Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pain Evangelism as Discipleship

The previous article focused on esteeming Jesus by not only trusting him to make right our sin problem, but also to give Jesus the pain of the consequences of sin.  Some think that pursuing healing of the inner person and becoming a more devoted disciple selfishly puts the follower of Christ at odds with the commission to evangelize the world.    The loss and pain (everything from failures and disappointments to serious abuse) are experienced as a result of the broken world we live in. Loss and pain is common to both the new believer, and  the most seasoned disciple of Christ alike.
Healing is part of Jesus’ ministry of evangelism.  Jesus says of himself,  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus spoke these words in reply to religious people accusing him of hanging out with people of undesirable social status and the needy.  God wants to meet people in loss and pain.  Whether in small losses, moderate failures, or full blown hopelessness and despair, hope for healing is available for the asking.  
The best way  to help people recover from their losses and find freedom from their pain is the way Jesus himself helped people when he walked on earth.  He found people in loss and pain and offered salvation to them. We must be like Jesus, and offer Jesus as the only true Savior.  Generally speaking, people who responded in greatest measure, were people in the greatest need, with the most losses, and most ready for change.  
We must also be people who are open to admitting our own needs.  If we wish to recover from loss and pain, we must stop trying to hide it, and allow it to be found by Jesus.  Breaking through denial and positioning our hearts for healing involves the following three considerations.  
Consider the purpose of pain.  Physical pain in the body is meant to signal a warning of disrupted functionality.  If a carpenter accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer, the physical pain he feels tells him something bad is happening to his body.  A physical injury to a body may need treatment and a time of healing for functionality to be restored.  Mental, emotional, and spiritual hurts need to run a healing course as well.  
Second, consider what governs out actions. Reaction of the  physical or  tangible (outer man) is determined by the non-physical or intangible (inner man).  Jesus taught us that the sinful actions we take part in have their source in our heart (see Mark 7:20-23).  If the heart is at rest, a person’s behavior will reflect peace and calm.  If the heart is unrestful, the person’s behavior will reflect frustration, dissatisfaction, and all sorts of emotional pain, and all sorts of unpleasant, undesirable, or harmful behavior.
Third, consider what lies at the root of painful feelings.  From our conception in the womb, our own brokenness and the brokenness of people around us, creates  critical judgments,  bitterness, injustices, and  wounds of soul and spirit.  More about this is explained in other articles on this blog site.  Also see my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.
So  if, 1) our bad behavior is undesirable or destructive (sinful), which is, 2)  caused by a heart full of pain, which is 3) caused by unresolved bitterness and woundedness, then doesn’t it make sense to go after the “bitter root” to bring healing to  the problem?  This is actually commanded in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile.”  Why is this so difficult?  It is hard because it cannot be done with mere knowledge or sheer will power.  It requires surrendering to the power of God for transformational healing.
Only Jesus can truly redeem the broken  condition of the human heart.  He has given us the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in our heart.
Healing is a process. We must embrace the process.  As John and Paula Sandford (founders of the Elijah House ministry)  teach in a book called The Transformation of the Inner Man, healing is the process of evangelizing the soul.  It is evangelizing believers in unbelieving areas of their lives.  Everyone is in need of some kind of healing and many times healing is painful because of the weakness of our flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Healing involves transformation.  The Sandfords define transformation as "that process of death and rebirth whereby what was our weakness becomes our strength."   Transformation is still needed after our initial conversion experience (Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:1-2).  Knowing our problem does not set us free, but only the Cross of Jesus (applied to our problem) can set us free.  Our goal then is to discover unbelieving areas of the heart and invite God to minister to them.  Hebrews 3:12 says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God."
Continued evangelism is necessary for discipleship, and discipleship thrives on pain evangelism.  The healing we receive also makes us better evangelists.  The more of Christ’s salvation we receive into our own being, the more we understand and identify with others. Compassion and empathy for loss and pain are more effective tools than condemnation of  people for sinful behaviors.  Again, as Jesus taught, the being (heart) supersedes the doing (behaviors).
Pursuing God’s help for  healing  your own setbacks, losses and hurts, can be one of the best ways to help others.  By becoming a better person on the inside, others around you will surely be blessed.   
Let me encourage you to take inventory of your heart.  What might be remaining lost (and waiting to be found by Jesus) in your life?  Is there a behavior, habit, or pattern of reaction, that may indicate some degree of unrest in your soul?  Is there a root of bitterness and unforgiveness you already know about, but haven’t surrendered it to God for him to be the Judge?  If you think there’s nothing, let go of your denial and start feeling. Let the pain surface.  It wants to be your friend.  Let the ashes of loss,  failures, discomfort, uneasiness, unrestfulness, confusion, doubt, and worry be turned into beauty of pain-free circumstances (see Isaiah 61:1-3).   
Repentance and forgiveness is the path to freedom.   Psalm 32 blessings!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry