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Rise and walk. He was saying this to a man who had lain there begging in dirt and filth for years. It was ridiculous to expect any action at all. To require such a man to rise, and even walk, was beyond any sense of decency. It was pointless and cruel.
Stretch forth thine hand. The arm was withered, useless, and had been so for a long time. Any reasonable person could see the man was doomed to live with only one working hand. Why torture the poor man?
Go your way; your son is made well. The man could have responded, “It’s an entire day’s walk back to my house. How do I know he’s made well? What if I go all that way and he isn’t? And how do you know he is well?”
“But I’ve been unable to stand or walk for years. My legs are atrophied.”
“Stretch forth my hand? Can’t you see it’s withered? I can’t stretch it forth. Let me go back and check with my doctor. I wouldn’t want to do any further damage.”
But instead, each one made his gesture.
The lame man rose up and walked. The man stretched forth his withered hand. The worried man stopped worrying and went home to his son. These were the gestures caused by faith, but what caused faith to rise, to stretch, to come home?
It was one, single, actual look at the face of Jesus. They saw clarity, reality, sanity, grace, and the love of God in his eyes. They saw he was no charlatan, and definitely not a madman. They saw the living Truth, the Way, and the Life.
This is what real contact with Jesus does to us—intimate, close, holy communion. We cannot help but believe, trust, rely—we cannot help but faithe. And the gesture that follows, whatever it may be, is the (super)natural outcome of the faith produced by that moment of truly knowing God.
Faith isn’t something we drum up or fight for. We don’t pull up our faith-bootstraps and try to believe. Faith is more than intellectual assent to ideas about God; it is the outcome of any real moment of intimate contact with him.
When we are fearful or unbelieving, when we look at the future with trepidation, or when our mind is spinning with past losses, what can we do? Well, what do we do when we are cold? We pull our chairs up to the hearth and get closer to the fire. We step into the warmth and light of the sun.
The safest place for the unbelieving believer, that cringing child, is to recognize our access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ, and to stand in communion with the living God. We see him for who he is: grace, love, compassion, mercy, strength, power. The unbelief melts away. God’s child, long-lame from cringing with fear, suddenly hears the words, “Rise and walk.”
We are bought with a price. Nothing can undo that. We have been born into God’s family—we are sons and daughters of God. We have access to the throne and the face of God by grace, through Jesus Christ. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who will guide, reveal, and teach us. Our job is simply to see, to look, to listen.
In that moment, when we are knowing God for who he really is—the consuming Fire—our hearts catch fire. Faith is re-lit; it expels the cold darkness of fear and unbelief. Rise and walk. Stretch forth your hand. Go home. All is well. The living Word speaks. Faith-strength fills us, and we rise. The weight of unbelief falls off; the thick chains we believed bound us were really only cobwebs and dust, and we shake it from our coats and from our feet.
The fruit of that reawakened reliance? Christ lives in you and is the power of God for your deliverance. Stretch forth your hand and write your story. Rise up and write your song. Love your enemies, and do good to them that persecute you. Forgive your husband. Love your wife. Grow your children well by encouraging them; don’t embitter them by being hyper-critical.
The applications are endless, but the root begins in one single thing: contact with the heart of God.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.