“When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6
Are you familiar with the word bilious? The first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure. Something to do with bile, I supposed. Later I learned from the dictionary that it means “relating to or containing bile,” and “a sickly yellowish color” At least I had the bile part right.
The woman who used the word was an elderly lady in a former church who was describing for me the inadequacies of a color that had been used in her Sunday School classroom. I had gone to visit her during December. She was an eccentric widow, and I thought a visit might cheer her during a sensitive time of the year. Somehow the discussion swerved into paint color and with great theatrical flourish, she pronounced her disdain. “Bilious!” she said. “Absolutely bilious!” She used the word once more during my 15 minute visit. She was nothing if not focused.
I thought of her recently when reading John’s account of Jesus’ healing the crippled man beside the pool (5:2-18). For thirty eight years he had been there, waiting for the miracle that never came. When Jesus found him, He asked a question that sounds very unusual. “Do you want to be healed?”
Why ask that question? Was He serious? Who wouldn’t want to be healed? To have a chance to walk, to rid yourself of the calluses, to begin to live a more normal life? Of course he wanted to be healed!
Or did he? Many times we can become very comfortable with our infirmities, physical or spiritual. Instead of making the genuine effort to deal with the problem we prefer the attention that comes from having the problem. Or we fail to see a problem at all.
Take my friend with the affinity for the word bilious. She had developed over the years a reputation as a rather prickly person with a superior attitude. Consequently, she had few real friends and was rather awkward in most social settings, though she certainly would not have recognized this. In a kind of etymological karma, a fourth level meaning of the word bilious is “having a peevish disposition, ill-humor.” That’s genuine irony.
Imagine her reaction if I had said the following: “Mrs. Smith (obviously not her real name), you are creating a great many problems for yourself by looking down on other people and having a generally negative outlook on life. Faith gives you the opportunity to have real joy and a divine optimism. God has surrounded you with people who genuinely love you. If you looked at His blessings, instead of all the things that perturb you, then you might not be so fixated on paint color.” She would probably have looked at me like I was an alien, with a bilious skin tone.
Do you want to be healed? We all need to hear and answer this question honestly. Before Jesus can deliver us from the real problems that beset us, we have to acknowledge their presence. True spiritual growth means honestly looking at the spiritual handicaps keeping God at bay. Frankly, it’s far easier to accommodate, excuse, and defend our spiritual shortcomings than go through the painful process of saying, “God, I’m sick and I desperately need to be healed.”
So if you are tired of staying in the same position in life, perhaps it’s time to have a talk with Jesus. What is it that holds you back? Is it a sin? Or a habit of thought? Or doubt? The Holy Spirit can illuminate the darkest corners of your life. God can show you what needs to be done. Listen as He asks the question, “do you want to be healed?”
Dr. Terry Ellis
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