Sometimes getting past the situatoins we find ourselves in is as simple as asking God the work He wants to do in us...
Do me a favor. I know I don’t usually do this. I need you to tell someone on your right and your left; “Do you know how much you are loved by God?” Do you know, he gave everything? We’re so loved by the Lord that He gave His only son as living proof. I mentioned this ninth chapter of John and how it centers around the healing of this man who was born blind. The entire chapter focuses on him. The man that emerges is this amazing charming personality. It’s one of those parts of the scripture where you get to really get a feel for the person. Here’s the interesting thing, so much about this man who was born blind and healed, we’re given just the kind of person he was. He has this amazing kind of charm and wit. He surprises a lot of people. He’s a colorful figure actually, his honesty, his forthrightness, his courage, and then ultimately his loyalty. He’s just a great, great guy to look at in terms of his example and emerging faith, which just slowly grows through the chapter.
Here’s the thing, we don’t know his name. His name was never given to us. So all this time, he’s always referred to as the man born blind in John 9 that Jesus healed. I want us to use this as our launching point. I want to look at the initial setup of what happened. Then I would like to draw some things for you and me that I hope could actually hit us in terms of in a positive way where we are as well. In John 9, we’re going to look at verse 1. I’d like to read it through. It’s in your hand-out. Or use your Bibles or Bible app, whatever you have. It says, “Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.” The subtle paradox obviously should not be lost on us. It’s kind of ironic. Do you see it? He saw a man who was born blind. He saw a man who could not see a ray of light. We know that he wasn’t a person who had become blind. There wasn’t an accident that occurred or some type of a disease that was acquired. He would have no memory of things that he could have seen. No, this was a man we’re told that came out of the womb blind, which means he never saw anything in his life, but darkness. All he saw was darkness.
That was his entire experience. It’s pretty intense when you think about it. G. Campbell Morgan, the wonderful Bible commentator is very poetic. I love the way he sometimes captures something. He wrote this. it’s at the bottom of your handout as well. He said, “The arresting central fact is that here is a man sitting like a beggar seeking alms, moreover, a man born blind.” A man who had never looked into his mother’s face had never seen the face of nature and had never beheld the temple courts. He may have been strangely familiar with them by touch, that marvelous new sense that comes to people when they’re deprived of sight. Nevertheless, as we have said, he had never seen the lake. He had never seen the hills. He had never seen the flowers. He was a human being apparently and almost certainly in possession of all of his other powers lacking the supreme gift of sight.
You look at that, and think, “wow, this is something that maybe a lot of us can’t relate to.” I like to see if we can in our mind’s eye drop back and try to picture ourselves with Jesus. It’s good to do this when we read the gospels. The interesting thing is you can still go to Jerusalem right now and walk the streets where Jesus walked. At least in the City of David and the part of Jerusalem where you see the remnants of what was. You get the impression that coming out of the temple, you can see how it probably would have been. There was a man who had been begging. There was no social system for him to draw from. There was no governmental backup, no city and county structures. There weren’t even extra societies, outreaches, and support systems. There was nothing. If you are in a situation like the one he found himself in and didn’t have family, you had nothing. You had nowhere to go here. He is begging. He did have a family. Evidently, this is how he received his resources. He begged outside the temple and it seems that Jesus we’re told was walking by. The word that we’re given here for a man who was blind from birth was not just any word. In the original New Testament in Greek, there are different words. Sometimes a word like love will have three or four different definitions. They are words that capture an aspect of something. Seeing has that similar thing.
The word here is Synkentrono. It means in contrast to say, noticing something as you’re passing by with a casual glance of thinking nothing of it, or even, maybe not even being aware of it. Just kind of walking and not seeing, or if you do, you just take a glance and move on. This particular word implies a total focus, a fixed attentiveness, almost as if one was examining something. If we can imagine Jesus moving with His disciples from the temple grounds and coming by this man who is there. Who He may have passed many, many times, and there were many others like him. It says that He looked at this man almost ‘listening’ as He looked at him. As He looks at this man, who’s probably holding out his cup, the disciples noted it. They noticed that Jesus had stopped. He was looking at the blind man begging. Then the disciples probably look at one another. It’s like they look back at Jesus and He is saying nothing. He’s just looking at him. Jesus clearly is looking at this man who has been born blind. They decide to ask Jesus a question. It’s a legitimate question.
The question is framed by the presuppositions of their worldview. But the question that they asked Jesus is actually an interesting one because they notice He’s looking at the blind man. Clearly, there’s a reason why Jesus has stopped. They say, “Rabbi, this man, do you… ” Look at the way it’s formed in that second verse, “Rabbi who sinned, who sinned? Was it him or was it like his parents?” The idea they have is that to be in such a condition as this man, it obviously was connected to some type of a curse or a product of something that you had done. They already bypassed the other alternative ideas. In their mind, it was just a question of who was responsible. Whose sin was responsible for this man’s condition. So that’s how they’re thinking. They are thinking; was it something he did that got them in that place or was it connected to his family? Generational sin passed down. A curse or judgment that was on this guy?
The disciples are posing this theological question around this man that they first noticed because they see Jesus looking at him. Jesus surprises them because they’re asking Him, what did he do? Again, they’re pretty sincere about it. What does Jesus say? Jesus looks back at them and I’m thinking, He’s looking at the man as well and says, “Neither this man nor his parents.” So, the first thing He says is, “Neither of them sinned.” It’s not like this is a result of that. Then the phrase that follows, “But that the works of God should be revealed in him.” It’s almost like Jesus dismissed their conclusions. He refuses to pursue the theological question, He won’t even engage it. He pushes it aside and instead says essentially how it has happened and that is not my interest right now. What my interest is right now, essentially, is that this is an opportunity for the goodness of God to be at work.
At that moment, there was something already going on with Jesus that this was not just some ordinary exchange. There was a purpose in what Jesus was about to do. It’s almost like they wanted to discuss the why of it. They wanted to get down and understand who’s responsible? Why did this happen? Why do bad things happen here? Can we talk about this right now? This is a great opportunity for us to have a wonderful teaching from you on how to understand this kind of stuff. That’s how they’re talking. Jesus says I’m not interested right now. He’s not focused on the explanation. He’s focused on a solution.
There were other times when Jesus was very focused on explanations. There were times where Jesus would talk in-depth about certain things and give a perspective that caught people off guard. In this particular case, Jesus says, “Neither of your conclusions is correct, but I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m not interested in that. What I’m interested in right now is this man. If I can say it this way, what I’m most interested in right now is that I’m going to heal this man.” He says in verse 4. “I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day.” That’s a curious phrase. What is He saying? ‘While it’s day,’ is like while the opportunity exists. Because the night is coming when no one can work. What are you talking about Lord? We’re going to talk more about that next week.
Notice the way Jesus weaves in and out of light and day, night, and day. Light, seeing. These are all woven into this. It has everything to do with the purpose for which He has come. I’m not going to say this is the only purpose, but clearly, this man represents the utter helplessness that human beings have found themselves in when it comes to the spiritual need that is present in every one of us that He has come to address, He who is the light of the world. That is another story. Let me suggest something and just put this out there. I want to use it by asking a series of questions. I want to ask, what extremity, what adversity, what limitation, if you will, in our life is God’s opportunity?
As I probed into this passage, one of the things that became clear is that there are places we find ourselves. We get ourselves into what I might call desperate places. They’re also places where God’s grace can show up. Like desperate spaces that become grace places. There’s this whole idea that God wants to move in our lives. He’s able to sustain and deliver. There is no limit to what He can do. There is no limit to what He can do with our limitations. That’s pretty clear. Can you hear me when I say that we all have our past, our loss, our pain, our present struggle, or whatever it may be? We all have something that’s very hard for us that might be connected to somebody. It might be something inside of us. Once in a while in life, you’ll have patches where you’re not struggling with anything, but most of the time there’s something.
Our struggle could be linked to our past. It could be linked to the way we see things. It could be linked to a relationship issue. It could be linked to how we’re thinking. It’s something. It could be something that we’re doing and we don’t even want to do. It could be connected to a lack of clarity, fear, unease, or an anxiety that seems to cling to us. It may be that no one knows about it. One of the things we need to remind ourselves of is that God can take those things that we are most struggling with and bring about, through His goodness and grace, a possibility that we sometimes can’t even envision. Just like this man could not envision the vision he was about to be given on the basis of his condition.
I think the Apostle Paul grasped this principle. That’s why we’ve talked about the passage where he was wrestling with a problem he had in his own life. One thing that came up with the Apostle Paul is that he had what we call a thorn in the flesh. We don’t even know what it was. Paul was struggling with something deeper. It’s like the Lord gave him a word. It’s in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul says, “Each time he said,” he’s talking about the Lord, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I’m glad to boast about my weakness. So the power of Christ can work within me now.”
This phrase, ‘His power works best in my weakness,’ is something else. What are our weakest zones? What would it look like to welcome Christ into those zones? Paul’s saying, I’m getting pummeled. He’s saying this thing that’s going on inside of me. He calls it a messenger of Satan. He’s so disturbed by it. He asked God to get it out of him. God seems to be almost involved with it where God says my grace is sufficient. I’m using this. You’ve got all these different things swirling about something Paul says is a messenger from Satan to buffet me, tell me that God is allowing me to develop, something that’s happening inside of me at a physical and an emotional level. I don’t want it. He calls this, ‘thorn in the flesh.’
That’s when the Lord says, “Paul, my power works best in your weakness.” What’s happened is Paul’s kind of stuck. He can’t get out. All of a sudden it’s like, can we see how God is helping him to get unstuck? He’s fixated on what is wrong and God is reminding him that you don’t understand. This is actually an opportunity for my power to show up in your life in a way that wouldn’t be able to show up in any other way. If there is a work of grace that I can do in and through this, that could not come any other way. I say the Lord is trying to help him because Paul’s stuck in his problem and the Lord is trying to help him get out of it. The Lord is reminding Paul to shift his focus. Watch how Paul shifts that focus.
Paul turns it and starts to change his attitude around it. Paul still doesn’t want it and can’t stand it. He would love to have it solved and gone. He tells himself or reminds himself that in some way, this is actually a blessing because it’s causing me to rely on God’s strength in a way that I would’ve never done in an area of my strength. If I didn’t have this struggle, I probably wouldn’t be turning in the way. I would not be experiencing His grace the way that I am presently. That’s what the Lord is trying to help Paul with. I think there are times when we find ourselves in situations in our lives that we just say, “I want this thing out.” But what happens is we can get stuck. I’ll put this question up, are we stuck in our diagnosis? Are we stuck in our whys? There are times where this can happen.
What’s the connection here? Again, Paul’s trying to get unstuck, but I want to go back to the account with the blind man. What do they say? Jesus is looking at the blind man who’s begging. The apostles say, “Lord, why did this happen? Can you explain why?” They want to get into the whole why. Sometimes we get stuck in the diagnosis and in the why. We miss the opportunity that’s before us. I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to debate, think, analyze, and seek an explanation to ponder, to probe. Especially when there are times where it’s very appropriate to look inside of our heart and examine why is this coming out of me? Why do I act this way? Why am I responding this way? Why am I struggling so hard here? What’s going on?
There are times where it’s absolutely appropriate to get utterly honest with God in a way that you wouldn’t even get with any other human being. That’s what we talk about. It’s having a prayer journal or writing your prayers, thoughts, and struggles out, asking the Lord, “Lord help me in this situation. I’m trying to understand what’s going on here. I need your help. I need you to meet me in this place.” We talk about having portions of scripture that we claim as our own for certain seasons of our lives. You see there’s a value in that. No question. I’m not suggesting throwing out good theology or dismissing our need for sound doctrine or biblical teaching. I’m not saying that, in fact, if anything, those of us who follow Jesus need to study the scriptures. We do need to know what we believe and why we believe it. We need to be around people who are a little further along than us. It’s for those that are young in the Lord.
We need to grow in our faith and have a better understanding and way of explaining what we believe in and be able to anchor ourselves in the whys of our faith. Because when the inevitable whims and traumas of life hit as Jesus called it the storm gales that come at us and the winds and the waters rise, there needs to be a foundation that we are built on. A lot of times, the faith that we have is very fragile if it’s not rooted in knowledge and understanding. But having said that those of us who would understand, also need to understand that there’s a need to implement that in our real life. I’ll give you an example.
I came across this statement from Eugene Peterson who’s a writer. I really liked the way he captures things. Look what he says here about the integration of faith and spirituality in terms of how we put our thinking and practice into play. “Living.” He says, “Is the thing. Not knowing, just because you know something doesn’t necessarily mean you live it.” Let’s stop right there. “Living is the thing, not just knowing it. Just because we know it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are living it.” So there’s a very important piece here to remember. I may know and believe the right things, but living it out is needed. Peterson flips it over on the other side and he says, “Of course, if you do not know the right thing, you will live the wrong thing.”
It’s not like you can really separate the two. That’s what he’s saying. He’s saying it’s both; It’s great and you got it. How do you live out what you don’t know? But even if you know it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to live it out. If we’re not living it out, then actually knowing it is not enough. If you never even know it, say he’s really getting into it. I love that, yes, I agree. I think faith has to be honest thought out, no question. I feel strongly about this. A thinking and reflective people that are followers of Jesus need to really study the life of Christ, need to talk about it regularly with others, need to understand the scriptures we claim to believe.
What did Jesus say? Can I talk about Him with others? There needs to be a substance to our faith. The thinking part of it. We are called to be people who think about things inside of our own hearts. We’re reflecting, checking in, taking inventory, and trying to get better. We’re not just ignoring stuff. We’re being real with our hearts before God. There’s real genuine life interaction taking place. That part of our way of life is to have Him at the center of our life. His words are always close to us in our hearts, even in my mouth. They’re in the conversations I have and my thought processes. They affect how we engage in relationships. They affect the way in which we treat people that we love; people that we work with. It also affects how we listen and deal with things inside of us.
As good as that is and now we’re going right back to what Jesus had to say to the disciples. I think it is possible for us to get to a place where we start to overthink things. I go back to that question: are we stuck in the diagnosis, stuck in our whys? Sometimes we fixate to a point of frustration. Lord, why did this happen? Why is this man like this? Why Lord? You see, a lot of times we get stuck in the why, we get stuck in the diagnosis. What’s going on inside of me? Why do I feel the way I feel? When is this going to end? What’s happening here? Why can’t this change? Where are you? All that ‘why stuff’ stuck right there. When is this going to open up for me? The why, the diagnosis. This is where we get stuck a lot of times.
We can find ourselves in a place where we start and for some of us, this is really where we struggle. We will micro-analyze something to the T. We’ll go over and over it in our mind. It’s like we wake up thinking about it. It’s like a loop, a mental loop. Something’s there, it’s just we can’t get out. It’s when we get a little space, it comes back and starts dominating. When is this going to end? I think the Lord will say to some of us at times, “Stop analyzing.” We want to know “the why.” The Lord says “I’m not going to give you the why.” I want to know when this is going to end? This is not a time to discuss, you know what? Right now, what I want you to do is experience my mercy and grace.
I want to know why. I want the answer. I want the way out. No, what I want you to be ready for is this amazing thing that I want to do inside of you around this issue? That’s a very different perspective. There are times where I think that maybe what the Lord is really trying to do is challenge our attitude on something that’s just not going to go away. Sometimes instead of asking why, we just need to make room for what He wants to do. This leads me to the final question that I’m going to present in conjunction with this teaching. Is there some type of work that He wants to do in us? What is the work that He wants to do in us? Let’s position ourselves for that work.
I look at the blind man and he had no idea what was going to happen to him. He had no clue that God was about to utterly alter his life. By the way, we would be tempted to read this and say, you know, the real miracle was that he got his eyesight, but Jesus would say, actually that wasn’t the real miracle. The miracle is what happens inside of his heart in relation to me. By the time He’s done His double miracle there’s vision all over the place. It’s not just eyesight vision, it is vision inside of him, an understanding of Jesus that didn’t exist. Everything opens up to him. The disciples, don’t have any clue either. They’re trying to debate theology and Jesus is already trying to work in a way He’s already got a whole nother path in mind.
A lot of times the best thing we can do, if I was summarizing it all down, is to be open to things that may not fit how we want them solved. A lot of times we will just do mental gymnastics; we’ll run around in circles trying to figure out a way. “I have to figure a way out of this thing. I’m going to do it. I’m going to think this through. I’m going to find out why this is happening to me?” Sometimes the best thing to do is stop overthinking it. I want to know why. I don’t know when, give me the diagnosis. Notice any here?
I’m not going to answer the question in the way you want it. What I’m going to do is even better. I’m about ready to dispense my mercy in your life in a way that wouldn’t be possible. But the key is every time we talk about vision correction, it has to do with focusing our eyes in His direction. What that tells me is Lord, in these struggling places, I need to think differently. I can get so locked up in what I want to see happen, solved whatever it is. Instead, maybe what you’re saying to me is don’t try to solve that thing, bring your attitude in alignment with me and look towards me. What does that mean? Trust me, stay open to me. When’s this going to end or how’s this going to get solved?
Trust me, walk with me. Lord, what about this man’s condition? How did it happen? Was it his fault? Was it his parent’s fault? How’s it going to get solved? I’m not interested in having a discussion around the why. I want you to trust me in a way that actually is going to release a flow of mercy that wouldn’t be possible any other way. You don’t even understand what I’m about to do is better than the why being answered. So a lot of times the Lord is trying to get our attention to trust Him in ways that we’re struggling with. I understand that, but His grace. When I look to Him, what is He saying? Be open to my touch of mercy and grace at work in your life.
Don’t put me on a timeline and don’t assume it has to be done this way. You may not get the answer you want, but you’re going to get something different. It’s going to look beautiful in this different way if you stay with me on this, watch what I’m about to do. When we close the service, we have this song, “Your Mercy.” What I want to invite us to do is when it’s shared, if there’s an area in your own heart, or our heart, or part of our life where we sense the Lord is saying, you know, you’ve been struggling too hard on this. You’re holding too hard. You’re very anxious about this. You need to trust me here. You need to look at me here. Let my mercy flow here. Let my grace flow here. So whatever that is as we close this time, I mean really engage this moment together with the Lord, speak to us about it and just say, ‘Lord, I’m going to receive this with you and bring my heart before you. Open up possibilities for you just help me.’ I’m going to pray. We’ll have our time of giving. I know more and more of us are giving in different ways now on the app. We still have a time of giving. Lord, I ask that you would be with us in these closing minutes together, knowing that there may be areas that we’re holding on too tightly, and maybe like the disciples we’re stuck in our analysis. We’re stuck in our why, we’re stuck in our diagnosis and instead, we just need to trust you, lean towards you, and create openings for your mercy to flow. You’re the life giver, you’re the light giver. Bring it into us even now. I pray for your blessing. I pray for your grace. I pray for your goodness in Jesus’ name. Amen.