In my quest for freedom from back pain there has been a lot of hard work. I’ve been rowing for three months now. There were many days that I didn’t feel like doing it. At all. But, the payoff has been huge. I was able to go to my mom’s this weekend and do very labor-intensive yardwork, only coming away with minor aches and pains. Praise Jesus! Before, this type of labor would have left me with debilitating pain for months. I am so thankful to be feeling well — it has been worth the work!
When I think about this journey, I am reminded of the man Jesus healed by the pool in John 5. The man has been an invalid, laying by this pool, for 38 years. That’s almost the whole of my life. When Jesus meets him, he asks him this question, “Do you want to get well?” This seems like a wild question to ask someone who has been laying invalid for 38 years! Of course he wants to get well! Or does he want to BE well?
You see, rather than answering Jesus with the resounding “YES” we expect, he immediately makes an excuse. “There’s no one to help me into the pool.” Ahh, how many times have I made a similar excuse? Sure, I want to BE well, but there’s no one to help me GET well. So many people, myself included, want to BE healthy, but we don’t want to put in the effort to get there. Or we want to be a mature Christian, but we don’t want to put in the effort to get there.
Despite the man’s excuse and misdirection from the question, Jesus chooses to heal him, immediately. His power is more than enough for the man’s healing. But there is work on the man’s part that must be done in this healing process. Jesus gives him three instructions: Get up. Take up your mat. Walk.
Can you even imagine the amount of effort and faith that it must have taken for this man, an invalid of nearly 4 decades, to stand up? To lift his mat? To take those first steps? What if Jesus had offered him healing, but the man chose to remain in his crippled state? What if he continued to be unwilling to engage in his healing process? What if he just sat there? He would never have walked into the healing that Jesus offered him.
This is where so many of us live spiritually. Jesus has given us eternal life through his death, and, by the Holy Spirit, everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). He has given us the means to BE well spiritually, to be right with God. Are we going to continue sitting in our crippled state, or are we going to walk forward into healing?
Do you want to BE well? Then you have to want to GET well. Jesus has done everything to conquer sin and death so that we are no longer crippled by those. (This is not a matter of earning our salvation through works, or being perfect enough to atone for our own sin.) But we won’t stumble into holiness or patience or faith or forgiveness or humility. Getting well spiritually is a process just like getting well physically. We have to put in the effort just like the man in John 5: Get up. Take up your mat. Start walking.
What this looks like for me is going hard after spiritual wellness by tackling study in the Word in areas where I am weak. I chose rowing because it would target my core, where I was weak, and it is actively strengthening me in that area. If there is an area of your life, spiritual or physical, where you need to be strengthened, follow Jesus’ instructions and go for it. Remember that it is his power that unlocks your healing, but it is your effort that is required to walk out that healing.