6. Mr. Disappointed Second Thoughts
“I Really Don’t Like Being Whole. I Miss The Compensations
Oh, oh! We have quite a case here. We ask Healed Leper #6, “Why didn’t you go back and lay down your life in thanksgiving, and express your deepest gratitude to Jesus of Nazareth for this miracle deliverance that He gave you?” He shockingly responds, “You hardy and healthy types may not understand this. To you, health is an unquestioned advantage. But I wonder if you ever thought of this – I don’t want to be healed anymore, strange as it may seem to you. Oh yes, with the others I did cry out to Jesus for mercy, but now that I am whole, I am not so enthused about it. Now I have to get back into the hurly burly and the rat race of life. I no longer can shuffle off the responsibilities of life. A job to find and hold down, scheduled hours and all that! I have discovered that there are compensations in permanent invalidism.”
Hard to imagine? Not really! It describes the condition of many, that is, spiritually speaking. They don’t want to be whole and healthy and sound. They are not comfortable with being fully spiritually alive, just undead, you know, like Pepsi with all of the fizz gone out it. If they were fighting fit, then they would have to fight the good fight and endure to the end, for only those who do shall be saved. (Matthew 10:22) Sure, it is a long, tough fight, and constancy and endurance are the crowning virtues here! If they had the abundant life, they would then be called upon to share it, for when we have freely received we must freely give. (Matthew 10:8)
Now we must transition from needy me to needy them. Plus, being wholly Christ’s means that we must leave behind all of our sins, and we cannot keep even one or two of our favorite ones. Lots of folks like to have the security of being religious, for it gives them the feeling of fire insurance against Hell. You know, hang around Christians and all that! However, while they may become new church members, they are not new creatures in Christ. They are just toned down old sinners.
“ALL THEY ARE DOING IN ASSURING THEIR DAMNATION IN A SANCTIFIED WAY.”
All of this reminds me of the story of the man by the Pool of Bethesda. (John 5) According to the Bible, he had laid by the Pool of Bethesda for a very long time. He had been crippled in his legs for 38 years. When Jesus saw him laying there, He said to the man in John 5:6, “Do you wish to get well ?” Another translation puts it,
“Do you want to be made whole?”
What an insulting question at first hearing. I mean, who would not want to be made well and whole? Come on now! But you see, this man was a professional beggar. He had never earned a penny in his life. If this man was made well and whole, he would never be able to beg again. A total severance from his old way of life, and the entering into a completely brand new way of life! Jesus asked him whether he really wanted wholeness.
A parishioner was consulting his pastor about some terrible problems in his life. “Lately,” he said to the clergyman, I have been misbehaving and it is getting worse. My conscience is troubling me, and I was wondering if you could help me.” The pastor said, “Oh, I see, you want something to strengthen your will power.” “No,” said the parishioner, “you don’t understand; I want something that will weaken my conscience.”
Of course, in today’s churches, ecclesiastical leaders are doing just that for homosexuals, lesbians, adulterers, and fornicators. They no longer use the word sin, but rather alternative lifestyles. There is no longer adultery, just incompatibility. There is no longer fornication, just safe sex. They leave their parishioners spiritually and morally crippled in the name of religious tolerance.
So why would you be grateful to a Savior for dying for sins that you don’t even have to be ashamed of? Ingratitude in such churches then becomes the “Amen” to the black roll call of sins that have lost their blackness. Ingratitude rather confirms and completes the list. It is right then that the ungrateful are black listed amongst the highest and most foul sinners in II Timothy 3:2 where we read,
“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient
to parents, ungrateful, unholy etc.” Not very good company!”
So it is that Jesus comes to us and asks, “Do you want to be made whole?” We all click our heels and salute the Christian flag and say, “Yes Lord, we want to be made whole.” But then we begin to have second thoughts when we start to sense more fully what He really means by wholeness, and He starts to deal with us at the deepest level of our leprous selves! He then begins to convict us of our bitterness, our anger, our rage, and our vile verbal outbursts. It can be a traumatic experience when we truly walk out from among the sick ones and live our lives to the glory of God with the whole ones.
It can be a gut-wrenching experience to have to forgive someone, a dad or a mother perhaps, who hurt us years ago, and no longer be able to puke out our venom anymore all over our wives who did nothing hurtful to us at all. They are just handy targets for our vomit. To give up the right to be angry! Oh my, is that included in wholeness? Some would rather be sick and destroy their marriages, before they will allow themselves to be cleansed of their leprous rage which is eating away their souls. Why? Because then they could no longer be able to get even!
There is no such thing as being partially born again. The new birth that Jesus talks about to Nicodemus in John 3 is something that we must all go through, or else we cannot even so much as see the Kingdom of God, let alone enter it. (John 3:3) The new birth in Christ wholly changes the temperament and the content of man’s soul. It gives him new judgments, new desires, new appetites, new emotions, i.e. a totally new heart. The new heart is completely fixed upon God and Heaven, while before it was fixed upon self and earth.
Man cannot have two love affairs, that is, hanging on to the world with one hand, and hanging on Heaven with the other; hanging on to self with one hand and hanging on to God with the other. Then one moment we like Peter will declare that we will never deny Christ, and the next moment we do exactly that. Why else would the Word of God tell us that if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us? (I John 2:15) We cannot be partly Christ’s and partly the world’s! It doesn’t and cannot work that way.
“WE WOULD HAVE TO HAVE TWO HEARTS AND TWO SOULS TO LOVE JESUS AND
TO LOVE EARTHLY STUFF. WE DON’T, FOR WE ONLY HAVE ONE.”
I love the story of Daniel in Babylonian captivity who did his daily devotions to God when he was told that he might not do that. In fact he did it three times a day, praying and giving thanks before God as he had done regularly in his life. (Daniel 6:10) He also knew that this was against the laws of Babylon, for any man who made petitions to any god or man besides King Belshazzar would become lion’s food. (Daniel 6:7) But when it came right down to choosing self or God, there was no decision to be made for Daniel.
And oh how Daniel missed going to church, i.e. the temple. It was David who wrote things like Psalm 122:1,
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
It was the joy of his life. So too it was the joy of my parents who when I was a youngster went to church three times on Sunday, two English services and one Dutch service. My Dad longed for Sunday and the courts of the Lord! We were infected by him. So when Daniel prayed, he looked out of his window toward Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. If he could not go to church to worship in the temple, as least he could look towards it. He could not bring his prayers to the temple, but risked his life to be able to bring the temple to his prayers. Are we wholly the Lord’s? The question remains, “Do we want to be made whole?”
7. Mr. Got Too Busy
“I Meant To Say Thanks, But Things Got So Busy Once I Returned Home.”
Frankly, it has been difficult catching up with Healed Leper #7, for he has been in such a hurry that we almost had to physically grab him to be able to talk with him. So we ask him, “What do you have to say for yourself? Why didn’t you go back and say thanks to Jesus who gave you this miracle healing?” He responds, “Oh jeepers, you know what I mean, well, I meant to go back and say thanks, honestly I did. But with all of the excitement of getting home and being reunited with my family, it was all so wonderful. What a reunion- party we had. It is still going on! And then finding 101 things to do around the house that were neglected while I was gone, the issue of thanks simply got pushed out of my mind.”
I have met and heard of this throughout my ministry. Healed Leper #7 reminds me of the young man who I was asked to visit in the hospital. He had been lying there for many weeks which turned into months. He was the victim of car-motorcycle crash, and he was the operator of the motorcycle. I would faithfully look in on him, which became all the more important because nobody else seemed to care. And I can still hear the words of this young man as time went along, “You wait till I get out of this place. Everything is going to be different, and no more horsing around in my life. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been laying here. The first Sunday I am on my feet, you’ll find me at your church. I am really going to serve the Lord, you just wait and see.” Well, we’re still waiting for him, and we never did see him.
That young man you see was quite sincere in the moment of crisis. He was very intense about living for God when he was in those long, painful months of recuperation. It was only when he got out of the hospital that he became too busy and sank back into the busy routine of life. God so often gets pushed to the back burner once the suffering is over. It is a condition that many people have, and the fact is, they would have been healthier spiritually if they never recovered, but remained instead permanently infirmed. People often find that Jesus is all that they need only when He is all that they have.
An episode in the earthly ministry of Jesus recorded in Luke 9:57-62 is most revealing. Jesus was in the last year of His three year public ministry. It has been called by some “The Year of Opposition.” This is the year when His popularity has turned into all out suspicion, skepticism, and danger. One man says to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus looks at him and asks, “Do you realize that I am homeless? Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but I have no place to lay my head.” (Do you know what you are bargaining for?) We really don’t know if this man followed Jesus or not.
Then Jesus said to another man, “Follow me!” The man replied, “Well, first let me go home and bury my father.” Jesus didn’t question him whether he was really telling the truth, and whether his father had really died. But for sure this had priority in that society as well as in most civilized societies. Not to Jesus! Jesus says to him, “Let me tell you something, let the dead bury the dead. But you, right now, proclaim everywhere the Kingdom of God.” Amazing, no seminary training, no theological degree! Get to work now. Don’t wait.
Another man said to Jesus, “I’ll go with you. But let me first say goodbye to those back home.” That seemed to be a reasonable request. But Jesus responds, “Listen, once you put your hand to the plow, if you so much as look back – you are not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Why all of this immediacy and urgency on Jesus’ part? Because Jesus knew full well that he who hesitates is lost. He would have never seen them again if they went back with the intention of returning to Jesus later.
When it comes to spiritual realities, as in other issues as well such as the treatment of disease, time is of the essence. Time is precious, but the passage of it is not always harmless. In matters of God and faith, time does not simply pass by without meddling or messing with the mind and heart of the would-be believer, or the beginning-over backslider, or the freshly-resolved child of God. Drop all else and do it now! Nor does absence in spiritual matters make the heart grow fonder.
Jesus’ imperatives of “Right Now Discipleship” were rooted in the very same spirit that permeated the words of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 6:2,
“…behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.”
One of the most emphatic and important words of the Bible is the word “Now!” Romans 13:11,
“And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to waken from sleep;
for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.”
Don’t ever shut off the alarm clock of God’s call in our lives and roll over and go back to sleep. Procrastination in faith-matters is deadly.
Healed Leper #7 never made it back to Jesus. He simply dissolved into time’s passage. Postponement of eternal matters will always make us careless of the only now-reality that we possess, and that is the living, pulsating present. Someone once observed that the deceitful sentence, “There is plenty of time yet,” always leads to the terribly painful words, “It’s too late now.”
Delay is always a snare and a delusion, for it lulls us into complacency and sameness. Time is very deceptive, for when you are young or even middle aged, it seems like it is a vast unending future, when all the while it is shrinking into nothing.
But there are many other powerful principles at work in all this that we have not yet even touched on. They are found in Matthew 13:18-23. Jesus there tells the parable about the farmer who goes forth to sow his seed, and about the different soils that his seed falls on. The one thing that catches my eye instantly is when a certain man hears the Word of God (the Seed), and immediately, just like that, because the man does not understand it, Satan comes along and snatches away the Word-Seed from him before he can even tell that it is gone. That is downright scary.
The Devil swoops down to pick the seed of the Word out of the human heart and mind quicker than a crow pounces on road-kill. We must pray and strive to make our ministry as understandable as possible, or else we will simply be feeding the devil-crow. These are powerful dynamics that are involved in leading people to Christ and maturing them in Christian discipleship in this modern humdrum world!
Jesus also tells us about the Word-Seed that falls amongst thorns – thorny soil. Those are the busy, busy people. Healed lepers aren’t the only ones who find a thousand things to do back home. There are people whose hearts sense that the Word-Seed is true. That Word-Seed is even received into their hearts. But they are busy, busy hearts. On every hand there is competition for their time and attention. Not necessarily evil things, just earthly things that choke their faith.
Everything we are talking about would be roughly like a Christian with a demanding job and a busy family, and he is then put up for Rotary President. There is nothing wrong with being Rotary President, but how does it effect the requirements of being a disciple of Christ, a husband and father? Civic work can consume a person and choke off his relationship to God and family. On the other hand, people see this busy, busy highly-regarded man and hold him in high esteem. In the midst of it all he says, “Sure, I can make room for Christ.” But he doesn’t!
You never know just how little the faith there is in a particular person who confesses Christ. But then all the earthly things that had him before he became a Christian choke him! We all have enough time, but never more than enough. What is critical for people is to receive pastoral help in their priority-setting and time-management.
8. Mr. Personality Analysis
“He Seemed To Enjoy Himself. He Really Didn’t Need My Thanks.”
Healed Leper #8 has been located, and he seemed to be scrutinizing me from the moment I met him. He had that look about him, you know, like I was being analyzed and evaluated all the while that I was interviewing him. Sort of like being psychologically undressed. So we say to him, “Sir, you look fit as a fiddle and in really good shape. Astounding, considering what you have been through. Why then didn’t you go back to Jesus and show your deepest appreciation for His healing you, and delivering you from that agonizing state that you were in?”
He immediately responds, “You are asking all the questions. Let me ask you one for a change. This Jesus, He likes doing that sort of thing, doesn’t He? I mean, He seems to get a lot of personal satisfaction and fulfillment from it all. Why should I give such a person thanks for doing what He enjoys? After all, His accomplishments and the notoriety and fame that go with them seem to me to be thanks enough.”
See, I was right about this guy. He has that air about him that shouts pseudo-psychologist. This must have been what he was like before he got sick, and he is back to his old self again. Too bad! He is more inclined to evaluate than appreciate.
But really now, this type person is not as odd as you might think. We have done the same thing to our mothers in many instances. We have determined that mom just loves puttering around the house! She just loves cooking and making the beds! She just enjoys so much sewing buttons on shirts and blouses, and washing the dirty laundry! Can’t you just see it in her face? Sure you can! You can just tell it! She is so fulfilled that she has found her true groove in life. You are really glad for her.
That is how we have our Moms profiled. That is also why we don’t express our thanks to them like we should, because we’ve got them all psychoanalyzed – they just are so ecstatic when they wash dishes, clean the toilets, scrub the floors, and vacuum the rugs. The fact is, if mom grumbled from time to time when she patched shirts or sewed on buttons instead of looking so happy and loving, we no doubt would make more of an effort to tell her how much we appreciated her and all that she does for us. But she doesn’t, at least mine never did, which is why I regret to this day not thanking her enough.
It reminds me of the story of little Willie and his mother. They were traveling together on a train. There was a lady across the aisle who was smiling so lovingly at little Willy. He went to her and she gave him an orange. She was such a happy, giving soul. Willy brought the orange to his mother, and mother asked Willy, “Did you say thanks to the lady Willy?” Willy said, “No mother, I didn’t.” Mother quickly asked, “Did you say anything to her?” Willy said, “Yes, I asked her if she would please peel it.” So the little poem puts it so well:
“DON’T MOTHER BIRDS AFTER SOME WEEKS OF LOOKING AT THOSE UPTURNED
BEAKS DELIBERATELY THE FOOD DELAY, HOPING TO HEAR THEIR GOSLINGS
FINALLY SAY THANK YOU MOM FOR THE GOOD FOOD TODAY?”
I think sometimes that the world and even some Christians have a very stoic and even somber concept of God. Of course, the mentality of the ancient Stoics has been infamous and singular in history. Passions perturbed them, and emotions angered them, all of which showed that they themselves were very passionate and emotional people. Sorrow in their esteem was a sin, which of course would mean by their standards that when Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, He sinned. Anger was even a worse defect in man according to them, which made the Apostle Paul’s advice to be angry and sin not a standing contradiction to their philosophy. And joyfulness and rejoicing was viewed as total extravagance and out of place.
Well then, God Himself would be considered indecent and emotionally unbalanced, for we read in the Bible in no uncertain terms that God is a joyful God. In fact, we are told in Nehemiah 8:10 that,
‘…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Joyless people are weak people because they do not have the strong immune system of Divine joy to ward off heaviness, darkness and depression.
When I think of God’s joy, I think of something so full and robust, and I know that is what makes Heaven what it is – an incredibly joyful place full of God’s overflowing and celebrating joy. We read in Zephaniah 3:17,
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
God does not rejoice quietly. He is very loud! No stoicism here. God gets a really huge and joyful bang out of His children. He joyfully and loudly with shouts of joy celebrates them. Meet your God! Why else, please tell me, would the Father in the story of the prodigal son throw a homecoming party and invite everyone to come and rejoice with Him, for he had found his son who was lost but now was found, who was dead but was now alive? That Father is our God! And of course, wouldn’t you just know it, that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy! (Galatians 5:22) Get used to it!
Of course, our Lord and Savior was seen at times to weep, to be sorrowful, to have pity, and yes, to be downright ticked off. I am afraid that many religious folks’ God-idea doesn’t go beyond those moments. They can’t for the life of them bring themselves to conceive of or believe in a really joyful and upbeat Christ. It blows their entire God-concept thing, and it also takes away their justification for being so sad and angry so much of the time. After all, Jesus was! No, not like that, and certainly not His most basic self!
We read of Jesus telling the story of the man who had a hundred sheep, and one got lost. And when he found the poor lost sheep, we read in Luke 15:5,
“He lays it on His shoulders rejoicing.”
Who was He talking about there? Himself! The Good Shepherd has a hallelujah party every time a lost and lonely sheep comes home to God. In fact, He invites His friends and neighbors over to have a joy party with Him. (Luke 15:6) And not only that, but He goes on to say that Heaven erupts into joy over one sinner that repents more than it rejoices over the other ninety-nine church people who are safely week after week in their pews. So God in Heaven doesn’t celebrate over the ninety-nine? Wrong! He already told us elsewhere that He shouts with joy over His children. But it is even greater joy over a repentant sinner! How great is that?
What’s my point? I really don’t need a point, for I just love thinking about my Savior’s joy over me and you. But I do have a point, and it all has to do with Healed Leper #8. We read about Jesus in Hebrews 12:2,
“...Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame….”
If you have this idea that Jesus Christ all of His earthly life long-faced His Calvary future, begrudging and sulking over His entire mission, you are wrong. He walked in joy over the great anticipation of one day sitting on the throne of Heaven at the right hand of His Father having brought many sons to glory with Him. (Hebrews 2:10) Maybe if He had complained more throughout His earthly life about His upcoming suffering and death, we would then be much more sensitive to the enormity and agony of what He did, and thank Him more accordingly. But He didn’t complain and therefore is often taken for granted, just like mother.
9. Mr. I Just Didn’t Think
“I Really Never Gave It Another Thought And Went On My Way”
Hard to believe but often true! We ask Healed Leper #9, the last of the history’s biggest ingrates, “What do you have to say for yourself? What in the world were you thinking after Jesus healed your rotting and decaying body? Why didn’t you return to express your gratitude to Him?”
He glumly and indifferently responds, “Well, to be honest with you, I just didn’t think about it. I was so caught up in being whole again that the issue of thanks never really entered my mind. I never really gave it a thought.” Was he kidding? No!
“ONLY GREAT THINKER ARE GREAT THANKERS.”
If you don’t think, no wonder you don’t thank. Great Christian thinkers are always great Christian thankers. “Denken” and “Danken” are not only related etymologically, they are related spiritually.
When my wife, Ruthie and I made our first trip to California to serve a summer seminarian internship, it was our first time not only out West, but it was our first time to travel beyond the city of Chicago. The only time we had been out of the state of Michigan was for the senior high school class trip to Chicago. Our first child Mark was only six months old, and for us and him it was trip of a lifetime, though we had to later enable our son to relive it pictorially.
We arrived at the Rocky Mountains past Denver, CO, and were carried away into a world we had never seen or imagined. We drove up to a city in the Rockies called Kremling, and I remember the big K that they had managed to paint on the side of a mountain.
We got a nice log cabin motel room for the night, and all around us were the snow-capped peaks which took our breath away. It was an awesome and overwhelming sight. The next morning, when I went into the motel office to pay the bill, I said to the owner and manager, “It must be breathtaking for you to wake up to this sight every morning and be surrounded by such majesty and grandeur?” Can you guess what he said? His words about knocked me flat. He responded, “You know, we really don’t even give it a thought around here. The mountains are here today as they were yesterday, and they will be there tomorrow.” End of conversation. End of story! End of gratitude!
This is exactly why the 10th leper was so thankful to Jesus. He was stranger, not a Jew. He did not yet have the time to grow dull in His thinking and thanking concerning the grandeur of such love and mercy that had set him free. He had not been calloused by religious familiarity. Therefore, he displayed a heart of deepest gratitude by literally throwing himself down at the feet of Jesus giving thanks to Him. (Luke 17:16)
“THOSE WHO HAVE TRUE HEARTS OF GRATITUDE ARE FAR MORE AWARE OF
THE GIVER THAN THE GIFT.”
Does that make sense to you? He didn’t run off to show others his healed and whole feet, but rather fell at the feet of his Healer. That is always how you can determine the sincerity of gratitude – grateful devotion to God.
Nothing is as dull and boring as ignorance. And of course, all ignorance comes from ignoring, above all from ignoring God. When we ignore God, we really are all ignoramuses, for all true knowledge comes from knowing Him. Nobody is growing who chooses be to unknowing of God. And if you are not growing, you are shrinking, and everything in you is shrinking as well. The celebration of life and the sense of gratitude for it, all of this becomes weary, stale and flat.
Tragic, but there are even religious people who haven’t cracked open their minds with a new thought in years, even about God. Generally those people simply spend all of their lives securing their station in life, and preserving what they have built up, without being truly thankful for either. That was the motel owner’s lot in life. Because he didn’t know His awesome Creator, he could not be the slightest bit impressed by or grateful for God’s amazing creation. The world to him was not a window through which he could see God’s glory, but only a mirror in which to gaze on his own bored and boring self. It would all be the same tomorrow, and so would he! So that was that!
The Apostle Paul is one of the most thankful writers in the whole of Scripture. One of the signature Pauline expressions of gratitude that he uses over and over again is, “I thank my God!” Such as in Romans 1:8,
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all….”
Yet another Pauline thankism is the phrase, “Thanks be to God.” Such as is found in I Corinthians 15:57,
“But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are others as well, such as “Always giving thanks.” Paul literally oozes with gratitude to God. He was a great thanker!
Where did such a sustained life of gratitude come from? This is the same Paul who wrote in Philippians 3:10,
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His
sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
Paul was a great thanker to God for His Son Jesus Christ, because he was a great thinker about Jesus Christ. He could not stop thinking about Jesus, and wanted to know Him more and more intimately. One senses that Paul pondered and meditated constantly upon Christ in His sufferings on the cross as well as upon His triumphant resurrection. Passion and resurrection theology permeates Paul’s thinking and writing. O that I might know Him! And so we read the following from Paul in II Corinthians 9:15,
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”
What makes the difference? Most people, whether they know it or not, are self-centered, with self being the vortex of a sucking whirlpool attempting to contain and draw all things into itself. Paul is now totally Christ-centered and not self-centered, though he himself was once caught in that same sucking vortex of self. Now Christ is his all in all. Thanks be to God!