Sometimes we just need to ask God, earnestly and sincerely with an open heart, to set us free.
Jesus told us that if we ask, we will receive (Matthew 7:7). Obviously, this doesn’t mean we can ask for vaults full of cash and expect God to be our magic genie.
When our hearts are aligned with God’s will and His truth in the Scriptures, our requests reflect His higher purposes, not our own selfish gratification. Or, as Martin Luther explained, “All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.”
One of my favorite Bible stories about asking God for an encounter with Him involves a request from a man accustomed to being ignored. Jesus was about to pass by him, so the man knew this might be his only chance. He had to ask and hold nothing back.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. – Mark 10:46-52
Can you envision this scene? A huge crowd of people has gathered. They all want a piece of Jesus — who He is, what He is doing, and “what can He do for me” kind of stuff. And in the midst of this chaos there’s this blind beggar causing a scene.
The crowd must have thought he was crazy, but Bartimaeus didn’t care. He will not go unnoticed. This is his opportunity to have an encounter with Jesus, the Messiah — God in the flesh! And as a result of his faith, of his unwillingness to be polite and compliant, our boy Bartimaeus experiences the supernatural healing of his sight.
We can learn a lot from Bartimaeus’s encounter about how we can encounter Christ and be set free from our own blindness. I’m convinced that we, like Bartimaeus, must be desperate for healing before we can experience a “but God” transformation that will free us from whatever binds us.
We don’t know a lot about Bartimaeus except that he was blind and a beggar. It’s likely that he spent his days sitting at the side of this road. It may be that he’d been doing it for years — what kind of work could he do without his sight? “Beggar” ends up his best career option. So day after day he sat by this road, hoping for a handout. He relied on the kindness of those who passed by. He’d heard about this Messiah. Bartimaeus couldn’t see, but he heard the crowd growing larger and getting excited about… something. He listened and realized the crowd was talking about Jesus coming by. The Son of God was going to be coming his way!
Old Bart started to get excited. This was the Jesus he had heard about! What were the odds? He started to think, This is it! This is my chance! I’ve got to be heard. I’m blind, but Jesus can heal me. Bartimaeus seemed to understand that this might be his only chance to get to Someone with the power to change him. This awareness created a desperation inside of him that motivated the next few critical minutes that did indeed forever change his life.
Perhaps you identify with Bartimaeus because you too are in a place of real desperation, a place of real pain.
You’re bound and addicted. You’re going to your computer every night, and while you tell your wife you’re “working,” you’re clicking on all kinds of stuff that has your number. You know that you’re poisoning your mind and your relationships with every new image, but you can’t stop, even when you want to.
Or maybe you’re struggling financially. Maybe with every paycheck, you’re headed to the mall or online to shop, buying things that you hope will bring you happiness. You tell yourself excuses about why you deserve those new shoes. You justify buying yet one more thing. You try to pay your bills with what’s left, but you come up short every month. You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, skipping the electricity bill this month in order to pay last month’s insurance bill.
Maybe “comfort food” has a literal meaning for you as you head to the pantry or fridge every night after everyone else has gone to bed. The light from the fridge floods the dark kitchen when you open the door, and you hope desperately that no one wakes up and notices. Ice cream. Leftover pizza. A package of Oreos. You’re not even hungry, but you keep eating.
You’re in a place of desperation. But desperation can lead to desperate faith — Bartimaeus was desperate. He had desperate faith. This is your moment. The Messiah is real. Are you desperate enough to call out over the noise and the crowd and your addictions? The Messiah is passing right by you, just like He did with Bartimaeus. Are you willing to ask for His help?
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Excerpted with permission from But God Changes Everything by Herbert Cooper, courtesy of Zondervan, 2015.