Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Opposition is Opportunity in Disguise

The gospel stories weren't penned just for our entertainment. They were written to teach us about Jesus, His life, and His ministry. Each story reveals something about who He is, about His character, and about His heart. Each story gives us glimpses of how He related to people and our reactions to the stories reveals stuff about our own hearts and our relationship with Him. One of the stories I have been pondering lately is the story about a paralyzed man found in Mark 2.

Word of Jesus and His miracles had spread and when Jesus and his disciples came to Peter's house, a crowd soon descended there to see the miracle-working Teacher - the Teacher whose words were a soothing balm to some and a strong irritant to others. The large crowds made it difficult for the neediest people to get close enough to Jesus. One of the neediest that day was a paralyzed man who lived life on a stretcher, but he had four loyal friends who picked up his stretcher and headed to Peter's house. However, because of the crowd, they could not get near the Teacher. So, the men devised a plan and carried their friend up the stairs to the roof and began digging through tiles and dirt, making a hole large enough that they could fit their friend and his stretcher through it.

I find myself wondering what the man thought as they approached the house. Did his heart sink when he saw the crowd? Did his anger rise as he was reminded of his limitations? Did he feel hopeless and immediately resign himself to living from the perspective of the stretcher? What did he think when his friends began to climb the stairs and dig through the roof? Did he feel loved or was he embarrassed by their actions? Did he believe he was worth the hassle or would he have preferred they not to make a scene? Was his friends' faith beginning to take root in his heart? I don't know the answers to the questions, but I do know that I want to be the kind of friend this man had. I want to be the person who sees beyond the hopelessness of a situation. I want to be one who believes that the more hopeless the situation seems the bigger the opportunity to bring someone closer to Jesus. I want to be that friend who persists and persists until I have done all that it takes to help a friend land at the feet of Jesus.

I also find myself wondering what Jesus thought as the men began to dig through the roof. Did He raise His voice to be heard above their digging or did He stop and wait patiently, knowing the roof-digging crew was providing His sermon illustration that night? Did He need to calm Peter and remind Him that holes could be fixed? Did He smile as He brushed away the dirt that was settling on His shoulders? Did rise and help lower the man in or did they drop him at His feet?

The Bible makes it clear that not every illness is a result of sin. It may have been in this case that something he had done to another had resulted in his paralysis. It may have been that Jesus knew the crowd usually associated illness and handicaps with sin and was exposing their belief. Or it may have been that Jesus could see the burden of regret and the shame that was residing in the man's heart and knew that the man needed to be spiritually healed more than physically. So, He told him sins were forgiven.

Jesus then turned his attention to the religious leaders--the skeptics who thought He was a blasphemer for telling the man his sins were forgiven. I love it that Jesus both exposed and confronted their thoughts by asking, "Which is easier to do--tell a man he is forgiven or tell him to take up his bed and walk?" He then turned back to the man and said, "Get up, take your stretcher and go home."

What ran through the paralytic's mind when the Savior commanded him to walk? Did he look around at the crowd that wouldn't let him through the door? Did he glace at the religious leaders who disapproved of what Jesus was telling him and feel conflicted? Did he immediately respond in faith and jump up or dance a jig? Did he look down first, expecting to see atrophied legs and find them healthy and strong? Or did he have to do the impossible and try to stand up on atrophied muscled legs for the miracle to take place? I don't know, but I can relate to having to demonstrate faith and obedience in the face of people who opposed me and what God called me to do. It was terribly hard and it sure didn't feel safe. However, choosing God in the face of that opposition strengthened my faith, gave me opportunities to see Him work in new ways, and opened a new direction for me to do the ministry God had called me to.

That day, Jesus graciously chose to do a deeper work in the heart of the crippled man so not only his body was healed, but his heart as well. Jesus used the opposition He faced to publically affirm His deity as he exposed the hidden thoughts of men, established that He had the authority to forgive sin, heal a broken body, and called Himself, "The Son of Man."

I fear that we often view the hard as proof that God doesn't love us and we let the hard paralyze us. What if the hard--our past traumas, our broken hearts, the adversity we experience, the weaknesses we have, our struggle to fully trust, the sin that trips us up, the people and the demons who come against us--is what the Lord will use to reveal Himself to this broken and fallen world? Would not our faith and our joy grow exponentially if we just believe God is good and that the opposition we face is nothing more than disguised opportunities for Him to do His greatest work? 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!