HOW IS THE CHURCH GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
PART 7: BEING A WITNESS TO THOSE…
CRIPPLED BY LIFE
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – WHAT DO WE MEAN?
Being “crippled” means being “unable to walk due to injury or illness”. When we talk about being “crippled by life” we are referring to being unable to effectively “walk” through life because of the emotional, psychological, or spiritual injuries that we sustain in day-to-day living. Physically it is visually obvious that someone has been crippled. Emotionally (or psychologically or spiritually) this inability to cope with life is not always visible.
[The term “cripple” is not considered “pc” any longer in our society – though as a word it has been used since at least 950 ad when it came across from a German word. However, we are using the acceptable word “crippled” and please note that we are using the term here not as a derogatory, insulting one, referring to a person’s inability to walk, but as a spiritual term of what happens “inside” the heart and mind of mankind]
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – A CASE STUDY
You may remember Debbie? She was the one who my dog, Charlie, saved when she had locked herself in the toilets with a knife to her stomach wanting to “end it all”.
Debbie was “crippled by life”. She was born into a highly abusive household and suffered significant harm for a number of years before she was finally taken away from her parents and put into care with a loving Christian family. The psychological damage already done to her was, however, profound. This beautiful little girl had become an “elective mute” – rarely speaking to any adult – and if she did it would be in a squeaky baby-voice that was totally alien to the noise she made on the playground with her friends. Without warning she would transform from meek-and-quiet to a person of screaming-and-destruction – hurling furniture about the room. She was physically immature, emotionally destroyed and psychologically quite dangerous. With constant efforts to kill herself she was one of the most crippled-by-life cases I have ever known. It was the love and care of her Christian foster parents – much more than my meagre attempts to counsel her – that literally kept her alive.
We know of many others who have attempted, or succeeded in, taking their own life who appeared to be happy in their lives. Their smiles, their loud conversation, their bravado covers “the tracks of their tears”.
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – BY WHAT?
What things “cripple” a person in life?
- Being hurt by someone – by what they have SAID to us – words which can be like a sword cutting into our heart, lowering our self-esteem – making us believe we are ugly, stupid, un-lovely, bad
- Being hurt by someone – by what they have DONE to us – actions that destroy our lives – we have been lied to, stolen from, assaulted, rejected, cheated-on
- Failure – a LOSS of a job, or income, or a position that meant a lot to us
- Loneliness – the feeling of being always ALONE – no one’s fault – just that we have no-one special – no husband, no wife, no children, no friends
- Fear – of the past, of the present and of the future; fear of dying, fear of people, fear of all the above…FEAR that paralyses us.
- Mental health issues – DESPAIR – depression, bi-polar syndrome, anxiety – all these (and more) often have the effect of totally crippling us in our ability to cope with life.
CRIPPLED BY LIFE THROUGH “THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS”
A world without God is looking for happiness. A world without God cries out “if only I had more money…a better job…a wife…a child…a home…then I would be happy”. So many who are “crippled by life” cry out that they have “never really been happy” and so “there is nothing worth living for”.
“They” do not realise that happiness is transitory – and that fulfilment and contentment is what is really important – and feel crippled by life without this constant happiness that the world says they deserve.
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – HELPED BY THE POWER OF OUR WITNESS
Acts 3: 1-16 tells the well-known story of Peter and John at the Gate Beautiful and the healing of the crippled beggar by the supernatural power of God channelled through His witnesses there.
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
In this wonderful story we learn the lesson of how we are called to bring hope and healing to those who have been “crippled by life”.
- No-one knew how to really help this poor man – the only help they could give him was to carry him to the gate daily so that he could beg. You know, we live in a society which doesn’t really have any long-term answer to those who are crippled by life. Society does its best – it gives drugs to the psychotic and the depressed, methadone to the addict, counselling to the anxious, money to the poor. These are all good things. But we have been called to bring healing to those crippled by life.
- The beggar at the Gate Beautiful could not walk – and was looking for money. But money for him was just a “sticking plaster” – it gave him enough to stagger through life, but gave him no fulfilment, no contentment, no future. Those who are crippled by life are just like this beggar. They see no hope in their life being healed; they simply look forward to somehow surviving the next day. And society takes pity on those who are like this. These are all good things. But we have been called to bring healing to those crippled by life.
- Peter and John daily went to the Temple. Every day they would have seen the beggars and disabled by the gate. Yet, it is only NOW that we see them responding by proclaiming healing “in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth”. I believe that Peter and John were so in-tune with God -walking day-by-day in the Spirit – that they were alert to His calling for them to do this work of healing NOW. We are called to be like Peter and John at the Gate Beautiful. And again, this means US being alert and aware – alert to the opportunities and aware of the Holy Spirit guiding us and empowering us to be the witnesses for Him that we are called to be.
- That is why Peter did not give him “silver or gold” – the “quick fix” because this was not the problem. What Peter gave him was healing. And, like Peter, we have been called to bring healing to those crippled by life.
- And look at the effect that the healing of the man had on those around them. The sign and wonder of the healing drew the attention of the onlookers – and they came “running” to the place where it happened. NOW Peter was able to PREACH the Gospel to them and the signs and wonders that the people had seen plus the Word he then spoke led to many being persuaded and becoming believers (Acts 4: 4). In the same way – we are called to heal those who have been crippled by life; and as the “onlookers” see the change that this healing brings they will be intrigued, and listen, and many will believe. Our witness to the crippled by life becomes a witness to many others.
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – BRINGING HEALING
- THROUGH THE POWER OF CHRISTIAN LOVE AND CARE – COMPASSION
One of the best ways we can be a supernaturally natural witness is to be aware and available to the real needs of all those around us – for example, look at the work of “Transforming Lives for Good” – where crippled-by-life young people are being given what they really need by Christians who really care. As a result, many of these young people are truly healed, over time, through the love of Christian workers, and become wonderful Christians who then go on to be an inspiration – and a witness – to others.
You too are called to be witnesses to those around you who are crippled by life. Just love them, care for them, be there for them, pray for them, provide for them, stand by them – and just like the Christian foster parents of Debbie you will see healing of the crippled-by-life.
- THROUGH THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
This social Gospel has many merits – to counsel the sad is good; to feed the hungry is godliness in action. But, it is not the be-all-and-end-all – the “crippled man” needs “healing” – their hurts and fears and loneliness removed – and this only comes when the Holy Spirit enters them and gives them new life where they can walk through life and eternity.
Peter did not just help the beggar at the Gate Beautiful, he HEALED him! He lifted him up. He gave him back his life. In the same way, the ultimate witness that we can be to those who have been crippled by life is to see them totally “healed” of all the hurts that have so wounded and damaged them – and total healing is…salvation.
CRIPPLED BY LIFE – A CONCLUSION AND A CHALLENGE
As I look around me at the world, I see those who are smiling and seemingly “A-OK”. But my experience of the world is that most of this is just a “front” – a mask that people wear to mask the fact that they are so damaged, so full of hurts and so full of fears – so crippled by life.
We have been called to be witnesses to those who have been crippled by life – which is most people.
We have been called to love them and care for them and support them.
But most of all, we have been called – like Peter and John – to bring total healing to them as we tell them the Good News of what Jesus has done for them and the Good News of life eternal.
Let us be supernaturally natural as we set about doing this and fulfilling our mission.