We don’t know a whole about the four friends in this story…well nothing specifically about their personal lives. However, there’s a lot we know about the kind of people they were as individuals. We can clearly see what values were important to them by how they treated this paralyzed man. We can see their work ethic. We can see their ability to work as a team.
What does it take to make a good team, even if it is a rag, tag team?
Role Play. One of the first things I notice from the story is that each one had a role to play. Each one had to get a corner. There were four of them, a place for each one. And that’s the way we need to operate within the body of Christ. Isn’t there room enough for all of us? Don’t we all have a corner of the world we can reach? What happens though is that some get caught up in trying to cover two or three corners. Some get jealous of other corner-carriers and feel like they should walk this or that way, or carry the mat with this or that hand. Yes, there is a way to work together…but we have to work at it! Our attitude toward our teammates affects the ministry of the team! We mustn’t forget that the goal is to get our “paralyzed friends” to Jesus. Bickering and fighting over techniques, proper ways to do it etc. do nothing more than extend the period of time that souls continue in anguish.
What to do? Find your role and play it well. Focus on doing you’re very best for God and God alone. Don’t get caught up with anything other than working together with those around you to get as many people to Jesus, as soon as possible! A good rag-tag team uses each person on their team to their fullest possible potential to reach others for Christ.
Carry Your Weight. Secondly, I see that each person had to carry their end well. We cannot bail or blame others for our weaknesses. We must be strong and step up and carry the burdens of others. We have to lift up our friends and quit dropping them! It’s one thing to be paralyzed but these four men were able to walk! How can those of us who have good healthy limbs and lives not contribute to ensuring others get to Jesus? How can we shift the weight of burden to someone else? We simply can’t!
What to do? Pick up your end of the mat! God has placed you strategically in people’s lives who need to be lifted up. There are people around you that you can partner with to get others to Christ. Quit waiting for someone else to do what God has called you to do! In a good rag-tag team, each person focuses on what God has called them to do as individuals and brings their best to the mat each time.
Care more about your friend. Thirdly I see that these men cared more about their friend than they card about anything else. Sometimes we can enter into a project trying to simply feel good about ourselves or make a splash. It’s easy to simply want to see people get “saved” so that we feel good about what we are doing and have a sense that God is “using” us. What is so cool about this story is that no names are listed here. These four men didn’t have a “savior” mentality. They didn’t see themselves as the ones who were doing the great work…they were simply the ones who helped get the man to the one who could! We have to remember that when God uses us it’s not because we are so “special” but because he is so good!
What to do? Serve God humbly. Don’t make a name for yourself. Give all praise to God. In this story, the men were praised for their faith…but not by men. The words of praise came from Jesus and really He is the only one whose praise matters. A good rag-tag team is not competitive or focused on success but on care and compassion and making a difference in other’s lives.
Believe in the work. Lastly, the team has to unified in belief and faith. Each man carrying the mat really believed that Jesus could do. They were willing to move the man, the mat, and the roof. Doing each of those things only validated their full faith in Jesus’ ability and willingness to heal. How much do we really believe in Jesus? How much do we really believe in our mission? Are we really willing to lay aside petty issues and take up our side of the mat and carry our friends? Are we willing to bend over backwards together to see people come to Christ? When we do the results are phenomenal! There is much to be said by a team who works together and really believes that more can be accomplished together than apart! There is no way one man would have been able to get this paralyzed man to Jesus. And certainly not from the roof! It would take all four. It’s gonna take all of us, folks! We have to believe in Jesus. We have to believe in each other. We have to believe in the mission!
What to do? Start looking for ways Jesus wants to stretch your faith. These men were faced with a stretcher first: the man on the mat. Make friends with people who need Jesus. Reaffirm your faith by taking steps toward Jesus first. Don’t try to carry someone on your own. Build a network of like-minded, faith-followers of Jesus who are willing to believe Jesus for anything and everything! A good rag-tag team believes Jesus wants to heal and can heal if we will simply come and bring as many as we can to him!
I haven’t played on any “real” teams for sports. I’ve done the church league thing and the pick-up games at parks or gyms but I can’t say that I’ve really been part of a team sport. However, I have been part of a team of people who have been given tasks to accomplish and goals to achieve. Learning to work as a team has been challenging and very rewarding.Regardless of the setting, learning and working in a team environment is essential not only for personal success but for Kingdom impact.
These four men were a team. They were connected, committed and creative in how they worked together to see their friend get to Jesus. We can learn some valuable lessons from their example.
Connected. They were connected in various ways. They obviously had a passion for their friend. They all shared a common heart for him, had some personal tie to him and investment in him. It wasn’t like he was just a common beggar to them: they loved him because they were connected to him. This particular connection to him lead them to be connected to each other. Make no mistake that networking and relationships are not by chance. God allows our lives to intersect with others that we may accomplish more for His Kingdom. God knew that this man would need 4 people to move him from point “a” to point “b” and then “c”.
Their connection had to be personal. We don’t have to look very far to see people’s whose lives ours can connect with and touch. The question is do we want to get “personally” or “emotionally attached”? I have to say that there is no other way to make a difference in someone’s life without some kind of personal, emotional, and spiritual connection. Jesus was often recorded as being “moved with compassion”. If we simply let our hearts be “moved” we will easily be able to see where and how we need to connect. Connections don’t have to be forced if they are felt. And don’t feel like you have to force a connection. That’s the beauty of teamwork. God has someone for the ones we don’t “connect” to.
Committed. These four men were committed in many ways. Not only were they perhaps financially involved in some way, they were personally committed. They invested themselves. It wasn’t like they paid someone else to move him; they did it. They rolled up their sleeves and got to it. They took him upon their shoulders and carried him to places he could not get to on his own. This required the commitment of a team. The paralyzed man would never see heights of a roof or the face of Jesus without these four friends. The man would never feel the healing touch of the Master without the human touch of a team.
We cannot underestimate the power, synergy and dynamic power of a team that works together, prays together, serves together and leads together. These four men were all doing their part in carrying the corner of the mat, bearing their share of the burden. They compensated for each other when one may have been tired or fatigued. They moved in sync in the same direction because they had a sure direction and purpose. All teams need this to accomplish the positive affecting of lives. If you are part of a team, you must learn to work together. If you are not part of a team, find one and plug in! Someone’s eternal destiny could use your strength, love and commitment.
Creativity. There is much to be said about the creativity needed in leading, serving and living for Christ. As was the case for these four men, they encountered a problem even though they were committed and connected. We have to realize that even though our team may have momentum, we must allow room for creativity. Crisis can either squelch or spark creativity; and it all hinges on your perspective.
Creativity is often hampered and hindered when we fail to change our perspective. What we must keep at the forefront of our minds is the fact that we have “a paralyzed man on a mat in my hands and we need to get him to Jesus.” Programs, techniques, traditions etc. are all good and have their space and time but we must allow for creative approaches to Jesus. These four men tried the usual approach: carry the mat through the front door, lay him at Jesus’ feet. Simple. Effective. Traditional. Usual. Expected. And yet it was not possible this time. Not because they did not try, mind you, but because everyone else refused to move! If people refuse to move when God is trying to work, the team, must go outside and around. There has to be creative movement to get to God and get others to Him.
What is so very impressive about these four men is that they didn’t argue or spend countless minutes trying to prove one was better than another. They didn’t stop to pray about each detail or even ask permission to remove the roof! They worked quick, made quick decisions…together. They all agreed on what was important and left the peripherals (and the roof) as an incidental issue that could be fixed. What they essentially came to conclude was that people are more important than things. They understood their friend was relying completely upon their creative genius to get him to Jesus. And it had to happen as a team! If it took four people to carry him it would surely take four to lower him! If ever their commitment and connection would be tested it would be in the midst of a crisis; we should expect no less.
Through an act of courageous love, these four anonymous (another interesting thought is no single one got all the recognition) men carried their friend to Jesus. Because of their connection, commitment and creativity a man was healed and forgiven. There was certainly much to talk about that day and it all started because of a group of men got together and wanted to do something for their friend. Come together. Get together. Get going. Get creative. Be connected and committed. Lower yourself to serve together and you may just find that God uses you to raise someone up!
There is no doubt that this is a story of great faith and great friendship. These four men certainly loved their paralyzed friend and were willing to do anything to get him to Jesus. As I look back over this story I can see several things that could have prevented these four men. May I suggest that we need to be wary of the same possible faith stoppers because it’s not just our lives or faith at stake!
Faith Stopper #1 Convenience. Sometimes we fail to act in faith because we are waiting for the “best” time. We are waiting for God to “move” us instead of seeing that God is moving…that He is near! Serving and ministering to other people is seldom going to be at our “convenience”. In fact, God may often interrupt your day; and what seems like a series of mishaps and unplanned conversations can actually be the very hand of God! These men would have to adapt their life around their friend in order to get him to Jesus. This required time from work, family and personal time. Real ministry is found when we are willing to be inconvenienced for others.
Faith Stopper #2 Crowds. It can be one or thousands but other people can often crowd out what God is trying to do. It is so important to be aware that what others think, feel or are doing is of little consequence to what we are supposed to do. If i am to help someone it really doesn’t matter if someone else believes me or not. I have to move on what God has called me to do. One of the sad things to note here is that there were many “religious” people who were in the way and preventing these four men from getting their friend to Jesus. We need to make sure that we are not preventing or inhibiting others from getting to Christ ourselves! Don’t be part of the crowd, no matter how religious! Be part of carrying people to Jesus at all costs!
Faith Stopper #3 Construction. Stick with me here. So often it is easy for me to fall into the trap that there is only one way to Jesus. But that’s not true. There is only one way to Heaven and that is through Jesus! But there are many ways TO Jesus! These men had a plan, had the faith, had the momentum and then had a problem. It is so important to realize that what we thought would work at one time may not work now. What seems good in our heads is not always gonna play out in real life. But that doesn’t mean we stop! It means we create once again! These men realized that they may not be able to move crowds but they could move their constructions.
A construct is something upon which we build and these guys had to rebuild their approach to Jesus. Their destination was still Jesus however! They still wanted to see their friend get to Jesus no matter what it took! We must have the same outlook. There are some forms of ministry that may not be my cup of tea, yet the goal is still getting people to Jesus. Perhaps we need to remember these guys more often in realizing that the best way to get people to Jesus is through deconstructing some of our old ways of thinking and allow God to do a new thing, even if it means raising the roof to lower a friend!
We all have friends. They come in different shapes and sizes and live near and far from us. Some of those friends are better than our own families to us! While some of those friends have truly let us down and hurt us deeply. As I look at this passage I see a few things that inspire me to become the greatest friend I possibly can be. I hope that you too will be challenged to be this same kind of friend!
1) A Friend of Faith. Don’t you hate being around “debbie-downers”? There are just some people who will never believe it can be done, nor will they ever believe in you or God. Why surround yourself with these people? Why be one of those people yourself? I believe that we forget the power of our own words and encouragement/discouragement. Our belief in someone and in what God is doing or wants to do is crucial to the task being realized! These four men shared a common ground with the paralyzed man: they all believed Jesus could heal him and that he could walk again! Be a friend who believes that God has good things for the people around you. Believe that the only way they may have it is for YOU to believe it yourself!
2) A Friend of Love. As I said in my earlier blog, love is the expression of that faith moving.These friends loved the paralyzed man. Their love was shown in their willingness to work, sweat, serve, carry and remove the roof to get him to Jesus. We often say we have love for others but we are not willing to step out of our own driveways to do anything for someone else. We say we are “friends” and yet we never make any kind of sacrifice or allow our lives to be interrupted for the sake of helping or seeing someone come to Jesus and experience healing. Real, true Love will always cost us something. If you call yourself a friend of sinners, what price have you been paying to demonstrate your love? Friends love at all times at all costs.
3) A Friend of Determination. Friends don’t give up on you. They don’t let you stop short of the goal! They are not only personally invested and involved but they are doggedly determined to finish out faith! There are always gonna be obstacles and problems that require more faith, more planning, more friends to overcome. That’s what these men show me. Upon their arrival to have their friend healed by Jesus, they were not able to get him up to the front. Common people would have probably settled for the attempt. These men were not common friends though! They would not be stopped! They would not be deterred. They were determined…and because they were, their friend was healed. Real friends find alternatives and solutions….they even create future opportunities for success.
4) A Friend of Responsibility. These men did not shift their responsibility to the man’s family for his care or getting him to Jesus. They assumed that responsibility themselves. As Christians sometimes we try to shift our responsibility to other people, organizations etc. claiming we have done “our part”. All the while there is so much more to do and people who need help. And we call ourselves a “Friend of God”? For this to be true, we must take up our crosses and follow Christ into the world where people desperately need real friends, real love, a real Jesus! It may not be our fault that people are in the plight they find themselves, but how can we not be part of God’s movement to bring healing and peace? If we are to be a Friend of God, we must be friends who take up the responsibility of friendship. The word “responsibility” itself means: ability to respond. Many in the world are unable to respond to God or experience His love because we have failed to respond to His call on our own lives. Be responsible. Be a friend!