


Many of you have extroverted personalities that means you’re willing to connect with people. Share that!


Many of you are introverts and need an extrovert to come adopt you to help you connect! But once you DO connect, you have an amazing heart to share with others.


Some of you have talents and skills that God is inviting you to share with others. Whether it’s by volunteering here at church on a Serve Team, or just by slowing down enough in your day to notice Jesus-opportunities to share what you have with someone you meet. Like sharing a kind word to a stressed check-out worker at the store, or sharing your mower with a neighbor.


God is never going to ask you to give away what you don’t have, but HE is already providing for you in everything you have!


So what do you have? Peter said, “I don’t have what you’re asking for in this moment, but I am still willing to give what I DO have.”


So what do you have? Ask God how he’s inviting you to use it to Join Jesus in his work?


“What do I have God? What have you given to me that I can give away to others? That I can share with someone else?”


We GET to be radically generous because we have already received the radical grace of God.


We GET to be radically generous because God gave us everything we have and everything around us in creation. Then he gave us HIMSELF in Jesus to call all to himself to receive his gift of true life. Then he gave us his Spirit to live in us and work through us.


And we get to be a part of that. We GET to LIVE this faith we believe. We get to.

Isn’t that good news?