Thirty-eight years later

Everyone loves a good story! And everyone loves the action! The fights, arguments, climactic points. These form the key elements of the story. Settings, character building, and description are necessary, but they aren’t usually what we remember.

But our lives are not lived like stories. We don’t get to skip to the action, to the climax. Sometimes parts of out lives go on and on without resolution. Days, months, years, decades all pass, and we still wait for the solution.

So it was with the lame man in John 5. We are told that there was a pool in Bethesda where an angel would come down and “stir” the water. The first person in the water after the angel moved it, would be healed. We don’t know how often the angel came, but there were a great many people.

When Jesus passed by, he found a man who had been there a great while. By the end of the story, Jesus heals the man and he leaves joyfully.

Those are the main ideas. That’s the plot. That’s the climax and resolution.

If we skim the story, we miss out on little details. We lose sight of the reality that was that lame man’s. In verse 5, we learn, that the man had been lame for 38 years. It is half of a verse. Barely noticeable to us as readers. But I assure you that it meant a great deal to that man.

38 years of his life he had been lame.

38 years of struggle. 38 years of pain. Was he able to find work at all? Or did he just beg? Did he go hungry at times? How long had he waited at that pool? How many times had he tried to crawl using only his arms? How many people had he seen be healed at that pool while he was too slow to get in? How many nights had he cried himself to sleep wondering if his life had purpose? How many people mocked him for his infirmity? How many times did he wish he could walk?

38 years

years

38 years of his life

And we blow past it in half a sentence.

He spent all those years waiting for healing. Waiting for the power of God. At the end of those years he was still by the pool. He hadn’t given up.

Did you catch that?

After 38 years he hadn’t lost hope.

I challenge you, whatever you are going through in your life, whatever you need God’s power for, whatever you are praying for – Don’t. Give. Up.

Seek God, pray, ask for His intervention, and don’t give up. This man’s story was written down so that 2000 years later we could be encouraged. He waited patiently, and God used his life as a testimony.

Won’t you stand strong and wait for God’s power in your life today?

tomorrow?

Or for as long as it takes?

I promise you it will be worth it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

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Feel the burn!

“No pain, no gain.” This saying is quipped by many as as a catchy way to explain how improvement comes through uncomfortableness. It is the mantra of sportsman, bodybuilders, and all sorts of physical competitors. They pride themselves on the difficulty they embrace to perfect their skills or deepen their abilities. I’ve seen guys pounding each other’s sore muscles leaving the gym- “Feel the burn!” they chant as they leave a particularly intensive workout.

Runners, weight lifters, athletic trainers all speak about that “good” pain. That “good” ache. Their body screams in agony, but they themselves fill with joy- they know that they have pushed themselves farther. They know they will be stronger. They know that their ultimate goals are just that much more in reach.

It’s funny how such a thought could be so obvious on a physical level, but completely escape our minds on a spiritual one. James tells us,

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

The temptations and trials you face- even your failures can be stepping stones to the victory you seek in Christ. When we are surrounded by pain, suffering, loneliness, betrayal, and temptations of all sorts- We should rejoice! The Christian life isn’t about comfort. It’s not about having everything just so. It’s about going through all of life’s hardships with confidence in Christ’s ability to bring us through stronger.

Every fear you face, every trial you endure, every temptation you forgo- you are growing. You are maturing. The pain of failure, the ache of regret, the weariness that you feel- all throw you into the arms of the Savior. They drive you closer to your God.

Be encouraged by it all! Every trial is a reminder of how much you need Christ! In Christ, you can be encouraged that your failures are not the end, and they don’t define you. Your regrets can be wiped away by joy and hope in God’s plans. Your weariness can be replaced by His strength.

Be encouraged by pain. Be joyous in tribulation. Be elated at the sight of trials.

Without such we might never feel our need for Him, we might never experience His power to perfect us, and we might never see how much He loves us and wants to empower us.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;” Romans 5:3

He moves mountains yes, but what about molehills?

I was crouched on my living room floor playing with my dog. “Come here!” I called in a fun playful voice. The little beagle puppy wagged his tail, his floppy ears waved in the air as he jumped and sauntered towards me. He suddenly stopped. Between him and me there was a narrow passage between the couch and the laundry basket. He stuck his head in between and pulled back. He stayed on the other side whining and obviously distressed.

“You can make it through!” I coaxed. There was enough room for him to walk through, he was just nervous. Even if there wasn’t, he could easily move the basket because it was empty. I called him again, to no avail. He was nervous, he wanted to come, but he was too uncomfortable to get through.

I wasn’t asking my dog to do anything drastic, but I knew he was uncomfortable. So I moved the basket so he could come to me without being nervous.

You might say to yourself, “What a stupid dog! What was he so afraid of?” You might say it’s ridiculous- and you’re probably right, but I would say that more often than we realize, you and I are like my overly-nervous dog.

And for the record, it’s not just us. I’ll give you two examples.

First Gideon. God was calling Gideon in Judges 6 and 7, to lead the people of Israel out of bondage. Gideon was a bit frightened. Did you know, that God didn’t get angry with Gideon when Gideon was afraid. He knew Gideon’s heart. Gideon wanted to serve, Gideon wanted to obey. God made a way. God proved himself many times. First, His angel miraculously produced fire and consumed a meal Gideon had prepared. Then God did not one, but two miracles involving the morning dew and a fleece. And finally, without Gideon even asking, God told Gideon if he was afraid, he should go down to the enemy camp. In the camp, Gideon overheard that the enemy was scared of him!

Talk about patience, God was extremely patient with Gideon.

Second Moses. God called to Moses out of a burning bush. A bush. That was perpetually on fire. That was not being destroyed by the fire. I’m sure you heard the story. But honestly, Moses was still skeptical of God’s plans. Moses had a lot of questions. A lot. Almost 30 verses in Exodus are dedicated to God answering all of the doubt and insecurities that Moses had. At the very end, Moses is still uncomfortable, and God does get angry with him, but it is important to note that Moses literally asked God to find someone else at this point. Up until then, God answered every single doubt and insecurity Moses brought up.

With my dog, I could have yelled at him. Told him he was a bad dog. And sternly ordered him to come. But I didn’t. I moved the basket to make him comfortable, and my dog ran over- we had a great time.

And with us, it is very similar. God is King of the universe. He doesn’t have to help us. It is our duty to obey Him. If He orders us to do something, we should fall in line whether or not we are afraid. But isn’t it a blessing to know, that there are times when God makes allowances for our fears and insecurities. He knows we are frail. He knows we are weak. He knows we are afraid.

God knows our hearts, and He loves us. Isn’t it a blessing to know that He prepares a way for us to follow Him. He didn’t have to do all those miracles for Gideon. And He didn’t have to answer all of Moses’ fearful questions.

God had made it possible for them to obey Him. He had already moved the mountains. They were still hesitant, so He moved the molehills too.

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

The patient wait

What stirs the heart of God? What brings the interest of God? In what is God pleased? What causes God to move to action? These questions could be answered by many different qualities found in righteous people, but I honestly believe that a person’s patientce combined with expectation or hope is most effective in bringing God’s intervention.

Proverbs 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Notice the action that David took. He waited patiently. In our fast paced world, we don’t like to wait for things. We want it now, or we want something else that we can have now. These impulses are deeply rooted in pride and selfishness. Think about it, humility brings us patience. Many people would wait all day to meet a famous actor or politician. Why? Because they find that person worthy of their time. But many times people fail to recognize the God of the universe as worthy of their time as a mortal being.

In order to patiently wait, David had humility.

One interesting thing about this verse is that the Hebrew word for “patiently” and the Hebrew word for “waited” are exactly the same. The word carries more than one meaning and in Hebrew, its interpretation is intensified by it’s repetition.  One other meaning in this word is to expect or hope for something. Honestly, you don’t have to be an amazing scholar to recognize that the only reason that you would wait for something, is that you actually expect it. I mean, who waits for something that they know is not going to happen?

So two qualities of David’s heart are portrayed by his waiting: his humility in his willingness to wait, and his expectation (faith).

And what was the answer? God inclined to him and heard him. We see such an equation repeated over and over in the Bible. When people humbly stand in faith for God to move, He moves. When they humbly ask and believe, He answers. Over and over again.

So how about you? What do you need from God today? Are you asking in humility? Do you ask God for something, and then soon give up because He doesn’t answer immediately, or do you patiently and expectantly wait for His reply?

I challenge you, whatever you desire from God: deliverance, wisdom, ability, strength, health, patience, etc. , ask Him. Ask in humility, and ask in expectation and He will answer.

When God is late . . .

Ever feel like God is late? You pray for something and you wait for God to answer your prayer, but he doesn’t answer it. Or he doesn’t do what you asked. We know God isn’t obligated to answer our every prayer, but the request did not seem unreasonable. Why wouldn’t He answer it?

If you have experienced something like this recently, I would ask you to consider the account of Martha and her brother Lazarus. In this story Mary and Martha both ask Jesus to come to heal their brother who is sick. However, Jesus purposely doesn’t come. Jesus waits until Lazarus is dead.

When Jesus finally arrived Martha said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," John 11:21. Martha was probably upset, and I’m sure you would be too. But God had a plan that neither Mary or Martha could have predicted. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that He could raise him up again. Jesus wanted to glorify Himself and the Father more than Mary and Martha could have predicted, and He did.

In the end, Jesus used the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead to bring people to salvation. John 11:45 tells us, "Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." God used the apparent "tragedy" for the good of others, and the glory of Himself.

So when you find yourself in a predicament where it seems God is not answering your prayers, be patient. Pray that God will have His perfect will. If we wait for God’s plan, we will find that it is greater than anything we could have imagined.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us," – Ephesians 3:20

The Glory of Tribulation

Have you ever experienced hard times? There will be times in our life where we go through great trials. We can be tempted to feel bad for ourselves, but in reality, we should be encouraged. It is true that tribulation can cause us to stumble, but it is our choice whether we stumble or not. Tribulation can be used to bring great victory in our lives.

Romans 5:3 tells us, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope." God can use tribulation in our lives to bring us maturity. He can use tribulation to work patience. As we live through hard times, we can develop longsuffering. He can use patience to work experience. As we willingly and patiently endure hard times we become mature. When we get a mature look at life we can focus on the hope that God has provided for us. The verse continues to say that hope doesn’t make us ashamed because of the love that God has given us. Remember, no matter what is going on in your life, God is using it to shape and mold you.

I know that the trials and troubles of life may seem great at the moment, but take heart! Whatever troubles and trials you are experiencing, God can and will use them to His glory and your good. God is over all and nothing is too great for Him to handle. Whatever your tribulation is, it is not too big for Him. He can make any situation work out for the good of His children.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." – Romans 8:28

Lessons from sleep

Have you ever been annoyed that you have to sleep? There are some days that I hate the fact that I need to sleep. Think about it. If you spend 8 hours a day sleeping. . . For ever 24 years you live, you will have spent 8 years in apparent uselessness. However, we all know that sleep is not useless. Without sleep we could not function. It is sleep that energizes, repairs, and empowers us to continue our daily lives. It may seem like we are doing nothing, but really we are accomplishing far more than we could ever accomplish by staying awake. Many times, our spiritual walk can have a strange parallel with this idea. For myself, I can get into a mindset that I need to always be doing something for God. But the Christian life isn’t about the doing.

When we examine biblical examples we find that Moses spent 40 years in the desert being a shepherd before God called him to lead Israel. Israel itself was in bondage for over two hundred years before God delivered His chosen nation. Because of the fast-paced world we live in we may question, “Why? Why didn’t God work sooner? Why such a long wait before God did anything?” The answer is simple. God is doing something. Just because we can’t see something happening, doesn’t mean that nothing is.

I read an illustration once about a little girl that planted a seed. After some time she became impatient as she waited for the plant to sprout. Her grandmother explained to her that things were happening that the girl couldn’t see. There was nothing that girl could do to make the seed sprout faster. All she could do was wait, have faith, and continue to water the seed. Our spiritual lives can be very similar to this story. It may seem like nothing is happening, and God is not working, but in reality, God is working things together so that when his plan manifests, it will be better than we could ever imagine.

So when you go to sleep tonight, remember these lessons:

  • Just because it seems like nothing is happening, doesn’t mean that nothing is.
  • That something that is happening, is what God is working, and what God is working, none other could accomplish.

In short: Trust God to do his work, even when you don’t see it.

“Be still and know that I am God”  -Psalm 46:10

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  -Philippians 2:13