Old habits are hard to break.
They’re like a well worn path we’ve taken a million times. It’s familiar. Predictable. And despite the fact that it may not be the most direct route, it’s the way we choose to go.
My well worn path was lined with negative self-talk. I’m a failure. I’m unlovable. I’m worthless. Day in and day out I believed the lies and did nothing to refute them.
I was like the man lying on his mat at the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda Pool was believed to be a healing pool where “a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” They waited for an angel to stir the waters, healing whoever entered first thereafter. (John 5:3-4)
“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.” (John 5:5) Thirty-eight years. That is a long time to be lying on a mat, waiting to be healed. It begs the question if he truly wanted to get better. His position at the pool was familiar, predictable. His mat was comfortable. Changing his life now would take an act of God.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?'” (v. 6)
God knows our habits. Our sin. The struggle we have with negative self-talk; with gossip; with sexual temptation; with addiction. We don’t need to tell Him – He already knows. And yet, He asks, “do you want to be made well?”
Jesus wants this man to acknowledge his motivation to be healed. How badly does he want to be made well? He replies, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (v. 7)
Am I the only one who perceives this response as an excuse? When asked if he wants to be made well, he explains why it hasn’t happened yet. He probably feels a bit discouraged after thirty-eight years of failing to be the first one into the pool. He may doubt healing will ever happen for him.
Do you feel discouraged by your lack of healing? Perhaps you’ve prayed for change, for the ability to stop doing the same things you’ve always done. You’ve been stuck on your mat for years and the idea of doing what it takes to get up and walk feels impossible. So you’ve grow accustomed to your position and can readily give reasons why you’re still there. I spent years waiting for others to validate my worth rather than doing to the work to retrain my mind to believe the truths of God’s Word.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.'” (v. 8)
The healing Christ offers is ours for the taking – but we must take it. God will give us the ability to make changes, but we must do the work it takes to break old habits. We must get up off the mat.
“And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” (v. 9)
Jesus commanded the sick man to get up and walk. This time, he didn’t make excuses or give reasons as to why he was not physically capable of doing so. He made a choice to believe he could be healed. He put his faith into action by simply lifting himself off the mat. The unpredictability of the future was now more appealing than the consistency of his pain. He was ready to move on. And note that Jesus did not help him up. He didn’t ask anyone to help him either. Jesus didn’t wait for an angel to stir the waters and quickly help the sick man in. He healed him right then and there.
God can heal us at anytime as well. All He needs is our willingness to put faith into action and move. One step at a time.
On many occasions, the Lord has prompted me to witness to others, some I do not know. In the past, this terrified me, paralyzed me on the mat of fear. I had to take action in order to experience change in my life. Jesus stood there asking me if I wanted to be made well. He has always been available to free me from the bondage of fear, but He requires I take ownership of it, confess my need for His help, and pursue a life of change.
Do you find yourself stuck on a mat of old habits, longing to make changes but not knowing how? Are ready to get up and be made well? Hebrews 4:16 says, Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Whatever healing you’re in need of today, be encouraged by the power of God to fully restore thirty-eight years of crippling disability. The same can be true for you! Simply acknowledge your weakness and ask the Lord to give you the strength and courage to leave your comfortable, predictable mat and embark on a journey of extraordinary freedom.
Lord, thank you for the numerous miracles documented in the Bible to give of hope of healing and restoration in our lives. May we desire to be made well and willing to do the work of getting up from our mats. Amen