For some of us, God is offering the very thing we’ve been seeking and he’s waiting for us to take it. But the truth is, now you’re afraid to take it. You’ve been waiting for so long that you’ve grown accustom to life as it is now, and receiving what you’ve been seeking would be very uncomfortable for you. So what do you do?
For others, you have been asking and God in all of his wisdom has continually redirected you. So, do you keep asking or do you give up? Do you push on or do you settle here? Or, do you dig deeper to find the the purpose of God’s seeming denial of your request.
Scripture paints two very different pictures on seeking and receiving. Two different stories on miraculous healing and denied healing. While they seem contradictory, we will see they are both for the same great purposes.
First, the story of man who had been laying paralyzed by the Pool of Bathesda for 38 years, awaiting his healing. It was believed when the water would bubble in the pool, the first one in the water would be miraculously healed. But this man had no way of getting in the pool, so he laid there day after day while absolutely nothing changed. That is, until the day Jesus showed up.
Jesus sees him, walks directly to him and asks in John 5:6 “Would you like to be made well?”
On the surface, that seems like an insulting question. Would you like to be made well? But this is actually a question for each of us because the truth is, sometimes our dysfunction serves us.
When you have a headache, you are excused from certain activities, right? Then, it works for you.
When you have a doctor’s note, you’re not expected to do extreme things. Then, it works for you.
When you have an illness of any sort, you’re limited and therefore not required to go beyond those limits. Then, it works for you.
And while we fantasize about not having limitations, the truth is we would miss our old excuses.
Oh my gosh, you don’t have a single good reason to not work out, then you feel like you kinda have to work out. Yuck.
You don’t have a single reason why you can’t show up for work, so then you’re left having to go to work every day without a free pass. Ewwww.
You no longer have a reason to lay on the couch, eat cheese puffs and watch Netflix for 7 consecutive hours? Oh crap, now what are you going to do? You have to actually get up and be productive? Ughhhhhh.
That’s why “would you like to be made well” is a genuine question from Jesus. Because honey, if he makes you well, you don’t get to lay here by this pool anymore. You might have to go ahead and get a job. You might have to walk. You might have to start showing up for your life different as a healed girl than you did as a paralyzed girl.
And while we would likely never admit it aloud to anyone, the truth is our dysfunction has served us and it’s hard to let it go.
These headaches are painful, but they are my pass.
My illness is inconvenient, but it creates a convenience at the same time.
While I look pitiful the pressure is taken off me and no one has any expectations of me, including myself. Being made well would cost me this pity, and that’s truthfully a high price to pay.
So Jesus asks, are you really ready to let go of all that? I have more living for you to do, but you’re going to have to leave this pool you’re so familiar with. You can’t lay on that mat anymore.
The man replied to Jesus’ question with an excuse. Verse 7, “I can’t, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
This wasn’t just an excuse, it was the truth. He couldn’t do it. For 38 years he hadn’t been able to do it. And maybe you haven’t been able to either. For all these years it has never worked for you. But just as we learned yesterday when God says it, then that’s what happens, all we need is one word from Jesus. When Jesus enters the scene everything changes and impossible things are made possible.
Verse 8-9, “Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!”
Don’t miss this, it’s very important. Jesus says STAND UP, PICK UP YOUR MAT and then WALK. There’s an order. The man first had to attempt to do what he had never been able to do. I bet he didn’t feel any different. Scripture doesn’t tell us of any physical manifestation in his legs that made his legs suddenly appear different. No, Jesus just said, stand up.
So, the man was left with the decision. Do I stand up here and pick up this mat that has served me for all these years, or do I stay here because I’m afraid of a life without this mat? His decision to stand up made all the difference in the world. When he stood up, he was instantly healed. Then he rolled up that mat and walked.
From that day forward, this man was expected to live as a whole and healed man. He likely had to go get a job. He couldn’t just lay by the pool the next day. He couldn’t beg for help and receive pity.
His healing came at a price, and so will yours. Are you willing to pay the price to be healed from all that has held you back? That means you will be left with absolutely no excuses to not live up to your full potential. There will be no more passes. No more pity.
Do you want to be made well, or do you want to hold on to your pass?
I know that sounds harsh, but I was the girl who once had a massive stroke. And that stroke gave me an excuse to dismiss myself from anything when it got too hard. Training for my first marathon I struggled. Not because I had a stroke but because darn it, 26 miles is a really long way. So you know what I did? When I struggled and the rest of my team pushed through, I would quit. I would suddenly just stop. You know what happens when you go from running hard to just stopping? Your blood pressure drops and you get dizzy. That’s normal. But I would use it to my advantage and play the stroke card. “Guys, I can’t keep running, I’m really dizzy. I might be having a problem.”
Yeah, I was having a problem. The problem was I was being pitiful so I couldn’t be pushed. And here’s the thing, I would never reach my full potential if I resisted every push with my habit of being pitiful. One day I had my encounter. My encounter with Jesus essentially saying, “hey, do you want to be made well Pamela?” And if I did, I couldn’t play that pity card again.
I don’t mean to step on your toes here, Sis, but with all the love in my heart I say this to you: YOU WILL NEVER REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL IF YOU RESIST EVERY PUSH WITH YOUR HABIT OF BEING PITIFUL.
Is Jesus here asking for your pity card today? Is he asking you to stand up and see that he is offering you a life beyond the mat on which you have laid for so long?
For some of us, that’s exactly what’s happening here.
Your pity card for his power.
Your excuses for his energy.
Your sad story for his strength.
Your habit for his healing.
God is all about you living up to the full potential he has put in you. If you’ve accepted any limitation that is hindering you from that life, he wants to lift that limitation from you.
Now, the second story. It seems contradictory at first, but at the core it is the same.
Paul has a problem. The problem isn’t clearly stated and perhaps that’s so we as the readers can relate his problem to our own. He describes this problem as a thorn in his flesh given to him by Satan. It’s an issue that continually torments him. There’s no relief from it, it’s always there. Some believe Paul is referring to seizures, migraines, epilepsy or a speech disability. He seeks God for healing from this problem. If Jesus would have asked him, “do you want to be made well”, heck yes he wanted to be made well. He wanted rid of this thorn. He continually asked God for healing, but here’s what it says.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
So here’s a man genuinely wanting healing, willing to turn over any pity card his problem may afford him, forfeiting all excuses in exchange for his healing, and God says no. But what’s important here is WHY he says no.
Paul recognizes this problem was given to him by Satan. Satan tried to torment him. But God saw this problem was serving a positive purpose in Paul’s life, it was keeping him humble. Without this problem, Paul would have fallen short of his potential because of his pride. Verse 7, “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh.”
So instead of healing, God gave him grace. Grace to continue on with his purpose in life even without the healing. Grace to see that his problem was keeping him on the right path which God had for him.
So these two stories seem quite different, one is healed and the other is not. But both were answered by God with the thing that would free them from that which would hold them back from their greatest potential.
For the paralyzed man laying on a mat, it was his excuses and the need for pity that held him back, so he was asked to give it up in exchange for healing.
For Paul tormented by a continual problem, it was his pride that most threatened his future, so he was asked to continue on with grace in exchange for humility.
Lord, whatever it is you’re calling me to release here, whether it be my pity card or my pride, I turn it over to you today. Let absolutely nothing stand in the way of the purposes you created me for. I want to live up to the potential you have placed within me, and I exchange all excuses, all passes, and all pride for the call you have on my life!
No holding back. No playing little. No sitting it out. Healed or not healed, God has a purpose for me and that purpose cannot be limited by my circumstances! If he heals me, then I must choose daily to never go back to my old excuses. If he chooses not to heal me, then I must receive his grace knowing he has kept me humble and calls me on no matter what.