One of my highlights each week is watching online services from churches beyond my ability to be there in person but am “wowed” by their praise and worship teams feeling the presence of the Lord as if I were among them. The messages preached are often powerful and amazingly apply to me where I am at in my life as I’m watching or listening. Most Christian men reading this know exactly how that feels and the impact it has in your mind and heart as you spend days afterward replaying all you can of it in your head growing spiritually from what you recall.
Such was a recent experience while watching an early morning service from a church I enjoy watching online. The pastor’s message was based on the story of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. It’s not my intent to rewrite any pastors message here, I don’t feel that’d be right. However, I’d love to share with you a few nuggets that spoke to me regarding my own walk with the Lord and the man I am striving to be. Below is a blend of what I recall from this message and what I feel led to add of my own words as the Spirit continued to stir and expand it as I do my all to digest and make these nuggets another building block to my spiritual growth.
There were two primary things shared in this message that touched me and I want to better understand and live in my life.
Pick Up Your Mat
Jesus and his disciples were entering Jerusalem and had just reached the pool of Bethesda, a commonplace where the 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 were able to 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 in time 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 in essence 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 and through Him, we were able to overcome 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 as such simply due to you’re 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 particular 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) is needing to know that they are not alone in their current condition, shame, regret, worry, fear, or whatever it is that has them hostage. God is right then asking you to be His vessel at that time and place to deliver His message to this person through your life story of where you were, how it affected your life, and most importantly how the Lord restored you to the point you are thankfully at now made possible only by His intervention. In so doing, Jesus is able to (and loves to!) include you in the miraculous restoration of another. You are part of the miracle!
In some opportunities placed in your path, you may be not fully restored yourself in this area as you share your story and if so in obeying and sharing your experiences as transparently and honestly as possible, you too will be restored 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 right then, right 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 another. You may not know where this person is at that moment, Jesus does!, and is asking you through the Holy Spirit’s presence felt in your heart 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 the pastor in this particular message shared a personal story where he had met with a good friend recently. He admitted he is passionate in his heart and mind about the current political environment. His friend opened the gates of conversation with information in the news at the time. The pastor, without any 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 something to the effect “Stop it. Others can, you cannot!”.
The deeper 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? The more He expects and requires of us to daily live His truths and character as our own. The way most of us, include me there, visit with our trusted family, friends, brothers, etc. we often feel fully comfortable letting our fleshly appetites loose and in part are comfortable speaking negatively and ill of others and their behavior as heard or personally experienced with them due to 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!
The pastor then shared 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 holding numerous 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, the pastor shared the three sections of this tabernacle and 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 given level.
Another who enters the second section, the inner court then leaves the tabernacle is considered further deepened with God’s truths and spiritual knowledge and as such expected to live a daily life reflecting that deeper commitment as well.
The priest, the one who is entrusted by God with the greatest depth of the many truths and mysteries of God embedded to the core of his being is held by 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 begin to reach the inner court where the prayer begins to flow, and we are beginning to feel that connection now.
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 begin to 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 to truly praise Him, worship Him, begin to 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 to now tear someone else down, ANYONE ELSE.
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 and the life you have designed for every man willing to fully commit their all to You. Fill me with Your fullness of truths that I may be equipped to defeat the enemy at every move, and to be the vessel You have chosen, trained, and equipped to go out there and find other men currently in the tight grips of Satan and his minions, to free them in the name of Jesus, and return them to You as I once wrote of in a dream that still means everything to me. Amen!
If you are curious about this particular dream, you can read it using the link below.
Love you all!