My friend Corinne sent out her thoughts on John 5:6-8 that really got me thinking.
Here's what she wrote on what stood out to her:
* The man had been lying there for a long time (vs. 5 tells us 38 years, to be exact!). Jesus asked him a question that seems a bit strange - "Do you want to be healed?" Well, DUH! He'd been laying there for 38 years!
* The man had an excuse for why he was still laying there.
* Jesus told the man to "get up, take up your bed, and walk"
Jesus has the power, we have to take the action! Do I want to be healed? (healthy, faithful, disciplined, filled with the fruit of the Spirit?) I can't passively wait for it to just happen! I have to take action - get up, take up my bed, and walk. In order for the fullness of life that God longs to be appropriated in my life, I must take action and DO what the Lord tells me to do. It's not enough to know that the Lord wants me to be whole, healthy, fully alive, purposeful, etc. If I know all that and just lay there, I am as good as paralyzed!
I really like Corinne’s perspective on this- Jesus has the power – He is the one who heals, restores, redeems and provides, yet to access his power we have to take action. Imagine, if you came over to my house one night and there was not a single light on in my house. You would probably wonder why I was sitting in the dark. You would say, “Penny, why is it so dark in here?” I would say “I just haven’t turned on the lights; I’ll do it now.” With a flip of a switch, we would no longer be sitting in darkness. My part in getting the lights turned on was so small. The power bill had been paid, the lines from the street to my house were in place, the lights had been wired and installed, and I just had to flip the switch.
When the Israelites and Joshua were preparing to enter Canaan, God told them that the land was theirs all they had to do was take it. God told them they would be entering a land with houses they did not build and crops they did not plant. Their job was to flip the switch- remove the inhabitants from the land. God even told the people of Israel that he would fight for them and drive them from the land. Victory was guaranteed and then they would be able to take advantage of the blessings that God had planned for them.
The Israelites’ victories against the Canaanites did not come from their own strength. Just because the man at the pool in John Chapter 5 had to pick up his bed and walk doesn’t make me think that he healed himself. It is obvious that God did the healing and God provided the victory.
What is so obvious in other people’s lives and in the Bible, I often miss in my own life. As a high school student, I would think that my good grades were the result of my hard work. As a marketing manager, I would attribute my success to my intelligence and work ethic. As a mom, I think that my clean house and happy family can be attributed to my efforts at home. In all of these situations and so many more, I am focused on what I have done- my small contributions- versus acknowledging all that God has done.
In high school, it was because of God’s gift of intelligence, His provision of a teacher in first grade who taught me how to read, His financial provision for my family so that I had time to study and I didn’t have to work full time, His hand on my parents lives so that lived in a community with good schools, and His timing that I was born in the 20th century and not 1,000 years ago. The list of all that God accomplished and provided for me, long before I opened my first textbook, shows that my efforts, while important, are nothing in comparison to God’s work on my behalf.
God’s provision and timing are evident in my career and my being at home. Throughout my career, God opened up doors and provided jobs in miraculous ways. God orchestrated my classes in college and grad school so that much of what I learned applied to my future jobs. God gave me a personality that loved marketing and God provided life experiences so that I could relate to the products I was responsible for marketing. Yes, I did send out resumes and I did show up for work everyday but as anyone who has tried to find a job can tell you, just because you send out resumes does not mean that you will get a job. Just because you have a job (or kids) does not mean that you will love it, because even being able to love is a gift from God. When I "retired" to be at home full-time, God provided for us finacially, God brought new friends into my life, and God gave me health to enjoy this time.
In the Bible study, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes that “God invites us to join him in his work.” How amazing- the God of this Universe, Creator of vast galaxies and microscopic organisms – wants me to join Him in His work. I am amazed that God would trust me with His plans and that He wants me to help him- not because He can’t do it himself –but because I am made in His image and He knows what will bring me joy and wants to bless me.
Your story of God's provision may be very different than mine. Your life experiences and challenges make how you "take up your mat and walk" every day, are unique to you. Yes, we do have our part to do. Some days it feels like we have to we have to pick up our mat, flip the switch, and drive out the inhabitants from the land before noon. At times, these tasks seem so big and daunting. During these times that are so difficult and stretch your faith, look to see all the preparation that God has done for you, so that you can shift your perspective off all that you have to do and instead you can see all that God has done for you.
It’s like when I invite my boys to help me make cookies; I read the recipe, buy the ingredients, heat up my stove, measure everything, and at the end, they pour in the chocolate chips. They have a small part of the whole process- but what joy it brings to them and me. They get to experience creation, eat lots of chocolate chips and enjoy homemade cookies. I get to spend time with two boys that I love, I get to teach them how to cook and we have fun. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” How fun.