Mike Gerhardt, 12-1-19, Scenes from Acts, Meeting Needs. READ Acts 6:1-7. What do you really need for life? Air, water, bread. You can live on bread and water for at least eight months or even a few years. Most of you can survive 21 days or more with just water. There are survival stories of even lasting 2 months with just water. Most of you can survive 3 days without bread or water, some have survived 18 days without bread or water. How long can you survive without bread, water, or air? Stephen Mifsud held his breath underwater for 11 min 35 sec. Tom Sietas after breathing pure oxygen went 22 min 22 sec. Most can survive 3-4 minutes. After that, the quality of life could be an issue. Living with bread and water can cause problems especially when vitamin deficiency begins to ravage the body. Meeting needs food, water, shelter. Notice it did not say anything about wants! Figuring the difference between wants and real needs can be tricky. Also, meeting needs not just to survive but to thrive. Jesse Jackson visited the University of Southern Mississippi. While touring the campus he saw a tall student holding hands with a midget co-ed! Jackson watched as the student picked her up kissed her and sent her off to class. The school president explained to Jackson that the student was a star basketball player, that his parents had died, and he made a vow to take care of his sister. Many scholarships came his way but only Southern Miss offered one to his sister. Jackson introduced himself and told the student how he appreciated his looking out for her. The athlete shrugged & said: Those of us whom God made 6'6" have to look out for those he makes 3'3". The church of Jesus the Christ is to be His loving and caring body. Each of us must serve each other. Here at the beginning of the church, the need for basic food was not being met. Everyone needs nourishment. In this grand commune, Grecian widows were being left out. Maybe it was the language barrier, the native tongue in Jerusalem was Aramaic. Maybe it was the type of food, the Grecian Jews had a liking for un-Kosher foods. Maybe an undercurrent of discrimination between the Jews and the Greeks. Whatever the cause, some were going to bed hungry. The church was growing, so were the complications. Luke has been tracking the numbers. Acts 2:41 3,000. 2:47 the Lord added to their number daily. 4:4 the number of men grew to 5,000 (with women and children probably 8,000 to 9,000). 5:14 more and more men and women believed and were added to their number. 6:7 the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and several priests became obedient to the faith. We often hear that God is not concerned with numbers. I believe each number represents a changed life and an eternal decision for Christ's Kingdom. There were growing pains. If you want this church to grow, be careful what you wish for.
Who should be called a deacon or deaconess? Here they were servants appointed and consecrated by the church for the distribution of food. Men who were known (reputation) to be filled with the Spirit and full of wisdom. 1 Timothy 3:8-13 lists the qualifications for deacons and their wives who were deaconesses. 1 Timothy 5:3-16 gives us careful instructions to care for widows. The distribution of wealth, property and food was the charge of the apostles in Acts 4:35; but now it was given over to deacons. The tables (trapezais) may refer to tables used for serving food or to money tables, that is, banks. Probably it was used here to refer to the place where funds and supplies were administered for the widows.
Now Culture can sometimes get in the way of serving one another. The church in Jerusalem at this time was entirely Jewish. Grecians Jews called Hellenists were most likely Jews born in countries outside of Palestine, who spoke Greek, had Greek names and were Grecian in attitude and outlook. They may have come to Pentecost; heard the message of salvation by Peter, were baptized and stayed in Jerusalem instead of going home. Hebraic Jews spoke fluid Aramaic, had Jewish names, were born in Palestine, and strictly preserved Jewish culture, customs, and attitudes. Have you ever been culturally challenged? In Zambia, I spoke at a church of 400 in a church smaller than this room. Pastor Stanley (his English name) showed me around the church grounds introducing me to others. He took my hand as is African culture and held onto it the entire time. Walking around hand in hand with another man while we talked felt uncomfortable. You don't know what it feels like until it happens. I said to myself: Mike get over it, you are such an ugly American. Qualified servants are always needed to serve God's Kingdom. The word here is diakonia, which means service. Here it's translated ministry. It is here in verse 1 the daily ministry, verse 2 the ministry to tables and verse 4 the ministry of the word. Only four times in the newer testament is it translated deacon/deaconess. Here are some other passages: 1 Corinthians 12:5 there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord; 1 Corinthians 16:15 they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; John 12:26 My father will honor the one who serves me. To be called a deacon is to be called a servant. We have a group here that is called the deaconry. This is the first place I've heard that term. It is a team made up of mostly women now but men are invited who serve the special needs of people. Jesus met physical needs sometimes before he met the spiritual needs of the people he ministered to and so should we. What about spiritual needs? There was a priority of prayer and preaching. I often said Prayer is our First Work. As spiritual leaders, we need to pray. We serve in faith, in the power of the Spirit, in wisdom and in prayer. This is the only way to serve God's Kingdom. The seven were chosen, hands were laid on them to consecrate them to this special service. Notice too they all had Greek names. Stephen was full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit. Waiting tables is a high calling of God. Verses 8-15 states Stephen was full of God’s grace and power AND performed great wonders and signs. The opposition began to argue with Stephen verse 9, but they could not stand up against the Spirit’s wisdom verse 10. So, they stirred up the people to arrest him, produced false witnesses, and finally threw stones at him until he was dead; the first martyr. For what? Waiting tables? Stephen’s final message was powerful. Please take the time to read Acts 7 this week. We are here on this planet to know the King and serve His Kingdom. Be a deacon. Be a deaconess. I am not talking about an elected position; just being a servant of all.