struggles

A Pitiful Man

The gospel of John is different than the other three gospels. It only has 8 miraculous signs while the others recount many. Each miracle in John is a sign illustrating the Lord’s ministry—why God became human (John 20:30-31). Each one is part of a larger story and context.

As with many stories of Jesus’ interaction with people, some deeper insight is needed to understand all that takes place. The Mosaic Law and religious cultural restrictions are a major part of this story, along with Israel’s history. It revolves around a sick man laying beside the pool of Bethesda who encounters Jesus.

This man was part of a crowd gathered around the pool to receive healing. These people believed the first person to enter the pool when an angel came from heaven and stirred up the waters would be healed. Their hope was in a legend.

Jesus saw this man who’d been sick for 38 years and approached him with a simple question—Would you like to get well? But the man doesn’t answer Jesus directly. Instead, he gives Jesus an excuse for why he can’t be healed. His response is the first indicator of how pitiful this man is, which becomes more clear as you read the whole story.

Scripture

Later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. Near Sheep Gate in Jerusalem was a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It had five porches. Under these porches a large number of sick people—people who were blind, lame, or paralyzed—used to lie. 

One man, who had been sick for 38 years, was lying there. [vss 1-5]

Jesus saw the man lying there and knew that he had been sick for a long time. So Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?”

The sick man answered Jesus, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps into the pool ahead of me.”

Jesus told the man, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.” The man immediately became well, picked up his cot, and walked. That happened on a day of worship. [vss 6-9]

So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “This is a day of worship. You’re not allowed to carry your cot today.” The man replied, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my cot and walk.”

The Jews asked him, “Who is the man who told you to pick it up and walk?” But the man who had been healed didn’t know who Jesus was. (Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd.)

Later, Jesus met the man in the temple courtyard and told him, “You’re well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”

The man went back to the Jews and told them that Jesus was the man who had made him well. [vss 10-15]

(John 5:1-15 GW)

Key phrase—

“Would you like to get well?”

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What stands out to you about the beginning of this story?

  • Who is gathered at this pool? Who does Jesus approach and what does he ask this man?

  • How does the man respond to Jesus’ question and why do you think he says this?

  • What does Jesus say to the man and how does He say it? What takes place immediately?

Reflection...

Over the years, Jewish rabbis reinterpreted the fourth of the ten primary commandments of the Mosaic Law, as they did many other laws. Successive interpretations added restrictions to what a person could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. These added laws distorted God’s original purpose for the Sabbath.

When Jesus spoke healing to this pitiful man, it came in the form of a command to do three things—get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Not long after his healing, the pitiful man is rebuked for carrying his mat as Jesus directed him to do.

Imagine you’re this man—what would you do? Whose command would you follow? Here we see the pitiful state of this man and his weakness. His response and actions illustrate the weakness and futility of following religious laws.

Religion itself has no power to transform a person compared to God and His power. It comes down to where a person puts their trust. Do we trust in our own efforts to transform ourself through religion? Or…do we trust in God Himself and His transforming power?

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand all the dilemmas this man faced?

  • Can you see how and why this man is so pitiful?

  • Have you found yourself in paradoxical situations where you don’t know what to do?

  • Do you get caught up with what others expect of you? Do you struggle with trusting God with the dilemmas of your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Our confidence needs to be in God rather than our own efforts or religious regulations. The Lord calls us into a personal relationship of trust rather than following a rigid set of rules. God intended the Sabbath to be a restful blessing not a restricted religious day.

Prayer Focus— As you consider present or previous dilemmas you’ve faced, ask God to give you insight and direction for how to move beyond these struggles by trusting in Him. Be honest and specific in your prayer and spend time listening and waiting for His guidance.

©2019—Word-Strong

Don't Give Up!

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Chariots of Fire." A favorite scene is when Eric Liddell, a Scottish runner, is knocked down by a competitor but gets up to finish and win the race.

Eric Liddell went on to be a gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But his greater victory was finishing his life well as a missionary in China.

Liddell is a modern-day example of one who ran the race of the Christian faith well and never gave up. His heart was fixed on Jesus, the focus of his faith.

He learned the importance of removing whatever would hinder his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus saw beyond His gruesome death on the cross and was filled with joy for what His resurrection would bring to the lives of those who trust in Him.

Scripture

Since we are surrounded by so many examples ⌊of faith⌋, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.  [vss 1-3]
(Hebrews 12:1-3 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers surrounded by? Who is included in this "great cloud of people?"

  • What do we need to do "run the race" and what are two things believers need to "get rid of" from our lives?

  • Who are we exhorted to focus our attention on and how is He described in relation to faith?

  • Where is Jesus now? How is this relevant to this exhortation and the whole book of Hebrews?

Reflection...

Why do we get discouraged and want to give up? Because we rely too much on our own self-effort, and because we lose sight of why we have a true hope. 

Jesus is our example but He's also the source and focus of our faith. When He is any less in our life, we will stumble along the path of life, easily distracted and drawn away from following Him.

We are responsible for what we choose and pursue. So, we need to remove what gets in our way and holds us back. But how?

We need to stop giving attention to what hinders and entangles us. We need to fix our attention on Jesus—our personal trust in Him and His life example. We need to replace the former with the latter, the better focus of our attention.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does what Jesus suffered and endured relate to the original readers and hearers of this exhortation?

  • Have you struggled with your faith? What things in life get in your way and distract you from focusing on Jesus?

  • What are specific ways you see that would help you refocus your attention on Jesus each day?

  • Are there specific times you've overcome hindrances and distractions to your faith?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Don't Turn Back!

History is full of examples and stories of people exhibiting great endurance and perseverance. American history is no different. Colonial settlers faced great odds, uncertainty, and opposition, as they carved out a life in a new land and birthed a new nation.

As the nation expanded westward, it faced new challenges in unsettled territories. The same is true when modern aviation was born which paved the way for manned space flights.

Countless and untold heroic stories of perseverance took place in battles for freedom from the Revolutionary War to present conflicts in the Middle East.

Perseverance is way under-valued. It's usually not exciting or glamorous but is a vital element in the pursuit of freedom. And so it with the Christian faith. Spiritual endurance and perseverance are key to a genuine life of faith.

Scripture

Remember the past, when you first learned the truth. You endured a lot of hardship and pain. At times you were publicly insulted and mistreated. At times you associated with people who were treated this way.

You suffered with prisoners. You were cheerful even though your possessions were stolen, since you know that you have a better and more permanent possession. [vss 32-34]

So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.

“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay. The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”

We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved. [vss 35-39]

(Hebrews 10:32-39 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

So don’t lose your confidence—it will bring you a great reward

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are these believers encouraged to remember? What specific things are pointed out?

  • What are they exhorted not to lose and what do they need to have to receive what God promised?

  • Why are these exhortations necessary? How are they connected to the consistent and primary theme of the book of Hebrews?

  • What is the last encouraging statement? How was this encouraging to those believers then and for us now?

Reflection...

This strong exhortation encouraged believers to not go back to an empty and dead form of religion. It is as true today for us as it was for them.

Are you discouraged in your faith? Are things in life not going the way you expected and hoped? Don't turn back! Keep pressing on in faith. Endure. Persevere.

God is faithful and we need to be faithful to Him. He will not abandon us even though it may seem like that from our limited view of life. He won't abandon us even when we fail Him or stumble in our faith. If you want God's acceptance and approval, then continue in your faith. 

The Lord is faithful and He promised to return for those who trust in Him. Even though it may seem like an overdue promise, it's not. God is far more patient and longsuffering than we are. We just need to trust Him and persevere.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Have you wondered at times why you should keep doing what is right and just and good?

  • Can you see how very personal God's promises are? Do you understand how personal faith is?

  • What is discouraging you right now? Are you willing to entrust this to the Lord?

  • In what ways has God shown His faithfulness to you? Allow those things to encourage you to endure in your faith!

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews