Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" - but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So, you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is not faith at all - it is dead and useless. (James 3:14-17 NLT)
At the moment, my favorite woman of the Bible is Tabitha, also known as Dorcas. I think it's interesting to note that both of her names in Hebrew means "gazelle." Gazelles are medium-sized antelopes found in Africa and in Asia. They are known as alert animals that are swift and can reach high speeds for a long period of time. I envision Tabitha like this. A woman of high energy.
She is only mentioned one time in a short story in the book of Acts. Tabitha was a believer in Joppa, a seaport town near Jerusalem, who was known for her good deeds. She was always helping the poor and doing kind things for others. The story tells how Tabitha became sick and died. Peter, the apostle, was in a nearby town so two men went to ask him to come quickly to where Tabitha was. As soon as he arrived, they took him to Tabitha who was in an upstairs room being prepared for burial. This room was filled with widows who were mourning over her. Peter asked everyone to leave the room and then he knelt and prayed for Tabitha. Calling in all the believers and widows, he presented her to them alive. Because of this raising of Tabitha, many people came to the Lord that day (see Acts 9:36-43).
One day, I read this story over and over. This woman astonished me. I was amazed at how the Lord raised her from the dead, but I was more captivated by the way she lived her life. Reading this short account of her life made me realize that there was something missing in my own life.
Obviously, Tabitha was a follower of Jesus because she is called a "Disciple." She was well loved by the people that knew her. She lived a life that was always doing good (vs. 36), helping the poor (vs.36), sewing clothes and helping the widows (vs. 39). We can tell by these few verses that she lived a giving life.
After studying Tabitha, I decided I needed to make some changes in my life. I asked God to forgive me for all the opportunities that He brought to me to do good and I let the busyness of life and sometimes laziness stop me from doing things for others. I asked Him to open my eyes to see the needs around me and to give me a desire to go the extra mile to help someone else.
It wasn't long before I started seeing things that I could do to be a blessing to others. During this time, I was at church and a friend's husband started telling me about how he and his wife was having a hard time because their newborn was having trouble sleeping. I told him I would be praying for them. I then left and went to service. While sitting there, the Lord spoke to me that this was an opportunity He was giving me to be a "Tabitha." After service I found my friend and told him I wanted to help them in some way. We talked about it for a few minutes and discovered there were practical things I could do to help them. I couldn't sit with their baby during the middle of the night, but I could help ease the load of other things for them. I was able to help them for about a month and I considered it a privilege to do it. This Tabitha opportunity was just the beginning of a new adventure for me.
Since then, God has opened many doors for me to be a blessing to others, to believers and non-believers too. The Bible says that ultimately, God gets the glory for the good deeds that we do.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16 NLT).
The story of Tabitha has changed the way I see people and their situations. I no longer hear people's stories and say that I'll be praying for them. I realize now that while I am praying for them, I can also be helping them. I now look for ways to be a Tabitha in their lives. Sometimes it may require time, money or my resources, but other times it may only be to give a hug. We may never know what an act of kindness can do for someone. It may even been an opportunity to share Jesus with them. God will bring the opportunities. We just need to be alert and open to His leading. I admire Tabitha for her display of servanthood. I want to follow the example of her charitable life, don't you?
Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. (1 John 3:18 NLT)
Lord, I thank You for bringing this short story to my attention. Thank You for the life lessons I've learned from Tabitha. Continue to open my eyes to see the needs around me. Give me more and more Tabitha opportunities. Help me to bring glory to You as I serve others. In Jesus' name. Amen
May 9, 2008