At last week’s First Friday ministry event (May 5), in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we opened the night with Salsa dance lessons and a food tent in the plaza. We then participated in some great worship with Jake and the band, followed by a brief teaching within our Authentic & Accountable series. This month we continued our study in a message entitled, “Using Your Gifts – Especially Those You Don’t Recognize as ‘Gifts.’”
If you’ve not attended a First Friday during this teaching series, or even if you have and maybe haven’t quite picked up on it yet, here’s where we’re going with the overarching title, Authentic & Accountable.
With Authentic, we’re talking about what it means to strive to live as people who follow Jesus Christ; learning and striving to do things in alignment with His examples and teaching.
And Accountable refers to our allowing certain people in our lives to come alongside to remind, encourage, speak truth, and hold us responsible for real growth in our day-to-day walks.
It’s part of what, in the church, we call discipleship. Our striving to be Authentic & Accountable in our daily thoughts, words and deeds lines up with, and is born out of, our overall North Coast Mission Statement, which is Building Disciples In A Healthy Church Environment.
Whether you may have missed our First Friday event or maybe you were there, but just missed a few of the key points, within this blog post, we’re going to do something a little unusual, which is to include a fill-in-the-blanks note sheet along with another that has all of the blanks filled and can serve as your answer key (click here to view) in the event you need it as we go forward (more about that in a minute).
Our primary scriptural text for this teaching is from the Book of John, chapter 9, so if you happen to have a paper bible or access to a Bible on one of your digital devices, take a moment, if you’d like, and pull that open. Once again, it’s chapter 9 in the Book of John. (If you’re not near a Bible as you read this, just click on the underlined words in bold above while connected to the internet and it will take you there.).
As we’ll see again in the next few minutes, every one of us has something we wish that the Lord would either provide for or take away from us.
And especially for those of us who’ve prayed that prayer for a really long time without it being answered – or, answered in the way we’ve prayed it would, it’s not unusual for us to begin to wonder, “WHY…”
Within this blog, another element that’s a bit unusual from the way we typically do things is that we’re going to embed 3 videos that will provide most of the content for our learning.
In the first, Dallas Jenkins, Creator, Writer and Director of the amazing TV streaming series, The Chosen, interviews Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms or legs who hasn’t allowed his disability to hold him back but who has, instead become an amazing warrior for Jesus.
We’ll then view a scene from the series, where the character named “Little James” confronts Jesus as to why, if He could, He hasn’t healed him.
Finally, we’ll get a peek behind the scenes, as we hear from the actor who plays “Little James” and gain some of his valuable perspectives.
As you watch, I’ll hope it will occur to you that it’s not just physical handicaps or disabilities with which the enemy may try to keep us down or tempt us from being able to move forward in our faith journey. Our significant challenge or disability may also be emotional, mental or even spiritual.
Again, pretty much everyone has something that causes them to ask, “Please, Lord, take this away from me.”
Let’s now read our primary guiding scripture passages, from John, Chapter 9, beginning with verses 1-3 and then verses 6 and 7.
1… As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Dropping down now to verse 6:
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So, the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-3 NIV).
We’ll stop there.
Did you catch it? I’m seeing three key things here.
The first, just to get the question out of the way is, “why did Jesus’ disciples assume the man’s blindness was the result of sin?”
And the answer, I’ve learned, is that the Jewish teachers (or Rabbis) before Jesus’ time, taught that “there is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.” An undue focus on sin and failure led many people to believe that even a child in the womb could somehow incur God’s wrath. Jesus refuted this erroneous belief. In our fallen and sinful world, bad things sometimes happen for reasons that are not apparent to us. Sometimes they occur simply because we live in a sin-sick world.
The blind man exhibited great faith – before he even knew what Jesus was doing – and then, all the more so, by actually allowing him to put mud on his eyes that Jesus made by spitting in the dirt. How many of us could exhibit that kind of faith? Once healed, the man who’d been given his sight became a loyal spokesman for Jesus. What can you tell others about the things that Jesus has done for you?
The second point that I think we really need to be careful not to miss, is Jesus’ response, where He says, “This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” That’s powerful! It’s not one of the fill-in-the-blanks on your note sheet but you may want to highlight or take a note on that as you think about and consider some of your own struggles.
Read the rest of the verses and you’ll see that once Jesus corrects the commonly held notion that suffering happens as a result of sin, he then goes on to comment on the Pharisee’s lack of belief that leads to another type of blindness – spiritual blindness. Have you ever suffered from this?
The third thing…well, you know what? I think I’ll leave the third thing for Nick to point out to us in the video, where He does such a good job highlighting a major point in his testimony. Take a look now at the first two videos below, before reading on. As we link directly to Youtube, you will see ads that we cannot control, so we apologize in advance for those. 🙂
Just because He may say “no” to our earthly requests, doesn’t mean God doesn’t have something greater planned.
The way we respond in the midst of our messes can be a powerful testimony to those around us. God can handle our “why” questions but may also have a plan for something bigger than what we can see. He will trust some of us with pain and suffering that we can’t imagine being able to endure. And then, when we submit to Him, He can use it.
As Nick shares, “it’s all about one more person being allowed to meet Jesus.”
Let’s now go behind the scenes to gain another perspective.
God CAN use our pain for His purposes and to His Glory, Amen?
There are so many great scriptures that speak to this but one I’ve referenced again and again when I’ve suffered is from 2 Corinthians 1, verses 3 through 5 where it says,
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
What is it in your life that you would point to and consider a disability?
Is it a physical disability like Nick and Jordan have experienced? Or do you maybe live with the disability of anxiety, depression, loneliness, obsessive-compulsive disorder-related behaviors and the like? What about anger, bitterness or unforgiveness? As Jordan from the third video asks, “What’s your limp?”
God can use your pain. He can use (what you see as) your disability. Not only, perhaps, to help heal you from your suffering; but whether or not He does, then through it, to help you learn to empathize with, encourage, instruct and help bring healing to others facing similar circumstances.
If you haven’t already, please take a look at, and answer this group of questions we included at our First Friday event for our small group table discussions after the lesson.
What’s happened to you that God may have allowed so that the works of God might be displayed through you? It’s so often, difficult to see, especially the hard things God allows to happen in our lives as “gifts.” But through this blog post and associated videos, I hope you’ll be inspired to begin to see that God can use it all. If you’re struggling with a “gift” you definitely just can’t see as a gift or especially with being able to understand how God could possibly use it, I’d love to talk with you, maybe even pray with you and, if I can’t help you through it, to help refer you to another who might. Please feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or through the prayer request link below.
Right here with you,