This morning, we’re celebrating pastor’s appreciation month, but for me, the real celebration is you all. It overwhelmingly blesses me that people voluntarily choose to come out here to New Hope to praise, grow, and serve together. We’ve been blessed with an amazing church family and it is an honor to serve Jesus together with you all!

It’s no secret that when it comes to our faith, I have a tendency to emphasize and focus on our need to do our part in working for the Lord. If you ask Becky and the kids, you’ll find that it’s not much different at home. I’m always correcting how things are done and they could make a pull doll out of me saying phrases like, “work before play.” As we’re driving back home, I’m assigning each person with a task to do when they walk through the door. It has to be tiring living with me! And this needs to change…

It is true that we should live our lives in obedience to the Lord. It is true that we should serve Him with excellence. However, I have a tendency to become unbalanced and miss out on the joy that is supposed to accompany a life lived following Jesus. After all, Jesus called us to do what we’re doing, but He also said:

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Ministry, serving the Lord and the people of our community, was never intended to be a burden nor a duty to weary us. In fact, Paul reminded us about this as well.

Galatians 6:9-10
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

This morning, I believe that God wants to take the pressure off of ministry and restore to us the joy of serving Him! This morning, we’re continuing through Acts as we learn that there shouldn’t really be any pressure on us when it comes to serving Jesus, His church, and our community.

Doing work in and of itself can either be exhausting or exhilarating depending on our perspective.

For example, if I sit at a table and assemble two pieces together and perform that same task over and over again day after day and only ever to see more work to do behind me and the same assembled two pieces ahead of me, I’ll easily get frustrated and exhausted from my work. I’ll feel like I’m accomplishing nothing, grow weary, and lose interest. Work becomes a boring chore without purpose.

However, if I see the Corvette that my two assembled pieces become, my work will be a bit more exhilarating and fulfilling. Instead of whining to my friends about how boring my task is, I now brag to my friends about the car that I’m responsible for building. I take pride and ownership in what I’m accomplishing.

Ministry can often be like this assembly line. We’re each a part of the body of Christ and each called to fulfill a specific function of His ministry. However, if we fail to see the bigger picture of what we’re working to accomplish, our service to the Lord can easily become dull and exhausting. That was never Jesus’ intent of what a life following Him was supposed to look like, though. He intended for it to be an exhilarating adventure full of joy, purpose, and fulfillment.

Marie shared last week about a day in the life of the early church. Today, we follow another day in the early church. We’ll learn just how much fun they had serving Jesus now that they were empowered with the baptism of the Holy Spirit that they all had just received. They had challenges, they faced difficulties, but they maintained a peace and trust throughout them that unleashed the raw power of God and brought everyone to become personal witnesses of the resurrected Jesus.

Acts 3:1-16
1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

(Peter then goes on preaching from the gospel about Jesus through the prophets.)

Acts 4:1-22
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

As we read through this account, I can’t help but notice the same thing that those observing this trial noticed. Peter and John were common, ordinary people just like you and I. They simply stepped out in faith to show kindness to a man and Jesus met them there.

They did nothing to heal this man who was lame from birth, but Jesus did it all. They had no money to offer that man, but they possessed and freely gave away something far more valuable. They were uneducated, but the Holy Spirit gave them the words to preach. They were ordinary, but the Holy Spirit gave them extraordinary courage. They had no defense, but the evidence of this healed forty something year old man spoke for them. They were not public speakers, but they could speak about what they had seen and heard.

Peter and John didn’t really seem upset by being imprisoned and put on trial. They didn’t seem to carry any stress or pressure on themselves. They didn’t seem to have any fear even though they had to know that death was a potential verdict for their trail. If we’re giving God our best and leaving the results all in His hands, this takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of us.

It’s just my opinion, but they seemed to have fun with not only seeing this man healed, but also by how bewildered and confused the rulers, elders, and even the high priest and his family were by this simple event. They seemed to inwardly laugh at the futile attempts that this large group of individuals of great power, authority, and influence made to threaten them to keep quiet about Jesus. The fact that these great and powerful men were so severely threatened by a couple of fisherman and the name of a man that they just put to death was a bit humorous.

What if we chose to live in such a way that all of our life’s successes and failures were in Jesus’ hands? What if we lived so deeply filled and covered by the Presence of God that we could have peace in the midst of great trial and threats? The better question might be, why do we choose not to? If we are truly a disciple of Jesus, then we’ve already handed the entirety of our lives over to Him. That means that all that we are and all that we do and all that we accomplish is His.

The successes bring Him glory because it was Him working through us. The failures bring Him glory because He’s teaching and training us through them. Yes, Jesus’ disciples failed. Remember the deaf and mute evil spirit that tortured a young boy that His disciples could not free him from? The one that only came out through prayer and fasting? Did that cause Jesus to reject His disciples and never trust them with a deliverance ministry again? Of course not! Jesus used it as an opportunity to teach them why they failed which empowered them to be successful the next time they encounter that scenario.

Failure is always an option, especially in the Kingdom of God. To be a disciple of Jesus begins with admitting that we’re failures and trusting God to redeem our lives and turn our failure into a great comeback story. God is in the business of reconciling and restoring and redeeming. He is the God of infinite second chances for those who call on Him in their failed state. He IS the resurrection! Not even death is “game over” for those who lay down their lives to follow Him!

We are far too quick to agree with Satan and disqualify ourselves from the greatness that God has destined us for. We hold back the church, the body of Christ. We think, believer, and say lies like I’ll start ministering when:
– I’ve stopped sinning (THAT WON’T EVER HAPPEN THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN!!!)
– I’m older
– I’m better trained for it
– I’m more financially secure
– I’ve learned more of His word
– I have more time
– I figure out what my gifts and talents are
– I’m less stressed out in life

Do you know when Jesus and the early church sent people out to minister? The literal, very moment that they chose to follow Jesus! We need to shake off all of our excuses and just start being who we claim to be, a disciple of Jesus. No stress, no pressure, just allowing Jesus to be Jesus in and through our lives. He’s the one to do all of the work, we simply follow His lead. He intentionally chooses to do great things through common, ordinary, flawed, broken people like you and I.

Ministry is not about us, it’s about Jesus.