Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie-the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’
‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'”
John 5:2-3, 5-8 (NIV)
Three things strike me about this story.
1) Why would Jesus ask a paralyzed man if he wants to be healed? Of course he does! It seems so bizarre to ask someone if they want to get better.
2) The paralytic doesn’t say YES! What?! Instead of saying, “Yes, of course, I want to be healed,” he hands out excuses about why he’s still paralyzed. That answers my first question. God asks “simple” questions to expose our insecurities or motives.
3) Jesus doesn’t ever say to him, “You’re healed.” He just tells the paralyzed man to get up! And the crazy part is that he does!!! Are you kidding me? After the excuses, this man finds the faith to get up at the command of Jesus. Wow, I can learn a lot here.
How many times in my life have I handled difficult situations this way? I’ve been in financial distress, felt trapped in my career, wanted out of my current circumstances. “God, give me more (insert perceived need) so I can (insert desire).”
God, give me a higher paying career so I can buy a house. Give me stronger writing skills so I can reach more people. Bless me so I can be generous.
In the past, I would hear God saying, “Do you want to get better?”
And I replied, “Yes, but here’s all the reasons I’m stuck where I’m at.”
After reading this parable, I now hear God saying, “Get up and get moving.” He’s saying stop making excuses, stop hesitating to act, stop focusing on what you don’t have, just get up and walk.
I started drafting this post on October 16 after praying about how to increase my income to achieve a specific goal. I prayed and God gave me today’s passage. As a result, I changed my next prayer from “Remove these obstacles” to “What is my first step?”
On October 17, I woke up and thought, “I have a client who is short a website designer. Too bad I’m not a website designer.” Immediately, God reminded me of this passage and “Take up your mat” leaped into my mind.
I discovered my mat was the label I gave myself. Getting up, taking your mat, and walking means you change the label. I exchanged “I’m not a website designer” with “I have all the skills I need to learn website design.” I emailed my client to let them know I was interested in helping them. I was clear about the skills I had and didn’t have and left it in God’s hands.
The answer was an emphatic “Yes, we would love your help and will teach you what you need to know.” I took up my mat and began walking! (This also illustrates that it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know because God puts you in contact with the right people at the right time).
This message is for anyone who, like me, feels stuck. Get up, take your mat, and walk.
1 – Get Up – As long as you’re staring at the problems and competition around you, you’ll stay stuck. Someone will always be faster, smarter, luckier, more blessed than you when you are looking at them from the floor.
2 – Take your mat – Your mat is your label. The paralytic’s mat labeled him an invalid because he was lying on it. But once he picked it up, it became a symbol of his freedom. In fact, he got in trouble for carrying it on the Sabbath. Do you have a label that keeps you bound? Pick it up and change your label.
You aren’t struggling to make ends meet. You are a budgeting superhero because you make ends meet every month. You aren’t an unwanted single living in a couples world. You’re a godly woman discovering your identity in Christ and learning how to trust in God’s care and timing. You aren’t stuck in a dead-end job. You are in a place of growth and development that is preparing you for something new. Take these strengths and carry them with you to your next assignment.
3 – Walk – We all have seasons of waiting. We wait for God’s timing before we move. But even if we are in a season of waiting, we should still walk in God’s assignment for us. Learn how to budget. Become secure in your identity as a child of God before you seek an image-changing relationship with another human being. Walk prayerfully through your current situation because God is calling you into your next season. In His time. In His way. At His speed.
I hear God telling me it’s time to take up my mat and walk. I don’t know what that means for me right now. But I know I’m done with excuses. When God asks me if I want to get better, I want to say YES. And when God tells me to take up my mat and walk, I pray I have the faith of this paralytic who (before Nike existed) Just Did It.
Father, thank You for always knowing where we are and where we’ve been. Thank you for asking us the easy questions because sometimes we get them wrong. Help us stop making excuses so we can start making progress toward Your purpose. Show us who we are in You and teach us how to walk with You every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Spread the spark of hope everywhere you go,
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I want to follow Jesus! How do I get started?
“This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.
1 John 4:13-15
If you are ready to join the family of God, simply believe and ask. You can choose your own words or pray the prayer below. God hears your heart, simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and let the Spirit lead you.
“Father, I want to be yours. Forgive me of my sins. I believe that you sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and thank you for the gift of salvation through Him. I invite the Holy Spirit into my heart and surrender my life to You. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Feel free to spend time just talking to God and sharing your heart with Him. Let Him speak to you and listen as He leads you forward into new life. Welcome to the family.
Need to talk or have questions? Feel free to reach out and contact me.