Whenever we’re near a river or a beach, Garry likes to throw pebbles into the water, skimming them with skill so that the water ripples out as the pebble hits it. My efforts to emulate him never end in ripples; my pebbles tend to hit the water with a thud or plop and sink to the bottom without trace; not for me the pleasure of seeing the pebble skim lightly on or the water rippling out!
The ripple effect is defined as ‘the continuing and spreading results of an event or action.’ The healing of the cripple described in Acts 3 was like a pebble being thrown into water; it created ripples all around. Some of these were positive (2000 people being added to the church); some less favourable (an overnight stay in prison for Peter and John and a subsequent interrogation by the religious rulers resulting in being instructed not to speak in the name of Jesus again!) In all of this, however, we see how God can use one relatively small thing to have an impact that is far greater than we could ever have anticipated.
The gifts of God’s Spirit, including healings, are often used by God to do far more than we would expect. Healings are amazing and marvellous, but the work of God’s Spirit in an individual’s life is often the catalyst to bringing other people to faith and aiding the spread of the gospel message. It has an effect far beyond the personal, incredible and liberating though this is for the individual concerned. This applies to all those supernatural gifts Garry was talking about last week and is another reason we need to pray for these gifts to be seen in our time and in our church, because it’s not simply about one person being blessed and helped. As we see God move in power – whether that’s through a word of knowledge or wisdom or through a manifestation of God’s miraculous power or healing, through other languages or prophecy – our own faith increases and we are enabled to talk about what God has done to others who can visibly see God in action.
The ‘ripple effect’ doesn’t just apply to the miraculous, however. God always takes our small offerings and turns them into something bigger. The little boy’s lunch fed more than 5000 people. The widow’s jug of oil lasted far beyond one batch of loaves. When we do something in God’s name, however small and insignificant the act may look to others, it has the capacity to create a ‘ripple effect’, touching other people and drawing them closer to God. These things are often described as ‘acts of random kindness’, and certainly we should be seeking to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (including kindness, gentleness and goodness) to others as well as seeking God for the gifts of the Spirit. Everything we do has the power to touch others: let’s ensure we’re blessing and building others up in all we do and say.