Do You Want to be Well? How About Healthy?

Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
John 5:3-6 NLT

“Would you like to get well?” Seems like a silly question. Who wouldn’t want to get well? Yet Jesus asked, and we can be sure that he had a good purpose in doing so. For this paralyzed man, getting well would mean a whole new life, and change, even positive change, is hard. He’d been ill for a long time, 38 years; perhaps he was middle-aged or even elderly at this time. If he got well, where would he find work? Where would he live? Life would be more uncertain and maybe considerably more difficult. Was he sure that’s what he wanted?

Jesus, in his person, poses the same question to all people. Do you want to be well? Do you want to be reconciled to God, to have life in abundance, to be healed? If so, come and follow me. Yet Jesus warns us that the cost is high.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’”  Luke 14:25-30 NLT

Many, like the rich young man (Matthew 19, Luke 18) or the disciples that leave after Jesus hard teaching about himself being the bread of life (John 6), are not prepared to pay the cost and turn away.

Even those of us trying to follow Jesus probably don’t fully understand the cost either, at least at the beginning. But as the Holy Spirit works in us, and we are drawn into a deeper relationship with God, we begin to understand what Jesus meant. New character and new desires accompany this new understanding, and we begin to separate ourselves from worldly vices and preoccupations. We don’t think like everybody else. We don’t live like everybody else…  except when we do.

Healthwise, the average follower of Jesus doesn’t seem to be living a great deal differently than the average American – too much sedentary screen time and empty calories, too little vigorous exercise and restful sleep. Now to be clear, in Christ, there’s no condemnation for this. Feeling guilty is neither necessary nor helpful. We are all very flawed individuals, and we will not be perfect in this lifetime. Grace is our watchword.

“No condemnation” is good! “No results,” not so much, and if you’re looking to be healthy while living just like everyone else, no results is what you’re likely to get. If you want to be healthy, you will have to pay the cost and live differently. The cost is real. It’s hard to be different from your family and friends; to eat what’s healthy, and not what’s tempting; to exercise when you feel lazy; to turn off the TV and read a helpful book.

As for me, I sometimes wish that I could just live like everyone else, but, deep down, I know I can’t. I want to be well and I want to be healthy. But it is hard to be different and my improvement has been gradual. Honestly I’m still learning the cost, and I’m not always prepared to pay it. The Holy Spirit seems to be taking his time with me, like he does with most people.

How about you? Do you want to be healthy? Under grace no guilt is required, only change. So start small, but do something different. You don’t have to understand, or pay, the whole cost upfront. I didn’t, don’t and haven’t. Nobody else does or has either. Just get started, and ask God to help you. Integrate your lifestyle choices into your faith and follow Jesus. It seems to be working for me.

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So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 NLT