Summary: A communion meditation for Sunday, November 6, 2005
One of my favorite stories (and I am not sure that I have shared it before, and if I have, please bear with me) comes from Keith Miller in his men’s devotional book, A Habitation of Dragons. It is the story of a well-to-do attorney who experiences a true change of life and heart when he gives himself up to God.
Miller encounters him after speaking to a group of men in an unnamed town. The man admits that he is in town not to hear Miller but to see his mistress while pretending to be on a business trip.
However, as he gets out of his car a few blocks from the church where Miller is to speak three men from his church see him and approach him. ‘I almost fainted as one of them asked, ‘What are you doing here, Joe?’ ‘I uh…I’m just passing through.’ I lied, scared to death they were going to see the guilt written all over me.’
‘’Hey great. We’re just going down to hear some Christian businessmen speak. You’ve gotta come with us.’ And I was afraid to say no, for fear I’d somehow give myself away.’
Miller goes on to share that as he shared with that group of men, the Holy Spirit began to work in this attorney’s life to the place that he indicated to Miller that he really wanted to give up his affair as well as his entire life to God. They agreed to a covenant of prayer once a day at 6:30 AM for as long as this desperate attorney wanted it.
A year went by and this man, who began to change from self-centered to God-centered, asked Miller to come to his church and speak. Feeling obligated, Miller went.
He arrived late and as he entered the room where he was to speak, he looked into the faces of 800 people crammed into every nook and cranny of space possible. He concluded, ‘I realized in that moment that all of the promoted programs and Christian education plans in the world will be virtually worthless to motivate people to become Christians-unless they see some ordinary person like Joe who is finding hope and a new way to live in Christ. And then they will listen.’
‘Finding hope and a new way to live in Christ,’ that is the message of Acts. Have you seen that hope and new way in our time through Acts? It is there!
It is there in the 3000 that believed on the day of Pentecost. And gave of their possession in a profound way.
It is there in the Ethiopian official who asked a question, ‘Was Isaiah talking about himself or someone else?’
It is there in the faith and response of Cornelius, who was considered by some to be beyond the grace and mercy of God, but God did not think so.
And it is there in the dramatic change in Saul’s life that is found in the context of our main text for this morning.
Now ‘change’ is a word that I have not said a great deal over the past five years. But, in this attorney’s life and in the life of Saul, who becomes Paul, the first Christian missionary, we see change. And it is the kind of change that God wants to work in our life. But, sometimes we resist that kind and depth of change because of something else that is in the attorney’s story and in the hearts and actions of several people in Acts. That something is ‘fear.’
There is ‘fear’ in those who arrested, persecuted, and/or murdered Peter, John, James, and Stephen. There is ‘fear’ in Peter when confronted by some of his deep-seated prejudices. There is perhaps ‘fear’ in the disbelief of those gathered to pray for Peter in prison when he stands outside the door of their gathering place a miraculously freed man. And there is ‘fear’ in those Damascus believers who hear that Saul is nearby and wants to meet with them.
It is interesting to me that fear moves through and around Luke’s account. And it moves in both those who believe and those who do not believe.
What is your greatest fear? Find a spot to write it down. Now let me ask you a couple of questions:
Is it a legitimate fear? Is it a fear that could be realized? Fear of being laid off? Fear of illness because of health issues?
On the other hand, is it an illegitimate fear? Is it based on your feelings and your perceptions that have no basis in fact?
What do you do with your fears? Do you turn them over to God and ask for His help with them? Do you ask God to help you grow through your fears? Or do you retreat? Do you say ‘no’ because your fear is overwhelming and paralyzes you?