But he replied, "The man who healed me told me, "Pick up your mat and walk.'" -- John 5: 11 (NLT)
Too many Christians are spending their eternal life, which they are supposed to be enjoying now, bound by the enemy and crawling into heaven. We hear so much about the victorious Christian life but sometimes the reality of that seems so elusive to us. Perhaps that is because modern Christianity has muddied what victory means. The slew of prosperity preachers who seek to line their own pockets on the backs of the body of Christ will pay a high price on judgment day not only because they fleeced the children of God but because they furthered their bondage. Material worth is not the proof of a victorious Christian life. In fact, even the lie the world sells about material worth being the victorious life in general is a lie. Just ask Whitney Houston. Misery and the enemy do not respect social class, monetary wealth or fame. Victory is found in Christ alone. It is not dressed in fancy clothes but rather humility. It does not have servants but rather serves others. It is not enamored or indebted to the world but has overcome it.
The Gospel of Mark tells a story of a man who was a child of God but was completely bound his entire life. For 38 years he suffered and was unable to walk. Every day he would go down to the Pool of Bethesda because an angel would come in the morning and stir the waters which would provide healing. This healing however would only be available for the first person who got into the water. This man was never the first in. For 38 years he watched others get well while he remained crippled and bound. Until one day Jesus came and asked him a different question.
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: 6 (NLT)
Would you like to get well? Now Jesus was 100% God and therefore omniscient but I do not think we need the same omniscience to answer this question. Would you like to get well? Who would answer no to this question? This is like when we ask people if they want to go to heaven! This almost seems like a rhetorical question -- where we all know the answer and it is not meant to be responded to. Jesus however is always doing heart surgery on us if we allow Him to operate. Would you like to get well was a serious question beloved because sometimes we get complacent in our misery. Sometimes we are comfortable in our bondage. It becomes what we know. There is a phenomenon where people who have been incarcerated for a long time often prefer to stay in prison because it is all they know. They no longer know how to function free. How often is that the case for us as well? Would you like to get well?
"I can't, sir," the sick man said, "for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me." -- John 5: 7 (NLT)
Unfortunately, how often is this our answer to the Lord? There are three aspects in this crippled man's answer that we need to be mindful of in our own walk and be careful to avoid. They are answers that avoid the blessing of God in our lives. They are answers that perpetuate our suffering and avoid healing. They are schemes of the enemy to keep us in our bondage. To keep us crawling into heaven so that we will remain ineffectual for Christ and His kingdom. Please realize that while this man suffered from a physical ailment and disability, this concept is for spiritual healing as well. People who find themselves depressed or anxious. People who see themselves as inferior. People who circle the same mountain year after year with no victory. People who still cannot get over some great hurt in their life. You can be made well today by the Master. Would you like to get well today?
The first aspect that prevents healing is negativity. The first words out of this man's mouth to a question about whether he would like to get well is -- "I can't." How sad. What we say to ourselves is what we internalize and what we internalize shapes what we believe. This man, after 38 years of watching others get healed has finally given up in his spirit. He no longer believes he can be healed. He plays the part! He shows up every day at the Pool of Bethesda, but he certainly doesn't go expecting something. I am amazed at how many Christian go to prayer and healing services with absolutely no expectation. Or who go to a Sunday service without any expectation. Then you wonder why it seems that everyone else has the blessing story. Next time you are exiting a service turn around and take a look at the altar. Those people you see standing there and praying are like Jacob refusing to let go of God until He blessed him. They are not satisfied yet and are not leaving until their expectations are met. Your church should be the Pool of Bethesda beloved. The place where the angels stir the waters and the Savior asks you point blank -- would you like to be well today? But if the first thing that escapes your lips is doubt and faithlessness, how in the world can you ever expect deliverance or healing?
Secondly, we need to stop making excuses. We live in a society that encourages not taking ownership. Let's face it -- this has been going on since the fall of man. Adam blamed Eve, she blamed the snake, and we have been passing the buck ever since. Right after this man says he can't be healed he proceeds to blame others for his continued state of illness. "I have no one to put me into the water." What excuses do we make to continue in our despair? "Well, my father was an alcoholic." "This is just my cross to bear." No beloved it is not. Do not over-spiritualize your excuses for staying in bondage. The Bible says that Christ came to free the prisoners. God may want you to learn something while you are in Potiphar's house but He has no intention of keeping you there. But take a good hard look at yourself today and ask if you have the same intention"
Lastly, stop the destructive pattern of self-pity. I understand that sometimes we are talking about very serious things we are facing. Cancer, diabetes, terminal illnesses. I am not trying to minimize them but maximize Christ. As long as whatever you are facing is bigger than the God you serve it will win. It will become your Goliath. You will become the mighty men of Israel, cowering in fear before the nine foot tall warrior. The last thing this man says is -- "someone always gets there ahead of me." Woe is me! Feel bad for me! Realize also here that this man's entire answer is non-responsive. Jesus did not ask him why he has not been made well. He asked him if he wanted to be made well. Based upon the answer we can safely assume that he did not want to be made well. He had stopped believing he could be. He was making excuses and wallowing in self-pity. Not a great recipe for healing beloved. Yet how often do we do the same thing? Circling the same mountain never believing anymore that we will stop and enjoy any victory. We bring the doubt into the church house with no expectation whatsoever in our hearts as build up all of the reasons why we won't be healed. Possibly to protect ourselves from the disappointment. I get it. You pray and pray and pray and after awhile, our persistence wanes because it hurts to continually seek only to not be delivered. Soon after the self-pity sets in and by that time the enemy's lies have taken root in our spirit. God Himself can walk up to us and ask us if we want to be made well and our answer would start with""I can't."
But Jesus can. He healed that man that day. That brings us to the key verse where we find one more lesson. Jesus could have just healed him and been on his way but He tells him to pick up his mat and walk. The mat is what makes us comfortable in our bondage. The man would obviously lie on the mat and stare fondly into the Pool of Bethesda, watching others healed, slowly dying on the inside. But at least he had his mat. At least it provided a little comfort in his misery. We should not be looking for comfort in our misery or consolation in our pain. We need to pick up that which we lie down upon to stay in our affliction. Jesus could have just said -- walk! But not until he picked up that which represented to him, his acceptance of his condition. Pick up your mat and walk! Pick up that which represents why you can't walk -- and walk! Hallelujah!
This is not an easy lesson because our suffering is real. Our pain is real and the enemy uses this against us in poisoning our thinking. We need to take a hard look at our level of faith and make sure that we believe we still serve the God that can heal us in a supernatural second. Secondly, we need to stop making excuses for why God cannot do what we should know He is perfectly able to do. Third, we need to eliminate the urge to feel badly about ourselves and our situations. Not because they are not bad but because the ruminating can often be more debilitating than the condition. Lastly, we need to become uncomfortable in our predicament -- not consoled. We need to be driven to seek Jesus out expectantly, knowing that if it is within His sovereign will, that He will ask us -- would you like to get well today? And we will have the right answer. Yes.