The Purpose of Blindness
Tim Temple

Introduction

One of the age-old questions that people have asked down through the years is the question of why good people suffer. Why do bad things happen to good people? Really, why do people of any kind suffer? Why would God include in His universe this whole aspect of suffering?

There have been many discussions of that question down through the years, but one of the most definitive answers is given in the passage to which we come in this study of the Gospel of John. It is not the only place in Scripture where it is taught, but certainly one of the places where it is taught most clearly.

Before we get into that, let me point out that the chapter can be divided into four parts. First, in verses 1-7, the involvement of Jesus—direct involvement of the Son of God in the life of one individual and, through him, in the lives of many other people. In verses 8-12, we see the interest of the neighbors. In verses 13-34, we see the insertion of the Pharisees into the whole picture, and the intervention of Jesus is in verses 35-41.

The chapter begins with Jesus' involvement in a man's life, and the chapter ends with Jesus' intervention in the continued affairs of that man's life. It is a very personal chapter, and it is one that shows the nature of Jesus and the love of Jesus more than almost any other chapter in the book.

Let's begin our study of chapter 9 by looking at the involvement of Jesus, in verses 1-7. The whole situation begins with the prelude to healing in verses 1-5. Jesus is going to heal a man of blindness in this chapter, as you probably know already, but in the first five verses we have the prelude to that healing. First, it is important for us to notice the circumstances that are referred to in verse 1—the situation in Jesus' life as this chapter opens. In verse 1, we read:

John 9

1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

The key words in that verse are the words passed by . At first reading, and particularly just reading this chapter by itself, you might wonder why those words are so significant. To understand the significance of them, go back to the closing verse of chapter 8, which says:

John 8

59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Notice the very same words in this verse—passed by . The setting for that verse, of course, is the rejection by the Pharisees of Jesus' teaching about Who He was. He had said three times, in chapter 8, that He was the I AM , the God of the Old Testament.

We have talked about that chapter in some detail. It has taken us several weeks to work our way through it. Jesus identifies Himself very clearly as God, and because of their spiritual blindness, these Jewish leaders took up stones to stone Him. It will be important to remember, as we look at the opening verses of chapter 9, that it was as Jesus was in the process of passing by and getting away from them that this situation developed with the blind man.

Here is Jesus, from a human standpoint, in a life-threatening situation, and God the Father is miraculously delivering Him from that by allowing Him to pass through the crowd without being stoned. In the process of that, even though from a human standpoint, He was fleeing for His life, He saw a blind man. He stopped this flight for His life and got Himself involved in the life of this blind man. What a compassionate, loving Savior we have, and how often we fail to live up to His example. So many times we are so involved in the things that are important to us, and sometimes they may be extremely important to the point that we pass by someone who is in need, and our thoughts are so focused on what our needs are that we don't even notice this other person who is in need. Jesus stopped and got involved in this man's life as He was passing by, getting away from people who were about to kill Him.

Curiosity of the Disciples

In verse 2, we have the curiosity of the disciples:

John 9

2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

The disciples couldn't help but notice the blind man since Jesus stopped in His flight to notice the blind man. They brought up this question, and in this question the disciples stated an assumption that is still common today—the assumption that handicaps and all kinds of suffering must be somehow related to sin.

Stop and think about that. Even those of us who have studied the Scripture enough to know that that is not a true concept find it easy, if we do not consciously think about it, to just let that assumption come. If we see someone suffering, there must be something wrong in their life, that suffering is somehow related to sin. Sometimes when we go through a time of suffering ourselves, we begin to wonder what other people are going to think. I'm having this financial problem; I'm having this problem with my children; I'm having this problem; I'm having that problem. What are people going to think?

I think the reason that we feel that way is that in the minds of many people, suffering is associated with sin, and that is what the disciples thought. “Somebody has sinned here, Lord. Who was it? Was it this man or was it his parents?”

The interesting thing about that question is that this man was born blind, so if the blindness was a result of sin that this man had committed, he must have sinned somehow before he was even born. You see the silliness of that kind of assumption, but that was their question. In defense of the disciples, I should point out that even though the Bible doesn't say this, history tells us that the teaching of the disciples in that day and time was that sin could take place in the womb. They were so convinced that suffering was related to sin that they had come up with this cockeyed human doctrine that if someone was born blind or born with some other problem, they must have sinned somehow in the womb.

I had rather deal with that kind of presumption—that a fetus sinned in the womb—than with the presumption that we have to put up with today—that a fetus is not alive in the womb, that it is a mass of tissue or something. At least their mistake was in a more realistic and safe area—safe for the baby, at least.

Jesus Clarifies the Issue

If our history facts are correct, that is probably the background of why they asked if the had man sinned or if his parents had sinned. One way or the other, in their minds the handicap of being born without sight had something to do with sin.

In verse 3, Jesus makes the clarification that they need to hear. Notice:

John 9

3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

In giving that answer, Jesus gives one of the basic answers to the question of why people have to suffer. It is an innocent looking little verse—a simple, little statement. “The man didn't sin, nor did his parents sin.” This man has this handicap for the glory of God.

We will look at the details of what He meant by that in a moment, but before we do that, I want us to take a few minutes to go back over the four basic reasons that the Scripture presents for suffering of all kinds. The Scripture gives us four different reasons we have suffering. The Bible answers the question, “Why do good people suffer?”, which so many discussions have been centered around and so many books have been written about. We could have saved ourselves a lot of money and effort if we had just studied the Scripture.

I know for most of you this is going to be review, but it is such a basic and important teaching that I think it is important to review it from time to time. I want us to think carefully about this clarification that Jesus gives, in verse 3, to the question of why this man is blind. Why is there suffering in the world?

Suffering Related to Sin In the Human Race

The first reason for suffering that the Bible presents is simply because of the presence of sin in the human race. Someone says, “Now, wait a minute. Didn't you just say that suffering is not always related to sin?” Suffering is not always related to personal, individual sin, but all suffering in the human race is related to the fact that there is sin in the human race. In Genesis, chapter 3, after Adam and Eve had committed the very first sin, God told Eve that there would be pain and sorrow associated with childbirth. He told Adam that the ground would be cursed and bring forth thorns and thistles. He had told them both, before they committed that sin, that if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death would be introduced into the universe. They would begin to die if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so there is a whole category of suffering that is just a part of being a member of the human race.

The whole process of dying and everything that is related to it, the whole concept of disease and illness and deterioration of our bodily systems is all because God said to Adam and Eve, “In the day that you eat of it, dying you shall die.” In other words, you will begin to die.

The reason that it matters that we get older is that we are dying. Little by little, we are dying. We are wearing out because of sin. If Adam and Eve had never eaten of that tree, I believe they would have lived forever. They would probably have had a lot of children. They might have had the population on the earth similar to the numbers that we have today—maybe even more so since there would have been no sin involved. But death and all that leads up to death is in the world because of sin. That means that hay fever and weeds and all kinds of things are a result of sin, so good people suffer because we live in a sinful, fallen universe. It has nothing to do with them personally, in many cases. It is not anybody's fault. These things just come with being human. That is the first and broadest general category of suffering.

Suffering Because of God's Discipline

The second category of suffering is because of God's discipline of His children. Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 5-7, says that God deals with us as with sons, and what son is it whom the father does not discipline? God disciplines His children just as a human father disciplines his children. I want to make clear that this is not talking about punishment for sin. When we talk about God's discipline of a Christian, we are not saying that God is punishing that Christian for some sin that he has done. Jesus Christ took care of the punishment for sin on the Cross. God does not punish anybody in this life for sin. For those who accept the gift of salvation, God punished Jesus Christ for sin. Others, who do not accept Jesus Christ as Savior, will be punished for their sins throughout eternity in Hell, but with God's children, He has to discipline us.

Sometimes that discipline is preventive. That is what James refers to as testing . Sometimes God puts us through testings just as we as human fathers and mothers put our children through preventive discipline or through learning exercises. We make our children take music lessons or acting lessons or we have them involved in sports. We get them involved in these various things that are difficult for them. They have to get up off the couch and practice the piano. They have to exercise physically. It is not really pleasant, but it is worth it in the long run. That is in the general category of disciplining our children. That is preventive discipline, and God does that with us as Christians. He puts us through situations which are difficult, but which teach us to rely on Him. They get us up off of our chairs and involved in the Christian life. Also, that discipline is sometimes remedial.

One of the big problems that the Armenians (the people who do not believe in eternal security) have is, “Well, if we are not going to ever lose our salvation, then a person can just go out and sin all they want to.” No, we can't, because God is a loving Father, and God doesn't let His children get by with that kind of thing. He disciplines us. He does not punish us; He disciplines us to get our attention and to get us to the point that we are willing to come to grips with that sin and confess that sin and be restored to fellowship with Him.

Suffering for Righteousness

If a Christian goes on willfully in sin, at some point in God's own timing, God as our Father disciplines us. It may not be as soon as we think it should be in someone else's life, but if it is in our own life, it may be sooner than we think. When we just go on in sin and refuse to confess that sin, God will discipline His children. That is suffering. In Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 11, He says:

Hebrews 12

11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Some suffering comes at the hand of God into the lives of His children who are living in sin, and it is legitimate suffering.

There is a third type of suffering that is similar to God's disciplining, but it is really a little different category. Peter refers to that in I Peter, chapter 3, verse 14, as suffering for righteousness . As I was saying a moment ago, in the course of disciplining us and bringing us to maturity, God puts us in difficult situations. He puts us through testing, but this is a different kind of suffering, for righteousness' sake. It is illustrated in many lives recorded throughout the Bible. In fact, II Timothy, chapter 3, verse 12, says that everyone who lives a godly life will suffer persecution. That is what we are talking about here—suffering for righteousness' sake, suffering because we are a Christian, being discriminated against, being made fun of, being rejected, being avoided. I think sometimes that middle school, high school and college students suffer more of this than the rest of us do. Many of you know what it is to be rejected and avoided for your Christian testimony.

We, in the United States, spend a lot of time moaning about our rights being violated in favor of the liberals. It chaffs me as much as anybody else to see that going on. We don't have a free press in the United States any more. The press is under the domination of the liberals just as surely as if there was some dictator confining the press. I don't know what God is going to do about that or if He is going to do anything about it. Thank God for Christian radio stations and conservative, secular broadcasters where we can get the truth.

I say all of that to say that this bothers me as much as it bothers you—more than it bothers some of you. We certainly have the right to exercise our privileges as citizens of the United States and to insist on equal rights with all other citizens of the United States. That is part of our heritage. That is part of the blessing that we have in living in this country. At the same time, we need to realize that God told us in advance that we could expect a certain amount of persecution.

That convicted me as I was studying John, chapter 9. I think that even though these are legitimate concerns, we also need to stop and think that maybe some of that, probably a lot of that, is simply a matter of suffering for righteousness' sake. The liberals totally misrepresent us. They try to keep the truth in general from going out in the news media. Anything that has anything to do with conservatives in general and certainly Christianity in particular is suppressed and held down. But after all, didn't God tell us that in this world we would suffer persecution?

I don't know whether that is convicting to you or not, but I am going to have to try to keep my mouth shut and my heart right a little more than I have in the last few months. We need to realize that God has said there will be persecution because we are Christians and because we are trying to live by God's standards. The trick, of course, is knowing where to draw the line on those kinds of things, to know where to try to promote the truth and to insist on our rights. We need to remember that there is suffering that God has told us we will be involved in if we try to live for Him.

Suffering for the Will of God

Finally, the fourth kind of suffering is what Peter refers to in I Peter, chapter 3, verse 17, as suffering for the will of God . This is the kind of suffering that Job went through. It had nothing to do with him, of course. The biggest problem that Job had was that he didn't have the first two chapters of the book of Job. We know a lot more about Job's suffering than he did as he was going through it. We know from those first two chapters that God had counted Job worthy to suffer. He was suffering not from anything that he had done or failed to do; he was suffering because God counted him worthy to use as an example to Satan.

That brings us back to John, chapter 9. That is the kind of suffering that the blind man in verse 1 was suffering. Jesus said that he was suffering so that the works of God should be revealed in him. He went through a lifetime of blindness so that the works of God could be revealed in him. Not only had this man not sinned like the disciples assumed that he had; in fact, it was just the opposite. He was a specially prepared tool in the hands of God. I am sure that this man wasn't sinless, but whatever sin he had committed had nothing to do with his blindness. His blindness was because God had prepared him for a certain use.

That inserts a very important note of caution for every one of us. We need to be very careful that we don't judge another person who is going through suffering. It is extremely hard to discern which of the four categories of suffering that person may fall into, and you may misjudge the category, and you might be terribly embarrassed at the Judgment Seat of Christ for getting it exactly backward. These disciples got it exactly backward. We are so quick to look down our noses at somebody who is having a problem in their lives—financially, family, whatever problem it may be—and just to assume that they are doing something wrong. They don't have it wired quite like I do. They aren't making it as well as we are. What a terrible mistake to make!

Any time we see a Christian brother suffering, the very first thing that we need to train ourselves to do and to ask God to give us the grace to do is to pray for that brother or sister. Don't waste your time trying to figure out why they are suffering. They may be suffering because God knows that they are more worthy to suffer than you are.

I remember a few years ago, a friend of mine was going through a great deal of trouble and trial. I was talking with him on the phone, and I said, “I'm so sorry. I wonder why you are having to go through all of this.” He said, “Well, I think it is probably because God loves me more than He does you.” You know, that is a good perspective. Here was this man whom God had counted worthy to endure a lifetime of blindness so He could use him to demonstrate to these disciples and these Pharisees and to write it down in the Bible for us all these hundreds and hundreds of years later.

We won't find out until we get to Heaven and talk to him, but I imagine as he sits there in Heaven, that blind man says that it was well worth twenty or thirty years of blindness for all that God was able to accomplish through that. Some of God's works in our lives have nothing to do with what He wants to teach us. They have to do with what He wants to teach someone else through the suffering that He is putting us through. It may not be to knock any rough edges off us. It may not be to convict us of any sin. It may not be because of anything that we have done. It may be to use us as an example to other people exactly as He did with Job and exactly as He did with this blind man.

Here is another reminder of how God's plan was established so far in advance. The works of God that Jesus refers to, in verses 3 and 4, is going to tell us that the work of God was to give proof of Jesus' deity. God's plan for this man included the details of his physical condition at birth, and that condition had been arranged specifically so that at some point twenty or thirty years into that man's life, God the Father could demonstrate Who Jesus was.

You see, nothing in our lives happens by accident. Nothing catches God by surprise. In fact, it's just the opposite. God knows exactly how every piece of the puzzle of your life fits into place. He designed it that way. Think how much God cared about us, not only to design the intricate machine that is the human body and the human brain, but even the day-to-day events of our lives. We're never going to learn all there is to know about the human body. We take notice of that, and we wonder at that, and it is a wonderful thing. All of that is a part of God's design. What a magnificent God we have!

This tells us, of course, something about God's priorities. It was worth it, in God's estimation, for this man to be blind for many years in order to display His power. I'm sure that now that he is in Heaven and can see all things as God sees them, this man agrees with that. We can probably only understand that from the human standpoint to the extent that we can look at life with eternity's values in view, but God has a different set of values, and He allows things to come into our lives that we might think are hard to bear. But God knows that they are worth it for the purpose that He is going to accomplish; and someday we will see that for ourselves when we get to Heaven and see the plan unfold.

Jesus's concern was to minister to this man. Notice in verse 4, He says:

John 9

4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day…

Verse 5 goes on to explain what Jesus meant with this reference to the day . He says, in verse 5:

John 9

5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

John opened this book by describing Jesus as the Light of the world, and in chapter 8, Jesus had said that He was the Light of the world. In I John, he refers to having had personal, direct contact with this Light of the world, and so the day of His opportunity, as He refers to it in verse 5, was limited to the time that He was on the earth. It doesn't mean that He hadn't worked before and He wouldn't work afterward; but in terms of His contact with the human race, His contact in time and space history was while He was in the world. Later, He was going to pass on that opportunity of being the Light of the world to His disciples and then, through them, to you and me.

He was the Light of the world while He was in the world, but as He left the world, He said, “Now, you are the light of the world.” Jesus had only a certain time-frame while He was on earth to accomplish His plan, and so He had to take advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. The Father had outlined a lot of things for Jesus to do in ministry while He was on earth.

You know, that is instructive to us about our priorities in this life. In fact, the best Greek manuscripts say, and I think the New American Standard translates it this way in verse 4: “We must work the works of God while it is yet day.” That is certainly true. The Scripture tells us that we are to redeem the time because the days are evil. It talks about making the best use of our time to serve the Lord. We have a relatively limited amount of time in which to accomplish God's purposes for us. Obviously, God expects us to relax and enjoy ourselves from time to time. He expects us not to punish our bodies; to use good common sense in getting enough sleep and eating the right kinds of things, and not working too many hours. On the other hand, we need to be very careful how we invest our time and money and energy and effort in this life, because only this life is the time that we have to accomplish things for eternal life. It is only while we are alive on this earth that we have the opportunity to tell others about Christ and about their opportunity to go to Heaven. There will be plenty of time in Heaven for extra curricular activities.

Probably every generation has thought this, but I think in this day in which we live, there are more opportunities and demands on our time than any time in history. There are so many good things to do and sometimes the good is the enemy of the best. We need to think very carefully about how we can best use the time that we have here on earth.

I don't want to get into specific options that we might make, but how much of that time that we spend relaxing, reading a good book, or watching our favorite television program, going hunting or fishing or some sport that we like could better be spent in something that would serve the Lord? I can't answer that question for you. I can't even answer it for myself very well, but that is the way we need to think. How am I going to best use this certain number of minutes and hours that God has given me while it is yet day while I am on the earth? How am I going to best manage that for God's honor and glory?

Jesus gave us the illustration of taking time to go apart and rest with His disciples. I am not saying that we should spend every waking minute doing things for the Lord, but I am saying that out of all the opportunities we have, we have to manage our time. In previous generations, they spent a much greater portion of their day just trying to keep themselves fed and clothed than we have to spend. This generation has more leisure time than maybe any other generation in the history of the world with the exception of some of the very wealthy classes all down through history. The average person in the United States has the leisure time that only the extremely wealthy had a hundred years ago.

It is a great responsibility to know how to work the works of God while it is yet day. Jesus said, “We must work the works of God while it is yet day.” There will be plenty of time in Heaven for extra-curricular activities, and it will be much more enjoyable anyway. I expect to be a much better racketball player in Heaven than I am here, and I think that we will do some of those kinds of things. Keep that in your planning. Keep that in your perspective also. There is going to be plenty of time in our glorified bodies to do things that are fun, that are enjoyable, and that are relaxing. The older we get, the more we think it might be better to wait until then anyway, but Jesus set a great example for us there.

The Process of Healing

All of that is the prelude to healing, in verses 1-5. In verses 6-7, we find the process of healing itself. I recognize that I have said much more than He did, but I was trying to flush out the situation in which He said those things. Notice verse 6:

John 9

6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Look at the process of healing. The first step was that Jesus spit on the ground. He mixed the saliva around in the dirt and made some clay with it. That was the second step. Then He put that on the eyes of the blind man. He anointed the blind man. Then fourth, He said, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” So it was a process of healing.

Why did Jesus do it that way? We know on other occasions that He healed another way. He didn't always go through a process like this. In chapter 5, He healed the man at the pool of Bethesda, and that was the first thing that got the Pharisees on His case. He healed the man at the pool of Bethesda by simply announcing, “You are healed. Take up your bed and walk.” In chapter 4, He healed without saying anything. This nobleman came and said, “My son is at home about to die.”, and Jesus said, “Go on back home. Your son is all right.” He didn't say anything about healing him. He just healed him without saying anything about being healed or anything like that. In Mark, chapter 1, verse 41, there was a leper who came asking for healing, and it is a beautiful passage. Jesus touched the leper. It was probably the first time in many years that that leper had felt anybody touch him. Jesus touched him. In Mark, chapter 5, verse 41, He took a little dead girl by the hand and brought her back to life. Jesus had a lot of different ways of healing.

Principles of Healing

I believe He healed this man in a process of steps for a couple of reasons, and I call this the principles in healing . Notice, in verse 6, that He anointed the man's eyes with the clay He had made. This man had been blind since birth, and his only contact with other people was primarily by touch and, of course, by hearing and smelling; but his main contact with the outside world was the contact of touch. Isn't it moving that Jesus touched this man? Jesus knew the best way to communicate with this man, and so He anointed the man's eyes with clay. He sensitively and lovingly ministered to this man in the way that the man knew best and that he would feel most comfortable with.

That is the way He ministers to us also. He knows the best way to minister to you and me. He knows that the best way to minister to you might not be the best way to minister to me and another way might be more meaningful to another person. What a loving Savior! He ministers to us in the way He knows best, and He disciplines us also in that way. You see some other believer sinning, and you think God ought to discipline him. Then God disciplines him, and you wonder why He didn't do more than that. God disciplines that person in a way that hurt that person most. It might not be the thing that would hurt you most. God knows how best to deal with us, and this chapter is just full of that.

His Purposes Accomplished In Different Ways

There is a second, and probably more important, reason that Jesus did this healing different than the others, and I believe that was to show that He accomplishes His purposes in different ways with different people. Be careful that you don't demand that God do things for others in the exact same way that He did them for you. We are so good at that. You know, we just assume that the way God did something for us is the best way that it could ever have been done, and if God doesn't do it the same way for everybody else, then there is something wrong with them. They don't have the full blessing of God, because they didn't go through it exactly the same way that we did.

Think what it would have been like if just the blind people whom Jesus healed had had this attitude, to say nothing of all the other things that Jesus did. We have already talked about some different kinds of miracles that He did in different ways, but just think about the blind people. In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 29, He healed two blind men by touching their eyes, but there was no spitting on the ground and making clay. There was no washing in the pool of Siloam. He just touched their eyes. In Mark, chapter 8, verse 23, He healed another blind man by spitting on his eyes. He spit in his eyes and healed him from blindness. He spit in his eyes and touched him—no clay and no washing in the pool of Siloam. In Mark, chapter 10, verse 52, He healed a blind man by the name of Bartaemaus by simply speaking to him. He just said, “Be healed.”, and blind Bartaemaus could see.

If those men had been like a lot of Christians today, they would have formed separate groups based on what God had done for them. They would have had the speaking only denomination, the spit and mud denomination, the spit and mud and pool denomination and the touching only denomination. Every one of them would insist that only they were truly healed from their blindness. These other men may have claimed that they could see, but their vision wouldn't be as good as they had because it wasn't the same as they had.

No wonder the world laughs at us. We Christians are so silly, just as silly as these blind men would be if they insisted on forming little groups. Knowing human beings as I do, it may very well be that they did form little groups like that, and God just didn't write it down. There is much teaching in the Scripture about unity of believers, and this is something that God has really been impressing on me—the importance of unity among believers. Most of us need to pay more attention to that doctrine than we do. Obviously, that is not talking about unity between believers and unbelievers. I want to make that very clear. What God talks about over and over again is unity among believers—among people who have trusted Jesus Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

The reason that I want to clarify that is that a great deal of talk that we hear today about unity is about Christians having unity with non-Christians. They talk about Christians having unity, but they mean by that Christians having unity with non-Christians. That is not what Jesus talked about in the Bible, and that is not what I am talking about, but within the Body of Christ there is a great deal of instruction about having unity with each other. There is a consistent emphasis on having unity in our diversity as Christians.

The whole concept of the Body of Christ is built on the differences between Christians. There is a great deal of difference between your little finger and your nose, isn't there? There is a great deal of difference between your eye and your ankle. Yet where would your eye be if the ankle couldn't support the weight to take the eye where it saw to go? We have talked about all those kinds of things. Think about it. The unity of the human body is built on the differences that the different parts of the body have. They look different; they have different functions; but they are all part of the body. It is that Body of Christ that Christ keeps urging to recognize the unity that is there, the unity that He designed into it.

To go with that unity, the whole process of differing spiritual gifts emphasizes the necessity of working together to accomplish God's will. In some cases, the pastor may be the most visible part of the ministry, but think of all the other ministry that goes on just in this one church that is really not done by the pastor at all. If this body is functioning like it ought to, and I think we are doing pretty well, then all of us ought to appreciate each other. We all do the ministry together, so why do we concentrate so much on building barriers between each other?

Much in the New Testament is given to teaching us to love and respect and to accept each other, even though we are different. I am talking about even individual churches helping other individual churches, and I am talking about individual denominations cooperating with other denominations, not believers cooperating with unbelievers. Surely you know by now there are believers in other churches than Abilene Bible Church, believers of whatever denominational stripe. People who truly know Jesus Christ had better learn to cooperate and work together or God is not going to be able to do all that He wants to do by the time He wants to do it.

The interesting thing about God's work is that He has delegated so much of it to human beings. I think that we have wasted so much time in accomplishing God's purpose in our city, in our nation, and in our world by being so careful not to get hooked up with somebody that has had a different experience than we have had or who has a different emphasis than we have. I think that is why God healed some blind men by touching their eyes and some by spitting in their eyes and some by putting clay on their eyes—to emphasize to us that even God Himself works differently with different people.

The common denominator is that He healed every one of those people, and the common denominator is that people in other denominations have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. They have been healed of their sin sickness by Jesus Christ. What does it matter what you have to do to become a part of their group or any of those other kinds of things that we put so much emphasis on?

We have looked in some detail at two different doctrines in these verses—the doctrine of suffering and the doctrine of unity. Yet these two truths are taught in one simple story, and so I felt like we had to cover them both. I think that together they serve to reaffirm the importance of just letting God be God in our lives. Let God be God in deciding what suffering to bring into our lives. Don't give up on God because He is allowing you or someone precious to you to go through a time of suffering. The Scriptures that we have looked at assure us that He knows exactly what He is doing. Nothing has gotten out of control; nothing has slipped past Him. He knows exactly what He's doing in letting that suffering go on. We may not know what His purpose is, but He does.

By the same token, don't demand that everybody have the same experiences that you have before they are acceptable to you. God may have delivered one Christian from some form of addiction or some form of sin the moment they were saved. He doesn't do that for everyone, and so don't look down on someone who has had a different experience than you have had. God may have allowed you to become familiar with His Word through a long process of careful study and prayer, but He may have allowed someone else to go to seminary and learn in a much briefer time than it took you to learn it. Don't think that God is not at work in our life or that God is not at work in the other person's life. Some other Christians might prefer another kind of music than you do or they may think that the gift of evangelism is much more important than you think it is. Don't reject those Christians just because He has emphasized things to them that He hasn't emphasized to you or vice-versa. Let them have their preferences. God gave them those preferences. Believe it or not, God can use those differences to accomplish what He wants to accomplish in our world.

Conclusion

I think that the basic focus of this whole passage is not really on suffering or on preferences. I think the focus is on the little statement that Jesus made, in verse 4:

John 9

4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

The night is coming, folks. The day of grace is almost over, and there is so much to accomplish. The day will come when we will no longer have the opportunity, and we'll never be able to have the accomplishment that God wants us to have if we're busy condemning each other, judging each other, criticizing each other, wondering about each other. God wants us to work together in unity for His glory.


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