Women of Faith
“Have you ever wondered when Americans started celebrating Mother's Day? The holiday was born out of one woman's desire to honor her mother's life of sacrifice and grace.
Born in 1864 in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis witnessed the aftermath of the Civil War through a child's eyes. Her mother, Anna Maria Reeves-Jarvis, had spent the war organizing women to nurse wounded soldiers from both the North and South, and generally attempting to hold her border-state community together. After the war, Anna Maria started ‘Mothers' Friendship Days’ to reconcile families that had been divided by the conflict.
Throughout her life, Anna Maria modeled the ideals of Victorian motherhood. She gave up her dreams of college in order to tend to an older husband and four children. She bore the loss of seven other children with grace. She taught Sunday school in the local Methodist church for 20 years and stayed active in benevolent work.
Anna Maria's death in 1905 devastated her daughter. Two years later, Anna got the idea to found a holiday remembering her mother, and all mothers, whom she felt could never be thanked enough.
Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908 in Grafton (where Anna grew up) and Philadelphia (where she lived as an adult). Later, in a resolution passed May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.”
Source: Elesha Coffman, "Mom, We Salute You," Christian History Newsletter (5-10-2002).
Most everyone knows that we recently laid my Grandma Johns’ to rest – the funeral service was a celebration of a life lived for the Lord
My Grandma Hykes passed away many years ago, but the funeral service was also a celebration of a life lived for the Lord
Judy’s Grandma’s were also women of faith
The faith of all four Grandma’s was passed down to the next generation
Judy and I have been blessed to have mothers who are women of faith
They have served faithfully in their homes, places of work, the church, and their communities
They were Sunday school teachers, Children’s church teachers, Puppet ministry leaders, Good News Club teachers, pianists, choir directors, Divorce recovery leaders, and so much more
They have cared about and for other women and families during their lifetime
The Lord has blessed me with an incredible wife, who has been the greatest mother to our sons and daughter-in-laws
She has also been an awesome grandma to our granddaughter
As a ministry partner, she has served faithfully in the church and community
She leads our church in helping with the Upper Adams Food Pantry and the Hallelujah Party
She is constantly thinking of ways to bless different individuals in the church, our community, and her workplace
Women of faith
Most of us probably have fond memories of our grandmas and mothers
Perhaps there are those of us here today who can say that they are a follower of Jesus Christ, because of the faith they saw in their grandmas and mothers
Those of us who are married may see the faith of our wives through how they serve and minister to others
Not everyone of us has experienced growing up in a family with women of faith
Our grandmas and mothers may not have been loving, caring, and nurturing
They may not have been followers of Jesus Christ
But, my guess is that we are here, in church today, because of a woman of faith who invested in us (it may have been a man of faith, too)
The writer of the book of Acts (Luke) shares about a woman of faith who ministered to the needs of other women in her hometown. These other women were sharing with Peter about her faithfulness, kindness, and care. When the supernatural happened to this woman, it pointed people to Jesus. We can learn from her life that . . .
BIG IDEA – Godly women point others to Jesus.
GOD (Acts 9:36-42)
Faith through serving (vv. 36-37)
Joppa means “beautiful”
It was on the Mediterranean Sea [show map]
Its port was famous, but dangerous [show images of port]
It had a healthy and robust trading industry as a result of the port
In the Biblical account that is unfolding in Acts, Joppa is moving Peter closer to Caesarea where he will encounter Cornelius, a Gentile, Roman centurion
But first, Peter has a job to do in Joppa
There was a woman in Joppa who was a follower of Jesus Christ
Her name in Hebrew is Tabitha and Dorcas is her Greek name
Her two names are used throughout the narrative
Both Tabitha and Dorcas mean “gazelle”
She was doing good
Acts of kindness
Doing good deeds
She was helping the poor
Acts of mercy or charity
“‘Acts of charity’ refers to providing alms – acts of mercy through charitable giving. Almsgiving was highly regarded in Judaism. The detail suggests that she is wealthy and generous.” [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, 377]
Tabitha was exercising her spiritual gift of helps and service
Perhaps she was already doing these things prior to becoming a disciple of Jesus, but now her helps and service took on spiritual meaning and purpose
She was no longer helping and serving for the sake of doing those things – it reflected the transformation that had taken place in her life
The use of her spiritual gifts were pointing others to Jesus
How many of us have seen that in our wives, mothers, and grandmothers?
PRINCIPLE #1 – Faith transforms our service
“Many Christian women have distinguished themselves in God’s kingdom by their service to the needy.” [Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary, Acts, 314]
I have to say I struggled to come up with names of Christian women who have distinguished themselves by serving the needy, but isn’t that the point?
They are quietly serving in their local communities around the world, without a desire to be recognized
They aren’t trying to create soundbites or photo opts in order to promote themselves
It was easy to find a list of famous women who have helped fight global poverty (Michelle Obama, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, Angelina Jolie, etc.)
How many of us can think of at least one Christian woman who is serving the needy? (I can think of several, just in our church and community)
Women, thank you for allowing your faith to transform your service
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Thank the Lord for the women who have used their spiritual gifts to do good and help the poor.
Tabitha becomes sick and dies
“About that time” can be translated, “In those days”
While Tabitha was doing good and helping the poor, she got sick and died
I believe it’s also referring to the time when Peter was in Lydda, which was only a three hour walk from Joppa
God was orchestrating everything for His glory
Preparation of her body
It was customary to wash the body in preparation for burial
Often the body was also anointed with oils and perfumes – Luke does not mention that here
What was not customary was for a corpse to lay overnight, but that may have happened in this case
Usually the body was buried before sunset on the same day as death occurred
There seems to be an exception here
“In the OT, bodies in an upper room were often noted in resuscitation accounts (1 Kings 17:19; 2 Kings 4:10, 21; Marshall 1980: 179) . . . When a body was kept, it was kept for three days because there was the belief that after three days the soul had departed.” [Bock, 378]
Keeping the body for three days was done in hopes that the soul would return to the body
It seems here that there is hope that Peter will be able to do something about Tabitha’s death
The disciples in Joppa were expressing faith through believing
Faith through believing (vv. 38-39)
The disciples send two men to urge Peter to come to Joppa
What incredible faith the disciples showed
They were believing that Peter could do something about the pain and heartache they were experiencing
That faith was expressed through placing Tabitha’s body in an upper room in anticipation of Peter’s arrival
We can express the same kind of faith in God and His healing power
We rarely experience here in the United States, but there are stories of believers, in other countries, who have been resuscitated by the power of God – they were brought back to life
Tabitha’s kindness and generosity on display
When Peter arrived in Joppa, he was immediately taken to the upper room where Tabitha had been laid
The widow’s that Tabitha had served and helped were there
They were showing Peter the clothes and robes they were wearing and explaining that Dorcas (Tabitha) had made them
It’s probable that Dorcas used her own money to buy the material or thread to weave and sew the robes and garments
What an incredible testimony of a transformed life
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we use our giftedness for His glory.
As followers of Jesus Christ, I know we’re not serving others for the recognition from other human beings
We are serving and giving so that God will be glorified
This brings Him great joy
This morning, I want to thank women, again, for faithfully using your giftedness for God’s glory
When we faithfully use our giftedness for God’s glory it points others to Jesus.
Tabitha’s life and service were pointing these widows’ to Jesus
Godly women point others to Jesus
The disciples knew where to turn for help, and so did Peter
Faith through praying (vv. 40-41)
Following the example of Jesus
Peter had been with Jesus for three and half years and during that time he witnessed Jesus raise three people from the dead
Peter’s actions are reminiscent of Jesus’ actions with Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43)
Jesus sent everyone out of the room except for the girl’s parents and Peter, James, and John
He then speaks to the girl and tells her to get up
He sends everyone out of the room
He speaks to Tabitha and tells her to get up
But there’s one other thing that Peter does between those two actions – he kneels down and prays
Jesus is God, so in this instance He didn’t need to pray, but simply commanded the girl to get up
Peter recognized that His ability to heal and bring people back to life wasn’t from him, but from God
PRINCIPLE #3 – Prayer is the first step to resolving every problem.
Peter knew where he needed to turn for help
God is all-powerful and is the One who heals and gives life
God is all-knowing, so He is aware of our struggles, our problems, our difficulties
Mother’s, He knows that our child is pursuing the things of the world instead of the things of God
Mother’s, He knows our fears, doubts, and anxiety about becoming a mother for the first time
Women, He knows the frustration and heartache we have over not being able to have children
Women, He knows our desire to have a godly husband who will lead us spiritually
Women, He knows the relational difficulties we are having at work or in our family
Women, He knows about the physical difficulties and health issues that we are currently experiencing
Women, He knows exactly how we’re feeling today
His desire is that we go to Him in prayer, first!
This challenge isn’t just for women today, it’s for men, children, and teens also
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Turn to God in prayer about the struggles, problems, and difficulties I’m experiencing.
Peter then turns to Tabitha and speaks to her
What Peter says to Tabitha is only one consonant different than what Jesus said to Jarius’ daughter
In Aramaic we see how close these two commands are
“Talitha koum” (little girl, get up)
“Tabitha koum” (Tabitha, get up)
God resuscitates Tabitha
With all of the individuals in Scripture who are brought back to life, it’s “not a matter of resurrection but of resuscitation, of temporary restoration of life.” [Polhill, The New American Commentary, Acts, Vol. 26, 248]
Jesus is the only person who was resurrected, because He is still alive today!
Tabitha opened her eyes and sat up
Peter presents her to the believers and widows, alive!
Word of this incredible miracle spread fast
Faith through sharing (v. 42)
Presumably the believers and widows went throughout Joppa and shared the incredible news about Tabitha
They not only shared that Tabitha was alive again, but how God had used Peter to resuscitate her
Their faith through believing had been rewarded by the Lord
Their witnessing brought repentance in many who heard
PRINCINPLE #4 – Witnessing encourages repentance.
As mother’s, our desire is that our children know and follow the Lord
We model and teach our children how to pray before meals
We read them Bible stories before bed
We earnestly pray for them daily
We take them to church, VBS, and other places where they can hear God’s Word
As women, we show others a transformed life by the way we act and talk
We may share with others something miraculous that God has done in our lives or how He has answered our prayers for others
There are times when we actively share the Gospel with others
Godly women point others to Jesus.
In these ways, we are witnessing about Jesus to others
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Witness to others about Jesus where I live, work, and play.
Has your faith transformed your service?
Are you using your giftedness for God’s glory?
Is prayer your first step when difficulties come?
Are you witnessing to others about Jesus?
There are several great opportunities to share with others about Jesus
Invite someone to church
Invite family members, coworkers, and neighbors to the revival services coming up (May 17-23, 2021 and June 9-11, 2021)
We all can share with others an answered prayer or a miraculous healing we have experienced
“A few years ago, I somehow ended up buying two Mother's Day cards. I sent one to my mother, and because I keep a three-year calendar, I filed the other one away in the May section of the next year. Sadly, my mother died shortly after I sent that first card. Now I have a greeting card that can never be delivered—unless U.S. postal service can find a way to get it to eternity!
The more I've reflected on this undeliverable card, the more I've realized how it mirrors so much of life. We run into situations where we realize we can never again do what we intended. No matter how much we may want to, we can't hold on to the past. A loved one dies, and we grieve that we will never again hear their comforting, loving voice. Disease creeps in and robs us of the ability to do what we once enjoyed. An accident occurs, and in the blink of an eye, we lose some function that we took for granted. The word for these situations is finality.
‘Finality’ is a hard word to say. In fact, we spend a great deal of energy trying to find ways around it. We play the ‘if only’ game — ‘If only I try harder, it might get better;’ ‘If only I act better, maybe there's still a chance;’ ‘If only I pray harder, he might make it.’ But even prayer won't change some situations. My mother is gone, and the most fervent prayer won't bring her back. What prayer will do, though, is help me to remember that life is short, and I need to live a life of love while I can. I'm reminded that I should be grateful for what I have now, because it could be gone before I open next year's calendar.
So love now. Enjoy today. Be grateful this instant. Squeeze every drop of joy from each day. Pray hard and love deeply. And if you can, send your mom a Mother's Day card.
Source: Don Aycock, Palatka, Florida.