The Paralytic’s Friends – Whatever it Takes

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)

If you’ve ever had a really close friend who was sick or injured, you know how hard it is to see them suffer.  Most of us would be willing to do almost anything for the sake of helping someone we love.  Imagine for a moment that one such person to whom you are very close is suffering from a terminally debilitating condition, and that an individual who could immediately heal them was close at hand.  What would you not dare in order to get this friend into the presence of that healer?

Now imagine that this friend of yours suffers not from a mere physical ailment or disease, but from a spiritual plague that is eating away at their very soul and threatening to cause eternal death.  Their condition worsens daily, and at any moment they could pass the threshold of physical death, where their malady would be beyond anyone’s help.  What would you not dare to get this person you love into the presence of the One who is able to heal him?

It’s strange how our hearts become overwhelmed with pity for the physical suffering of those around us, and yet we all know friends, relatives, or neighbors whose souls are in critical condition.  If any of these people were physically dying, we would be willing to carry them on foot for miles to whatever specialist was available, go to great lengths to attract the personal attention they need, and pay whatever price was demanded for their treatment.  But often, we neglect to get them the necessary spiritual treatment because we are ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to cause tension in our relationship with them.

The paralytic’s friends loved him very much.  They knew that only one person could heal him and restore the use of his legs.  And so, they were willing to do whatever it took to get him into Jesus’ presence, trusting in the merciful Lord to heal him.  What they didn’t realize is that Jesus came first and foremost to remove our spiritual disease of sin – a much more serious condition than even paralysis – and that they all needed His medical attention.  He then restored their bed-ridden friend’s physical capacities in order to show everyone present that He had the power and authority to remove even the most aggressive strains of humanity’s sinful disease.

If you have a friend or relative who is suffering from sickness or physical adversity, by all means bring them to the Lord in prayer for strength and healing.  But also realize that sometimes physical ailments are just what the Doctor ordered for our spiritual sickness.  Pray more so that God would use whatever adversity they are facing to bring them closer to Himself.

If you have a loved one whose spiritual health is on life-support, the best thing you can do is to take a lesson from the paralytic’s friends: Do whatever it takes to bring them into Jesus’ presence.  Then, trust in His mercy to heal and restore them.  Your job is not to work the miracle – but you can remove the barriers and bring them face to face with their risen Lord.  Only by Jesus’ grace, power, and authority will they arise and walk once more with Him.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we bring before you all those who do not know the joy of Your forgiveness.  Bend their hearts that they may turn to You in repentance and faith, receiving redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ, You Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Elizabeth – Getting it Right

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)

I’ll make it easy today; those words above are exactly what make Elizabeth one of the great heroes of the faith and our first example for the New Testament.  She professes precisely the same doctrine that Jesus Christ Himself would preach, and the same message that all of our heroes of the faith in the Old Testament pointed toward; we are saved by believing and trusting the promises of God!

It isn’t always easy to fully and immediately trust God’s words.  Elizabeth’s own husband, Zechariah, initially doubted the Word of the Lord through the angel Gabriel, and went without speaking for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a result.  However, he and his wife become a united front in faithfully believing what the Lord told them when it came time to name the child, and God richly blessed them for their faith.

How wonderful that in a time of ceremonial laws and regulations a Godly woman would pronounce such a simple, compelling summary of the Gospel!  And what better time for this affirmation of salvation by grace through faith than at the first appearance of our unborn Lord?  Just as John and Peter would later be prompted to their own confessions by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too was Elizabeth filled with the Spirit and given the miracle of faith by which God would use her to speak His truth.

Time and time again, we see those who come into contact with Jesus doing exactly what Elizabeth first proclaimed to Mary on that day: They believe the words of God’s promised Messiah and are blessed with faith and life through Him.  The centurion, the paralytic, the Canaanite woman; all of them and many others confessed their faith in Jesus, believing in what He said, and received the blessings of physical and spiritual healing.  Many, like the thief on the cross, believed Jesus’ words of promise and were blessed with eternal life.

Elizabeth’s statement of faith is true for God’s people today all over the world.  God has promised to redeem and save all those who turn to Him in faith for forgiveness.  Believing that what He says will be accomplished, we look to the cross for salvation, proclaiming righteousness and life to all who trust this promise!

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to always trust Your promises.  Send Your Holy Spirit into the hearts of people all over the world, that they may turn to You in faith and live by grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

Esther – Pleading before the King

“If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life – this is my petition.  And spare my people – this is my request.” (Esther 7:3)

Queen Esther has long been known as a great hero of the faith because of her willingness to go before the king and selflessly risk her life on behalf of her people.  Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had successfully plotted their complete annihilation which would soon be carried out.  His hatred of Esther’s people could only be placated by wiping them off the face of the Earth.

Although the punishment for approaching the king’s throne without being summoned was death, Esther boldly falls before him to petition for the lives of her people.  Because she had found favor in his eyes, the king grants her life and furthermore agrees to do whatever she asks.  In a series of seeming coincidences, Haman, the great enemy, was destroyed and the Jewish people had life, honor and peace restored to them.

Interestingly, God Himself is never explicitly mentioned in the entire book of Esther.  Yet His hand is clearly seen in the events that play out for the salvation of His chosen people and ultimately the salvation of all mankind through the Messianic Promise.  The “coincidences” that occur are nothing other than Divine Providence working out of love for God’s children.  Because Esther and the other people of Israel look to God in faith for mercy and salvation, they are saved from the terrible fate that had been plotted for them.

Like Esther and her people, we have all been doomed to destruction by a powerful enemy whose hatred for us cannot be quenched by anything other than our eternal damnation.  Satan has built a gallows just for us, and his snare of sin would assuredly have led us into death and hell.  But thanks be to God for One who has found favor in His sight – Jesus Christ – who goes before Him on our behalf, willing to suffer death for the sake of our safety.  By His noble sacrifice, the tables have been turned on our enemy, and Satan has been cast down even as we are raised up in life, honor and peace with God.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for delivering me from my enemies – sin, death, and the Devil – through the precious sacrifice and glorious triumph of Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord.  Amen.

Daniel – The Repentant Leader

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9).

Daniel is often honored as one of the greatest warriors of the faith in the Old Testament, and for good reason.  He faithfully served and honored God even under pagan rulers who were hostile to believers.  He turned the hearts of some of the most powerful leaders on earth toward God and paved the way for the Gospel to be spread quickly and received with faith even in foreign lands – think of the magi from the east and many, many others who would remember the God of Israel when the apostles spread the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection abroad.  He endured extreme tests of faith, even being cast into a den of ravenous lions, and was honored by God and angels as “one high esteemed.”

But more than anything else, Daniel deserves to be called a hero of the faith because of his keen understanding of the duty of spiritual warriors – to call sinners to repentance and salvation.  Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine is perhaps one of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible.  Feeling the weight of sin under which God’s people are suffering, Daniel falls before God and pleads for mercy:

                “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong.  We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name…[we] are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.  The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him…Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.  O Lord, listen!  O Lord, forgive!  O Lord, hear and act!  For your sake, O my God, do not delay…” (excerpts from Daniel 9:4-19; read the whole passage there!)

Daniel’s wonderful prayer echoes in our churches today.  In keeping with the true line of faith heroes, our pastors and leaders turn our hearts to God – not only for temporal relief, but especially for forgiveness and cleansing.  Daniel knew that earthly and eternal salvation rested with God alone, and that the merciful Lord will not ignore the pleas of those who fall before Him.  In fact, Gabriel even tells Daniel, “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given” (Daniel 9:23).

Like Daniel, we serve God best when we cry out to Him with contrition and repentance for ourselves and on behalf of our people.  The greatest leadership we can provide is the act of ultimate humility; to confess our sins and iniquities and place ourselves in God’s merciful hands.  When we hear the promise of forgiveness and salvation through God’s Word, we can be at peace with God.  We are strengthened in faith and enabled to rise and glorify Him through works of love:

“Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.  ‘Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,’ he said.  ‘Peace!  Be strong now; be strong.’” (Daniel 10:18-19)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your unending mercy and love for sinners like me!  Bend the hearts of all mankind to turn to You in repentance, that they may receive strength through faith unto life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  Amen.