Living with Purpose

Hello, my friends!

Have you ever felt the thrill of being part of something bigger than yourself? Something so powerful and life-changing that it leaves you in awe? That’s exactly what we witness in the early church as described in the book of Acts. Imagine a small group of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, stepping out into a world not exactly friendly to their message. But instead of cowering in fear, they boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. And the results? Nothing short of miraculous!

Let's dive into Acts chapter 4, verse 33: “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.” This verse is simply amazing! Great power and great grace—what a combination! But there’s more. Acts 5:11 says, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” Now, you might be thinking, fear doesn't sound like a good thing.”

This wasn't just any fear. This was a holy reverence, a deep awareness of God's presence and power among them. It’s like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon—simultaneously awe-struck and humbled. That's the kind of fear we're talking about.

Now, let’s get real. The early church wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. They faced serious challenges, with thousands of new believers needing to be fed, housed, and taught. That’s no small task! But the believers rose to the occasion with incredible generosity. Some even sold their properties and brought the money to the apostles. Can you imagine that level of commitment? It’s mind-blowing! And they weren’t doing it out of obligation or pressure. They were motivated by grace.

Romans 5:5 tells us, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” This is what inspired their extraordinary generosity. But let's not get carried away and think this was some kind of communal utopia. The Bible is clear that people still had their own property. In Acts 4:34-35, we read, “Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” Notice it says “all who were possessors”—meaning some still had possessions!

Then, we encounter Ananias and Sapphira. This couple sold some property and gave to the church but kept back part of the proceeds while pretending to give it all. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw right through their deception. And what happened next is shocking—both Ananias and Sapphira fell down dead when confronted with their lie. Talk about a sobering moment! But this wasn’t about the money. It was about the heart. Ananias and Sapphira weren’t required to give everything. Their sin was in the deception, in trying to appear more generous than they actually were.

This reminds me of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:1, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” It's not about the outward appearance, but the inward reality of our hearts.

Now, you might be wondering, “Were Ananias and Sapphira true believers?” It’s a tough question, and honestly, we can’t know for sure. But here’s an interesting tidbit: In Acts 9, when introducing another Ananias (the one who prayed for Paul), Luke calls him “a certain disciple.” But for our Ananias in Acts 5, he’s just called “a certain man.” It’s a subtle difference, but it makes you think, doesn’t it?

What’s fascinating is what happens after this incident. Acts 5:13-14 tells us, “Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” It seems that this event, as shocking as it was, didn’t stop the growth of the church. In fact, it might have purified it!

This situation reminds me of Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13. Jesus warned that there would be those who look like believers but aren’t truly part of the kingdom. The early church was experiencing this firsthand. But despite this challenge, the church kept growing! The power of the Holy Spirit was unstoppable. Acts 5:15-16 says, “So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

Can you imagine that scene? People lining the streets, hoping even for Peter's shadow to pass over them for healing. That’s some serious Holy Spirit power!

So, what can we learn from all this? First, let’s remember that we serve a God of great power and great grace. He’s not looking for perfect people, but for sincere hearts. Second, let’s be motivated by love and grace, not by a desire to impress others or gain status. Third, let’s not be discouraged when we face opposition or challenges in our faith journey. Remember, even the early church had its struggles, but the power of God prevailed. As Romans 8:31 reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Fourth, let’s cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord. Not a cowering, terrified fear, but a reverent awe that recognises God's holiness and our need for His grace. Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

And finally, let’s not forget the incredible privilege we have in being part of God's church. We’re not just joining a social club or a self-help group. We’re part of a living, breathing organism empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world! The same Spirit that filled Peter, that exposed deception, that healed the sick and cast out demons—that same Spirit lives in us today. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:20, God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

So, my dear friends, let’s cherish this wonderful journey of faith together. Let’s open our hearts to the abundant grace of God and embrace the amazing things He wants to do in and through us. Remember, the same Spirit that filled and empowered the early church lives within us today. It’s truly a privilege to be part of God’s living, breathing church. Let's support and uplift each other, sharing the hope and love we've been given. The world needs this message, and we have the joy of sharing it with grace and the boundless power of the Holy Spirit.