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 Sundays ago during worship. Nothing earth shattering, just asking Him to 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 it the next day, Monday morning, I opened 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….
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.
“Would you like to be well?”
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 ignored the excuse he gave Him, and said, “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 I pick up my mat. If I want to run after all God puts inside me to do, then, Casey, 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 past excuses here and just says "do what I say. Take responsibility for what I have given you to do and pick up your mat."
mat: (noun) a bed for sickness.
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.”
Picking up your mat and walking is easier said than done. Please take a few minutes to answer these questions below with yourself and God. Please share any of your responses and answers with all of us. Someone else reading just may need your answer.
You can do big things! You can do hard things! What big things has God been pulling at you to take that step of faith and pick up your mat to do?
Take a few moments of heart evaluation and remember the last time you have asked God to expand your heart for Him and stretch you in your calling. Reach out and ask Him what new thing He wants to do in your life. Now, what is He saying?
Are you stuck in a pattern of self-dependence, intimidation, fear, or feeling like you can’t do it? Are you focusing on what is hindering you, or what barriers God could break for you?
How can you shift into leaning into His grace and strength instead of your own?
And finally, what are you telling God “I can’t” to?
Casey Graves is a wife, momma to two girls, and co-pastor/planter of Foundations Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She enjoys a good cup of coffee with a friend or a family date day when she finds some spare time. Casey recently published her first book, Perfectly Weak, now available at Amazon, and blogs at We Are Perfectly Weak.