September 10 Devotional
Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that people were constantly amazed by you. Forgive us when, in the midst of our daily routines, we lose sight of the wonder. Amen.
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
Journal: What has Jesus done in you recently that has left you amazed? In what ways do you feel paralyzed? How can Jesus speak into that? What does being healed of that paralysis look like? What does it look like for you to pick up your mat and go home?
Reflection: What a story! Put yourself in the scene somewhere. Where do you find yourself? Can you imagine being one of the guys carrying the mat? What do you think it would’ve been like? What do you think their main motivation was? They must have cared deeply for their paralyzed friend to have dreamt up such a scheme. We are not told how many of them there were in total, but we are told that only that four of them were carrying him. Did they switch off? Or did these four carry him the whole way? I wonder how far it was. I’ll bet it was exhausting. And can you imagine getting to the house and realizing that you couldn’t get inside? What then? I wonder who had the idea of going to the roof. And how did the homeowner feel about that when he saw pieces of his roof falling to the floor inside? And after all of the hurdles were cleared, and their friend finally lay at Jesus’ feet, I wonder how they felt when they heard him say the words, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”? Did they think to themselves (or say out loud, for that matter), “It’s his legs. The problem is with his legs.”
But Jesus knew better. Jesus knew that the real problem was much deeper than his legs, because his paralysis was only a symptom of a much larger issue—as it is with each of us. Our paralysis, most likely, is not physical like this particular man’s, but it is no less a reality. Our paralysis is most likely emotional and, ultimately, spiritual. But at the root of this paralysis, as with the man in Mark 2, lies the issue of sin. The two are intimately linked.
I do not know what your paralysis looks like, it is a little different for everyone it seems, but I am pretty aware of my own. I usually only recognize it after it is a good bit down the road; after the gravitational pull of the old self towards darkness, sadness, loneliness, and depression has been going on for a little while and I am beginning to feel a little stuck. It is a downward spiral really, but a slow one that I do not recognize until a good bit of life and energy has already been drained out of me. And maybe the most telling sign is a feeling that I have lost some sense of being able to “Get up.” It’s like something has grabbed hold of me and is weighing me down, and “getting up” (whatever that may look like) feels like an almost impossible task. And it only seems to gain momentum: the longer it lasts, the stronger it seems to become.
Luckily Jesus knows the link between, “Your sins are forgiven” and “Get up, take your mat and walk.” He knows that the deeper issue must be taken care of before the more surface issues can be resolved. He says to me, “Son, your sins are forgiven” just the way he did to the paralyzed man. He reminds me that, first and foremost, I am his son and he loves me immensely. This knowledge empowers me by speaking to the true self that he created me to be. This truth cuts right to my core, reminding me of who I truly am, as well as who I am not. His love and his forgiveness then offer me the strength and ability to do what he desires for me the most: Get up, take up my mat and walk. It is as if he were saying to me: “Do not sit any longer in this helpless paralysis, for I have given you my love and my forgiveness, which breaks the chains of your stuck-ness and allows you the ability to rise and leave the mat, and the paralysis, behind and walk in newness of life.”
Therefore I must listen to his call daily to do just that. I must respond. I must consistently choose, by his power, to “Get up.” In the process, I also need to pay careful attention to the typical patterns of my heart and soul, and constantly be asking myself several diagnostic questions: When am I at my best spiritually? When I am thriving spiritually, what factors are consistently present? When am I at my worst? And what factors contribute most significantly to that? What are my warning signs that I am slipping into darkness and spiritual paralysis? What are the things I must do regularly to create the space that helps keep me (by God’s grace) in a good spiritual place?
And then, maybe at the end of the day, I too will hear his call. I too will be raised to new life. I too will get up, take my mat and walk out in full view of them all. And then everyone will be amazed and praise God saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Thanks be to God!
Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself
Pete and Ruth Mitchell are church planters in Marseille under the auspices of Mission to the World (MTW) and in collaboration with the Eglise Réformée Evangélique de France (French Reformed Evangelical Church). Pete’s role is that of team leader. The Mitchells have recently moved to Toulouse to plant a new church. Pete recently presented plans for the church plant in West Toulouse to the National Evangelism Committee of the French denomination UNEPREF. Pray for ministry plans that are in place for September including a new English program, and three evangelistic seminars in West Toulouse.
InterVarsity’s vision is to see students transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed. They live this out by inviting unreached students into life transforming encounters with Jesus Christ and training and developing them as disciples and leaders. Pray today for the staff and volunteers as they host small group Bible studies to introduce cultural Christians and the unchurched to Jesus.
Closing Prayer: Lord, open our eyes that we may see You in our brothers and sisters. Lord, open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Lord, open our hearts that we may love each other as You love us. Renew in us Your Spirit. Lord, free us and make us one. Amen. - Mother Teresa