Friday, 2 March 2018

Stretch Out and Be Healed

Speaker: Mike Connell

Sometimes an area of our life has become "withered", or without life, just like the man in Mark 3, who had a withered hand. We tend to conceal, or hide in shame, when we feel like this. To restore the man in the story, Jesus required 2 "action steps": 1) Bring the problem right out into the open 2) A stretch of faith - doing what Jesus asks us to do. The healing is "in the stretch"!

Transcription 9 of 12

If you have your Bible with you, let’s open our Bible in the book of Mark. Wow, we’ve had so many stories of people’s lives changed. It’s amazing. We’re going to read from Mark chapter 3 – The man with the withered hand.

Verse 1 - “Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.” In another part of the Bible, it says it was his right hand.

Verses 2-6: “So they watched Jesus closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He asked the religious leaders, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Jesus, how they might destroy Him.”

This is a story of a powerful encounter a man had with Jesus Christ. It’s also the only time that you hear in the Bible, Jesus got angry. So it’s good to look into the story, see what we can learn – what makes God angry. It’s not what you think. It’s usually something else.

So in the story, there’s a man who has a problem in his life. This man is a believer, he’s in a church. The Bible says – Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. In other words, God wanted to restore to us, spiritual life and vitality. God designed us for relationship, designed us to be connected to Him so his like would flow through us.

God who is the spirit, desired His spirit would be united to our spirit, and His life would flow through us, His nature flow through us – love and joy and peace, that His life and creativity would flow through us. So Jesus said – I come so that you might have life, and have it much more abundantly. When man sinned, the life of God ceased within him. There was a breach in his relationship with God. Spiritually, he disconnected and so instead of being able to live with the flow of life from his spirit, man had to live out of his soul and body. Sin and sickness entered the earth.

Jesus was speaking in one of the feasts, and He said – out of your innermost being will flow rivers of living water. And He was speaking about the Holy Spirit who’d be given to people. So, God’s desire is to put His Spirit in you, to fill you with His life, and that that life will flow out creatively, with love, with the nature of God, that you would extend the kingdom of God in every arena of society.

The church is the group of people God has raised up to empower believers to get us filled with the Holy Spirit and mobilised to serve God. So Jesus came into the synagogue, there’s all these people there worshipping. There’s one man Jesus notices and this man has a withered hand. Something has gone wrong. Possibly he had a brain aneurysm because often that leads to a part of the body drying up. So the problem may have started in his mind – his brain. But it manifested in his hand and it was withered. That words means literally to lose life, to dry up. It means to shrivel up.

Have you ever had a piece of fruit and it slipped under the cupboard or under the bed; and then a long time later you find it. “Oh no. Look at that. All the juice, all the life is gone. It’s all dried up and withered. It’s just horrible. It looks so different when all the life is taken out of it. We use the term ‘withered’. No life. It’s all dried up.

So this man, his hand had withered. Often is the case when a man’s hand withers up, it begins to withdraw and turn inward. So when you find someone like this, often the hand is dried and turned in, and it turns right in – the man tried to hide it. No one wants to walk around like this. That’s awful. If someone’s got a problem like that, there are a number of problems that come with it.

First, is incredible shame. You know, no one wants to hold. You got to hide it. So there’s a shame and a tendency to conceal what is withered. Whatever we’re ashamed of, we have no power with. Whatever we have no power with, we feel ashamed of. When Adam and Eve sinned and they were ashamed, they covered over.

So any area of our life which has become withered, when something has gone wrong, we withdraw and hide it. This is true of people everywhere. When things have gone wrong in our life, when something is not working right, we tend to cover it and hide it. We tend to conceal it. The last thing you want is someone to point it out to you.

So this man had a withered hand and notice first of all, he’s got a physical condition. In the Bible, when the Bible speaks about the right hand, always in the Bible these things are symbolic of something. So, the right hand in the Bible was the hand of blessing. The right hand was the hand of power. The right hand is the hand you work with .

So when it says his right hand was withered, it means no blessing flowing around his life, no power in his life. So the right hand being withered is a picture for a person whose life is withered. If there’s no life, there’s no blessing. It’s actually cursed. Demonic spirits are operating and that person can’t work. He can’t produce in life what he could do. His potential is greatly limited. So when the man had the withered hand, there’s no blessing, no life, and he’s unable to fulfil his potential. There is a limit on what he can accomplish with his life.

When you think of the hand, you think of work. Imagine trying to work with only one hand. How do you manage your computer? It’s very hard if you’ve got a withered hand. It doesn’t operate. So his life was greatly restricted and limited because of the problem he had.

Not only that, the right hand in the Bible is often a picture of ministry – the ministry to people. So this picture of the withered hand is also a picture of people’s ministry withered away. So we see three different aspects:

Firstly a man with a physical problem – he’s in a condition that needs healing and restoration. In the story, we see the heart of God to heal him.

Secondly, it’s a picture of a life that’s not blessed – a life that is withered, a life that is cursed. It’s a picture of a life that’s covered in shame, whose potential is limited.

It’s also a picture of a believer whose ministry has become withered. Once they may have worked very well. Once they served God passionately. Once they were seeing fruit. Once they were accomplishing great things for God. But something happened and now the arm has become withered. No longer are you ministering like you once did. You’ve withdrawn – no life and vibrancy, and have drawn back inside, and is somewhat ashamed of your condition.

Jesus saw this man. His heart went out to him. There are a number of things that can cause our life to become withered. There are many things that cause us to shrivel up and draw back.

Disappointment can cause you to become withered. The Bible says – Sorrow dries the bones. If our heart is broken, there is a withering in our life – no joy, no vibrancy, you tend to draw back. So there are many people from broken homes whose soul is withered. They don’t carry the life and joy. There are problems in their life. So, grief can wither our soul.

Unforgiveness and bitterness can wither your soul. You can become withered and drawn back because you’re angry at what someone has done, angry at some bad treatment – mistreatment by a father, mistreatment by a mother, mistreatment by some other person. When people are angry and hurt and hold unforgiveness and bitterness, it causes the heart to wither. When people begin to hate someone, begin to harbour resentment and hatred, it withers the soul. We’re not made to carry these things in our heart. Our life becomes withered.

You don’t see it in the beginning because it’s concealed but over a period of time, the effect of bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred. It affects the person, causes them to draw back.

Another thing withers the soul is fear. Fear causes people to draw back. When we become afraid, when fear grips our life, we draw back from facing things. We close up on the inside. Like the man with the withered hand, we draw back within ourselves. Remember we saw the story of Elijah when he came under pressure and became afraid, shrivelled up and drew back and hid in the cave. Many people do that. When intimidating circumstances come, if we don’t respond with boldness and faith, we become intimidated and draw back and our ministry becomes withered.

In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul wrote to Timothy. Timothy’s ministry had become withered. He had a powerful gift in his life. He had a powerful gift of the Spirit that could change lives, that could bring the life of God. But it was dormant, it was withered, it was not operating because of fear. He was intimidated by older people, and fear gripped his heart. Instead of rising boldly, he drew back, began to play it safe. He looked the same, but inside, his ministry was withering. It was drawing back because of fear.

Fear and intimidation will cause you to draw back from bold action – boldly following the Lord, bolding serving the Lord. Disappointment can cause you to wither. Disappointment can cause you to draw back. Listen, this is one of the things I know – that once you start drawing back, you feel ashamed of your condition. You know you’re not doing your best. You know that you’re defeated.

Maybe there’s sexual sin. Something’s going on in your life. You can’t seem to break free of it. The condemnation of it causes you to lose your authority. You begin to draw back in your ministry. There are so many different ways that our ministry can become withered, or our life can become withered.

I met many withered people desperately needing the touch of God – people from broken homes, people who’ve been abused, people who’ve suffered in relationships, whose soul has shattered, and they’ve literally draw back from life, grieving and hurt and lonely; sometimes suicidal, sometimes depressed.

In this situation in this particular meeting, Jesus saw the man and He did something interesting. He identified the man but the last thing the man would have wanted is to be pointed out. Jesus said – “Stand up.” And the man stood up. Now, everyone is looking at him. Tries to conceal his hand. Everyone can see him. The Bible says – Jesus looked around and He became very angry, became stirred inside. Isn’t it interesting, Jesus became angry?

This is the thing that angered Him. It says – He was grieving inside. When we feel grief, it’s because something has been robbed or taken away. We feel something has been lost, and you can feel grief over the loss of a person, grief over the loss of an animal, grief over the loss of a job. But Jesus grieved over something else.

He grieved that the church of the living God had lost its love for people and lost its desire to see people whole. Surrounded by people in need, they then becomes legalistic, judgemental, burdened with laws. Instead of the life of God flowing like a river, people were oppressed – laws to keep, condemned at left, right and centre. Jesus was grieved because the religious system of the day was more concerned about judging and accusing than about loving and healing.

The religious system did not represent God. It claimed to represent God. They said – we see, but they were blind. They were fixed in their opinions. They were of no help to people. God forbid that our life becomes useless for Him, that we become no longer any help because we’ve become rigid, judgemental, finding fault in others rather than seeing a person made in the image of God. The leaders were more interested in finding fault than in healing the broken-hearted, in healing those who were sick. They had lost their way, yet they said – we know the way.

When Jesus looked around, He saw the church, He saw the bondage that was there. He grieved. He was very angry at the religious leaders and He challenged them. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? They wouldn’t answer. The Sabbath was made for man – a place of rest and healing. So He spoke to the man with the withered hand. You notice, there are two things He told him to do.

The first thing He told him to do – stand up, come out of your place of hiding. Come out of your place of concealment. Come out of the place of shame where you cover what’s going on. Bring this problem right out into the open, where everyone can see it. Of course, he was ashamed. Of course he wanted to hide it. Of course he was embarrassed.

But God was embarrassed about the condition of the religious leaders. He said to the man – “Stand up. Don’t hide in the crowd.” I’m sure he wasn’t at the front row – He’s probably somewhere in the back, in the corner. Jesus said – “I see you there with that withered hand. Stand up.” The man stands up.

First step, becoming right again with God – you recognise your condition. Stop hiding. Stop concealing it and stand up, make a decision – you’ll respond to Jesus. Make a decision – you’ll say yes when Jesus speaks to you. He stood up, and he brought into the open this terrible dreadful condition. He did what he could do – he stood up and overcame his fear of people.

Then Jesus asked him to do something else. He gave a command, He said: “Stretch out your hand.” Physically impossible to do. The man made the stretch of faith. He began to respond to what Jesus said. When you obey what Jesus says, you are demonstrating faith. True faith is always seen in obedience.

He began to stretch and the most unusual sensation happens. His hand which should be withered, his hand which should have been dried up, as he began to stretch, he felt life flowing into his hand. The dead hand began to come alive. The flesh started to be restored and he stretched his hand out. It’s alive again! That which was dead has come alive. What was dead and shameful is alive! He’s excited. He’s not hiding anymore. He’s telling everyone.

The power of God had set him free. If your life has become withered, God wants to heal you and put His life back into you. If your life or ministry has become withered, God wants to restore you. But it does require something. You notice in the story 2 things – stand up – don’t hide this condition any longer. Bring it to the light. Bring it to Jesus Christ. Secondly, do what you haven’t been able to do – stretch out. As you stretch out believing, God could work with you. It’s always in the stretch that God moves.

So often in the Bible, Jesus commanded people to do something – told the blind man – “Wash in the pool”, and he could see. He told the lepers – “Go walk back and show yourselves to the priest”, and as they walked, they were healed. Many times, Jesus asks people to do something. Said to the blind man – “Look up, what do you see”, and he could see. God always asks us to do something and I’m going to ask you to do something.

I want you to close your eyes right now.

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