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.”

 

Perfectly Weak

 

Sometimes we do something we don’t want to, or think we can’t do, because God asks us to.  2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear/timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. I often find myself leaning on my own nature of fear and timidity and not operating out of that power God’s nature gives me. When He asks me to do things that I think are scary, I have to choose to operate in His strength and not in my weaknesses. I have been so keenly aware of my weaknesses each time God asks me to take a risk and step out in obedience so much so that I have shrunk back from obeying Him.  I have decided to stop letting fear dictate what I say yes to from God, and rest perfectly weak in His Strength that is perfected in my weakness.

As God has asked me to begin writing (which I think I can’t do) and then sharing the writing (which is really scary for me) I have resisted and put it off. So much so, He has nudged and pushed so hard that I can no longer say no. He has even revealed to me, through a study of the book of James, that it is sin to know what I ought to do, and not do it (James 4:17). It is not humility to tell God that I can’t do what He asks me to do because I am too weak, untalented or afraid. It is disobedience. So, with great trembling, I have begun this blog. I am writing from a place of weakness that I might spur someone else to do the same in their life with their own gifts. I am writing from weakness to produce God’s strength in my life.

I have a passion to help others develop their gifts God has placed in their lives to use for Him and His glory, yet I have been dragging my feet using mine. I find it funny, and ironic, that the verse right before 2 Timothy 1:7 (saying I have do not have a spirit of fear) then instructs us to fan into flame the gift of God.  God must’ve known that it can be daunting to step out into obedience and fan that flame, so He had to follow that up with reminding us we can do it with His power, love and sound mind. He must’ve known that Satan would try to use his scare tactics to prevent us from obeying God and taking risks for Him. So I launch this blog to fan the flame of the gifts God has entrusted into my life, I encourage you to do the same. In this culture of self-promotion, and the building of our own kingdoms, I seek to make myself smaller and myself less known, so that HE can be bigger in my life, and more known in what I do.  I do not start this blog out of self-promotion, but in God-promotion. I truly desire to share what He gives me to share, with the intention to push us all towards serving God with our gifts in such a way that we are stretched way out of our comfort zones to make His name famous and change this world. I do this to serve God with all that I have –  to be full on committed to do what God asks me to do even if it scares me.

My usual pattern is to care what others think, and then shrink back from the task. And recently we had a women’s event at our church that was way bigger than what we had planned for. That is amazing, right?! My husband kept saying, “not enough seats and not enough food is a good problem to have.” Well, one morning driving in the car I wasn’t feeling that was a good problem to have. I started whining to God that this had gotten too big for me to do and that I was overwhelmed. After the long whine session, He said to me, “How many times have you asked me to be a part of something bigger than yourself?”

That’s when I said, “I’m in God.” And I am. I am in for allowing God to do things that are bigger than I can accomplish in my life by myself. So let’s do this together. Let’s be full on committed to fan the gifts of God into flames in our lives and not be afraid or held back from taking the God-sized risks to be obedient when He calls us to step out in faith. All of us together, using our own unique gifts and abilities fearlessly can become a great army for God.

Ezekial 37:1-14 says, ”

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!  I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.