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Dorcas or Tabitha October 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Prayer, Religion, Sermons, Will of God, Witnessing.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: DORCAS – A PART OF GOD’S GREAT PUZZLE

Acts 9:31, 36-43

We have a Bugs Bunny Puzzle. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are fairly large. Other pieces are considerably smaller. Then there are some pieces that are really small. Even though they are not all of one size, they all interlock together to create a complete puzzle.

Some of the pieces are easy to pick out. If you look through the pieces, the ones with Bugs Bunny’s eyes are immediately noticeable. Others you look at and you wonder what could that possibly be. You cannot even tell by looking whether it is right side up or not. Eventually, though, as you continue to work through the puzzle, you come to a point where it is obvious where the piece belongs.

There are corner pieces and side pieces and inside pieces to the puzzle. Which ones do you think are the most important? You are right. Every piece has its place. Without every piece the puzzle cannot be completed.

We have another puzzle of a castle in Germany called Neuschwanstein. This puzzle has several hundred pieces. We have put it together several times and every time that we put it together we remember, there is a piece missing. We have had that puzzle for years and every time we fail to complete it, to finish it because there is one piece missing.

CHRIST’S PUZZLE

Jesus Christ has plan that appears to us as a puzzle. There are big pieces and little pieces. It is clear where some of the pieces belong and other pieces only Christ Himself knows how they fit in. There are corner pieces and there are side pieces and there are inside pieces but there is never a pieces missing.

The Bible makes it clear that from all eternity God had a plan. His plan and His purposes do not always make sense to us but every piece will fit exactly in the puzzle where He plans on it to fit and will result in His glory. We find in the book of Acts in the story of Dorcas a picture of how each individual believer fits into the plan of God.

THIS IS WHAT ACTS IS ALL ABOUT. 

Christ is accomplishing His purposes (verse 31). This is the theme of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus stated His plan and His purpose for the believers. In Acts 9:31, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, takes a short breath to point out that His plan is being accomplished. For the first time we find the word “churches” in the Bible. On Pentecost, the 3000 believers were called those who believed. In Acts 4:32, the believers in Jerusalem are called the multitude who believed. In Acts 5:11, they are first named the church but they are all still in Jerusalem. In Acts 6:2 they are called the multitude of the disciples. Then in Acts 8:1 the church, thanks to Saul, is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. They cannot come together in Jerusalem anymore. What do they do? According to verse 4 those who are scattered are preaching the gospel everywhere.

Saul does not stop in Jerusalem though. He is hunting down the believers wherever he can. On his way to Damascus to find the Jewish believers there, he is struck with blindness by Christ and becomes himself a disciple of Christ. A time of peace comes and we find that there is no more a church in Jerusalem but that there are churches in all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee and at least scattered believers in other parts of the world as far away as Damascus and Ethiopia. In all this Christ is accomplishing His purposes, He is putting together His puzzle. The gospel is being preached, believers are being baptized, and they are gathering together for the purpose of encouragement and teaching and serving and all those other things that Christ commands us to do. Christ’s church is expanding as He promised.

OUR LIVES ARE THE PIECES. 

In the passage we are looking at, Christ uses the lives of people in accomplishing His purposes, in putting together His puzzle (verse 36-43). How then does He do this?

He uses our church relationships (verses 37-38). We do not know a lot about the church in Joppa but we do know that this was a church that cared for each other. There are three indications in this passage that these people truly cared for each other.

HOW DO WE KNOW THEY CARED?

They cared for each other as evidenced by the two messengers sent to get Peter. This woman was important to the church. She did not preach, prophesy, perform miracles, teach, give huge sums of money, or manage important ministries but the church cared for her just the same and went to find Peter for the purpose of having her raised from the dead. They obviously cared for this woman very much.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the ministry of Dorcas to the widows in the church. Widows played a very prominent part in the New Testament church. We find that the first great dispute in the Jerusalem church had to deal with taking care of widows. Paul wrote extensively on the subject. James deals with the subject. Caring for others in tangible ways is of importance in God’s Word.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the fact that Simon the tanner was counted among their number. From the very beginning, although it took a while for the believers to understand it, Christ’s body has included male and female, free man and slave, Jew and Gentile. Simon the tanner worked in an occupation which was considered unclean because he had to handle dead bodies of animals, an occupation which was considered outside of the realm of the holiness of God. This church by including this man and Peter by staying with this man showed that he himself was not outside of the realm of the holiness of God. That is after all, why Christ died, that those who are sinful might be made holy in Christ Jesus.

GOD USES NOT JUST OUR OUTWARD RELATIONSHIPS BUT ALSO OUR INWARD RELATIONSHIP. 

Not only does God use our church relationships but He also uses our character (verses 36 & 39). Notice I did not say talents or gifts although that is also important but what God really uses in our lives is our character. Now God can use you even if you do not have a good character but it will be in a limited way. The limit, however, is not that God is limited or that you have limited God but that you have limited yourself and your availability to be used of God.

He produces in our lives good works. Romans 2:5-7 tells us that good works are the proof that one is continuing in the faith. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that God blesses us and enables us for the purpose of showing good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for the purpose of doing good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the reason for the Scriptures is to prepare us for good works. In this passage we see a woman who was full of good works and God uses these good works.

He uses her good works to produce charitable deeds. The word we use is benevolence. We do not have a benevolence fund to find an inroad into people’s lives. Sometimes it looks like we are wasting our time helping people. They have no spiritual interest. Sometimes they are not thankful for the help they receive but Christ can use those funds to expand His kingdom, to further His purposes, to put a piece in the puzzle. We have seen that here in this church.

This is why we are making special appeals for the benevolence fund and why we participate in benevolent projects like Operation Christmas Child. We want our good works which come from our faith in Christ to produce charitable deeds. This is money that does not go into this church. Benevolence is not an investment in missions but God does use benevolence for His purposes. Not always in the way that you and I might expect but He does use it.

GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS AND PUTS A PIECE IN THE PUZZLE. 

In addition, He uses our prayers (verse 40). Even those prayers for the sick have a higher purpose than getting people well. The point of this passage is not that God answers prayer or that He answers prayer for the sick or that He sometimes answers in miraculous ways. The point of the passage is God’s plan and purposes are advanced through His answer to prayer. Let me make a bold statement. God never answers a prayer that does not further His purposes. Could Christ have raised this woman from the dead without Peter’s prayers? Absolutely, but Christ accomplishes His purposes through His people and one of the ways that He uses us is through our prayers.

We do a lot of praying for sick people here. On Wednesday night at least half of our requests are dealing with physical needs, often of people who we do not know. It is easy for us to discount those requests and not pray for them because we do not know the people (as if that had anything to do with whether God is going to answer our prayers or not). God does not answer my prayers based on whether I am feeling right about my prayers. God answers my prayers because I am His child and He is my God. If I pray to Him, He works in the situation effectually. The main passage of teaching on healing in James 5 uses the example of Elijah as a man of such passions as we are but he prayed and God answered his prayers. James then goes on to say that the effectual prayer of a righteous man makes a big, a BIG difference.

GOD CAN USE BOTH PETS AND POLITICIANS 

Recently, we had a discussion on Wednesday night about children praying for pets and how we should handle that situation. I was reminded this week of what G. Campbell Morgan said when someone said that they did not pray about the little things. The British preacher said that in the sight of God, all our requests are little. Rather than teaching our children to only pray for big and important things, we need to teach them that everything, from sick people to sick pets can be used of God to bring others to them. That is how we should pray? Lord, use this thing in my life to put another piece in the puzzle.

This is clearly how God wants us to pray. When Paul taught Timothy about praying for the government in his first epistle, he made it clear that the purpose of our praying for the government is that we might more effectively reach others with the gospel. If Mike Huckabee will make us better witnesses, Lord, give us Mike Huckabee. If Hillary or Rudy or Kucinich or McClain or whoever it might be, Lord, give us a president that will result in God using us to put the pieces in the puzzle. Forget the Supreme Court and forget the balanced budget and the Iraq War and abortion and all the other issues, God give us a government that will enable us to please you, whether through persecution or peace to be better witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS OR MISTAKES WITH GOD. 

He uses our church, our character, or prayers but, finally, He uses our circumstances (verses 37-42). The circumstances here are not good. This woman is dead. This is a tragedy. She has suffered great pain going through sickness and death but Christ uses these horrible circumstances in combination with a caring church, her good character, and a praying apostle to bring about a situation where more people would come to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Not every tragic situation is used so obviously by God but He does use our circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Think of the circumstances of your life. There are those here who came to Christ because they wanted premarital counseling. Others have come to Christ because they wanted their children to get some religious training. Others were in circumstances where there was no tragedy but God opened their eyes through some sermon or statement or in at least on situation that I am aware of through a rock opera. Some of us were reared in Christian families and God has used that. Others were raised in non-Christian families and God used those specific circumstances to bring us to Him. Circumstances vary as much as people but in every circumstance God’s hand was and is at work.

 THE PIECES

Who was most important? Peter? Dorcas? The men who came and got Peter? The widows that Dorcas helped? The church that cared for each other? Everyone of them was essential in Christ’s plan, to make the puzzle complete.

Whatever He is using in our life, it is a part of the puzzle of Christ’s purpose for the universe (verse 42). We are a vital part in Christ’s plan. Why? Because Christ desires it.

LOOK AT YOUR LIFE! 

What did Christ do to bring you to this service this morning? You might say, well I decided for myself to come this morning and that is no doubt true but God could have kept you away. Christ has given you an opportunity this morning. What are you going to do with it?

There is no guarantee that you will have another opportunity to take what you have heard this morning and apply it to your life. Do you need to trust Christ as Savior? The same power that raised Dorcas from life and that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give you eternal life if you will trust Christ as Savior. Take that opportunity today!

Believer, God is working in your life. Are you working with Him? Some of you need to be involved in this church so that God can work more effectively in your life. Others of you need to begin serving others rather than yourselves. Prayer needs to become a greater part in many of your lives. Whatever your situation, you need to be depending on Christ to use the circumstances in your life for His purposes. God wants you!

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