All through school I was never part of the “in” crowd and there were times I felt like I was missing out. I wasn’t the best and brightest, I wasn’t the most popular or most athletic, I wasn’t strong or clever. I was nominated by my senior class as most sophisticated – whatever that means when you are in high school – but I wasn’t given that honor. I’m thinking that out of the three people nominated - I came in third. What’s funny is that no one knew I was nominated and none of my friends voted for me. I knew that because I actually had to show my friends that my name was in the year book.
Do you ever come to worship and look around thinking that everyone else has it all together in life and in faith and you just don’t measure up. You look around and see people who have it all together while your life is falling apart. You see people strong in their faith while you aren’t sure what you believe or what you are even doing here. You see families that are living the dream while your family feels more like a nightmare. You see people God loves and enjoys and blesses while you are sure that all God could feel about you is disappointment. If this is where you are today – then the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. We are all right there with you. None of us measure up, none of us feels worthy and none of us feel like we have it all together. On some level we are all broken and scared and come here wondering if God can really love us. Forget that, we come here wondering if God even notices us or knows us.
For the past six weeks we have been looking at how we can get the most out of life because we often look at our lives and feel like we just aren’t getting it right. What we have found is that life isn’t found in all the things around us but in a deep relationship with God. Life is to be loved by God and to love others. Life is found when we trust God and have peace with God. Life is being at peace with ourselves and today we are going to learn that life is to enjoy our relationship with God and that only comes when we know that God first enjoys us. To help us understand that God does enjoy us and is concerned about us we are going to look at the story of Jesus healing a man who was in a situation similar to ours. John 5:1-15
So here is a man looking to be healed and to get that healing he has to be the first one into the water when it is stirred, but he can never be the first one in because he is not the fastest. I’m not sure what you picture this scene to be like, but it was not an orderly parade into the water, this was an every person for themselves race to get into the water first. I think it looked like this.
It most definitely looked like this when Jesus was there because it said that Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for one of the festivals which meant that Jerusalem would have been packed and people from all over Israel would have been gathered at the pool looking for healing. The man Jesus speaks to has been an invalid for 38 years. Chances are that he had come to this pool often during that time but he was never fast enough, strong enough or clever enough to find a way to get into the water first. He is also not popular enough to have everyone help him in or have everyone agree to put him at the head of the line. In time he begins to think that he is just not good enough. Sound familiar? I am not the fastest, the most clever, the most popular, the strongest nor the brightest. I am just not good enough.
When this is the place that we live, we have no life. We are like this man, getting nowhere and experiencing nothing and as long as we think that we need to be the fastest, strongest, brightest or most sophisticated to find the fullness of life, we will never find it, but Jesus shows us a different way. Look at what Jesus says to the man. Get up, take your mat and walk. Jesus doesn’t tell him to get into the pool to be healed, he doesn’t mention the pool at all, Jesus offers him a completely different way to find life. Jesus invites him to just get up and walk and the man tries it and he walks. Now here is what’s interesting, this man is not responding out of his faith in Jesus because he doesn’t know who this man is, so why does he do what Jesus asked? That is a really good question that we don’t have an answer for, but maybe he was just sick and tired of trying to find healing and wholeness and life in the ways of the world around him and was ready to try a something new. Maybe he was sick of the dog-eat-dog race into the pool so was willing to reach out for a different way of finding life.
But the story doesn’t end with his physical healing, it says Jesus went back to find him in the crowds and told him to stop sinning. When Jesus says this, it’s not the is concerned about the morals of this man’s life as much as he is interested in offering him more in life. Jesus had something more to offer him than physical healing, he wanted to offer him something better; he wanted to offer him freedom and spiritual wholeness. Jesus wanted to offer him the fullness of life and so he goes back and seeks him out and points him in the direction of real, true and lasting life so he tells him to stop sinning.
I love how Jesus just tells this like it’s just that easy. I don’t know about you, but every time I tell myself to stop sinning I just find myself sinning more. It’s like telling all of you to stop thinking about the color pink – and what color are you all thinking about right now? PINK. It’s not that easy, but Jesus just told this man who had been an invalid for 38 years to get up and walk and what did he do? He got up and walked. Just like that. He listened to Jesus, trusted him and followed him and was able to walk, so maybe if we listen to Jesus, trust him and are willing to follow him we can stop sinning – or at least be pointed in the direction of a life free from the guilt, shame and bondage that sin has on us. The only way to find freedom from sin is to trust and follow Jesus.
The common theme through this series is that life is found in Jesus. Life is found when we keep our focus on Jesus and when we are willing to follow him. So freedom from sin and the shame, guilt and bondage of sin can be found in Jesus which means that the life God has for us is found when we are willing to listen and follow Jesus. Life isn’t found in the dog-eat-dog world in which we live, it’s not found in being the best and brightest, the strongest or the fastest or even the most sophisticated. Life isn’t found in trying harder, life is found in responding to and following Jesus.
But why does Jesus offer us this life? Why did Jesus go back to find this man to offer him more than physical healing? There really is only one explanation – he loved him. He cared about him. Jesus liked this man and simply wanted to offer him something more. Because Jesus enjoyed this man he gave the man the opportunity to enjoy God and get more out of his life. We enjoy God and get more out of life when we understand that God enjoys us. God loves us. God cares about what we are going through which is why God reaches out to us and doesn’t tell us we have to be the best and brightest but offers us a better way of living which is to follow Jesus. God enjoys us and it is that delight that opens the door for us to fully enjoy God.
How often do we stop to think about how much God enjoys us? Can we really grab hold of this idea that God delights in us and deeply cares about us? Many times when we think about coming face to face with God we don’t think about the delight God will have we think only about the disappointment he will feel, but that’s not God – that’s us. We think God could only be disappointed with us because we don’t measure up but the Bible is clear that God delights in us. One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from the little known book of Zephaniah. Zephaniah was a prophet writing to the people of Israel who were struggling to be faithful to God and often failing. They were not the best and brightest and they often lived disappointing and faithless lives and yet this is what Zephaniah said to them:
Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord your God is with you, he is might to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Psalm 18:16-19 also talks about how much God enjoys us. Even in our worst moments when everything is spiraling out of control – God still delights in us which is why he comes to rescues us. He sets us on a rock or in a quiet place and shows us a better way to live because he delights in us. Jesus healed the invalid and then went back to find him in the crowds to offer him something more because he delighted in him and wanted to offer him freedom from sin and point him in the direction of finding true and everlasting life.
God enjoys us and because he does he seeks us out and points us in the direction of true and everlasting life That life isn’t found in the world around us. Life isn’t found in trying to measure up to those around us or trying to be the best and get it all together, life is found when we can enjoy God and the only way to enjoy God is to know that God enjoys us. If you are here today thinking that you don’t measure up and that God can’t be here for you because you don’t have it all together, the one thing that can make a difference and help you find more in life is to know that God enjoys you. God delights in you just the way you are right now but God does want more for you so is offering you a better way to live. Follow Jesus. Listen to Jesus, trust Jesus and let Jesus forgive you and set you free.
God can change us today if we will allow him to. Just like the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, God is here to offer us his love, a love that has the power to set us free. That’s what we call amazing grace. God’s grace is given to change us because God delights in us and God wants so much more for us. It is God’s grace that opens our eyes, our hearts and sets us free from sin. It is God’s grace that finds us when we are lost and points us in the direction of life. Life is to enjoy God and we can enjoy God because God enjoys us. God loves us. God delights in us and God’s grace is here to set us free and bring us the fullness of life.
Life is to enjoy God.
1. Read the following passages which remind us that God truly enjoys us.
• Psalm 18:16-19 Psalm 149:4
• Micah 7:18-19 Zephaniah 3:17
2. When the invalid man got up and walked (John 5:1-8), he experienced the full power of God at work in his life.
• Where and when have you experienced the power of God in your life?
• What difference did it make?
• How might you describe the feeling to someone else?
• How do you experience God’s power and presence from day to day?
3. Jesus told the invalid man to stop sinning. The more we try to stop sinning the more we are focused on our sin which defeats us. When it comes to living a life free of sin, Judah Smith says, the secret is not self-control. It’s not self-discipline. It’s not self-improvement. It’s not self at all. As a matter of fact, self is the problem. The more we focus on self, the worse we become. The secret is focusing on Jesus.
• How can you focus more on Jesus this week?
• How can you help your family focus on Jesus?
4. The Bible says that Jesus is full of grace so as we focus on Jesus we see and experience God’s grace.
• How has God’s amazing grace changed your life?
• Name the freedom God’s grace has given you?
• How can God’s grace help you forgive yourself?
5. What qualities or characteristics of God’s nature and character do you enjoy the most? Celebrate those this week.