“Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam (Siloam means sent). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing” – John 9:7
Have you ever wondered the extent to which Jesus mingled with the poor, the uneducated or the disheveled? It seems not a single miracle was carried out amongst the elite of his day. Did he find the poor more interesting as well?
Last weekend we had Ronny Heyboer to stay in our house; Ronny founded an orphanage, Living Waters in the middle of the jungles of Borneo, starting with 30 young girls that he and his wife rescued, who lived in his house. Today, 20-odd years later, Living Waters is a 1000-acre complex, with schools, clinic, hospital and room to double its capacity. It has been built on the prayers of Ronny and his support, and the Lord has provided every single cent they have ever needed. Ronny has not a single possession of his own, save for his everyday living items. Above the entrance to Living Waters is a sign saying, ‘Beware, you are entering a Miracle Zone.’ They’re not kidding.
Such were the stories told on the first night in our house by Ronny, that those who came to listen quickly texted friends, neighbours and family to come to the next night. The following night was packed. Non-believers were open mouthed as they heard story after story of God opening the heavens and visiting earth in power. Yes, it still happens today.
The simple and obvious fact is, that Jesus and poverty go hand in hand, and they always have. We in the West like to replace ‘poor’ with ‘poor in Spirit’ but that is to save us from embarrassment because we are so rich. In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, he says outright, ‘blessed are the poor.’
We talked at length with Ronny about this; our riches in one sense, are a real blessing from the Lord as we enjoy a rich life here in the West and it is a life the rest of the world does not have (however, that seems to be changing as we rapidly dispense with God in our society, but that is another story). But at the same time, we have sacrificed much of what God wants to give us in life because of this. The reason we rarely see the miraculous in our everyday lives, is simply because of our own self-sufficiency. We are easily healed, we rarely need money and we have food in abundance. The real problem though, is that we don’t really see the need for God either.
Ask any believer who has a close relationship with the Lord, and they will tell you it was when God removed so much of these things in their life, that their faith was sharpened. Those were the times when we were on our knees, crying out to the Lord. We felt and experienced his presence. It seems desperation draws us to God.
So we have a conundrum; the church so desperately wants a God to be more visible in the world through us, yet we have so much in our lives that blocks this from happening, what are we to do?
Firstly, Paul warns us throughout his letters, of the perils of being rich, for riches have ‘pierced the heart of many believers, causing them to fall away.’ Jesus warns us of the same as well in many of his parables. The simple fact is friends, that we need to shed our lives of much of what we have, if we are to begin to see the power of God at work in us, and the world around us. It seems apparent to me in the Scriptures, that God and money are not easy bed-fellows, and God does not easily contend with our over-satisfied lives.
Secondly though, we have an ungodly tendency to only mix with those of the same ilk. When was the last time you saw a tramp, or an alcoholic sitting in the pew alongside you? But, our ilk is getting smaller in churches, and soon, unless we begin to go out, we shall have nobody sharing our pews. The riches and comforts of this world mean that fewer ‘middle class’ are coming to church or have any interest in God at all.
In our week to week walks on the streets of Sydney, it is most often the poor, the sick, the addicted or the abandoned who willingly accept our offer of prayer or Gospel sharing. Many times we have asked the Lord, where are the others, but he sends us those. So much so that we have an opportunity now to penetrate an entire community that has been largely abandoned by mainstream society. They are poor, often hopeless and they need to be set free. We are expectant.
On reflection, we feel we are right where the Lord wants us. We believe that he will do the miraculous for his Glory, as well as our good. He will transform people’s lives, as he always has.
As an example, this week on Melbourne Cup day, as all the world got dressed up for a horse race, we sat on the street with a homeless young man; he was even slightly out of his mind. As the world pursued it’s ‘thing’ we talked, prayed and invited him to ‘receive Christ’ as John invites us to do, earlier in this Gospel. He willingly did so. A poor man, who had begun the journey of being rich in Jesus.
Such a contrast, the world glamourous and dressed up, we on our knees. Friends, it is the contrast of the Gospel and we need to ask ourselves with the Lord, which one he prefers? He has given us an example, it makes us uncomfortable, yet we cannot escape it. The poor are usually his mission field.
Come he says, I will make you fishers of men – only he gets to decide which men that will be. Will we accept his choice? If we do, I feel the blind might start to see again.