Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Shepastor: "What is Making You Wither?"

A Man with a Withered Hand
9He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Matthew 12: 9-14

When something is “withered,” it means that it is shrunken, bent over, life drained out, in need of shelter, water, propping up. In the context of this passage, the man had a “withered” hand. If was probably shorter than the other, drawn in, no strength, deformed.

Some years ago I heard a minister on the radio say that one of his favorite signs was posted near an interstate highway. It was a sign from a church parking lot which read, “Church Parking Lot for Members and Church Visitors Only! All violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Law! Signed the Sisters of Mercy!”

Some where along the line, the “Sisters of Mercy” forgot the meaning of their name. Instead of looking for ways to show mercy, even to those who may have violated their rules, they were laying down the gauntlet, so to speak and in the process, undermining their very ministry. So often the Church misses opportunities to reach people in practical ways because we are too busy following the letter instead of the Spirit. So often we miss those who are withered.

The Pharisees had that problem. They were not concerned about really keeping God’s Word, they were concerned about themselves. They were not concerned about what it means to have true Sabbath rest. They did not care about the hungry or the withered.

Here was a man broken, “withered,” humiliated, no doubt desiring to be healed. Yet the religious leaders were more concerned that Jesus was breaking what they viewed as “the rules of the Sabbath.” Obviously, they did not understand the meaning of Sabbath. Jesus was healing the sick. Jesus was encouraging the discouraged, Jesus was saving the lost – but the Pharisees were not concerned about any of that. They didn’t like Jesus. Jesus was taking too much attention away from them. Jesus was exposing their hypocrisy. Jesus was getting in the way of their program so they wanted to get rid of him.

When Jesus healed the man with the withered or deformed hand, the Pharisees accused him by saying that healing was working on the Sabbath.
But how often have we behaved like the Pharisees? How often have we been more concerned about processes, positions, traditions or our own perspective while neglecting the withered? While we are fuming, while we are complaining, while we are thinking of the best way to tell whoever off, satan is laughing because he knows that we are missing the true meaning of Sabbath.

The true meaning of Sabbath is to loose the bonds and the shackles of those who are imprisoned by sin, imprisoned by hurt, imprisoned by shame, imprisoned by bondage to death. God wants us to look for opportunities to set the captives free. God wants us to be sensitive to whomever He sends into our midst. Every opportunity we meet someone, it is an opportunity to witness with our lives.

Sometimes we are not looking for ways to heal others because we ourselves are withered. Many are withered with hostility, withered with fear, withered with hurt, withered with pinned up frustration…withered. When you are withered, you don’t have the strength to even lift up your head – or so you might think. But Jesus told the man with the withered hand to “stretch out your hand.” The man didn’t make excuses as to why he couldn’t do it. When the Master spoke, he believed and obeyed.

Sometimes we remain in a withered state because when the Master speaks and tells us to “stretch out…” move forward, let go, change your ways, your mind, your attitude, your behaviors, your thought patterns, we say, “I can’t do that! I’m withered!!!” Sometimes the oppression of Pharisees has us withered. Sometimes we listen more to the “nay sayers,” thank to the Master.

What if this man would have said, “Jesus, it’s not permissible for you to heal me today…it’s the Sabbath!” We would say, “Man, you are a fool!” But we, in essence do just that when we take the words of others over and above the words of the Master. When we allow the negativity of others, the mean spirited comments or doubts of others, the man made restrictions of others to stop us from stretching out, we are saying, “Master, I can’t accept your offer because of this or that.”

The Lord wants to heal your withered mind, your withered heart, your withered spirit. At times we are withered and don’t even know it…withered, hungry for love…withered, hungry for acceptance…withered, hungry for encouragement…withered, angry, frustrated and discontent…At times we are withered and don’t even know it.

When we are consumed by feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviors that press us down, draw us in, weaken our reach, we are withered. We can, however, like the man in the text “stretch out” and receive healing from the Master. As the Lord speaks, as He calls, “stretch out….” We must listen and by faith reach for his hand.

Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." A literal “yoke” is an apparatus that is placed on animals to bind them together and attach them to their load – like a “yoke of oxen”. In figurative New Testament usage, a "yoke" is a burden one is called on to bear. Jesus says, his “burden” is light. In other words, what God is calling us not only stretch out for our own healing, but to recognize others who are withered and show them the light “yoke” of connecting with Jesus.

The Lord wants us as the Church to help lift burdens, not make them heavier. The Lord wants us to help people to “stretch out.” The Lord wants us to pour the living water of God’s Word upon withered lives. The Lord wants us to help provide shelter from the scorching heat of a mean, cruel and sinful world. The Lord wants us to challenge those who find themselves in a withered state, a stymied state, a lack of growth state to stretch out!

What is making you wither? What has the Lord called you to stretch out and do yet you are remaining withered. Who has the Lord called you to help to come out of a withered state?

Stretch out by faith. Stretch out with hope. Stretch out with trust. Stretch out with love – the Lord is able to make you whole.

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Until next Wednesday

In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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