By Femi Aribisala
How many compliments did you get about your new dress? Was that fine girl in church? Did she notice you?
In the scriptures, Jesus paid a visit to a General Hospital. The place was full of sick people. Some had been suffering of malaria for ten years. Some had been afflicted with flu for twelve years. Others had cough for fifteen years.
Jeremiah wondered about this kind of situation. He asked: “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” (Jeremiah 8:22).
John observes that: “A certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” (John 5:5-6).
He had been in church for 38 years, nevertheless, his infirmity was so malignant it refused to obey the word of God. For 38 years, he had been a liar and yet he was regular in church. For 38 years, he had been a thief, and yet he was the chief usher. For 38 years he had been a fornicator, and yet he was the choir director. For 38 years he had been an alcoholic, and yet he was the pastor. For 38 years he had been a gossip, a cheat, a backbiter, and a lover of money. He remained covetous, malicious, quarrelsome, worldly, and proud.
Sowing the word
Jesus says: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:3-9).
The sower is a bad, indiscriminate farmer. He sows his seed on the bad ground as well as on the good ground. In effect, he wastes his seed on grounds where it will not bear fruit. The seed, of course, is the word of God. But there is something peculiar about it. The writer of Hebrews says: “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
However, the truth is a little more complicated. The word of God is powerful, and yet it is powerless. It is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Confronted with the stony-heart, the word of God becomes powerless. Confronted with the graduates of the school of unbelief, even Jesus becomes ineffective.
Matthew reports that when Jesus visited his own hometown: “He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6). It was not that he did no mighty work there: it was that he could not. Their unbelief made him powerless.
At the General Hospital in Bethesda, Jesus asked the man who has been sick for 38 years: “Do we want to be healed?” He asks the same question of us today: “Are we interested in being healed at all?”
That is the crux of the problem. We are sick and we keep coming to the hospital, but we are not interested in being healed. We are not interested in being changed. We are not interested in being transformed. We are dying of leprosy but we are not interested in being cleansed. So why do we keep coming to church? Don’t we know the church is a hospital?
We go to church to see and be seen, rather than to hear and be healed. We go to church to fulfil righteousness than to be made wise unto salvation. We go to church to show off our latest clothing and our new hairstyle than to worship God. We spend more time trying to decide which clothing to wear to the church service and which shoes and bags to match than to secure the grace that is sufficient unto the day.
Now that you are back home from that wonderful service, what have you achieved? What did you learn there? What did you receive? How many compliments did you get about your new dress? What did they think about the way you sang that special number? What was the reaction to your testimony about your new job? Was that fine girl in church? Did she notice you?
But did we hear the gospel? If we hear we will be healed. The scripture cannot be broken. If you are not healed after all these years, it either means that you have not heard or have simply not believed or are simply not interested.
Jesus says: “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.” (Mark 4:24). “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25).
So, what have you heard? Have you heard that if you sow 100 naira you will reap 1000, or have you heard that if you sow righteousness you will reap mercy? Have we heard that the seed is money or that the seed is the word of God?
Have you heard that angels drop bags of blessings before the praise worship? Have you heard that if you change your church you will be cursed? Have you heard that if you wear earrings or smoke cigarettes you will not go to heaven? Have you heard that if you are a Christian and don’t have a car it is an insult to God? What exactly have you heard?
Have you heard that the soul that sins will die? Have you heard that fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Have you heard that drunkards don’t go to heaven? Have you heard that quarrelsome people, backbiters and gossips don’t spend eternity with God? If so, why do you persist in these things? Do you plan to continue in them for the next 38 years?
Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5),
Do you go to church to hear the voice of Jesus or do you go to hear the voice of strangers?