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The Bible describes a withered condition where joy has withered away. Man, we need plenty of joy in our life, need to laugh more, have more fun and connect with people. Enjoy the life of God. It's not a hard life, it's a great life walking with God - but what has withered it up? Has fear withered it up? Fear will shrink the gifts of God in our life. Jesus said My joy I give to you, let no man take it from you. You never see the power of God in your comfort zone. You never see the power of God in the life you've been used to living, you only see it when you go out and start to take some risks and start to move beyond your comfort area. That's when you start to see it.
I want us to look at Mark, Chapter 3. I just felt God quicken something today. You know Jesus said these words. He said: he that believes on me, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water; and He was speaking about the Holy Ghost. That's not a different Holy Spirit, that Jesus had, to the one we have. It's the same Holy Ghost, and He still wants to flow out of our lives. He still wants to flow beyond us, in a great river that touches people. You are called to release and activate the life of God to the community, to the people around you, and this is a great thing that we're called to do. What a great thing that God calls us to do. Ezekiel saw it, and this is what he saw. He saw the temple of God - we're the temple of God - and he saw a great river going. Here's the interesting thing: the river was shallowest, the closer you got to the house. It said: he went into the river; and he says: up to his ankles. Then he went a thousand cubits and got deeper, but he was going with the river (downstream). He went another thousand, and it got up here, then it got up here, then it become a great river that he couldn't pass over. That river, wherever it went, touched the dry places and brought life, and people were saved and healed. The rivers of God flow strongest where there are unsaved. The rivers of God flow deepest where there are unsaved.
Now you see this breaks the pattern a lot of people have, we think that the river of God flows greatest when we meet together. Certainly there's wonderful experiences we can have in worship, in the presence of God, and God touching us; but the greatest rivers are the rivers that see men saved, that see people drawn out of sin, and drawn into the kingdom. I want to share with you a story in Mark 3, which I felt is very prophetic of the church, and it's something God's just put on my heart. Jesus entered the synagogue, Verse 1, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. It said: they watched Him closely, will He heal him on the Sabbath, that they might accuse Him. So the environment Jesus is stepping into is an environment of law. It's not an environment of the spirit, it's an environment of people who are living under laws and regulations, and their main thing is to find fault, judge and accuse.
Jesus is carrying the river of God. It says: He entered the synagogue, and there was a man with a withered hand. They watched closely whether He'd heal him on the Sabbath, that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand: arise, step forward. Then He said to them: is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or do evil, save life or kill? To help someone; or offer a ritual sacrifice. They wouldn't say a word, and He looked around at them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. He said to the man: stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored and made whole; and of course immediately the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might kill Him.
Notice Jesus is in a synagogue. He's come into what we would call the modern equivalent of a local church. He's come into a local church setting. The church is called by God to represent Him. We're called to represent Jesus. We're called to re-present what He is like. In other words: how much of Jesus do people see, when they see you? It's not about your preaching to people. It's about the life we live before people. We're called to be a community that love one another, stand together, but represent Christ. We're called to advance the kingdom of God. There's no believer exempt from this. Every one of us has got a purpose, a mission, called to advance the kingdom of God. Now the reason I raise this, I want you to see what is happening in this particular synagogue.
Anyway, this man, he's got a withered hand, and he's in the church. Now when the Bible is talking about a hand, it's talking about what we do. It's talking about work. Now Jesus deliberately provokes a confrontation with legalists and religious people in this meeting. You have to see that it's not about the man being healed, it's actually Jesus picking a fight with religion; because you notice they're all watching around to see: is He going to heal on the Sabbath Day. They're worried about their rules. They're worried about their regulations, do this right, do that right, everything else right; and they've lost sight of what they're called to do. They've lost sight they're called to be a river of God to the nations of the earth, the ministry. So the hand in the Bible always speaks of what we do. It's our work, it's how you earn your living with your hands. It's what we do. It also speaks of ministry. It's the extension of your life, to do something that can impact others.
So the hand was withered, and that withered hand was actually quite prophetic of the condition of the church that he found in that day. It was withered by legalism, withered by rules and regulations. It was withered by religion. It was withered; it was not like God intended. It was no longer reaching out to touch nations, and bless nations; rather it was twisted, withered and turned inward. So when Jesus looked around the church, and He saw this man there; the man's hand was withered, means it was all dried up, there was no life in the hand; and the Bible tells us it was his right hand. You look in Luke 6, it says: it was the right hand of the man was withered all up; and the right hand in the Bible is quite significant, because the right hand always speaks of two things. It speaks of blessing - come, sit on my right hand, you blessed of My Father.
So whenever the Bible is talking about the right hand of God, it refers of blessing, releasing blessing. Isaac laid hands - he laid his right hand, the hand of blessings; so always the right hand was the hand of blessing. If you go to India, you'll know the right hand is definitely the hand of blessing; and the other hand is definitely not, not even allowed to touch anyone with it. Horrible, and we won't go there. [Laughter] You go on a missions trip to India sometime there, and you can find out why you don't touch anyone with the left hand. The right hand is the right hand of blessing; and it's also, the Bible refers to power and strength. God delivered them by His right hand, so when the Bible's talking about the right hand, it's a picture for us, prophetic picture, literally of blessing and power and life, flowing out of the church to touch people who's lives are in need; and it was withered, and it was turned inward.
When people usually have had a withered hand, or something's gone wrong like that, the whole hand turns, often it turns in; and so there's embarrassment, there's shame, and usually there's a hiding. The person becomes quite self-centred, and self-conscious; and not only that, he's quite restricted what he can do. So when Jesus saw the man in there, I'm sure he was trying to hide himself, because if you've got that kind of condition, you don't show it off. You usually conceal it; and this is what I saw. I saw that so much of the church of today in New Zealand, is like it's withered, it's drawn back and drawn inward; and looking inward, looking at itself, and not actually functioning as it ought to, to bring life into the community, life into the nation, life to those that are lost. As Jesus looked, He spotted the man. I think the Holy Ghost spoke to Him, because the Bible tells us He said: I only do the things I see the Father doing; so right in the middle of the meeting He provokes a fight. He says to the man: rise up and stand up!
So Jesus is about to challenge where the church of His day is at. I wonder in your life, where you are with God? What overflow from your life is touching people? I wonder how intentional the overflow of your life is, to reach people who don't know Christ? It's not easy in New Zealand. It's quite difficult. I love going to these other nations, but I'm very aware that many of these other nations I go to, that there is a move of God in them, and so there's a spiritual environment, and you do see a tremendous amount of things happen in a very short space of time.
So anywhere you go up in Asia, in Africa, South America, you'll find great movings of the spirit of God. When you come to our own nation yes, God moves, but actually you've got to contend and fight for every step of the way. I was talking to an American Pastor who's been working in New Zealand for some time, and he said: oh, I have had to fight every step of the way. He said: any other place in the world, it would be easy compared to how I find it here. He said: I've had to fight to get the breakthroughs, and fight to stand up, and fight to keep my spirit right, and fight to keep a place of faith in my heart; because he said: it's the passivity, and unbelief, and negativity, that seems to blanket the nation. He said: I've had to fight to stand up, but I can go anywhere in the world and the life of God will flow, because I've had to fight and break through all that stuff. I was talking to Bill Subritzky just on Friday, and he said he'd had time with Anwar, and Anwar said he was shocked when he came to New Zealand, how different it is to overseas, to Pakistan. He said in Pakistan, he'd lift his hand, and the power of God would come, people would fall down, and all kinds of miracles happened. He said here he felt like it was suffocating, trying to breathe spiritually, and see breakthrough.
But that's okay, because that means that you've just got to stand up inside, and get big on the inside; every one of us lives in the same environment, so you make a choice. You can choose whether your life gets withered, or you can choose when you rise up. You know Jesus said about the sower and the seed, He said: the sower plants the seed; and it's the heart, the condition of the heart is what determines whether the seed produces any fruit; and so He said: there's some by the roadside; and He said: when the sun comes up, and it beats down on it, it withers away. He said: those that hear the word of God, so they're believers sitting in a church, that are receiving the word of God week by week, but when the pressure comes on, they don't stand; because they haven't let God get deep into their heart. How do you let God get deep into your heart? Have you let your roots go down in prayer, so you're standing and believing God for breakthroughs in your life, holding His word over your life to see change? Or has the pressure caused you to wither, and lose your hope, and your fire, and your faith, in your life?
You have to make choices on these things, and I wonder in your spiritual condition today, where you are at, and if something has withered you. There's many things can wither us, and I'm preaching to myself in all of this. Many things can wither us. Disappointment can wither you, where you prayed and reached out to God, and it seemed like it didn't happen. In fact it seemed like something else happened, and you're left with disappointment, and can't understand why. Setbacks, where you'd had something planned, or had some hopes and expectations, and it didn't work out; and grief starts to set around your heart - that can wither you up. Perhaps you're here today, and grief got into your life, and so instead of being bubbly with the joy of the Lord, Jesus said: My joy I give to you, let no man take it from you. There is a joy that God gives to us. It actually is a gift to us. It comes with the person of the Holy Ghost, as we abide in Him in prayer and the word, and listening and flowing with Him, there is a joy God puts in your heart. Don't let anyone take it from you.
The Bible describes a withered condition, where joy has withered away. Man, we need plenty of joy in our life, need to laugh more, laugh more and have more fun and connect with people. Enjoy the life of God. It's not a hard life, it's a great life walking with God - but what has withered it up? Has fear withered it up? Fear will shrink the gifts of God in our life. Fear always shrinks the gifts of God. Paul wrote to Timothy, he said Timothy, you're withered up man! I've put a gift into your life - stir the gift up! God hasn't given you a spirit of fear. Fear can wither your life and your gift. Bitterness, when you get hurt by someone, you don't resolve it and you let it sit there and it sits there chugging away in your heart. It withers away the life. You know, financial pressures can wither away the life, you end up being burdened.
I was with a guy the other day in Promise Keepers, he come up to me after the meeting. He was in bad shape really and he just kept telling me everything, I mean everything you can imagine seemed to be a problem with the guy, and now he was quite sick. His health had gone, his job had gone, his finances had gone, everything had pretty well gone; but as he talked a little bit more, I kept hearing him saying that everything good has been taken away from him. I thought that's interesting, talk to me more about that. Then I began to realise, you've got big walls in your heart, and the more I listened to him and asked the questions, the more I realised - in the end I said: I recognise what your problem is. I said: you've never got over your dad abandoning you at ten years old, walked out of the home, left you there; and He said you were close to him, and your life withered at that point when you had that trauma in your life, and you have never been the same.
I said: I've listened to what you've been saying to me, and it seems to me like everything good in your life has been taken away. I said: actually there was one good thing taken away, and that was your father, and you've never gotten over it. You actually are believing that's going to be your future. You need to deal with this thing in your heart. As I began to talk to him he just stood there, tears started to come down, first time he'd cried in years. As he began to feel God start to touch him, we gave him some help; and of course he was stuck with the whole thing of money, had little money coming in. I said listen, even if you haven't got much money coming in, don't think like a poor man. Don't stay withered like in poverty. I said: listen, just take one dollar. Don't worry about people telling you what you've got to give and don't give. Take one dollar, and hold it in your hand and pray over it, and say: God, it's all I've got, it's my life; and put it in the offering. I said: when you do it, don't be ashamed. God's looking for your heart, not looking for how much money you're giving. He's looking for what's in your heart. I said: when you do it, break out of all this guilt and condemnation that everyone's put on you. Just hold it before the Lord, and say: God, I give it with joy. I said: then take an hour of your life, and give it to someone. You'll be blessed; and stop saying that you have nothing in life. You're withered by your heart attitude and thinking, not by life itself. He just walked away, and he was just kind of like a different person.
So what got a hold of you and withered you? What's stolen the good life of God away from you? That's the thing you've got to answer, because no one can answer it for you. The Holy Ghost can show you, if you're withered; if you've lost something of the life, vibrancy, your enthusiasm and passion for God, if something has dried up inside, then say: God, I want to get my life back again.
And so Jesus saw that. He saw that man withered up. He saw that church in a state where it should be reaching, extending beyond itself; and He spoke and He pulled the guy out, got him right out there in front of everyone, so no one can ignore what He's about to do. He tells him two commands. The first command is this, first command's really simple: stand up, rise up. Stand up in front of everyone, and come out. Now that's not easy to do when you're handicapped. When you've got something there that you're embarrassed and ashamed of, you've got to make a decision that you'll move out of your comfort zone, and you're not going to stay with the crowd, and you're not going to stay hidden in the crowd. You're going to stand up, you're going to stand up, you're going to stand up and have your life count. You've got to make that kind of decision of standing up on the inside, and to stand up on the inside means prayer. Put it really clear, prayer. If we're not praying, we're not standing on the inside!
Prayer, faith, felt passionate prayer can only come out of someone standing up on the inside; and you've got to make decisions to do that, otherwise you'll wake up tomorrow, and the pressure and the heaviness and whatever of life, it'll just squish you down; and you say a little nod to God, and your spiritual life begins to wither. You haven't got enough inside you to stand up. God wants us to stand up, be full of life and full of joy - but we've got to do something, so Jesus is calling us, stand up, we've got a prayer meeting this week - RISE UP! You're not praying? Don't stay away from the prayer meeting, come, get stirred up, and then make a decision: I'll decide to build my prayer life, little by little, until I've got something inside me, and I'm standing up.
I remember talking to Jo there some time ago, and Jo was going through a spot of bother in her life, and it withered her up a little bit, and she kind of vanished inside the box. It happens you know. When you get withered in your spirit, you sort of disappear inside, and no one knows where you are; but she made a decision and a commitment to get up and start to pray; and boy, what a great worship leader she's becoming now. This is the thing. This is the life God's given - we've got this great opportunity in a spiritual environment like this to pray, build our life with God. Deal with whatever's withered you. Get to a course that helps you deal with whatever's withered you, face it, name it. This is what Jesus said to do. I love this, and I'll finish with this right now.
Jesus said to the man: stand up; and so it first takes a decision to stand, to arise inside, to begin to start to connect with God, pray, let your life begin to flow again in obedience to Him. The second thing you do, you ask Him to do something you can't do, unless you get a miracle. Now I want you to see this really clearly. He could not physically stretch his hand. It took the power of God to do it, but you know the power of God is always released when you stretch. You never see the power of God in your comfort zone. You never see the power of God in the life you've been used to living, you only see it when you go out and start to take some risks, and start to move beyond your comfort area. That's when you start to see it. You know it's interesting: it's as he stretched, the miracle happened. Most believers don't want to stretch; and often what happens, you put them in a stretch situation - oh man, that's a bit uncomfortable, I'll go back to where I feel safe again.
You take up a role as a cell group leader, you have to stretch. But here's the thing, the very thing you want to do, which is grow, happens in the stretching, and taking up responsibility. Start to get involved in reaching out to people, the very act of reaching out to someone else, stretches you. See, if the church doesn't stretch out to the unsaved, it's actually failing in the mission that Jesus gave us. It's not my mission, it's His mission to each of us. So let me share with you three things you could do to stretch.
Here's the first one, and they're not necessarily in order of importance, but there's three things I felt God just put on my heart really simply. Number one is: start to care; you need to be intentional about these, intentional about caring for people, just showing kindness to people, generosity to people. You'd be amazed how you can influence lives through caring for people, just taking a little stretch to show kindness, do something. We've seen some amazing things happening in the church, of people reaching out to one another, helping one another, blessing one another financially. I've heard some great testimonies of people's lives just being impacted by the extension of generosity. There's people you don't even know of. They're never on a platform, and they're reaching out behind the scenes, showing kindness, doing things you don't even know about. Showing care, caring for people.
Number two: we need to hear people, need to listen to people. You never know what's going on in someone's life until you've listened to them, and found out their journey. One of the things, if you really want to stretch, is set your mind: I'm going to start to enquire, and listen to the people that come across my life, to find out what is going on in their world. I want to find out about their journey, where they are, what they're concerned about, what they're struggling with. Don't be in a hurry to try and fix them up. Just have a great passion to come near to them, because one of the big issues of today, worldwide, is people feel alone and disconnected. If you would make the effort to reach out to people who are disconnected, and start to listen to their story, and ask and enquire, and find out where they are, you'd be amazed what is going on in people's lives. That opens the door for caring, then you can share what God has given to you.
It's quite simple isn't it aye? Hear, care and share. Take an intentional effort to listen to people, find where they are; show kindness and care for them; then share, when you have the opportunity, what God did for your life, that made your life change, and your life different. People are waiting to hear what you have, but they won't hear what you have until they see if you care. This is the time to stretch out. This is the time for all of us to stretch out; all of it is under-girded by praying.
I encourage us to begin to think now. Perhaps in your life you're like that man who's a bit turned inward, and a bit self-referenced, and you've drawn back in some kind of way, and there's not the same life there. Why don't you make a decision, God, that's me! I know when you heard it, you thought of someone else; but no, that's me! I'm turned inward, and I'm a bit withered up, and I don't have much life, and I'm certainly not nice to be around. I'm not smiling much anymore, not much joy. You're withered! Come on, what withered you? Make a decision: God, I'm going to bring this thing to the light, I'm going to face where the joy was taken away, reconnect with you, and start to stretch; because it's in the stretching through caring, and hearing, and sharing with people, I'm going to actually start to see God move in a greater way in my life. Why don't we just close our eyes right now.
Father, I just thank You, that You encourage and strengthen us. Lord, I thank You for that tremendous story, and the miracle that was done. I thank You Lord you're provoking us to reach people who don't have anyone who cares for them, no one who hears them, and no one who'll share life with them, and an answer for them. Father, I just pray that there would be a spirit of evangelism, begin to flow like a river through this church, spirit of evangelism to reach our city, community, neighbours; Lord, to begin to touch.
Just while our eyes are closed and heads are bowed, is there anyone here that doesn't know Jesus? This would be a great day if you get to know Him. Perhaps when I shared about being withered, you thought: boy, that's me. Sin will wither you up too you know, sin; just being disconnected from God and living a life without Him. That leaves you pretty bad on the inside. It leaves you withered, spiritually withered; but you know that could all change in a moment if you reconnected with God. Jesus said: whoever received Him, and believed on Him, he'd give power to become a child of God.
Maybe there's someone sitting here today hasn't become a Christian. If you are, I want you to raise your hand and say: I want to give my life to Jesus today. I'd love to pray for you, love to see you get saved, love to see Jesus touch your life. I wonder how many people here, and God was speaking to you today, you realise: oh man, I'm a bit withered up, I've lost my life and vitality, and freshness with God. I feel God's speaking to me about dealing with something in my life. If you hear God speak to you, why don't you raise your hand right now, say God's talking to me that way. I wonder how many people felt God challenge you today to stretch, to stretch out beyond yourself to people who don't know Him, either with kindness or friendship, through listening to them, through caring for them, sharing what you have and sharing your life. If you felt God speak that why don't you just raise your hand today and say it.
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· Jn.7:37-38 “He that believes on me out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”
· Jesus Message – “Kingdom of God is near – within reach”.
· Jesus Purpose – come that you might have Life and may have it more abundantly.
· Indwelling presence of the Spirit of God is designed to flow out to others.
· Ezekiel’s vision – river from the house of God – flow to the lost, dry, people in need.
· Unless there is an outward flow – spiritual life becomes withered.
- purpose of God is frustrated.
2. The Man with The Withered Hand
(a) Key Passages Mark 3: 1 – 6
(b) He entered the Synagogue (v1)
· Synagogue = local church, gathering to worship – called to extend the Kingdom of God.
· Called to represent Christ – extend His hand to the World.
· Prophetic picture of the nation – failing to reach beyond self.
(c) He had a Withered Hand (v1)
· Hand = Works, doing something, activity, productive work.
= Ministry (serving) people.
· Right Hand (Lk 6:6) = main hand you work with.
= Hand of blessing (Mt.25L33)
= Power of God (Exod. 15:6)
· Withered = Dried up, shrivelled, scorched, no life
= Like a piece of fruit left under the bed – withered.
= Not functioning as God intended.
= No extension of the love of God to reach the World.
= Turned inward – turned in on self.
= Shame – concealed – withdrawn.
· What has withered you?
- What caused you to lose vitality, draw back from serving God?
- What caused you to become withered and turn inward?
- Trials and difficulties? e.g. Mt.13:6
- Offenses – bitterness?
- Disappointment – Grief?
- Negative words spoken?
- Spiritual pressure – resistance?
- Unfulfilled expectations?
· You choose your response – becoming withered is a consequence of disconnection.
· Brain Aneurism – can cause hand to become withered
– what are you thinking? What are you believing in your heart?
(d) Jesus Spoke to the Man (v3)
(i) “Arise and Stand Forth”
Arise = to awaken from sleep, inactivity, death, disease.
Heart of the Father is to restore – Jesus came to give life – abundant.
Arise! – must shake off passivity and defeat and inward focus.
Make a decision to stand up on the inside.
Stand Forth! – Don’t hide in the crowd.
Don’t conceal yourself – hide your gift.
(ii) “Stretch Forth”
The miracle is in the stretch – reaching beyond comfort.
“Stretch” = to extend out the hand beyond normal position.
As he stretched the power of God was released.
Don’t wait until you see change – believe and stretch.
(iii) Application – How you can stretch – Be Intentional!
(a) Care for people
· Look for opportunity to do acts of Kindness.
· Smile, appreciation, practical help.
· Generosity to people – let people see reality of your life.
(b) Hear people
· People are isolated and struggle with issues – connect.
· Enter their world – ask questions take an interest.
· What is happening?
· What is their journey?
· What are they concerned about?
(c) Share your Life
· What can you do/give to make their world a better place?
· Your testimony – your journey with Christ – share it!
· What has Christ done for you – let people see it!
· Commit daily to pray for people for opportunities.
· Extend your faith to believe for doors to people to open.
· Arise – stretch forth your hand.
Let the life and power of God begin to flow!