Don't give up before the miracle happens.
There are two four-letter words that tripped up folks in Jesus' day and they continue to trip up a good many of us today. Oh, I'm not talking about swear words, I'm talking about two little words that can literally change the course of one's life. The first word is can't and just saying this word suggests to us limitations, defeat and resignation. The second word is won't, and it can render us unapproachable and unbendable.
When Jesus stepped into the lame man's world, he found not only a broken body lying there by the pool, he found a broken soul. Although the man lies by that pool in Bethesda looking for a miracle, he believed in his heart that it would never happen to him.Because he felt that no one cared about him, he assumed that God did not care about him either; why else would he still be in this mess after thirty-eight years? Though the man's legs were crippled and made walking a difficulty, his heart and mind had also become crippled. His feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and despair paralyzed him, life seemed to hold only impossibilities and insurmountable odds. His life of futility left him numb with defeat. Giving up hope, he had resigned himself to a mat of helplessness. When Jesus asked if he wanted to get well his response was… I can't.
The other group of men Jesus encountered had a different sort of infirmity altogether… (although they themselves wouldn't have seen it as such). These guys were crippled by a control issue and it rendered them inflexible and unteachable. Pride had paralyzed them into thinking that their manmade way was better than God's way of humility, compassion and generosity. As John Ortberg in his book, Love beyond Reason points out, it isn't that the Pharisees failed to see, it's that they refused to do so. They tightly closed the eyes and the ears of their hearts. They were unable to see the needs of those around them and unwilling to hear truth when it was spoken. They had created for themselves a spiritual quarantine, a greenhouse for pride and self-righteousness to grow and flourish. The Pharisees' determination and stubbornness had left them spiritually handicapped. Then when Jesus asked them to believe the truth of his words, they adamantly responded, "We won't."
The infirmity of an "I can't" or "I won't" attitude isn't limited to the 1st century when Jesus walked the earth. Christians down through the millennium have been debilitated by this kind of attitude as well.
During my journey with God, I have experienced the crippling effect of giving in to despair and resigning myself to defeat. I know what the lame man felt like. I've been there myself. The dominating voice in my head all through my childhood and teen years was my dad's. Although his words may have been unintentional at times, the constant theme was the same: you are worthless, unlovable and will never measure up no matter what you do. Those words became a part of me, and I believed them. Crazy thing is, even as an adult those words still have power to trip me up from time-to-time and I'll find myself once again limping along the path with the Savior.
Just like he did with the lame man, Jesus steps into the midst of those debilitating places and I hear him speaking over the old voices in my head, Julie, do you want to get well? Do you want to stay where you are, all crumpled up in a heap? Are you willing to just limp along the path of life with Me or will you let Me teach you how to really live?
I have also allowed pride to paralyze me when I've dug in my heels and become as unbendable as a 2х4. I have often thought that my way is the best way, and I have exhibited a stubborn attitude about how I like things done.
Jesus also comes when pride starts to paralyze me and he says, Julie, please listen to Me. I'm telling you the truth. You need to humble yourself and hand over what little control you think you have. Are you content to settle in this barren wasteland of pride and rigidity? I have so much more to show you if you'll only allow Me to.
Some of us have been laying by the pool of Bethesda for far too long. Jesus is asking you,"Do you want to get well? Will you pick up your mat and leave your limping behind and follow Me?"
Others of us have gotten a little rigid in our ways and that's created an unteachable spirit within us. Jesus is asking you if you would be willing to humble yourself and let him teach you how to really live.
Rise up and take immediate and dramatic action
Become attentive to the dangerous position you are in and quit
that previous position
Pick up your mat…
Do not leave yourself an option to lay back down