Acts 3:1-8 (the message)
One day at three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
Peter said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.
We live our lives giving to others what’s on this inside of us, good and bad. And we can’t give what we don’t have.
Learning, really understanding and applying this idea to my life is an ongoing process. Having my eyes opened to it has impacted me personally and helps me when dealing with difficult people at times. Really, this truth is fundamental to experiencing God’s power in my life. Finally realizing what I do and do not have to give in my life…as a wife, mother, friend and servant of Christ…stirs a hunger and a need in my life to know Jesus more. To have more of Him and less of me so I can give out what He gives to me. A life-long journey.
When reading the scripture above its imperative that you understand what Peter and John have recently been given! In Acts chapter one, as the resurrected Jesus is speaking with His disciples before ascending to Heaven, He clearly instructs them not to leave Jerusalem but wait for what the Father promised: the Holy Spirit. In the second chapter of Acts the disciples as well as the other men and women who had followed Jesus are together in one place (about 120 of them) when they are filled with the Holy Spirit (vs. 2-6 the message). Jesus clearly told the disciples that He must return to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come, and that once they received the Holy Spirit they would receive power to be His witnesses in their homes, communities and to the very ends of the earth. As the Holy Spirit came to rest on and fill these men and women they began to speak of God’s glory in languages they had never learned. Those traveling to Jerusalem for Pentecost were astonished at these ordinary Galileans! And this was just the beginning! Peter, who had denied he even knew Jesus three times the night of His arrest, would go on to boldly proclaim Christ as risen Messiah to thousands that day. In the future Peter’s very shadow would bring healing as he passed by! But as you read in the verses above, Peter could only give what he had. He did not have money to give to this broken beggar, but He had the power of the Holy Spirit at work in His life and it was this power that flowed from Peter’s life and healed this man.
I wonder how many times we try to give to others from an empty reservoir. I wonder how much of our lives are lived in denial that we don’t have all of what we need to have and maintain healthy relationships. It seems like much of the time we work hard to have our empty reservoirs filled by others. We grasp at them, demand from them and punish them. The sad part is most of the time we want others to fill deep needs in our lives when they themselves are struggling to have their needs met, as well. You know what? It’s perfectly okay that we are needy as long as we reach a place in our lives where we realize that only God is the need-meeter. Matter of fact, I dare say having our eyes opened to our inability to love and be loved completely is quite freeing…as long as we realize only God is the perfect lover. Only God is able to love us completely and only God’s Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and lives can enable us to love others His way. See, once my life’s focus shifts from having my needs met by people to having them met by God I am able to then give this amazing love away. And as I live (however imperfectly) to give the love and power of the Holy Spirit away that fills my life it affects everything: my marriage, my mothering, my friendships, my purpose, my time, my attitudes. God’s love produces life and healing in our relationships. But I can’t give away what I don’t have.
What does all this mean in everyday life? I have a simple question for you to ask yourself (if you dare!). This phrase is one I have picked up elsewhere…I did not come up with it! But, it stays with me and comes to mind as I write: If you are willing to be honest with yourself then ask “Am I a ladder or an adder?” Do you suck the life out of the people around you with all you want, need, deserve and expect from them or do you consistently lift others up, finding ways to encourage them? See…we are either “ladders” lifting up and giving out to others from the overflow of what Holy Spirit is doing in our lives or we are “adders” with our focus on ourselves and placing extra burden on others for all we think they should do and be for us…living out of a soul-deficit.
I can honestly and easily share with you that for much of my adult life I have been an adder. I was consumed with what I needed. I had many holes and deficits in my soul and no one could fill my reservoir, no matter how much I thought they should. As I grow in my walk with Jesus I become more of a ladder but no doubt have days where I recognize I am focused on myself…angry, dissatisfied and offended because someone let me down. On days like that it’s all about me! And on days like that all I can do is say “God, I’m being real with you here…I need help.” And He helps me every time. Reminds me that only He can fill me to overflowing. Only He can meet my every need. Only Jesus is more than enough.
Sure was a good day for the crippled beggar at the Gate Beautiful! Thank God Peter didn’t have any money! See, Peter could have been an adder that day and had a soul-deficit mindset and said to that beggar…”You know I don’t have any money. I sure wish I did it would make my life easier. I mean if I had some money I would be better off and I could help you but I don’t have what you are asking for. Sorry.” Instead, because Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit of God and living out of the overflow, he was a ladder! He told that beggar I don’t have what you are asking for but I’ll give you what I do have! And that man’s life was changed forever…because of the name of Jesus…because of the overflow of what Holy Spirit was doing in Peter’s life!
Life is far more exciting and fulfilling when we live and give from the overflow of God’s love and power happening in our own lives. But, again, you can’t give what you don’t have. Sometimes we all have seasons that are hard and where we need to be ministered to and helped. But even in the times of much-needed healing it is possible to live in the overflow of Holy Spirit at work in our hearts. Even as we heal we can let God’s love and care flow from us. If we are gut-level honest with ourselves we know deep inside if we are givers or takers…adders or ladders. If you find that you are a taker then do not feel condemned or guilty…but do not stay satisfied to live that way, either! Let God touch your heart and begin to heal you and fill you. Let Holy Spirit enable you to live and give from an overflow. In the end, life is just much, much better lived when it’s about the needs around us and not just our own.
Let’s let Jesus heal us and fill us. Let’s really let Holy Spirit invade our lives so that what spills out is the good stuff.