Have you ever had an encounter with Jesus that transformed your life? If you have, you know that one touch from Him truly does change everything. I’ve been so blessed to have experienced many “touches” and “encounters” with Jesus over the past six years. My life won’t ever be the same.
A couple nights ago I was reading in I Corinthians 13, as I frequently do because I need constant reminders of what God says “love” really is. I had a friend on my mind and was rather frustrated and discouraged with what seems to be a lack of movement in this individual’s life. I realize that there is likely a lot going on in the spiritual realm, but as far as my natural eyes can see, nothing positive appears to be happening – and it has been this way for years and years. This person has been hindered for far too long because of the multiple blows and setback s life has dealt them. They have more-or-less determined the impact of these blows to be no big deal, and have thus survived their way through life. I very much believe God has an amazing destiny and purpose for every person on this planet. So when I see people living below their potential, it generates a lot of emotions – because the devil has succeeded in his plan to hinder from the abundant, fruitful, and impacting life God offers.
While reading and praying, I was contemplating what the balance is between unconditionally loving someone yet choosing not to accept that they settle for less than God’s best for their lives. I firmly believe true love helps draw out the best in others – talents, gifts, callings, etc that the individual may not be able to see on their own…and that they may actually resist because they don’t yet see themselves as God and even others see them. In the midst of my thoughts, I asked God if He could give me an example from Jesus’ life…of a time Jesus loved unconditionally, yet offered the choice for change and a more abundant life. God was so gracious to immediately respond with a story that I was already familiar with, yet He applied it in a most amazing and different way. This has forever altered the manner in which I will pray for individuals who are “stuck” – for lack of a better word – in a way of life that is less than what God has for them. I cannot think of another time in my life where a story from the Bible has impacted me on such a deep level.
The Holy Spirit directed me to the story of the man by the pool of Bethesda, in John 5. Often when we hear that passage discussed, the focus is on the physical healing that took place, as well as the question Jesus asked the sick man: “Do you want to get well?” On this particular night, however, I was led to this story for a few other reasons. I hope the truths I’m about to share will encourage any of you who have grown weary in watching and waiting on God to intervene in the life of someone you love who seems to be trapped and blind to the reality of their own dilemma…as well as its effect on everyone else in their life.
First, the simple reminder of how long the sick man had been laying by the pool – 38 years! That’s 13,870 days – extremely hard to comprehend!!! In all the times I’ve heard or read this story, the depth of this man’s sickness didn’t hit home until the other night. The words “man” and “laying” and “38 years” don’t seem to go together. Men are problem solvers and fixers by nature. They are go-getters. So for this man to be contentedly lying around for that many years tells me he not only had physical limitations, but he also had MAJOR emotional and spiritual issues as well. His physical sickness may have been the least of his problems!! Most men would have found a way to get into that pool – whether it was by screaming at the top of their lungs until someone finally threw them in, or some other means…they would’ve taken care of business and been on their way. A normal man would not likely have spent 38 hours by the side of that pool – let alone 38 years! That was a long time to lay around doing nothing pro-active in life…waiting on someone else to make the next move for him. The friend I am so concerned about has also been “lying by the pool” so to speak, doing nothing to move forward…just simply surviving, and watching as life passes by.
Next is the description of those by the pool – “Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed“ – – there is much spiritual and emotional application here. The “sickness” that has had my friend for years has literally “blinded” (spiritually…causing them to not even see the depth of their own illness), “crippled” (emotionally…from being able to walk out the full of their God-given gender roles and responsibilities), and it has “paralyzed” (spiritually and emotionally…preventing this friend from moving at all. They are motionless, opinion-less, and directionless unless someone gets behind them and pushes them one way or another). This is incredibly difficult and sad to watch.
John 5:6 says Jesus found the man “stretched out by the pool.” To me this sounds like the man was comfortable right where he was at. Comfortably sick; functionally dysfunctional. Nothing was being required of him. People expected him to do what he had done for 38 years – lay there, watching other people get healed. My friend has stayed comfortably sick for years, while watching family members, as well as numerous others who have passed through their life, pursue and take hold of their healing. For the sick man in John 5, as well as for my friend, the possibility of living healed was not yet as inviting as simply staying stretched out in a position of “comfort.” Though very disabled, this man had grown accustomed to his lack because being sick was easy…he was quite good at it. Going after that healing was too much work, too much effort. It was so much easier to just watch others at the pool, then blame people for not being willing to toss him in the healing waters. It is doubtful that he ever even asked.
38 years. How many people gave up on him? Did family ever come visit him by the pool? Did his friends consider him to be a lost cause? Did he even have a clue that his constant presence by the pool meant that other people were robbed of all God had equipped him to share with his sphere of influence? It is very likely that no one believed he would ever be healed. Most probably thought he would die just as he had lived – stretched out by the pool…so close to life-changing healing, yet too far to experience its power.
UNTIL…HE ENCOUNTERED JESUS!!!! I wonder how many other people – sick and whole alike – had talked to this man in those 38yrs. No doubt many who had experienced those healing waters approached him and told him – “Just go for it! Life will be so different for you when you do. At least start moving toward those healing waters. If you’re worried that you can’t get in the pool in time, let us move you to the very edge, so all you have to do is roll off the side and into the pool when the waters start moving.” I am certain that this man, like my friend, had countless opportunities to pursue his healing long before he encountered Jesus. I also have no doubt that MANY were frustrated with him because they saw how different his life could be – if he would just go for it!!! But they couldn’t do it for him, just as you, I, or anyone else cannot make that move for those we love. This story is such amazing proof that a personal encounter with Jesus – even a very brief one – can alter a person’s life forever!!!
This is what really blew my mind about the love of God and Jesus. I am sure it grieved the heart of God that this man wasted 38 years of his life lying beside a pool that seemed to offer the solutions to his issues. Yet God loved this man, and still had hope for him because He saw the man’s past, his present, and most importantly, the man’s future – and that future did not include another day of being immobile and ineffective. God’s answer for this man’s sickness wasn’t the same as it had been for others. The healing waters had made many well, but for this man – who was doing absolutely nothing pro-active to change his current lot in life – God sent the greatest solution of all: Jesus!!!!
Something major happened when Jesus entered the Bethesda pool area. The atmosphere changed because THE Healer had walked in. Those “healing waters” suddenly became just a shadow in His presence. While there were many at the pool in need of healing, we are not told that Jesus approached any of the others. Jesus’ focus was solely on the man who was no doubt the sickest, and who had been there the longest…the one most people likely wrote off as lazy and content to remain that way ‘til he died. Jesus saw the sick man through different lenses – the lenses of unconditional love (by the way, He views you and I through these lenses too!). Jesus pursued that man, asked him if he wanted to be well, and then invited him to walk into his destiny – literally. The man accepted the invitation, and his life was never the same. His life changed IMMEDIATELY – no residual effects of the seemingly lifelong sickness. It was gone, forever!!! The man who had been physically, spiritually, and emotionally paralyzed from any type of movement stood up and walked into his destiny!!! But he only did it after he encountered JESUS!!!! No other human being could convince the man to pursue and take hold of his healing – and his destiny!! My friend – and those you are concerned for – needs an encounter with Jesus, not another human being advising them what they need to do.
What great hope this has given me!! My faith has increased dramatically because it is no longer in the ability (or the lack thereof) of my friend to see their need for help. Rather, my focus is on Jesus, the One Who is powerful enough to reveal and heal in a moment.
Notice something else: the man at the pool’s initial answer to Jesus’ question was an excuse – “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” I have heard my friend offer similar excuses such as, “There’s nothing really wrong with me” and “I’ve been this way so long I can’t change.” But Jesus lovingly ignored the man’s excuse, and simply offered the solution!! The man responded, and his life was forever changed – in an instant.
Do you feel your faith level rising, as your focus shifts to the One Who is able?!! I hope you are encouraged. I am choosing to stand on this story for the sake of my friend, until I see them experience a similar life-changing encounter with Jesus. This man who had survived so many years in a debilitated state was healed in a moment – when it was the right time, his time!!! For those of you who are weary in your concern for a loved one, do not entertain thoughts like “well this man was at least pursuing his healing…at least he was by the pool and my loved one is not” – because that isn’t true. This man was not pursuing anything except the same ‘ole same ‘ole in his life. We are not told how, but somehow he got to the pool. Then he stopped, content to remain sick, to not ask for help, and just to lay there and let life happen. But Jesus pursued him, and when He did, this man responded.
I am praying my friend soon has an encounter with Jesus where they will be forced to answer that question: “Do you want to be well?” Even though my friend is unaware of the depth of their sickness – just like the man camped out by the pool, when Jesus asks that question, revelation will come, and I have no doubt that my friend will respond to Jesus’ invitation. I cannot wait to celebrate this much anticipated and prayed-for moment!!
You may think that your loved one has had plenty of “invitations” to change, heal, grow, etc. But the reality is that they’ve been invitations from humans. Your loved one likely needs an invitation from Jesus Himself. And when that invitation comes, it will be the right time, and they will respond. Because Jesus is Love and trustworthy, and offers hope and solutions in a way that you and I never could.
For some of you, the wait for a spouse or child or other loved one to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus has been so long, that you would admit your faith is weak, with unbelief attempting to dominate. This is for you…
As I was praying for my friend’s encounter with Jesus, my mind went back to that scenario by the pool. I felt like I was seeing how many people – healed and unhealed alike – tried to ‘warn’ Jesus, “Sir, You are wasting Your time. We have tried talking to that guy ‘til we’ve been blue in the face. We’ve even offered to move him to the edge of the pool. We know he needs to be healed, and we know how that can happen. But he just isn’t listening to us. Hope you have better luck than we’ve had, because we’ve given up on him.” Many around that man had lost faith, because their faith was in themselves, as well as in the sick man’s ability, desire, and motivation to want to be healed – which he had none of. It’s quite likely that the sick man was fearful of what a healed life would look like, because he had known nothing but sickness for so very long. The thought of doing something other than lying by the pool watching others be healed probably scared him to death. UNTIL, he encountered Jesus…Whose faith was in His Father, and doing His Father’s business. Those doubters by the pool…I like to think that at least some of them actually recognized Jesus as the Man who had been healing people…and when they realized Who He was, they likely got a small glimmer of hope that perhaps Jesus could do something for this motionless man. He did.
So I encourage you again, keep your eyes on Jesus and off of your loved one’s actions or the lack thereof. Ask Jesus to pursue them, and invite them to be healed. Choose to believe that they will stand up and respond to the answer Jesus gives them. Like me, you may have needed a story/Scripture to stand on as you wait for God to move. Now you have one. I pray you are as encouraged as I have been!
The long wait can be very wearisome. The greatest cause for us being discouraged or tempted towards unbelief in difficult circumstances is that our focus is on “man.” The verse that keeps repeating in my mind is: “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). My friend’s situation is literally impossible from my limited perspective. Yet I am more hopeful than ever that my friend’s healing and opportunity to move into their destiny is going to be supernatural, orchestrated by Jesus Himself – because Jesus sees what I can’t see, and knows what I don’t yet know.
Do not leave one tiny open door for doubt, or negative thoughts. Let this be your heart’s theme until you see your miracle happen: “With man, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible… All things are possible to him who believes.” (Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23)
One touch from the Healer changes everything.
Takes a couple minutes to listen to this song about Jesus, the “Gentle Healer”