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The Man With An Infirmity
John 5:1-6 MKJV After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is a pool at the Sheep Gate at Jerusalem, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, of blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. (4) For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and troubled the water. Then whoever first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had. (5) And a certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, Do you desire to be made whole?
There is an old joke that goes: “How many social workers does it take to change a light-bulb?”
The answer is: “One, but the light bulb has to want to change!”
On the whole people do not change unless they are first open to the idea of change. Even positive change, such as success, can threaten people who are used to “comfortable failure”. Some people become dependent and indigent, they identify so totally with their affliction that to remove the affliction (the drug dependency, the back pain, the emotional disability) is almost to remove their entire identity. They are frequently the people who describe their condition with the permanent identifier- “I am a…” rather than with the less permanent “I have a.”
When Jesus walks among this mass of afflicted humanity He goes to the “hardest case”, the one who had been there a “long time”, the “lifer”, with a thirty-eight year disability. Jesus asks him just one question “Do you desire to be made whole?” This question has application at every level of humanity:
Does the sinner want the wholeness of salvation?
Does the sick person want the responsibility of full health?
Does the lifelong failure want the lifestyle changes that come with success?
Does the emotionally damaged person want wholeness enough to forgive the person that hurt them?
Does the confused person really want the wholeness that mental clarity (perhaps with medication) will bring?
Does the heretic really want the Truth?
Does a corrupt government really want a properly functioning nation?
Does a small local church really want to be alive and growing and full of new converts?
God tends to give us the desire of our hearts and if the desire of our heart is to remain just as we are, in our affliction, unhealed and unchanged, He will even grant us that.
As a bible college lecturer I am continually amazed at how lengthy and arduous and full of stops and starts the process of disciple making is. It probably took Jesus the Son of God just 3 seconds to raise Lazarus - but it took Him 3 years to make a small group of effective disciples! That is because personal change is slow and takes place at the pace of the will of the learner. Which is why love is so important in teaching. People learn much more willingly when they are loved.
Learned helplessness takes a huge toll – and this man was full of it, and also full of excuses about being unable to get into the water. Opportunity always passed him by. Well now Opportunity was standing right there talking to him!
Satan spends much of his evil energy discouraging us and binding us up with an oppressive feeling of helplessness in vital areas of life and ministry. Helplessness and hopelessness are never from God, they are truly demonic fortresses of the soul. They must be resisted and cast down. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) The frequent teaching of Scripture is that God is a God of empowerment, not discouragement and that nothing is impossible to them that believe.
God is a God of empowerment and He wants you healed and whole and powerful and able. God’s destiny for you is as eternally alive son/daughter of God, glowing in spiritual power, ruling this world on his behalf. Therefore He wants you to be a loving, holy, wise, capable, and competent and powerful ruler in His kingdom and is always building you up with that destiny in mind.
Do you desire to be made whole? Are you prepared to let go of your excuses and your blaming of others and your desire to remain as you are, and take on the responsibility and the joy of a new life as a whole person?
If this is the case, then come before God and ask Jesus to make you whole for His glory and for His Name’s sake.