“On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men with leprosy came toward him. They stood at a distance and shouted, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ Jesus looked at them and said ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ On their way they were healed. When one of them discovered that he was healed, he came back, shouting praises to God. He bowed down at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was from the country of Samaria. Jesus asked ‘Weren’t ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Why was the foreigner the only one who came back to thank God?’ Then Jesus told the man, ‘You may get up and go. Your faith has made you well.” Luke 17: 11-19 (CEV)
You have a need for healing! There’s just no way around it. We’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world, so even on your best days, the need is there. How can you be sure? Well, just take a look at your own life for a moment. You’re bound to find something. This won't be a conversation to point out weakness, but rather, to point out your need for a healer- more importantly, a healthy perspective of that healer. Perhaps, like the men in our scripture, you seek healing in the face of pain, injury or sickness. Perhaps you have a broken heart, an anxious mind or a damaged self-image. Perhaps you’ve been cut deep- scarred by hurtful words. Do you seek healing from the overwhelming burdens of life? The demands from your family, the repetition at your job or the weight of too many obligations. Do you need your trust renewed? In God? In other people? Some of you seek repair from guilt, relief from shame or the strength to overcome an addiction. Others desire a reset from the simple annoyances and misfortunes of today. Are you striving to bounce back from a financial crisis? Bills and expenses pile up! Does your need for healing cry out from deep within your soul? There are inner storms that cloud the space between our head and our heart. Maybe truth no longer seems true to you? You can’t find a way to calm yourself, tone down anger or chase away fear. Perhaps you need healing from apathy or discontentment- renewal from laziness or a lack of focus. We all require healing in some capacity. There is only one physician and only one remedy, and we are all seeking Him for our blessings.
What were your first feelings toward our scripture reading? Perhaps your conclusions were much like my own. As a spectator, I found myself frustrated with the nine men who chose to walk away. It’s a theme that still occurs today. Jesus responds to the pleas and cries of His people- He answers prayers- He even heals, and yet, many of us just receive the blessings and walk away. We run up a tree and hoard them like a squirrel with a nut. I went back and read the passage again, but the second time, I found it much harder to point my fingers at those same men. You see, I have prayed for healing before. I have cried out and asked the Lord to take pity on me. Many times, I have even been blessed enough to receive the healing I prayed for. Sometimes, I’ve thanked God. Sometimes, I’ve shown gratitude, but more often than not, I have accepted the blessings as if I deserved them.
A heart of faith can easily become a heart of entitlement. The longer we walk this Christian road, the more prone we are to accepting the gifts and neglecting the Giver. We crown ourselves “chosen,” and “loved,” by the “Christian badges” we wear, but forget who truly chooses and loves us. It’s a battle… “expecting the healing” vs “a longing for the healer.” Many of us have grown up in church. We’ve learned of God’s providence- His unfailing love- His powerful hands that help, heal and work for our good, but the enemy also knows that as our wisdom increases, we can tend to capitalize on the “free” of God’s price tag. “No charge?! Well sure, I’ll take some healing- maybe some salvation, too. You know what? I might as well take some grace while you’re at it!” He answers our prayers and we stuff the blessings in our pockets like free samples, along with the rest of our praise, admiration and gratitude. We begin to expect God’s power rather than yearn for it. “Yeah, God was good to me there, but it’s about time He stepped in. I’ve got things to do.” Ever felt like the least God could do for His people is bless them? I know I have. “Just give me my allowance so I can go spend it, Dad.” God loves us, unconditionally, so why make such a big deal out of the healing when it costs Him nothing?
God is sovereign. He has a will of His own. Does His healing love really cost Him nothing? What about giving up His only Son? What about sending Him to die on the cross for our sins? Did healing our souls really cost Him nothing? It was free, but the cost was still great. Most of us couldn't possibly comprehend God’s interest level in our lives. Most of us can’t fathom the magnitude of His attention to our prayers. We turn on the faucet and expect the water to come out. If it doesn’t, we file a complaint. We forget that someone’s out there managing things on the other end. We can’t always expect something just because it’s been offered with open hands, and we can’t expect our "due" from God just because He offers to love us freely. God made us, but He does not owe us a thing. It’s incredibly difficult to admit when we struggle with this. It’s an attitude that makes thankfulness nearly impossible, whether the healing comes or not.
I have prayed for healing. I have waited on God. But, I have also found myself resentful that I had to ask God for healing in the first place. If He really loved me He would’ve stepped in before I began to pray. If He was paying attention to my acts of service He would see that I’ve been living for Him. I deserve this! He really drops the ball on coming through for me sometimes... What? Oh how foolish I can be sometimes!
Imagine celebrating a holiday, any holiday where gifts are given. Each year, you know there will be something new and special to open. It becomes a custom and the norm over the years. You know that your anticipation will always end with the long expected gift. Can you imagine the surprise, the disappointment and the disapproval you would feel if your parents chose to break the cycle? What if they didn’t give you a gift this year? They didn’t notify you. They just said it wasn't part of their plan. Boy would that teach some humility! It would certainly refresh your perspective on the givers. They’re in control, and if you want that gift, you’re going to need their help to get it. Swap God into the conversation and see the same truth. Humility is key. God's salvation, healing, grace; we learn of them, sometimes encounter them, but over time, expect them. God’s healing hands are not items we can accept or toss aside, and they certainly aren't anything we deserve by our own merit. We are entitled to nothing, but in seeing the sovereignty and love of the Father, we can find freedom rather than frustration.
It is only out of love that we can accept God’s blessings of healing. The Samaritan understood this. He grasped true grace. He knew that he never deserved the healing; he was never entitled to anything. He just knew that something in his life needed to be cleansed and it could only be done in completion by one. Desperation drove him to Jesus and his lack of entitlement made the healing that much sweeter. You’re in need of some healing today. You too can be the one who runs back to the Savior in pure praise. God does the work, so show the gratitude. Be amazed by His capacity to love. We can never deserve it. We can never earn it, and still, He gives.