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The Grace Project

Do you want to get well? (Part One)

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Carlo Caretto, once wrote that, Jesus’ resurrection makes it impossible for Man’s story to end in chaos – it has to move inexorably towards light, towards life, towards love.  My life is a testimony to that statement.   Just as in the Genesis account, my life was full of darkness and void but the Spirit of God was brooding over my chaos.  He’s brooding over yours too.  I encourage you to not be scared of the dark but like Moses, go into the darkness where God is!
Since the publication of my book “Safe & Sound”, I’ve received lots of correspondence and words of encouragement from people who’ve been impacted by the use of my life stories to explain spiritual truths.  In a wonderfully redemptive way, I’ve seen that God uses my secrets to reveal His mysteries.  Each time someone speaks to me about my childhood experiences as a destitute child in an orphanage, I can feel that the Lord is redeeming that period of my life.
 
I know that I’ve been healed to be a healer, it’s part of His divine purpose to use the pain and, sometimes, shame of my own life to bring life and healing to others.  
 
If there was one maxim by which I lived the first half of my life, it’d have been this – I must never ever fail.  Never ever fail at anything, at any cost.  Thus, if I had felt there was even the remotest prospect of defeat, I wouldn’t take part nor get involved.  As a consequence, I had had lived most of my life as an emotional benchwarmer.  The fact is that I’m not made for the sidelines and neither are you, my dear reader.  After half a century of hiddenness, I’m free.  I hope that the message you’ll take away after having read this book is that in healing me, God didn’t heal only “one”; no, in healing me, He proved that He can heal anyone!
 
At our Easter Sunday 2007 meeting, I spoke from Acts 4:33 where Luke reported that “with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all”.  Putting aside the obvious points about the collegial, communal and catholic aspects of the Acts period, the point I wanted to emphasise was that the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of Jesus.  Now, of course, the events of which Luke was describing took place in the pre-Pauline era of the fullness of Union and so, the apostles’ wonderful but rather primitive understanding was that of the resurrection of only Jesus.  Today, we can extend that testimony to include our own resurrection and when we do, what great grace will be upon us all.
 
If there’s one character I identify with in the New Testament more than any other, it’s an anonymous figure; one of the many nameless characters whose lives are used in such powerful cameos.  That figure is simply called “a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years”.  We meet him in the fifth chapter of the Apostle John’s gospel.  
Similar to this man looking for his angel, I too had looked for the Lord to send His angel to stir those waters.  I had wanted Him to heal my baby and my broken life so badly that my body ached.  Yet, just like in the gospel story, whilst all eyes were on the sky, Jesus slipped in the backdoor with His own angel whom He left with me in the form of my wife, Hayley, who spent the next thirteen years of her life healing and rehabilitating me and raising my children.
 
Let me tell you that man’s story as it’ll help you to understand mine (and most probably your own). 
 
The story concerns Jesus’ second healing as recorded by the Apostle John to whom miracles are signs.  The flashing neon sign flickering before us in the story declares the Good News of the Gospel, viz. what repels men compels God and what the world rejects the Lord accepts.  When Jesus encounters this man, the soon-to-be-beneficiary of the grace of God, he has been in the grip of his despair for fully thirty-eight years.  It’s important that we see the man in the story in the same way he sees himself and the way others sees him.  His compatriots and he have been dumped on the scrapheap.  They’re not simply invalids, i.e. suffering from physical disabilities; that’s only half of the problem.  The real source of their despair is that they’re in-valid, i.e. not valid.  They have no cogency; they don’t count; they’re disqualified; they’re part of the invisible underclass.  They’re refuge, waste, rubbish.
 
But now, the Good Shepherd has come to the Sheep Gate.  In addition to His having come for all His sheep, His heart stretches out further towards the speckled ones cringing in the fringe, to give them a signal that’s as valid today as it was to these in-valids who lay in the hopeless stench of despair.  Jesus always says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matt. 11:28 NASB]
 
The in-valids in Apostle John’s account congregate by a pool and it’s said that this pool has curative powers.  Evidently, “an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water”1.  The KJV uses the intriguing word “troubled”.  Evidently, the water in the pool is agitated.  I can only imagine that the angel turned the pool into a sort of angelic jacuzzi and whoever steps in first, after the stirring of the water, is made well of whatever disease the person is experiencing.  Not surprisingly, the Jews dismiss these claims, viewing them as merely pagan beliefs.  It can be assumed that the Jews only see the implausibility of such a means of healing and wholeness; yet, they miss entirely the interesting juxtaposition of this view of theirs with their equally implausible notion that perfection is attained through leading a good life.
 
Now, our anonymous in-valid has been ill for thirty-eight years and my guess is that he has spent most of those empty years under the porticos and has participated unsuccessfully in this winner-takes-all version of the Para-Olympics.  Hang on a minute; one could be forgiven for thinking that if you’ve been there for thirty-eight years, you’d have figured out a way to beat off a load of fellow in-valids and get into the pool first.  I’m confident that Brown’s assessment is right that this story speaks to us about “a chronic inability to seize opportunity”2.
 
Having made His way through the dead sea of in-valids, Jesus alights upon our  man.  “Jesus saw [our anonymous in-valid] lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, [Jesus] said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” [John 5:6].  Notice that it’s Jesus who takes the initiative and not the in-valid.  Stopping here for a moment, I want to pose the very same question to you –
 
•Wilt thou be made whole? [KJV]
•Do you want to get well? [The Message Bible]
•Is it your desire to get well? [The Basic English Bible]
•Do you wish to have health and strength? [Weymouth Translation]
•Dost thou wish to become whole? [Young’s Literal Translation]
 
Let me ask you to reflect on that question until we meet next time.   Incidentally, if you’d like to discuss this subject or any other related topic with like minded friends why not check out The Grace Project Friends page on Facebook.  You can access that through paulanderson-walsh.  We’d love you to join the community.
 
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