Make Room for Miracles, Part 3:
A Miracle of Encouragement

April 18, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Acts 9:1-20

Saul’s Conversion

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest
2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!"       "Yes, Lord," he answered.

11The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."

13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

 

Our title and our topic for today is: “Make Room for a Miracle of Encouragement”

 

Do you need encouragement today? Has there been something about your life that has discouraged you? Is something taking the edge off of your vitality? Friends, I am inviting us today to make room for the miracle of encouragement in our lives—both God’s encouragement and the encouragement of others. It is a miracle, because as we discovered a few weeks ago, a miracle is an amazingly good thing. Encouragement is a startlingly and amazing good thing isn’t it?

 

Today in the Gospel we hear about a man who was extremely discouraged. If anyone needed a miracle of encouragement in his life, it was Simon Peter. Simon Peter was there both of the times when Jesus appeared to the twelve.  He was present during the first time when Thomas wasn’t; and he was also there the second time, when Thomas was present. Simon Peter saw evidence of the Lord rising on Easter morning.  On that day, he had run ahead to see the grave clothes lying neatly folded. Yet, he was discouraged in his heart.

Let’s take a look at why he may have been discouraged. He was discouraged because he felt that he had let Jesus down. I am wondering if in Peter’s heart, he had visions of a charcoal fire. A charcoal fire in the Roman Praetorium around which the guards kept themselves warm. A glowing charcoal fire that shown with red, orange and blue flame which was reflected in the armor of the rough, burly soldiers that surrounded it.

 

Peter was there that night, late after the Last Supper. He was slinking around the edges of the Praetorium wondering what to do, or wondering if there was anything that he could do. Peter was probably thinking of that charcoal fire and the voice of the slave girl who went up to him, pointed a bony finger at him and said, “Aren’t you one of them?” And Peter replied, “No, I am not one of them.”

 

Later that night he perhaps thought of the fire again as another slave girl pointed to him and said, “You have a Galilean accent. I believe that you are a friend of Jesus.” And Peter replied, “I never saw Him before.” Perhaps the echoes of that sad moment replayed over again in Peter’s head. 

 

A third time later in the evening, once again, one of the slave girls pointed to him and said, “Ah yes, you are one of them. You were the one that took out your sword and struck the ear of Malchus. That was you, wasn’t it? ” And Peter swore that he had never seen Him before. At that moment the rooster crowed and tradition tells us that Jesus was brought by in chains. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments.

 

I think these scenes were replaying over and over in Peter’s head. He felt like a failure, because he thought he had let Jesus down.

 

Let’s take a step to the side. How many of us feel the pain of regret? How many of us wear the heavy chain of burdens and regrets of thinking, “I wish I had done it some other way” around our neck. How many of us need the miracle of encouragement in our lives?

 

Perhaps Peter felt like a failure as a leader. The others looked to him for leadership and strength. And he had none. He tried to lead, but what could he do? He finally threw up his hands, and said, “Let’s go fishing. Let’s go back to the old way, let’s go back to the old job.” The rest agreed to go with him and that is as much leadership as Peter demonstrated.  He felt like a failure.

 

Finally, he also felt like a failure as a fisherman. They were out all night fishing and the nets came up empty. He was discouraged. If anyone needed a miracle of encouragement, it was Peter. Later, when it was light, a voice called out and asked them how their catch was. Peter said, “Sorry, nothing.”  But from his high vantage point, the friend on the hill told them to throw their nets out to the other side and get ready for a big catch.  They shrugged and then did as he said and caught a catch so large that the nets could hardly hold it all.

 

 Peter wondered, “There is something about that voice” and then John also agreed, saying, “There is something about that voice.” Peter looked, and then jumped into the water and swam to shore. There was Jesus, the greatest encourager of all time. The One who would not let his loved ones and friends be disappointed, heartbroken and discouraged. Peter saw that it was Him, and near Jesus was a charcoal fire.

 

I wonder what Peter thought when he saw the charcoal fire? Was he reminded of the charcoal fire near the Praetorium? He went closer and saw that it was the Lord. The Lord told him to come and have something to eat and they did. The Bible tells us that there were 153 fish in the net? What does that mean, why the specific number? Well, they believed in those days that there were 153 species of fish in the sea. Perhaps that number in the book of John is a way of saying that everyone is represented in the church of Jesus Christ. There is plenty of room for everyone. Jesus was taking care of Peter’s career. He was encouraging Peter physically. He cared that Peter and the other Disciples were fed.

 

Jesus was performing the miracle of encouragement by putting Peter’s soul back together.    It was a difficult process, but it was a gift of love. Jesus said to Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter cast his eyes to the ground looked at the charcoal fire and then looked up at Jesus and said, “Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus then said, “Peter, feed my lambs.”  Again the Lord asked Peter the same question, and he replied again, “Lord, you know I love you.” Then the Lord, said, “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Do you love me?”

 

Peter was suddenly struck by the remembrance that it was three times that he had denied knowing the Lord, and here the Lord was giving him three times to reveal himself and proclaim his love. Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know I love You. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

 

 My friends, Jesus put Peter’s soul back together, and let him proclaim his love. Jesus told him that there was a wonderful plan for him and that he shouldn’t be discouraged. Jesus told Peter that Jesus needed him to do work in the world, He gave Peter a purpose.  He invited him to come up from the dark clouds of discouragement and to live his life as someone who was loved and blessed ad valued.

 

Jesus can put your soul back together, too. When we are discouraged, hear the voice of Jesus giving you the blessing of encouragement. We can show our love by giving encouragement to others, especially the children. Remember the first response was “feed my lambs”. Feed my little ones. When you bring your children to church, what a blessing you are giving to the lambs. When you teach Sunday school, what a blessing you are giving to the lambs.   When you support the church that does this what a blessing you are giving to the lambs.

 

  As you go into the world, help people out with your encouragement, with a good word, with a forgiving word. Help people out physically, wherever you can. That is how we display our love for Jesus. As you go out in the world this week make room for the miracle of encouragement to be received by you and to be given by you.  

In closing, please let me share this poem for the discouraged of heart. It is titled, “Don’t Quit”.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

 

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don't give up though the pace seems slow--

You may succeed with another blow.

 

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor's cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

 

Success is failure turned inside out--

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--

It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown

 

God loves you; I do too. Have a wonderful week.

    

© 2010 Anthony J. Godlefski