Do you love your misery?

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The Easter worship service closed with a high note as we sang the declaration of Christ’s victory.
Christ has died, and
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!
Celebrate His death and rising!
Lift your eyes, proclaim His coming!
Celebrate His death and rising,
Lift your eyes, lift your eyes! – Mystery, Charlie Hall

My spirit soared with the congregation’s praise. In the church, I saw eyes wet with tears, hands raised in praise, and faces glowing with the joy of the proclamation. What a wonderful moment!

The question this Monday after Resurrection Day is – what will it mean, if anything, for our future? Was the emotion momentary, the affirmation of faith unable to survive the ‘real’ world outside of the church sanctuary? Or, will we, like the first disciples be powerfully changed by the proof of Life eternal that the empty Tomb of Jesus provides?

Change happens by faith and faith is more than a feeling!

John was with Jesus one morning when He visited a place of misery in Jerusalem. “Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.” (John 5:2-3, NLT)  One encounter that day made an impression on John and years later when he wrote the Story, he told about a man who was challenged to faith and change.

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (John 5:5-9, NIV)

“Do you want to get well?” is a worthy question for us. Please do not read this as ‘blaming the victim.’ I am fully aware that people suffer all kinds of difficulties and often through no fault of their own. It is also true that some of us learn to live in our misery, unable to think that we can be different even if life is not.  God has given us two great gifts – the renewal of heart through Christ’s grace and the ability to choose how we will live.  That man had lived as an invalid for 38 years. Even thinking about healing introduced all kinds of new challenges to his life. His relationships would change. He would have to learn to support himself after surviving on the charity of others. He would have to learn to think differently. Jesus question was not a simple one – “Do you want to get well?”

Last week I found an article online that told the story of a man who received a football scholarship to university, who went on to teach in New York City school, and then went back to earn his PhD and is now a professor! I knew him as a boy in a church I served as their pastor.  He had all kinds of ‘reasons’ not to succeed. He was being raised by a single Mom who struggled to support her children while she worked as a house-keeper. He was an immigrant, without a network of connections. When I read about what he has done with life in the 2 decades since I knew him, I was full of joy.  Of course none of this happened just because of his own determination.  I knew his Mom! She was a disciplinarian who had dreams for her children. He grew up in a country that offers opportunity. But, there was also a major piece in his success that came from his willing to choose day in and day out to work hard to make something of his life.

So, Christian, do you want to become a disciple of significance?
Do you want to make your life one that honors the Lord, that makes a difference in the world in which you live, that will find a rich reward in Heaven?

Or have you learned to live as you are today, unwilling to engage in the spiritual disciplines that open your life to the inflow of the Spirit’s transformative Presence?

A consistent theme of the Gospel is change, restoration, hope!
Believe it. Receive the grace. Change!

On this day after Easter, Peter’s words are our challenge. As you read them, pray for a new vision for life and hear the Lord asking, “Do you want to get well?”

 “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-8, NLT)

_________

Abba, thank you for finding me with love while I was still living in my sins,
offering to forgive and heal me.
Inspire me to choose to live today as Your child.
Give me faith, courage, and determination to choose
to live with a higher calling guiding my every choice.

Jesus, thank you for the message of triumph
which I heard and celebrated yesterday.
Now, through the power of the Spirit,
make me a person who desires, more than anything,
to live with excellence for Your glory.  Amen

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