Pick Up Your Mat

 

Ever want God to wake new things inside of you? New boldness, new vision — to just stir something more inside of your heart? And give you the capability to just go all in for what’s stirring? I was asking God to do that for me a couple of Sunday’s ago during worship. Nothing earth shattering, just asking Him expand my heart for Him and do more in me. However, when He does do more–like I asked, that usually brings back the struggle of feeling inadequate to follow through with the newness and the tendency to shrink back from the challenge.

That makes me so frustrated with myself. So, as I was contemplating these things while talking to God about the next day. Monday morning I open my Bible to my regular reading for the day, which happened to be John chapter 5. I had just written in my journal all that I just wrote above about wanting more from God and yet struggling with that “more” and the feelings of inadequacy, and then my eyes fell on this this story….

John 5:1-9

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  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. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking.

As I read that, I focused on the question pointed directly at me, “Would you like to be well?” YES! Yes I want to be well! It’s not that I am actually sick, but I am so tired of timidity and want to daily default right into operating in that promised Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. Yes, I want that!

As I was answering that question in my head,  I then read the next line, in which the man answers, “I can’t.” And I felt God nudge me with the questions of, “How many times have you said ‘I can’t,’ and how many excuses have you made?” And then the question came again, “Would you like to be well?” I thought “YES” again and kept reading. After the man told Jesus–the Son of God, Creator of the universe–“I can’t,” Jesus completely ignores the excuse he gave Him, and says, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk.”

Pick up my mat. Do what He says. Who cares how I feel, and what my excuses are. If I want to be well, then pick up my mat. If I want to run after all God puts inside me to do, then just pick up the mat.

Sometimes I feel like I coddle my own self. I dwell on what’s hard, or things I think I can’t do, or excuses. Jesus pushes pasts excuses here and just says do what I say. Take responsibility for what I have given you to do and pick up your mat.

I looked up the word “mat” in the Greek language and it literally means a bed for sickness. God doesn’t want me to lay around on what hinders me and wallow in that.  He’s calling me to pick myself up–weaknesses and all– and walk in His freedom and grace.

That day I was reading this passage, there were several things I was facing that I was intimidated to do. Each time I was preparing for one of them, I just decided that I was going to pick up my mat. That’s kind of become something I say now. Instead of thinking anxious thoughts about something I just say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.” Instead of procrastinating because it’s difficult, I say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.”

To me, that just means I am not making excuses to disqualify myself from something God has given me the power to accomplish. I am going to pick my mat and WALK.

Do you need to pick up your mat?

Take courage because He promises to go with us when we pick it up.

Deut. 31:6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

 

Hiding

I began last year by writing this goal for myself,

“Don’t be afraid of what people think. Don’t be afraid to look stupid for trying and failing, and don’t be stupid and let what other people think about me keep me from obeying God.”

That’s been in my journal over a year now, and guess what I still struggle with? Being afraid of what people think. However, God has really been chipping away at this in my life for the past year. I have not perfected this (as if perfection is attainable) but I am getting better.

I tend to hide. I prefer to stay in the background, to keep what God has put inside me quiet, and not seek attention. I also tend to think what I have to offer is less than, and not really noteworthy. So, with all that combined inside my head, when God asks me to put myself out there and use what He has given me for His Sake, my initial thought is to hide.

In the last several months, God has been increasingly confronting this in my life. He has revealed to me that this is not humility–it is disobedience.  (Ouch)

Not doing what God asks me to do because I am afraid of what others think or think I am not worthy to do it–is, in fact, disobedience. It’s hiding from God’s purpose in my life. It is allowing fear to hinder me from accomplishing my purpose.

Once I fully grasped that thought, it made me mad. How many times have I drug my feet obeying what God asks me to do because of these thoughts,

“Oh, I can’t do that.”

“What will people think about that?” (who are these “people” I am afraid of anyway?!)

“What if people think, ‘Who does she think she is for thinking she can do that’?”

“What if I stink at that?”

“What if I offend someone?”

I realized that all those thoughts are just roadblocks to true obedience.  I realized that line of thinking is inward focused and performance based. It’s a need to please.

God has reassured me that anything He asks us to do is to bring glory to His Name and to help and minister to others. People need what all of us have to offer. We are Christ’s hands and feeds and words of encouragement to those around us. We can’t hide that. We can’t let being afraid of what others think keep us from our purpose. Instead, we must care so much what God thinks and run after what He calls us to do, no matter what people think. Be God pleasers.

When God finds me hiding, the question I have heard Him whisper to me is, “Why are you afraid to be you?” Ever find yourself feeling that way?  I know we are all different personalities with different types of leadership qualities, so some of you might think that’s just mousy and timid. But we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) as God’s masterpiece created to do good that He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

So again, this January I am going to write the statement that I started 2015 with and just go for it. Run. Create. Jump in and just obey God. Fearlessly running in the direction that He calls. Ultimately that means we don’t seek to get praise, but seek to give praise.

John 3:21 “But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

IMG_9061