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Stretch Out Your Hand - Shepherd of Hope

“And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.” – Luke 6:10

 

We need healing. Our lives have been inundated with the COVID19 virus. It’s like an intruder, a home invader has snuck into our homes and infected the weak and vulnerable with a deadly villainous pathogen. Yes, some need physical healing.

For others the healing needed can be spiritual, mental, relational. With the stoppage of nonessential work and the governmental encouragement to stay at home if at all possible, we are being reacquainted with family and loved ones. For some this is a godsend. For others, it’s a rude awakening. But we are being forced to refocus on family. We are being affording the opportunity of time. And this time, at home, is helping us to identify problems, pray about problems, and with Gods’ help repair these problems. That’s not a bad thing.

Good can come from even this. The Bible states:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

The word “good” (Greek agathos) here means good, benefit, useful, pleasant, joyful, agreeable, excellent, happy. This is a promise from God that He can bring benefit and blessing from “all things,” even those things we think are “bad.” Do you believe that? Do you believe that God can bring good from “all things,” for those who love Him and are seeking His purposes? Well, it’s true.

For instance, what good could possibly come from the Corona virus? Admittedly, the virus has caused a great deal of hardship, sickness, even death. But do we see a heaven-sent silver lining even in something like this? I believe we do.

Quarantining and stay-at-home-safe-guards have provided us with precious time for the most important things in life. We’ve been blessed with more time to get closer to God, reconnect or go deeper with Him through His word and prayer. That could lead to the revival we need individually, as well as corporately.

In this time, we see families rediscovering themselves. We see spouses spending more quality time together. Husbands are being husbands and wives being wives. We see families spending more time together; special time together. Dads are being dads, and moms being moms. We see fathers spending more time with their children, playing with them, enjoying them. We see mother’s discovering new creative ways to care for the family, like homeschooling and new scrumptious recipes. Grandparents are often enjoying extended time with their grandchildren. College students are home from school. Children are soaking in all the attention and loving every minute of it! The family, in all its forms, is coming together, enjoying each other, counting their blessings.

And we see churches being stretched to find new ways to minister to people such as social media avenues like YouTube, Face Book, even Twitter and beyond. We see God’s people taking the opportunity to be Good Samaritans to those in need.

Yes, there are still concerns like the economy and the health of people. We need to continue to pray, support and show our appreciation for medical staff and essential service providers who are still hard at work. There are still many things that we need to be praying about. But truly, as we’re coming together, we’re discovering God is able to “work together for good” in ALL things. So, don’t be discouraged. Look for Gods silver lining. What you thought was a curse, just may turn out to be a blessing. The Lord just may have wanted to use this situation to help you identify and deal with a problem you weren’t aware of.

“Stretch out your hand.” But, if we discover problems, how can they be fixed? How can we repair what is broken? Identifying a problem is the first step in solving it. But after we identify a problem, how can it be solved? I encourage you to consider Jesus at this point.

In Luke 6 Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. The account begins:

Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered.

Luke the physician, is the only one of the gospel writers who mentions it was the “right hand” of the man that was withered. Physicians have an eye for such details. The word “withered” (Greek xeros) means literally lifeless. His right hand was a dead part of his body.

So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.

The scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus intently. They will continue to do so in an effort to catch Jesus in even the slightest offense (Luke 14:1; 20:10; 11:53 and 54). In this instance they were watching to see if Jesus would go against the rabbinic law that stated there should be no healing on the sabbath (Shabbath 7.2).

It should be mentioned here too that Jesus must have already had a reputation for tending to the needs of the poor and hurting. Why else would the Pharisees and scribes be following Him to see if He’d heal on the Sabbath? Jesus always went right for those in greatest need, to help them. That’s not a bad reputation to have. In fact, that is a great godly Christlike reputation to have. What kind of reputation do you have?

But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood.

Jesus knew their heart. He knew they were looking intently to try and trip Him up and bring an accusation against Him. But none of it stopped Jesus from doing good.

Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”

This is a rhetorical question. The answer is “Yes!” To do nothing for this man with the withered hand when one could do something, would be evil. But to do something for this man with the withered hand when one could do something, was a good thing to do.

10 And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

We aren’t told a lot about the response of the man with the withered hand. The withered hand was lifeless. It didn’t work. When Jesus said to him, “Stretch out your hand,” Jesus was telling him to do something he couldn’t do; something impossible for him to do. The man could have argued. He could have resisted. He could have made excuses. He could have walked away allowing the impossible to defeat him. But he did none of those things. He simply, “did so.” That was a faith response. And when he responded in faith, “his hand was restored as whole as the other.”

The point here in this exchange is, God’s callings are always accompanied by God’s enablings. If Jesus calls you to do something, when we respond in faith, He will enable us to do what He calls us to do. Remember that next time God asks you to do something you think impossible.

When you come to a problem, any problem, even one that seems beyond repair or impossible to solve, go to Jesus. Listen to what He asks of you. Maybe, just maybe He will say to you, stretch out your hand. Maybe just maybe He will say, “I see your pain. It’s not over. I will help you repair what is broken. Just trust Me. Stretch out your hand. Take My hand, I will you up. I will help you through. I will help you.” Yes. seek Jesus in prayer and listen for His voice. He will guide you. He will guide you by His peace. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The purpose and power of prayer. Now you may be thinking, “Pastor, that’s too simple. And I don’t know how to do that. How do I connect with Jesus? How do I, how can I, take His hand? This just doesn’t seem possible to me.” Well, read on my friend. There are answers to these questions and there is hope for you.

A little further on in Luke 6 it states:

12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Jesus had a holy habit of praying. Throughout the gospels we see Him praying. In fact, of all the things the disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them about, it was prayer that so intrigued them. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They knew that somehow, all that Jesus was and all that Jesus was able to do, was connected to His prayer life. They saw that connection. They lived that connection. They saw the results in Jesus’ life, and in theirs. So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Don’t ever underestimate the importance and power of prayer. Recently the governor of New York state denied any connection between the progress against the Corona virus and the prayers of so many Christians.[1] It’s frequently said by an increasingly obstinate and belligerent anti-God faction of society, that “We don’t need prayer, we need action!” [2] But I, and many others, beg to differ. Prayer is an essential mighty link to the greatest power we can ever hope to tap into, God.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), the great preacher of old, once said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not feat a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” It’s true. Jesus is praying for us. The Bible says, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). And, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus prayed when He was choosing the Apostles. He no doubt prayed for them. That must have been a great encouragement and blessing to them. Jesus is praying for you. How does that make you feel?

John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, is noted to have said of prayer, “You can do more than pray after you’ve prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Prayer is essential. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at many Christians. Prayer is often spoken about but seldom entered into. And we suffer as a result.

R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) was greatly used by God. He was a man of prayer. And he attributed the weakness of the church to the lack of prayer. He said, “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power.  We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.”  Unfortunately, that is too often true. And the church suffers in weakness.

E.M. Bounds (1835-1913) was saint who prayed and encouraged others to pray. One thing Bounds astutely observed about prayer was, “Prayer affects men by affecting God. Prayer moves men because it moves God to move men. Prayer influences men by influencing God to influence them. Prayer moves the hand that moves the world” [3] Prayer therefore, is God’s means to His riches and power. Prayer opens the sluice gate of heaven so that torrents of powerful living water can gush in and through us.

Bounds wrote many books on the importance and necessity of prayer. In one of those books he commented on the importance of prayer in regards to the church saying:

“Defeat awaits a non-praying church. Success is sure to follow a church given to much prayer. The supernatural element in the church, without which it must fail, comes only through prayer . . .. As often as God manifested His power in Scriptural times in working wonders through prayer, He has not left Himself without witness in modern times. Prayer brings the Holy Spirit upon men today in answer to importunate, continued prayer just as it did before Pentecost. The wonders of prayer have not ceased.” [4]

Some other statements on prayer by Bounds are:

  • “Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings him into active aid.”
  • “Prayer should not be regarded “as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”
  • “Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God’s saints have been held.”
  • “A life growing in its purity and devotion will be a more prayerful life.”
  • “Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.”
  • “The word of God is the food by which prayer is nourished and made strong.”

There’s a reason, many reasons why Jesus prayed. Bounds and others used prominently by the Lord throughout history, discovered some of those reasons.

The story is told of,

“Five young college students [who] were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed C.H. Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?” They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.” [5]

Prayer is what we need to reinstall and fire back up in our churches and homes and individual lives.

William Cowper, the great hymnist of old was noted as saying, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” An anonymous writer said, “If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.” And, “Prayer is the real work, evangelism is just mopping up.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon once commented, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” Samuel Chadwick Prayer is important.

How’s your prayer life? Do you bring your problems to the Father in Jesus name? Do you pray before making decisions? One of the most important decisions we make is whether or not to pray. The greatest decision we will ever make is whether or not to trust Jesus as our Savior.

When Jesus taught His disciples about praying, one of the things He taught them was, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). There are two aspects of asking the Father to give us the Holy Spirit.

First, Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3). We must be born of the Spirit if we desire to enter His kingdom. We must confess our sins to God and forsake them and ask His forgiveness based on Jesus atoning death on the cross. The consequence of sin is death. Sin separates us from God. Sin is offensive to God because of all the pain and suffering it causes. But Jesus, on the cross, paid our death penalty, He paid our debt of sin. He rose from the dead showing that His work on the cross was perfectly acceptable to satisfy God’s holy justice. When we believe this and trust in Jesus as our Savior, God forgives us and gives us life by the Holy Spirit who then indwells us.

Second, once we’ve been born again, Jesus also taught about the promise of the Father, an empowerment to serve Him; an empowerment by the Holy Spirit. We see this in the book of Acts. When we need power in life, we need only ask the Father, and the Holy Spirit will come upon us and empower us.

What do you think? I think you should pray about this. It’s a big decision. I think you should pray about whatever “problem” you have discovered or are facing in your life. Right now, whatever problem or life challenge you are up against, pray about it. Regardless of the source, regardless if it is Corona related or not, go to your knees in prayer. Whatever battle you are in, respond by making war on the floor; get on your knees before God and pray. Start by praying for forgiveness and spiritual life through faith in Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Then pray for empowerment in the Spirit. Then pray for your particular need. Pray and watch. Watch and pray. The Lord is able to restore what has been lost (e.g. Joel 2:25). Remember Job. “And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed, the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). Remember. Pray. Then stretch out your hand and see what Jesus will do for you.

So, like Jesus, spend some time in prayer. Spend an all-nighter in prayer like Jesus, if you have to. Bring your Bible with you. The Father knows exactly what you need. Pray about it. I’ll be praying for you too. I’ll be praying in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

[1] https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/milton-quintanilla/god-did-not-do-that-ny-governor-cuomo-asserts-god-did-not-help-bring-number-covid-19-cases-in-new-york-down.html

[2] https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2015/12/03/its-come-to-this-liberals-mock-and-shame-people-offering-prayers-during-san-bernardino-shooting-n2088328

[3] E.M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1979 edition of 1923 issue of book. Page 41

[4] E.M. Bounds, Possibilities of Prayer (Grand Rapids: Mich.: Baker Book House) pages 136,137.

 

[5] Our Daily Bread

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