Jack Graham - Hope for the Hurting
Begin finding in your Bibles the third chapter of the book of Acts, and my topic today is "Hope for the Hurting". We are living in a broken world. As a result, people are broken, people like you and me. Because we're all broken, all of us! We're all in on brokenness. Physically, emotionally, relationally, morally, spiritually every person born is broken. And as a result of this brokenness comes pain and suffering, and often shame. This is the reason that so many are living in depression and despair, anxiety, fear. As Thoreau said years ago, "Men lead lives of quiet desperation". And the shame, often, of this suffering this pain or this brokenness, often produces a cover-up, because we tend to hide our hurts; we tend to stuff our sin and our shame, or we try to help ourselves.
This is why the self-help industry is a major industry. There are always people who will sell you solutions to all of your problems and all of your pain. Sometimes we get engaged in just more and more activity to cover up the hurt. We rush around here and there. America is the only country in the world who has even a mountain called Rushmore. And so we think if we just go more and do more and rush more with more engagement and activity in our lives that we don't have to listen to the hurt and the pain until we run out of hope! Until the world's solutions don't provide what we so desperately need which is hope in Jesus Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He can and will restore lives and restore souls. And it's all found in this magnificent story in the third chapter of the book of Acts.
"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate". Now the Beautiful Gate, a remnant of it still stands in Israel today. You can see it when you go, and it's the Eastern Gate. And so here's a man, like others, who is there at the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple, on their way to the temple. So look at verse 3. "Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us'. And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!' And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God'".
Who says there's no dancing in church? This man was alive in his spirit. Hope is reborn in his life. A hope that was never there to begin with, because all of his days he was, from his mother's womb, disabled and disjointed and left to do nothing but beg. This man who was laid everyday at this beautiful gate. What a contrast this is! Here's a man who is filled with misery and pain and suffering and hopelessness, in contrast to this brilliant and beautiful gate, and the presence of God symbolized there by the temple. But he was crippled, he was diseased, he was disabled. Scripture tells us that he was in this condition since his birth. This was some kind of a congenital birth defect.
Can you imagine the broken-heartedness? Remember, real people, real story. Imagine the broken-heartedness of his parents as their little boy never took a step. He's now over 40 years of age, according to the Scripture. Not once did he ever walk, did he ever take a step. He didn't play ball with the other boys. He didn't play hide and seek. There were no hospitals, no children's hospitals. There was no surgery. He couldn't walk, he couldn't work! He was reduced to begging. He had become a professional beggar. People carried him there and by now he knew the whole gig. It was to get near the Gate Beautiful where people were walking in to worship, and it was the Jewish tradition to give alms to the poor, so he would position himself. No doubt, a well known fixture at the gate, as people would pass by. And there he cried out "Alms for the poor! Alms for the poor"! He was broken, he was a beggar, couldn't walk, couldn't work, and he couldn't worship. Because the Old Testament law said that being in his disabled condition, that he couldn't enter in to the temple with the others to worship God.
So here he is, cut off from the worship of God. Now this miracle that's about to take place literally physically happened for sure. It was a supernatural, sovereign act of God's Spirit to His people. But this healing is illustrative. This man is illustrative and his condition is illustrative of the condition of every person on the face of the earth. Born with a condition in which we cannot walk, we cannot work, we cannot worship! We live without hope because we are born into sin! The first couple sinned against God, Adam and Eve. And as a result, because of that sin, suffering came into the world! Because of sin brokenness and the Bible says, in Adam all die. Romans 5:12 says, "Just as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all have sinned". Had there been no sin, there would have been no suffering. Had there been no suffering, there would have been no death! But we are dying because of sin! And not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually!
David, who knew sin well, said, "I was brought forth in iniquity". Psalm 51, verse 5. "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me". Not the act of conception, but the fact of conception! The fact that a man was born of woman means that a man is born into sin. So sin is a problem. It reduces us to spiritual begging and brokenness. And while this man was at the gate, he was outside the gate. He wasn't in the gate and in the presence of God. What a picture that is of what sin does, because sin separates us. We can't walk in the right way; we can't work in the right way; we cannot worship God because we are cut off. The problem is sin.
Now I know today in our culture sin is in. But I should add, while sin is in, it's really, sin is within! It is within the human heart. I know there are people who may advise you to follow your heart. That's bad advice. Because the Bible tells us that, Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked". Don't follow your heart, because your heart will often leads you in the wrong way. Sin is rebellion and resistance to God. The middle "i", the perpendicular pronoun in the midst of sin, that's the problem. Sin is selfishness, and sin is a problem. It's a problem for us, it's a problem for God because God is holy and He must punish sin. He must judge sin! People think sin is in, and therefore it's not a big deal. Sin is a big deal in the face of a holy God! It was sin that nailed His darling Son Jesus to a cross! Sin is why Jesus went to the cross!
Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord". And so that's why God sent to this man two Christians who were on their way to worship. And Paul and John, they're Batman and Robin, right? Are walking together, full of God's Spirit. They're on their way to pray. And as they're walking in the Beautiful Gate, this man's crying out for money, crying out for help. And Peter and John say something startling, really. They couldn't just pass by, and they said, "Look at us". It was a holy stare. They're looking right into this man's soul, the hole in his heart. They were looking beyond his beggary, they were looking beyond his physical condition and they saw his soul. They saw him with the eyes of compassion, the eyes of Christ; the Spirit of Christ is living in them.
They had walked with Jesus for those years and they've seen Jesus stop many times to help broken people, to heal the lame, to touch the blind and the leper, and even raise the dead. And so they're bold enough and brave enough to stop just a moment and to look at this man, to see the opportunity that was right in front of them. This man that was laid right in front of them on their way to church. Jesus had taught them that story about the Samaritan who saw the man who was beaten and left for dead, and he stopped and he ministered. So they were well trained, they were well taught, and now they're so full of the Spirit of Jesus that they do stop and they engage this man who desperately needed help and beyond help, he needed hope.
So this is a good place just to stop, take a deep breath and ask an important question. On your way to church today, on your way, driving out of your neighborhood, on your way this week just in your daily normal traffic pattern of your life, what about the people that have been laid right in front of you? Put in your pathway, put in your neighborhood? In your office? In your classroom? In your school? In your locker room? How many people did we pass by, rather than say, "Look," and engage them in a conversation regarding our hope in Christ? The Bible says in First Peter 3:15, "Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you".
We say we have been transformed by Jesus Christ! So the man expecting to receive money got more than he expected. He wanted money just to get by another day. This guy's not living; he's just surviving like some of you! Just surviving. Just dragging through every day with your head down. He's just surviving. He just wanted enough money to get by another day, to get through another day. He wanted money, but God gave him far more; God gave him a miracle. And Peter said, "We don't have money, we don't have silver or gold; but what we have we give to you". That's the spirit of the Christian, isn't it? What we have we give to you. What we have is yours. We don't hold on to what we have; we give what we have. And what we have is the message of hope. It's the message of new life in Jesus Christ!
And this is why Peter said, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". The name of Jesus. Name represents a person's character, or a person's identity, a person's authority. You sign your name and that's your authority. The name of Jesus Christ! That's authority! That's power! "In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk"! Now think about this moment: The Bible says that Peter reached down with his right hand and he lifted him up. Look, people don't need a hand out; they need a hand up! They need hope! He said, "Take my hand". And he pulled him up. And instantaneously, this wasn't some phony baloney so-called pseudo-miracle! This was instantaneously! There are fourteen miracles recorded in the book of Acts; all to authenticate the Gospel and the proclamation of the Gospel in that first era of the early church, to proclaim Jesus Christ and to be exhibit A of the power of Jesus.
Like the miracles of Jesus, these apostles are now performing miracles and this man's on his feet instantaneously, leaping and dancing and praising God. He's full of joy; he's full of life; he's full of hope! It was the name of Jesus but the hand of the apostle. It's the message of Jesus, it's the Gospel, but your hands and mine that help people up, that hold people up. Later on this man, we're told, is clinging to Peter when Peter stands to preach the Gospel in which 5000 men came to faith in Christ. What an incredible, amazing miracle! This is a good place to say God still heals today. He does. But if you were to ask me, "Jack Graham, do you have a healing ministry? Are you a healer"? I would say absolutely not! Absolutely not!
People talk today about having a healing ministry or a deliverance ministry. I don't read any of that in the Bible. We're in the Gospel ministry! The ministry of Jesus Christ! I mean we could turn the church into a healing line every week but that wouldn't be the plan and the purpose of the church. God has called us to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and minister to people with mercy and hope and help with our hands of mercy and grace. God may call you to use your medical career or your calling to serve people who need Jesus. But He's called all of us to be soul doctors, to be agents of hope, because that's what people so desperately need. The healing of the soul is eternal. The healing of the body is just temporary. Peter was not apologizing when he said, "We don't have money, but what we have, we give to you". He was offering the greatest gift of all which is the gift of eternal life, the gift of the forgiveness of sin, the gift of Jesus.
We've been given this wonderful gift, this blessing, and we have not been so blessed to huddle up and count out blessings, but to extend with grace and generosity the love of Jesus. What do we have? A Savior who can heal broken hearts and broken homes and broken lives. It's the heart of God and it's the heart of the church. I was going through my files this week as I was getting ready to bring this message, and I found a letter that I had put in this file under Acts chapter 3. You'll see why in just a moment.
A letter written by a man by the name of James R. Brown. In it he writes: "In 1988" he said, "I faced a major crisis". He goes on to explain his crisis. He was obesely, grotesquely (he said) over weight. He had diabetes. The doctor had just told him he was going to lose his leg above his knee. He was confined to a hospital bed, to a wheel chair, unable to walk. Doctor tried to get him to lose weight and take care of himself in a better way. He just couldn't seem to do that and he was addicted to pain medication. He said, "The real truth was I had no faith in God. I failed every attempt to diet, to lose weight, etc. to be better I informed my employer, I no longer wanted to go on". And so he quit his job. He said, "I hit bottom. I left my office and I went home. I contemplated suicide". He said, "My family wanted nothing to do with me. They were sick and tired of my old act of self-pity and my inability to do anything or choose to do anything to help myself".
Hopeless! They shared Christ with this man, they encouraged him to go to get to the doctor, and he resisted all that. But they insisted. And he ended up going to a new doctor who was a Christian doctor in our church. This doctor talked to him about his physical condition and gave him a medical prescription, including getting off all your pain medication and getting off all the medicine except your insulin and the other things that were necessary because of your condition. But he told him, he said, "You need faith and you need to start reading your Bible". And he, along with a medical prescription, gave him a biblical prescription. He said, "Start reading your Bible, because when you go off this pain medication it's going to be one of the most difficult times in your life and you're going to need hope and you're going to need help".
And so James said, writing here, "I left his office positive of failure". (How's that for faith?) "How could the Bible ever give me the will power and the strength to endure the pain in my body, in my leg"? And then he writes, and this is the part I wanted you hear, "The next day was Saturday. I picked up my Bible and began to read and I found myself reading in Acts chapter 3. (See, isn't that just like God?) I began to thirst for understanding, though emotionally I was still lost. On Sunday (in parenthesis: No pain killers) I awoke early and the pain was unbearable. It would never work. What was I doing"?
He said, "I turned on the television. It was 7:00 AM and there was Dr. Jack Graham ready to begin his sermon. How could this be? He was talking directly to me! I am at a lost for his exact words but the truth of his words brought tears of joy to my face, a feeling of enlightenment to my heart and the pain became bearable. The long smoldering embers had been lit. The fire was burning in my heart! (You heard that lately?) The fire burning in my heart for the wonderful search for truth! Everything good began to come true. The faith I was searching for and so desperately needed was getting stronger. I walked 10 minutes and it was glorious. I lost 2 pounds. The fire was raging. I began to come to church in December. My heart was aching. I needed more but had serious doubts about myself and my convictions. The greater the love for my God and Savior became however, the more my leg was healed and my body".
He said, "I've now lost 71 pounds and I'm walking two to three miles a day, seven days a week. I still have a way to go, but with all that I've gained, the love, the understanding, the faith, everything is within reach. The goal is in sight. I have hope. Now I see that I must set an example for others since God has shone His grace upon me. He has touched my heart and given me meaning and purpose. He has instilled in me the yearning to do good to others. He has generously bestowed upon me His grace and faith and in this faith I find victory and triumph over tragedy".
That's what Jesus will do for you! He heals broken hearts, broken homes, if you will just hand Him all the pieces. Dr. Jesus specializes in people just like you. And so I say, come to Jesus in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter preached and said, "Repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ", that's what I'm preaching right now. To repent means that you own your sin. My sin, I confess it, I own it. I turn from it. Repentance is not behavior modification, just promising to try to do better. Repentance is receiving Christ and allowing Him to give you the power to change your life. He will change your life. 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation". And so you can't walk, you can't work, you can't do the things God made you to do. You can't even worship. You're cut off from God! Come to Jesus. We extend to you our hands in his stead as representatives and say in the name of Jesus rise up and walk.