Matthew 8b

Matthew 8B:

Following his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records a series of miracles and healings in rapid succession.  The man with leprosy, the Roman Centurion with the paralyzed servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and many who were possessed by demons, and sick and Matthew tells us he healed all.

Then comes a storm on the sea- which Jesus rebuked the winds and sea and they calmed. And as the chapter closes Jesus cast the multiple demons out of the two Gadarene demoniacs into the pigs.

Now I want to summarize what we has been recorded by the eye witness, Matthew:  Jesus exhibited his power  in the following areas:

Power over disease- Leprosy was also a picture of sin, and defilement.

Power over distance- Jesus healed the centurion’s servant from a distance with his spoken word .

Power over demons- he spoke and they left.

Power over the deep- nature is under his control; the winds and seas are calmed by his spoken word. He would have a  fish bring him a coin; a rooster crow on cue; a donkey who had never been ridden, peacefully accepted his master. And in Romans 8 we read all of nature groans for his return.

Have you experienced this power in your life?  I have. And as Paul describes this power in Ephesians 1- as ‘ incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”

There are several pages in the story of my life that are turned down that I revisit often. I go back to that fateful morning on September 16, 1977.  When as a young man of 31, I experienced the power that brought me out from under the power of alcohol for the Lord exhibited his power over drunkenness. His power to save to the uttermost.  For on that day, I went down on my knees a sot and came up a saint. Delivered – saved, soon to be sober, sane and successful.

I went to my first AA meeting that very morning. Isn’t it interesting what those men who came to put the 12 steps of AA which are now used for various addictions realized was the truth of our condition. We were powerless over alcohol.  We also had a desire- a longing for a normal life. For a life that can only come from one source, which we were drawn to:

Listen to these first steps, as I learned of it over 36 years ago.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol  and that our  lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to realize that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Those of us who got sober and stayed sober realized this relationship with God, Our Higher Power, the Highest Power was the key to the life we so desired.  Jesus said: “ The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.: ( John 10:10)

Now let’s talk about this power for a minute. Jesus would tell his disciples before he ascended that all power in heaven and in earth had been given to Him.

Peter said: “ By His divine power He has given us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness through our knowledge of Him ….” ( 2 Peter 1: 5)

Paul prays that the eyes of our understanding be enlightened that we might know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. ( Ephesians 1)

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that God has placed eternity in our heart in Eccl. 3. And in Eccl. 12:7 he writes: “ Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit return unto God who gave it.” The poet wrote:  dust thou art to dust returneth was not spoken of the soul.

If we look at the prayer of Paul in Ephesians it was a prayer that he kept asking, kept praying and listen to what he prayed:  “ I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ , the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you might know him better.”

Why is knowing God better so important?  Peter tells us: “ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him….”

Jesus told us:  “ Now this is eternal life; that they may know you the true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” ( John 17:3)

The more you know Him, the more you will love Him. And the more you love Him, the more you will abide in Him and the more you abide in Him, the more fruit you will bear.  And that is the abundant life, the life you were searching for.

We were born physically the first time with what is called an ‘ Adamic nature.’

A sinful nature that   I believe was born with a longing for eternity for this abundant life. There is a desire for it, a longing for it. The desire to be happy, successful, loved, with something to look forward to. It is in our nature. The thief comes inviting us to find the fulfillment of this desire in the broad way. But those of us who followed that way- the way that seems right to man but leads to destruction, discovered once we wanted to turn around, it was like we were enchained to what had once enchanted us. We were powerless.

Our dream had turned into a nightmare. Listen to this haunting song from Fantine, the tragic character in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables:

“ I had a dream in time gone by, when hope was high and life worth living.

I dreamed  that love would never die- I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

I had a dream my life would be so different from the hell I ‘m living. So different now from what it seemed.

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

It started with a desire, didn’t it?   A desire to be accepted. A desire to be loved. A desire to be happy. A desire to be successful . A desire for the abundant life.

Desire is defined as:  a strong feeling of wanting to have something or someone for something to happen. Desires can be great motivators that take one through life- or the wrong desires can be powerful forces that lead to ruin.

Desire can make one desperate.  Consider the leper- the centurion, the disciples in the boat, the demon possessed men, the woman with the  issue of blood for 12 years, Jarius and his daughter at death’s door, even dead.  Desperate. Crying out.

Let’s look at some others and you will begin to see- it is the Lord who awakens the desire in our lives.   The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, lived a life of quiet desperation. She came to the well at noon, because she knew none of the other women in the village would be there. She had been married 5 times and was living with a man who was not her husband. You know what the women said about her and you know what men thought about her.  She could almost sing Fantine’s haunting song, couldn’t she?  But Jesus knew what she needed- he knows what we all need.  He knew what her heart longed for- what was her deepest desire.  Do you know what Jesus offered her?  A new life. A drink of something that would satisfy her deepest longings and desire. He offered the gift of salvation- the abundant life. He alone controls it and it is yours for the asking.

The man in John 5 who was carried every day to the pool by the sheep gate along with the other disabled people- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed had a dream, a desperate desire. This man has been an invalid for 38 years. He believed as did the others, that an angel would stir the water and if one could be placed in the stirred water, they would be healed.  This was his desire, his dream that he dreamed.

So it seems strange that Jesus would ask him: “ Do you want to be made whole?” What kind of question was that, the man must have thought. Of course that was his deepest desire- the dream he dreamed.  But life had killed his dream, hadn’t it?    You know what he wanted?  He wanted a chance to have the life he dreamed of- the life he so desperately desired but he needed someone to help him.  We all needed someone to help us.  And Jesus is the only one who can give us the desires of our heart. This man was powerless over his condition. His life was unmanageable.  He needed a power greater than this superstitious belief in stirred water. He needed Jesus. And Jesus simply said what do you want?  He said ‘I have no one to help me. Jesus said to him: “ Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. At once the man was cured.”

I tell you this- if you believe you have no one to help you- Jesus is always ready to help- just ask Him.

Salvation happens at once, doesn’t it?  But now we must continue to appropriate this power in us. His divine power gives us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him.

We read the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and righteousness.  Do you know what that means?  You realize the life you are living is not the life you thought it was going to be. You have a desire to be something else entirely different.  You have a desire to do what is good, but you cannot carry it out.  You are powerless.

I started drinking as a teenager and it got worse when I went off to college at age 17. As I look back, I realize the Lord was trying to awaken a desire in me.  At age 19, I was expelled from college and went to Florida with two friends where we obtained work as painters. We lived in squalor. I paid $10 per week for my share of the rent and slept on an uncomfortable used sofa every night for 4 months.  I can remember crying one night on that sofa- homesick and in despair for the mistakes that I had made and the life I was living.  The Lord was awakening a desire in me.  But there was an enemy who did not want to give me up- who wanted to kill and steal and destroy me.

For short periods of time I seemed to be able to do the right things.  The Lord was not in my life, but I was trying to do the right things. Things only got worse. The next time the Lord begin to convict me of sin and righteousness was at my 10 year high school reunion. I was 27 and alcohol had stolen many opportunities from me. But that night as I talked and laughed with old friend I realize they had become responsible adults with jobs and families and a life I desperately wanted.

The next time the Lord awakened me was the summer of 1977. A time of quiet desperation as I knew that once again, although married to my wonderful wife, the father of a precious baby girl, I could not stay sober to save my life. By fall, I was running out of time and so it was I found myself out on the balcony of my 10th floor hotel room in Nashville in the early morning hours of September 16, 1977.  With one foot on the bottom rail and my other leg swung over the side. Death was 10 floors below on a parking lot only seconds away.

But the desire to live was awakened in me and in desperation I went back into that room on my knees and cried out to the one who would come into that room and into my life.  And when He did- I knew I had found what my heart had desired. I would be made whole.  It is an ongoing project.   I wanted to be made whole, but I had no one to help me.  There was only one who could help me, and when I cried out what was the deepest longing and desire of my heart- he heard me and helped me. He lifted me up and has never left me since that day.

Psalm 37  tells us a great truth about desires of the heart and where they come from.  Turn to those verses.

We are told – to fret not because of evil men, or be envious of those who do wrong.

This Psalm of David tells us to trust in the Lord and do good. Faith in the Lord cures fretting doesn’t it?  Doing good means we are actively obedient.   We walk by faith – not by sight. Faith has its eyes on things above, not things on earth.

Delight yourself in Lord. Make the Lord the joy of your life. He died for me. He forgave me. He has blessed me. He daily loads me with benefits. His love is everlasting and he loves to give good gifts. Then the Lord gives us the desires of our hearts.  This means I want nothing or will ask for nothing but what will please God.

Dusty Springfield had a hit song back in the 60’s:

“Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying, planning and dreaming each night.”

We have all done a lot of wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and planning and dreaming, haven’t we?

Listen to what comes as the way to have your desires:

“ Show Him that you care just for Him;

Do the things He likes to do_

And you will be His.

Remember Jesus said:  Your Father knows what you have need of –even before you ask Him. Do you know what you have need of? Jesus answered in the next verse: “ Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things you will be given unto you as well.”

It is a profound but simple truth- we were created by God and for God. Our greatest need is Him.  And guess what – God wants to be wanted by you and me.

All through the Gospel and the Bible we see people like the blind man who cried out with a loud voice – “ Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   When told to be quiet, he cried out even louder : “ Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and asked him what he wanted. And blind Bartimeus said : I want to see. Jesus said : “ Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” Read Psalm 107 and all through this you will hear people crying out of the crisis which many had created by their own disobedience and we read:  “ Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress.” ( Psalm 107: 6,13,19)

I cried out to the Lord in a loud voice that fateful day in 1977 and He heard me and delivered me from my distress.  Is He not the same today? Of course He is.

The wonder of it all is that we love Him because He first loved us.  We want Him, because He want to be wanted by us.  “ And this is the only thing that counts, faith expressing itself in love.”

Our duty to Him becomes  our delight. Pleasing Him becomes our delight- the desire of our heart. Duty becomes a delight- not a duty.  Just as a mother loves her infant, and arises in the middle of the night to comfort them or just as a husband loves his wife and longs to please her or a father who gives good gifts to his children.

If God is ours and we are His- our delight will be in doing His will.

You will be His forever and ever. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is there to lift you up when you need lifting up.  To give you the desires of your heart. It is God who works in you the will, ( desire) and the power to do His good pleasure. ( Phil. 2)

So show Him that you care for Him- do the things He likes to do and you will be His and enjoy the abundant life.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14