Jesus and his disciples were entering Jerusalem and had just reached the pool of Bethesda, a commonplace where afflicted and ill gather and lay under the five covered porches. There, with an expectation that when the pool bubbles, the first to enter the pool could receive their healing. BTW, someone, please help me better understand more of that ritual one day!
The story is about one man who had been sick for 38 years and had no means of getting into the waters when the bubbling occurred. Among the many in the crowd, Jesus took special notice of this man. Jesus simply asked him, “Would you like to get healed?” The afflicted man answered, “I can’t sir” adding “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone always gets there before me.” Jesus responded by telling the man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”.
What I have never heard spoken of was the significance of the words “… pick up your mat…”. Jesus told this man, “Stop looking at the water & talk to me!”
The mat represents our testimony!
Your testimony has the power to do for others what God has done for you!
You and I brothers need to take this to heart and share the life stories of our defeats, struggles, and how the Lord met us there. Through Christ, we overcame and now live in victory and freedom! Do this as often as possible, not only amongst ourselves but much further reaching! We are to share our testimonies with every person we may meet when we feel the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. If you are wondering if you are truly feeling the leading of the Spirit, do it anyway, as I can assure you are being led simply because of your wondering!
It’s critical in our testimonies that we are fully humble, transparent, and willing to share the mistakes we’ve made, with their ramifications, including the sometimes uncomfortable details, not just the comfortable. This person you are speaking to is not looking for, nor can they benefit from you sharing your success stories and accomplishments. No, he (or she) must know that they are not alone in their current condition, shame, regret, worry, fear, or whatever has them hostage. God is asking you to be His vessel in this place and time to deliver His message to this person through your life story. Share where you were, how it affected your life, and how the Lord restored you to the point you are thankfully at now made possible only by His intervention. Jesus can (and loves to!) include you in the miraculous restoration of another. You are part of the miracle!
In some areas of life, you may be not consider yourself fully restored as you share your story. Share your experiences transparently and honestly. You too will grow closer to restoration along with the person through your testimony. The Spirit will place the perfect words in your mouth that He knew not only that person, but you as well, needed to hear where you both are at.
So, to make this as concise as possible, brothers pick up your mat anytime Jesus is there for you and delivers the miracle you have been longing for!
Share that experience as often as possible, as your heart has even the slightest thought as you are with others. You may not know where this person is at that moment. Jesus does! He is asking you through the Holy Spirit’s presence to be involved in that person’s healing or deliverance, where they may think they have it hidden and contained as they try on their own to find the answer. The reason you are there at that place and time may be within one or more of the stories written on your mat!
Now that you are well, STOP SINNING!
I recall a pastor who once shared a personal story where he had recently met with a good friend. He admitted he was passionate in his heart and mind about the current political environment. His friend opened the gates of conversation with information on the news. The pastor, with no serious consideration (at the moment), boldly added his views and thoughts to this conversation as part of their visit.
He then shared during that expression he felt the Holy Spirit gently tug at him, saying, “Stop it. Others can, you cannot!”.
As we grow deeper into our walk with the Lord, the more intimate that relationship becomes, the more God imparts His many truths and His character into us. Guess what? He also expects and requires us to deeper live His truths and character as our own. The way most of us, include me here, visit with our trusted family, friends, brothers, etc. we often feel fully comfortable letting our fleshly appetites loose. We are comfortable speaking negatively of others and their behavior with them because of that closeness.
Regarding politics especially, those on the “other side” of where you know you and whomever you are visiting stand is a common conversation where it is easy to slip away from our commitment and goal in all we speak to “SPEAK HOPE, SPEAK LOVE, SPEAK LIFE!” (as the words of that beautiful song by Toby Keith says!)
Our Testimony is a Weapon!
Every experience we have with God is another weapon in our spiritual arsenal.
In Revelations 19:10, it says, “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy!” Anytime you share what Jesus has done for you, you are also sharing what Jesus wants to do for them!
There is a beautiful analogy of our expected behavior as we deepen our relationship and partnership with Christ illustrated using the old testament tabernacle, the temporary tent structure containing ritualistic items, mainly the sacred Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies section.
The description of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-31 shows and teaches us of ascending degrees of holiness.
In short, there are three sections of this tabernacle that illustrate how a life deepens as the person graduates through the three sections.
A person who enters and leaves the outer court may leave and have an understanding and accompanied commitment at a lower level.
Another who enters the second section, the inner court, then leaves the tabernacle, is further deepened with God’s truths and spiritual knowledge and expected to live a daily life reflecting that deeper commitment.
The priest, entrusted by God with the greatest depth of the many truths and mysteries of God embedded to the core of his being is responsible to the highest of standards regarding every moment of his life when outside the tabernacle and among his family, friends, and all others.
When we are praying, we start in the outer court, where we are trying to gather our focus on God while dismissing the grocery list, etc.
We then reach the inner court where the prayer flows, and we feel a special connection.
Then as you enter the Holy of Holies, where it feels like everything around you just becomes still, and time seems to stop as you feel the emotions, the swelled heart sometimes accompanied with tears, as you feel the very presence of God! There is nothing like it is there!
As you and I enter this most sacred place where we begin truly praising Him, worshiping Him, receive His Word and Instruction into the deepest of our being, it is in that place and time our mouth becomes an instrument of God.
You and I cannot leave that sacred space through the curtains as we leave the tabernacle (which you and I embody today!) and go back to our daily lives and begin using that instrument to speak ill of others, ANY OTHERS, using the same instrument that you just used to worship Him now tearing someone else down, ANYONE.
Romans 6:13 (NIV) – Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness.
God, You know I truly want to be the man this message intends to encourage us all to be. May my mouth be Your instrument of healing and edification, and cease becoming anything else, to anyone else, regarding anyone else! My desire, goal, and commitment to You is to get up every morning, get dressed, and go where it is I’m to go, with my mat firmly tucked under my arm and open it at every opportunity to share my testimony of all You have restored me from much and the life you have now designed for me is to commit my all to You. Fill me with Your fullness of truths and equip me to defeat the enemy at every move. I desire to be the vessel You have chosen, trained, and equipped to go where led to find other men currently in the tight grips of Satan and his minions. Lord, be through my brothers and I all needed to free them in the name of Jesus, and return them to You. Amen!