John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
I am very grateful John included this particular story in his Gospel, because this can be a very important question. Over the years I have encountered many people with various handicaps, and they have tended to fall into two different groups: those who deal with their handicap to overcome it, and those who utilize their handicap to milk it of what they can get out of it. To illustrate the latter, several years ago I met a young man in his 20s who had a cleft palate and couldn’t speak clearly. Since I teach vocal production and pronunciation to budding speech therapists at Nagasaki Rehabilitation College, I took him to talk with one of the full-time teachers about a prosthesis, which I knew would work wonders for his speech. When the Japanese teacher assured him that making a prosthesis would be a relatively simple matter and, with a little training, he could soon be speaking perfectly normally, the young man, after leaving the school, disappeared and I’ve never seen him since. The thing is, handicapped people in Japan, when certified, receive a “handicapped booklet” that gets them discounts on public transportation, and often a monthly stipend as well. He didn’t want to risk losing that, and I think even more, he enjoyed people feeling sorry for him and letting him get away with stuff because of his handicap. He obviously gave a clear “No” to Jesus’ question! This is why we need discernment and wisdom in ministry. It is also worth noting that verse three records that there were a great number of disabled people there, but Jesus healed just this one man. It isn’t at all that God doesn’t care, it’s that we don’t know all the factors about any individual. We are to make the grace, love, and power of God available without condition, but we are to leave all the details in His hands.
This is very relevant to me, not only because I am in ministry but because this principle applies to more than just obvious handicaps. When my wife was studying sign language many years ago her teacher said, “Everyone has handicaps; some are just more obvious than others.” I find enormous wisdom in that, and it has impacted my life rather deeply, even though I only heard it through my wife. I have found that even I sometimes fail to want to get past some obstacles. For one thing, obstacles can be convenient excuses not to do something I don’t really want to do! Also, I might recognize the effort involved and be simply too lazy to apply myself. Those don’t cut it with God, and they deprive me and those around me of blessings God intends. For example, I have always wanted to be more proficient in written Japanese, but I have never applied myself to the concentrated study required to get to the proficiency I desire. Even today I have to practice reading Scriptures I will be using in messages, because otherwise I stumble badly, interfering with the impact of the message. (For longer passages, I simply ask a Japanese to read them.) There are other examples as well. I can get disgusted at people like the young man I mentioned, but I’m not really that much better. I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to do whatever God wants of me, knowing that the power comes from Him, but my will and effort are required.
Father, thank You for this strong Word. Right now we’re facing a complete update of our church website, which is something I have put off for several years now. We have a man who will do the “heavy lifting,” but there are things I need to do to make it possible for him to do his part. That involves learning new things, and part of me is drawing back. For that matter, I have wanted to be able to take aerial photos for a long time, and now have an inexpensive drone to be able to do so, but I find I draw back from learning to fly it properly. I am only hurting myself! Father, help me recognize the lies of the devil and stand firmly against them. Help me recognize my part in each thing You have for me and apply myself fully, so that Your will may be done on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!