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God wants you to have a vibrant purpose. He wants you connected to Him, to understand your purpose, and fully engage with Him. If for some reason that you have been injured in life, hurt in life or disconnected from God, it's inevitable your life will not demonstrate all it could. Your life will be like this man with the withered hand, not just a physical thing but emotional, with tremendous shame
If you've got a Bible with you, what about opening your Bible at Luke, Chapter 6 and Verse 6. I want to read a story to you out of the life of Jesus. I want you to just open your heart to consider the possibility that God is wanting to speak to you tonight, about an area of your life; and let's have a look and just read the passage out, Luke 6 verse 6: it came on another Sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue, and he taught; and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered - so our message tonight is about the Withered Hand, the right one.
He had a right hand, and it was withered; and the scribes and the Pharisees watched Him closely, not to see how He'd do the miracle, so they could copy; but rather watched Him so that whether He would heal on the Sabbath Day, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and He said to the man with the withered hand: arise, stand here. And he rose and stood.
And Jesus said to them - that's the Pharisees - I want to ask you one thing: is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or do evil; to save life, or to destroy it, or to kill? And when He looked around at them, He said to the man: stretch out your hand. And he did so, his hand was restored whole as the other; and rather than rejoice and celebrate, they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. And we know history tells us that they conspired to put Him on the cross.
I want to just draw a few thoughts out here. The first thing you need to do, is understand the nature of Jesus' ministry. Many times we confuse church meetings and the ministry of Jesus, and we need to be really clear. When Jesus came, He had a message, a very simple message. His message was that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He came to proclaim that the power, the benefits, the blessings that God has in his kingdom in heaven, are available on the earth, in life, here and now.
So His message was: the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His heart was to reconnect people with God, and get them to be engaged in heaven, engaged with God's purpose, so they could bring heaven to earth; at school, in their workplace if they're at work, in their business, in their marriage, in their family life; that whatever the blessings are that God has in heaven, whatever God has reserved in that place for us, that they could be born into the earth and manifest here. We live in a world that's full of chaos, that's ruled by sin and evil spirits, and Jesus came to bring a tremendous message of hope.
And so the place He came to was the nation of Israel, people called by God, and of course many times He went into the synagogue. A synagogue's like a little local church, it wasn't the big temple where the centre of worship was. It was like a local gathering. It was like a small church gathering, and people came to worship; and so many times Jesus went into this synagogue, and when He went in the synagogue, it was His habit - He made a habit of going and attending; but what He did was, inevitably He caused trouble. Inevitably He caused trouble, so He goes into the synagogue this time, and the Bible says that there's man in the synagogue, and he has a withered hand.
It doesn't tell us exactly how it happened he got the withered hand, but quite often what happens, person gets a brain aneurysm, have a problem in their brain, they get like a stroke, and their hand becomes quite withered up, or they lose use of a leg or use of a hand, use of one side. But this man's hand was withered up, and probably like most of these ones, if you've ever seen a person with a withered hand, it turns inward; and so here he is, and when a person's got a hand which is like that; the word withered means it's dried up, shrivelled up, it's absolutely no use. So he's got a part of his body which is absolutely no use, and it was his right hand; and the Bible, whenever it refers to right hand, the right hand always was the ministry. The right hand always was the blessing, the right hand always was someone's strength.
When the Bible's referring to your hand, it's talking about your capacity to work, your capacity to labour, so when it says that his right hand was withered, and it had all turned inward, what it's telling us is: his life had been deeply impacted by something that had happened to him. He was not like he ought to be. His potential was diminished, and there was a whole part of his life that would not operate. So today it's a picture for us of people unable to function in the gift and calling that God has given you to function in. God has given every person, every believer, a ministry calling. He's given you a calling to do something, accomplish something with your life. He doesn't want our life to be without purpose. A life without purpose is a withered life. It's a life that's not functioning properly.
God wants you to have a vibrant purpose. He wants you connected to Him, understand your purpose, and fully engage with Him; and if for some reason that you have been injured in life, hurt in life or disconnected from God, it's inevitable your life will not demonstrate all it could. Your life will be like this man with the withered hand, and so this man's hand was withered up. Undoubtedly it was not just a physical thing in his life. It was also an emotional thing. There was tremendous shame. He'd have had tremendous shame about it, because imagine going in some place, you know, and there you are and your hand - you've got to hide the thing.
I've seen people with withered hands, and they inevitably try and hide the disfigurement in their body; and so shame will cause us to draw back from people, draw back from engaging, draw back and not function like we ought to function. He's in church, he's in the house of God. This is a place to be lifting your hands and worshipping God. This is a place to be empowered to serve God. Instead he's in shame, and he's hiding, and his hand is withdrawn; and he cannot function like he should.
I wonder what is withering you. I wonder what has happened in your life, that has stopped you fulfilling God's purpose for your life; what's stopped you from doing all that you could be doing for God, what's caused you to become passive, shrunken, withdrawn; and no longer doing - or not doing what God has called you to do? It could be fear. Perhaps fear has come into your life, fear of failure because of difficulties that you've had? It could be shame, because of things that have happened in your life. It could be patterns of sin that have got around your life, and so your life is not what all of it could be. It's actually shut down.
It could be that you have some kinds of issues in your background that you have given into, or had happen to you, and so your life has been affected. Trauma can affect people. I read in the paper, on more than one occasion, where a person's been held up or armed robbery in a shop, and then when you follow up the person later on, you find they can't hold the job any longer. The trauma has literally shocked their soul, and withered their soul, and they're not functioning properly.
Sometimes when people are growing up, they live under critical judgemental words, and that withers the soul, causes you to end up with these lies in your mind: I'm not good enough. You can't do what you could do. You can't fulfil your potential, because there's a withering of your hand. There's a withering inside your mind, a withering inside your soul, that affects what you do with your life. Listen, the Bible says: as you think in your heart or believe in your heart, that's how you'll be. So if you have conflicts that are unresolved, grief, you have disappointments, you have bitterness, you have offences, you have unresolved sin, you have abuse or trauma in your life; these things can wither your mind, and your thinking, and your attitude, to the point where you don't function like you could - and that's this man.
And Jesus came to this man. I want you to see what happened. It's quite possible that they did not let people who were crippled in a synagogue, so it's quite possible that the Jewish ruler set this one up, to see what Jesus would do. So Jesus walks in the synagogue, and He saw the man with the withered hand. It was pretty hard to hide the thing, no matter how hard you try. He saw it, and here's the thing; the synagogue, the local church, is a place for people to discover the heart of God, and to connect with God, and to be released into their ministry, into the call of God in their life. It's not to be filled with laws, and do's and don'ts, and criticism and judgement, and pettiness and position-seeking, backbiting and all of that kind of stuff. It's not to do with that at all. It's a place of worship - He said: my house will be a house of prayer; and so the local church is a gathering of people, to inspire people to serve, and Jesus came in.
When He came into the church, this is what He saw. He saw a man with a withered hand, but He saw something else. He saw a coldness, and a hardness in the hearts of people, and so He provoked a fight. Now sometimes people think that Jesus is a sissy person - not so. He's a man of intense courage, immense courage, and so many times He would confront things quite strongly, quite boldly. Often it was in the synagogue. Even in the temple, He took to them all with a whip, and drove out all the money changers.
See, this Jesus we serve is not just a nice, gentle person. He's courageous to face injustice. When you look at the same story in Mark, it's interesting because it adds in some details that Luke doesn't write, and it says in Mark 3: He looked around, and He was angry. He was furious. Often you don't think of Jesus being angry. You think of Jesus being nice and smiley. You think of Jesus, you want to think of smiley Jesus, not think of an angry Jesus. It's not a nice thought at all - but He was angry. Now He was angry about something. The Bible says: He was angry, He was angry, being grieved or in great sorrow over this man's condition, and the hardness of heart, or the lack of compassion and care there was in the church of that day, to that man's needs. That's what He was grieved about.
If Jesus was to stand here physically in the church today, and to look around, the same thing that made Him angry then, would make Him angry today. He said: He looked around; that's why He picked a fight. He said: He knew what they were thinking. He knew that these people, all these religious people had in mind, they were law keepers. The Bible tells us that they were hypocrites. They lived one thing on the outside, and another thing on the inside. They put on a show for people, so they looked good. They're like church-wise people; been around church a long time, and they look okay on the outside, and know how to behave and perform, but inside no heart and passion for God, and no care for the people God's concerned about. That's what this was about - and so He stood up, and He saw the man; and He gave three commandments to the man: two of them, and then He put a challenge in the middle of it, and then He gave the third commandment.
The first two were very simple commands. He said to the man: rise up, or wake up; and then I want you to stand up, come over here and stand by me. Two commands; rise up in your spirit; stand up where you are, and come and stand next to me. Now that's not nice to get a handicapped person, and make a feature of him, and bring him out the front, you know? It's not politically correct to do that kind of stuff is it? He brought the handicapped man up, but He knows what He's going to do. See, the heart of God is always to restore and to heal. Jesus represents what the heart of God does, and He's both angry when there's religious indifference to the needs of people; and He's also stirred by the needs of people.
And so He drew the man up, and then He spoke to the religious people, and He said: well tell me this - is it right to good, or do evil, on the Sabbath Day? Is it right to bring life, give life; or to kill? You see, these people were religious people. If you have no relationship with God, you tend to live your life by rules and laws and regulations, and do this and don't do that, you can't do this and can't do that, and that's how they lived their lives - doesn't bring life to anyone. No laws can bring you life, only a relationship with God can bring you life. And so He said: well which is it? Because they were watching to see if He'd heal. They wanted to accuse Him of working on the Sabbath Day. He points out the hypocrisy, and said: even the priests will kill a sacrifice, and do some work on the Sabbath Day; so He's asking the question: well is it better to kill; or is it better to bring life? Is it better to offer your offerings and kill your sheep, or is it better to bring life to someone who's in need? He said: you don't have a clue about what God is like. He said: God is not interested in sacrifices and offerings. He said: they're more for your sake, than God's sake. He's not interested in those. What He's interested in, is a compassion for people in need.
In the Old Testament, He put it like this: He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you - to do justly, or to act right towards the poor, the widows and the orphans and oppressed; to love mercy, to love and delight in showing mercy, kindness and compassion to people; and to just walk humbly, or dependent on the Lord. Pharisees did none of these things. He said to them in another place, He said: you go and read your Bible again. He said: can't you find in the Old Testament, it says I delight in mercy, not in sacrifice; and so He challenged them, and He knew He was challenging them. Then He said to the man - now He told the man to do something He couldn't do. The first two commands he could do - he could stand up; and he could rise up, and he could come to Jesus, stand next to Jesus. The last one took the power of God, and when he responded to the first two, Jesus said: now stretch your hand out.
To everyone's astonishment a creative miracle took place. Now a creative miracle's not just an ordinary miracle. This man's hand was withered and shrunk, and literally life came into it, and it was restored and made whole; and if he had a brain aneurysm, whatever was in his brain that had gone wrong, that was healed as well. Can you imagine what that - the impact something like that must have had? And of course crowds of people were absolutely thrilled, because the heart of God was on display. God loves to help people. But the religious people, the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the Bible says - you look at it in the book of Mark - it says: they went, and they connected with their arch enemies, the Herodians. The Herodians were a politically motivated people. The place had been taken over by Romans, and they put Herodians in charge of the nation, and so the Herodians were the followers of Herod, and they were actually political, they were always in political compromise. Anyone knows anything about politics you know it's a world of compromise - so they were into political compromise. They compromised the word of God in order to get position, and get authority in the nation politically; the Pharisees compromised the heart of God, and the ways of God to get position and influence among men in the church arena. The two had one thing in common; none of them knew the heart of God.
They came together, and the Bible says: they planned how they could kill Jesus. Isn't that extraordinary, that people who would say that they loved God, and come to worship Him; actually would be antagonistic, and to the point of wanting to kill the one who demonstrated what God was like. That's the nature of this thing that Jesus came to flush out.
If Jesus was to stand here today, He would have the same feelings of anger, when we overlook the needs of those who desperately need the touch of God, and the reality of the spirit of God,, and we're rather in favour of - we criticise and judge; and want position and influence among men. See Jesus was totally against that. He has a heart for people in need.
I tell you, Jesus is here tonight, and He is the same Jesus, as is spoken in that passage there. I'll tell you what, Jesus wants to touch you tonight and help you; so perhaps as you see that story, you can imagine the dramatic change in the man's life. He can go out and he can earn an income, he's not dependent on anyone, he's not longer got any shame. Finally he's out there. This whole thing, everyone can see. He is healed and had a miracle.
Tonight I wonder if there are people here, and your life, a part of it is withered up. Perhaps you're not connected to God at all, and something is definitely not right. You are not fulfilling your purpose from God. You could make a decision tonight to receive Jesus Christ; and enter the kingdom of God; and start on a journey, walking with Jesus, learning how to bring heaven to earth. What a great journey that would be. Perhaps there's something has withered your life; disappointment, a setback, a failure, words that have been spoken, judgements made against you. Perhaps there's been some traumatic situation; perhaps it's just some pattern of sin, and you know you are not functioning right. Tonight would be a good night to come, to stand up and come and stand where Jesus is moving and then stretch and believe that God's with you.