This is an interesting story:
It seems that there were a bunch of needy folks there, enough that
This is going to be good: we have the Son of God, the Healer, the Great Physician Himself walking in among a crowd of desperately sick people. We would expect to see hundreds of healings, right, and dozens of people repenting from sin. A great revival is going to break out: we have the need, and the presence of the Son of God is there? What could be better?
But out of that multitude, only one person was healed.
I’m stuck by that: the normal pattern is the other way around: everybody who comes to
I know dozens of people like that: they have huge needs. Some of them have prophetic words promising a healing or promising that
And one or two get healed, get their miracle, but most of the people don’t. And often, I’m one of the ones who don’t.
There’s a verse in Proverbs that talks about this:
So we have people hoping for a healing, not being healed. We have people with huge needs, and even huge promises of God’s provision. But the hope, the longing, remains unfulfilled, and heart sickness sets in. Now the physical brokenness is accompanied by a brokenness of soul.
I see a principle: Being needy in the presence of God doesn’t change anything. Let me say it another way: making my needs known in God’s presence doesn’t change anything!
That’s not heresy, you know. It’s actually an accurate description of hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the Church.
And, I’m becoming convinced, there’s a reason: Here in the crowd, at the pool of Bethesda, nobody brought their need to
So what’s going on? Unfortunately it’s simple: people were needy in
Some of the people who have unmet needs, who have a heart growing sick, have been in God’s presence with their needs, and they’ve talked about their needs in His presence, they’ve taken their needs out, they’ve taken their sick heart out and looked at it in His presence, but they haven’t actually captured His attention. They (we) haven’t brought the need to Him in such a way that His attention is brought to our place of need.
Being needy isn’t enough. Being needy in His presence isn’t enough. We need to ask. We need to bring our need to Him, and we need to leave it with Him. If we take it back then it’s ours again, and we don’t want that.
That’s hard to hear and it’s hard to say. Sometimes the very act of looking at the wound in our heart, the disappointment, the heart sickness of never having this need met is so painful that it’s a terrifying and exposing experience just looking at the wound, whether in the body or in the soul.
I’ve done that before. I’ve brought my need out and looked at it, talked about it, wished things were different, and some of the times that I’ve done that, I’ve done it in God’s presence. But that isn’t praying. That was whining. I brought out my need, but I never released it to Him.
I’ve done it in worship, too: I’ve been there in an environment of worship, and I’ve been in His presence there, but my attention, my focus, was on other things, some of which were my wants and needs. I missed worship; I had the opportunity to worship Him, but I hadn’t connected with Him. I was in the place where He was, but I missed His presence.
Disclaimer: I am not saying that the only reason that our prayers aren’t answered is because we never actually bring them to
The reality is that the church (I hasten to add "in America") has clearly been way out of balance in several ways for the past few centuries. There are two perspectives, then, from which this contrasting perspective can come:
1) We can present the correct truth in the proper balance. Or
2) We can present the correct truth in a similar over-emphasis, opposed to the previous, erroneous over-emphasis.
Since most people who will hear a new or corrective word will hear it from their own history of imbalance, their history will impact how they hear the new word. I'm guessing that it will be strongly flavored in favor of their history: that’s what they know.
So the net result of the two options are:
1) If we present the balanced truth, it's heard and received in the context of their historical error and serves only to bump the listener's understanding a tiny bit closer toward center: they've had 40 years of error, and ONE statement that's properly balanced won't fix their understanding. Or
2) We over emphasize the correct truth, in hopes that when it's heard in the context of 40 years of error, it will bring people to a balanced perspective after the dust settles. The drawbacks of this perspective include:
a) It requires people to think for themselves, which is a sketchy proposition at best, and
b) Taken by itself, the truth thusly presented is as unbalanced as the preceding error has been, and therefore it is open to legitimate criticism, which may cause the truth to be altogether discarded and therefore become completely non-influential.
Note that pastors and teachers will typically only see the first option ("present everything in balance"), while prophets and apostles typically tend to see only the second option ("emphasize the truth"). I think evangelists just ignore the conversation while they preach to the lost. . .
I wrestle with the same thing on my blog (which you are reading now). I keep having friends correct my over-emphasis of current revelation to the point where I think my writing comes out pretty wimpy. I'm trying to learn a healthy balance, and I haven't found it: somewhere between balanced and unbalanced is the right balance…. I think. . .
It seems to me that when the OT prophets spoke, they spoke the truth bluntly and forcefully, with no attempt to balance it. But then, they're motivated as prophets, not pastors, aren’t they.
In reality, I suspect that God is more interested in the truth being presented, rather than the details of how it's presented. He's going to take our words - whatever words we use - and shape them with the Holy Spirit anyway.
In other words, it’s probably more important that we “speak the truth in love” than that we speak in exactly the right way, particularly if we bathe the thing in prayer.
So let’s speak up when we hear heresy, when we see the church going awry, when there are wolves among the sheep.