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Lead by the Spirit

In our culture of celebrity, everyone wants to be a hero. Whether our cause is grand or small, playing the role of a hero holds an appeal to all of us. Perhaps rightly so; we all have an innate desire to make a difference, to change a life, and to make our lives count. I do not doubt that it was part of God’s plan that we should leverage our lives in heroic ways that accomplish heroic acts that further expand the redemptive story that God is writing. Honestly, can there be anything more courageous than rescuing someone from hell through the power of the Holy Spirit and ensuring they meet Jesus and enter heaven? Nothing is more heroic than changing the eternal trajectory of someone’s life.

I have recently spent considerable time studying the book of Acts, and many heroes are present in its 28 chapters. We read of the accomplishments of Stephen, Phillip, Paul, and Peter and rightly see them as pioneering heroes of the faith. For about 99.9% of us, though, their acts are ones we can never replicate. As we read this action-packed book, we see that there are other heroes whose everyday lives have a global and eternal impact. These are the kind of heroes we can be just by living our lives. Let me introduce you to some unsung, everyday heroes in Acts who changed the world.

1) The Crippled Man. Acts 3:9-12
This beggar had been sitting at the temple gate since birth, begging and pleading for money. As people gathered for mid-afternoon prayers, Peter took a step of faith and told this guy that he didn’t have any silver or gold, but if he wanted, he could walk again. The beggar didn’t think twice; he leaped and started running and dancing. As people saw the change in this man right before their eyes, they gathered around him. As they gathered, Peter preached, and over 3,000 came to faith in Christ that day! This unsung hero became a visual aid for God's story. Once you surrender your life to Jesus, there should be a change in your life, which should draw others to him.

2) Seven Deacons. Acts 6:2-5

The need was so great within Jerusalem that the Apostles needed some help. They were crystal clear that God had called them to ‘serve the word’ to people and proclaim the gospel, but the need was present to ‘serve tables’ and take care of the needy. Rather than attempt to multitask or manage, they empowered seven men – of exemplary character – to care for the widows and other social needs. These deacons were unsung heroes because they did what only they could do while encouraging the apostles to do what they could. Unsung heroes function in their strength and allow others to do as well. Because of this, the apostles were free to take the gospel to the end of the earth. They did.

3) Ananias. Acts 9:10-19

Ananias loved Jesus and heard God speak to him very clearly that he needed to do something complicated – to go and embrace, bless, and pray for his arch-enemy, Saul. He first responded “yes” to God's invitation, backtracking a little as he said, “But”…. Before finally meeting Paul. The tension in the room must have been unbearable but melted when Ananias greeted Paul with the affectionate term ‘brother.’ Ananias was an everyday hero because he took Jesus’ words seriously to love our enemies. Because he loved Paul, Paul was empowered to take the gospel to the world. He did.

4) James. Acts 15:13-21

The Church is at a pivotal moment in its infancy. Is the Church going to encompass all people? What does that need to look like? As Peter and John share their experience, James speaks scripturally to the situation. He establishes himself as a spokesman and moderator based upon the word of God. While experience, reason, and conviction are of some use, the truth of scripture should define reality for us. Unsung heroes provide an authoritative voice of truth. Because James spoke up, the gospel could break out of its Jewish roots. It did.

5) Lydia. Acts 16:13-15

Not being allowed to bring other religions into Philippi, the believers often met and missioned by the river. Crossing cultural barriers, they witnessed some women and met Lydia. Even though she believed in God, she hadn’t yet known Jesus. As the gospel was shared with her, she quickly received it and was quickly baptized… and the gift of hospitality was realized through her. She opened her home to the apostles, providing them protection, safety, and a haven of rest. Every day, heroes open their hearts and homes to care for others. You should.

6) Paul’s Nephew. Acts 23:16-24

This is the only biblical reference to Paul’s family; most of them would have forsaken him when he began to follow Christ. In this story, a conspiracy had been formed to plot against Paul. Mobs wanted to ambush and kill him, and somehow, his nephew got wind of this. At the risk of his own life, he went to the commander of the city and told him about the plans. The commander was sensitive and protective and worked to ensure Paul’s survival. Every day, heroes blow the whistle on injustice. If Paul’s nephew hadn’t spoken up, Paul’s missionary journey would have ended abruptly. It didn’t.

Many more unsung, everyday heroes in the Book of Acts show us that small acts can have heroic returns. You can be a hero within the kingdom of God… perhaps not by doing anything big or dramatic, but by simple faithfulness.

Be a Hero!

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