Today we start a new series, one we are looking forward to jumping into with you.  We have a tradition here at MRC, where we take the summer and turn our Sunday Morning Conversations into a study of The Bible, and it’s something we always enjoy doing and it’s a series that I look forward to every year.  Sometimes we work through entire books of the Bible, sometimes we focus on specific sections of Scripture.  One year we spent an entire Summer in The Sermon on The Mount.  Last summer we had a lot of fun working through Proverbs, and engaging Solomon’s Manual for Living.  We have walked through some of Paul’s letters, spent some time in Psalms, and had a blast working through many of The Parables of Jesus.  There is just something special about an entire spiritual family walking through God’s Word together, and today we start our new study!  We are going to go through The Gospels looking very specifically at something Jesus did.  This is important because Jesus was very intentional, everything He did was for a reason, and he did this often, which means it mattered. But, to see it, you have to slow down and focus to catch on to it.  When you do, it can truly lead to life change.  So, let me ask you this, did you ever notice that Jesus asked a lot of questions?  In fact, He asked a lot more questions than He answered.  Have you noticed that?  Have you ever slowed down and thought about why Jesus would do this?  Jesus was so intentional with His actions and words, that there must be a reason for this.  So, we need to slow it down and think this all through.  Why would Jesus do that?  He didn’t do anything accidentally; it was always deliberate.  So, why ask so many questions?  Well, we know that Jesus truly knows us people and human nature.  Scripture tells us that Jesus knows us better than we know us.

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people. ESV 25 There was no need for anyone to tell him about them, because he himself knew what was in their hearts. GNT

Jesus knew all people.  He knows what is in our hearts, and He knows all about our nature as people.  Which would mean, He may have a good idea of how to communicate with us in a way that could make a difference in our lives.  Remember when He told His disciples why He told stories to people?

Matthew 13:12 Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. 13 That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.  MSG

So, Jesus knows all people.  He understands our human nature, and how hard it is to penetrate the human heart and mind with His life-changing guidance and teachings.  Jesus doesn’t do anything by accident, everything is on purpose.  And Jesus asked a lot of questions.  Now what is interesting is these questions often come out so casually during a conversation that if you aren’t paying attention, you can miss them.  You will see, many of the people he asks miss them too.  But, if we can slow down and focus on what He is asking, process His questions, and answer them for ourselves it can truly impact our lives.  By staying in those moments and answering His questions we can take ownership of His teaching and apply it to our lives.  This leads to true life change!  When we slow down, get honest with ourselves, and answer His questions, we are forced to think, and we grow into the people God created us to be. Jesus was always asking questions.  Many of the questions seem so simple, but simple doesn’t make them easy to answer, they are quite challenging!  This study is unique in some ways but profound and could lead to new life.  So welcome to our new Bible Study, called The Simple Questions of Jesus.  Just remember, simple doesn’t mean easy!

Today we are going to look at one of the most important questions Jesus asked.  It’s a question that is often in my heart and mind as I try my best to help people who are in a difficult spot in their lives.  It’s the question that is often in my heart and mind as I sit with people who want to experience health in their lives and talk of needing God in their lives.  I believe if we truly want to experience life change it is very important that we ask and answer this question for ourselves…but I would also tell you that this question can sound insensitive to someone who is in a difficult spot and is reaching out for help.   It can be hard to receive, BUT it’s the most important question to ask and answer if we are truly to change our lives.  There is a reason this question is first in our series, because in so many ways it is the first question we must answer personally.  Are you ready for it?  It might not be what you think!  Here it is…

“Do you want to get well?”

So many of us speak of wanting to find our best lives possible.  We want to experience God in our lives.  We want to find healing and victory over things in our lives.  Well, it all starts with how we answer this question.  We find this question in John 5 in a popular interaction Jesus has with a man who is in a very difficult spot, literally paralyzed for 38 years.

John 5:1 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. 2 Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. 3 Hundreds of sick people — blind, crippled, paralyzed — were in these alcoves. 5 One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” MSG

First, and we will come back to this later, but we have to address it.  Doesn’t the question seem insensitive?  If it isn’t insensitive, isn’t it just extremely obvious?  I mean, good grief Jesus, the poor guy has been an invalid for 38 years, of course, he wants to get well!  This guy is in a more frustrating situation than that because of where he is lying this whole time.  You see, this pool that he is lying beside wasn’t just any pool to these people.  In those days this pool was believed to have the ability to heal people.  There were times when this pool would bubble, and the people believed that it was angels stirring up the pool and that the first person in after the angels stirred it up, would be healed.  The issue for this guy is, he can’t move.  So, when the water would be stirred, he would be lying there feeling like he was just a few feet from his healing, but he could not get in the water.  Can you imagine how frustrating and helpless that would make him feel?  This man is in great distress. Place yourself in his shoes or on his mat at this moment.  Then some guy walks up to you and asks what may have felt like a mean or insensitive or obvious question.  “Do you want to get well?”  WOW!  Well, let’s look at his response to Jesus’ question.

John 5:7 The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” MSG

So, let’s talk here, because there seems to be a clear answer to Jesus’ question, and that answer would be “YES!”  But the guy doesn’t answer that way, does he?  What does he do?  He talks about why he can’t find healing; he points to his life and circumstances.  In his distress and the frustration of 38 years of being unable to move, I think we can all understand why he would struggle.  But he doesn’t ever answer the question.  He tells Jesus why he can’t be healed, but never gives that clear answer to Jesus’ question, and that clear answer…would be YES!  So, this gives us a lot to talk about here today.  This simple question from Jesus is clear, it’s just one sentence, and it seems to have a clear, simple answer…but if you think about this, it isn’t so simple at all.

You know, I told you a couple of weeks ago that we are spending more and more time with people in crisis.  People are in profound pain, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  It’s so hard to see people in difficulty…in these gut-wrenching situations, and we truly feel for them.  It’s hard to see people in that place in their lives.  But I will tell you, the most challenging thing about those conversations is the fact that even in the initial moments of those meetings when the emotions are high, I know there is a big moment, almost a confrontation that must take place.  It just looms over those meetings, where at some point, if I care for them, I will lead them to this same question that Jesus asked the invalid at the healing pool.  Do you want to get well?   In the emotion and the pain that is so real, sitting with someone who is reaching out for help, there always comes a time when the true answer to that question comes out.  And it messes with me because more often than not, the answer is NO.  It is a moment where we turn the conversation from the circumstances, and the reasons why they are in the spot they are in, and we begin to talk about the way out, and even how they got in it.  We talk of their choices and role in how they got to where they are and most importantly, how they will get out of it.  Now, you would think this is the exciting moment that leads to hope and the chance for a new life, but that depends on how you answer this simple question from Jesus.  Depending on your answer, this is either a big moment leading to healing, or it feels like a confrontational, even offensive, or disappointing moment in so many ways.  When someone truly wants to get well, it’s clear and leads to action in their lives, that action leads to life change, and them moving toward health and freedom in their lives.  Those are exciting and refreshing moments, just fun to be part of but quite honestly, they are rare.   More often than not, it’s the last time we meet because it can be upsetting, and even disappointing to someone that a Pastor would lead them to that place, to see if they were open to taking ownership and responsibility for their lives.  Do you see how profound this question Jesus asks truly is?  So many people think the Spiritual Life is fuzzy, or mystical and feelings-based, and while it is those things it is also tremendously clear, it is precise and leads us to our choices and to practical handles to live our best life possible.  This is the tension point in meeting with hurting people and loving them enough to want them to find healing and their best lives possible.  Because, regardless of what the issue is or where the conversation starts, it will eventually land on this question, and their response is so important, but often the reality of the “no” answer is harder to accept than I would like to admit.

That is the hardest part of meeting with people, because in all their pain, frustration, confusion, emotion, and the weight that they carry, they struggle to slow down and answer the question that we must answer if we want to find our best lives possible, “Do I truly want to get well?” because part of them wants to feel better, they want some relief, yet so often the answer to this question isn’t “YES” it’s very often “NO.”  Let me show you what this can look like in different areas of life.

Someone is frustrated with their life Spiritually.  They come to church every week and hear of this incredible life that Jesus came to provide for them.  Yet, they are not experiencing that life that Jesus told us He came to give us.  They have been going to church for years and are into it on Sunday, but they choose to live each day as they always have, for themselves.  They spend no time with God during the week.  They don’t read their Bible.  They don’t pray.  They aren’t growing into Spiritual Maturity which means they don’t learn to love others well.  Now, they know they should do all those things.  But decades of life have gone by, and they do not walk into the relationship with God that they know would lead to their best lives.  Then they get in a tough spot, they sit with someone, frustrated that they are not experiencing this abundant life in Christ that they hear Jesus came to give them.  If they are asked if they are doing the things that lead to it, their heads go down, and they answer the same way they have for years. “I know, I need to do that.”  So, the question must be asked, as much as they want to experience it… “Do they truly want to get well?”  When someone sits with me in that state, frustrated with their relationship with God, even frustrated with God, and their lives while choosing to not engage God or do anything about it, this verse from the prophet Hosea truly hits hard…

Hosea 7:14 They do not cry out to me with sincere hearts. Instead, they sit on their couches and wail. NLT

Last fall, we spent a lot of time on mental health issues in our Soul Series, and it was an awesome series tying the concept of our soul and how we care for it, to so many mental health issues that we face.  So many of the internal issues we face are spiritual issues, and that series meant a lot to many people who were struggling.  Throughout that time a lot of people shared how personal so many of those issues were to them and how helpful those talks were on depression, anxiety, and so many other concepts throughout that series.  It was a hopeful time, but a year later, we must ask, did we apply any of those teachings to our lives?  The question is, do we truly want to get well if we aren’t applying Godly principles and choices to our lives, or a year later are we in a worse place than ever before?

Let’s talk about physical health.  Many complain about this area of their lives.  They know they should eat better.  They know they should exercise.  They know at 50 years old they shouldn’t eat like they are 25.  They complain about their health, their physical issues, and their weight.  But while they complain about it, years are going by and they aren’t making real changes in their lives.  This is a perfect example of why this question from Jesus is so important.  Do you truly want to get well?  If the answer is yes, you put your head down, get focused, and get to work making the changes needed in those areas of your life.  If your answer is “Yeah, I do but I kind of don’t,” or “I kind of do but I kind of don’t.”  Or it’s “I kind of want to get healthy but I know I won’t.”  Well, your real answer is “NO.” There will always be reasons you can’t, or won’t, or why you get stuck or regress.  There will always be another reason for a “cheat day.”  There will always be people to resent and be jealous of who must have a much easier life than you have.  Do you see how important this question is?  It’s not simple at all, is it?

During the “Soul Series,” I mentioned earlier, Ken introduced us to a book called Change or Die by Allen Deutschmann.  The author researched the challenges we humans have with change, even changes that we know will help us or make our lives better, and his research uncovered that when people are confronted with the reality of ‘change or die’, 90% of people don’t change.  Think about that.  When offered the chance to change or die, nine out of ten people don’t make the changes.  He looked at people needing heart surgery done and spoke with doctors who tell their patients that they must “switch to a healthier lifestyle” if they want to keep the pain from coming back, avoid repeat surgery, and stop the disease before it kills them. But few make those changes.  They did a study of coronary bypass grafting patients and discovered that two years after the surgery 90% of them had not changed their lifestyle, even knowing they have a disease that could be terminal if they don’t make changes and find health.  So, think about that, 90% of people answer Jesus’ question with a “NO.”

It’s tough, but whatever the spot we find ourselves in, the hardest thing to do seems to be to deal with it, to engage, to meet the issue head-on.  We struggle to change, to grow, to live differently even when we know our current lifestyle is hurting, even killing us.  It’s so interesting, but when you think about Jesus, who did everything on purpose, and you think about our human nature and our resistance to change, and understanding that Jesus knows us inside and out, this question from Jesus to this poor guy at the Pool on that day, it isn’t insensitive, and it isn’t all that simple or obvious, it is essential.

It is the hardest part of meeting people who need help because I know it will come down to the answer to this question.  Health isn’t just going to fall in our laps, we must make choices and take ownership of our lives…it’s just something we struggle to do.  The question isn’t easy to receive but how people answer it is everything!  I don’t know what it is, but we just don’t want to hear or be asked about our role in how we end up in the spots we are in or our role in getting out of them.  It is hard to help someone who is stuck in a pornography addiction, who is not willing to choose to put blockers and software on their devices to keep them from looking at pornography.  It is hard to sit in the home of someone devastated by their issues with alcohol while I look over their shoulder to a liquor cabinet full of alcohol that they aren’t willing to choose to get rid of.  It’s hard to listen to someone struggling with their faith, feeling distant from God, wondering why Christianity is not working for them who isn’t willing to spend time with God.  It’s hard to listen to someone talk about their anxiety issues who isn’t willing to care for their soul.  It’s hard to listen to people complain about their physical health while making choices that hurt their physical health rather than help it.  It’s hard but the reality is they don’t like the question from Jesus, but we all have it presented to us in life, and we all have answered it, and while it seems like it wouldn’t be true, not everyone wants to get well.  I have sat with countless people in painful places in their lives who want to vent emotions and process their pain with me, and I’m fine being a bit of a sounding board, but they have no interest in doing anything about it.  When we start talking about practical ways to get well, to find health, and to live differently…let’s just say the conversation can end very quickly.  They want to point to their circumstances, the situations they are in, other people in their lives, and what those people have done to them, or won’t do for them, but when the conversation turns to their role in choice in getting well, the tone can change quickly.  That is hard on me, and I feel for people, but the last thing we humans seem to want to do is truly get well.

We saw it in our story, didn’t we?  Jesus asks the question, and the guy does what we humans do, he explains his circumstances to Jesus, but He doesn’t answer the question.

John 5:5 One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” MSG

“Do you want to get well?” It is a surprising question, and it seems to be an obvious one, and it does feel a bit insensitive.  I mean, wouldn’t Jesus take one look at this poor guy and just fix it?  Jesus is so intentional with what He says and does, it’s always for a reason.  He doesn’t just pick him up and put him in the pool with the healing water.  He doesn’t just heal him right away, he asks the question, and we need to ask ourselves, “Why?”  Why would He do that?

Many people question the concept of freedom and free will.  I have sat with people who say what is the point of changing my life, if God orchestrates it all, my life and my actions are just what they are!  Basically, if there is no freedom or free will, I am not choosing my lifestyle, and there is nothing I can do to change well, anything!  “Life just is, what it is!”  But this question from Jesus says differently, doesn’t it?  Jesus is not forcing healing on us, just like we are never forced to grow into the people He called us to be, or forced to love God the way He desires or live out the lives we were called to live.  If we were forced, we wouldn’t be showing our Heavenly Father the love and worship and desire for Him that He desires.  We have choices to make, and we have a God who loves us so much that He gives us the freedom to make those choices.  That includes the idea of wanting to get well.  This simple question of Jesus is not so simple at all, it is profound, inviting the man at the pool and all of us to do something so few of us do…to slow down, get honest and real, and ask ourselves what it is that we truly want in life and why.  So, as we step into this first question from Jesus, let’s slow down, get honest, and intentional with ourselves, and ask ourselves the question that 90% of people struggle to say “YES” to…

“Do you want to get well?”

Do I want to be made well? Well, if we are honest, it’s probably a “yes and no” type answer.  I think some parts of us tend to look at our lives and find a lot of comfort in what we can’t do or control.  We find comfort in the idea that “My life just is what it is!”  We resist change so much and find comfort in blaming other people for wounding or offending us.  We not only can blame people, but we look at our lives and our circumstances and decide that is the reason we are stuck where we are. Some part of us find comfort in that idea.  We complain we find different excuses as to why we are the way we are, and why we can’t change.  We look at the ways our parents have done us wrong, how our spouses let us down, our lives are so much harder than others but when we slow down, if we are honest, in all that we point to, it’s never my fault, and it’s beyond my control so here I am, unable to do anything…and that conveniently allows me to continue to live how I always did.  So hey, there is nothing I can do…even with our healing as close as this guy’s healing was on that day with Jesus.

“Do you want to get well?”

This is the question we start the Questions of Jesus series with because it is a question every one of us needs to process, and quite frankly, whether we realize it or not, our lives, actions, and choices are answering that question every day.  We must be honest and take a look at our lives.  You know, Jesus knows us well…and He knows how hard it is for us to change.  He asks this question on purpose.  Listen, if you are one of the 90% of people who are afraid, or struggle with changing things even when you know it could lead to your best life possible, this is an important moment for you.  You may have sat through this talk afraid or thinking of all the reasons why this could never work for you.  Your personality type just would never allow this, your life is so much harder than those who could change.  Your circumstances, your past, your upbringing, you may have a list going in your head right now…if that is you, I want you to hear me, take a breath, slow down, and allow Jesus’ question to truly penetrate your heart.  Deep down in our souls there is a desire for health, for our best lives possible.  It is a pull to be with Jesus and experience healing in our lives, and depending on how hard you have pushed that down it may take some time to hear it in your heart and soul today, but it is there.  If that is you, struggling maybe even uncomfortable with the idea of change, listing out all the reasons you can’t, it’s ok.  But I want to walk you through three deliberate steps that can help you answer Yes to this simple question of Jesus…just realize that is exactly the way the poor invalid man responded to Jesus on that day.

Step 1 – PRAY!

Pray for the desire to change and find health.  Pray for your heart, your healing, and your spiritual awakening.

Step 2 – Picture What Could Be!

This is a practical exercise.  Picture what your life WILL look like WHEN you make those healthy changes.  Focus on that image, and picture yourself experiencing all that life can and could be WHEN you answer His question with a “YES.”  When you find yourself discouraged, tired, or tempted to quit, go back to that image of what could be!  Then, the last step is the most important.

Step 3 – Go for it!

Do something!  Go get it!  Do exactly what Jesus told this man to do.  He didn’t need to get in the pool, he didn’t need anyone to carry him anywhere.  What He needed was Jesus!  What did Jesus tell him to do?

John 5:8 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” 9 The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. MSG

You can do this, but like all things in life, your best life possible won’t just fall in your lap.  Those who are experiencing healing and their best life possible aren’t just lucky, and it is not that their life is easier than yours.  They are putting in the work.  They are taking ownership of their lives.  They are giving an honest answer to this critical question that Jesus asks and so can you.  Listen, you can do this, and you don’t need someone to carry you into the pool, get up, and go get it.  And hey, if you do need a hand along the way, we are here for you!  That is what The Spiritual Family is here for!  Just know that while we can help you, we can’t do the work for you, and be ready, because at some point our conversation will come back to this essential question from Jesus and your answer will determine your life experience, not the people around you, not your circumstances, not your personality, but your answer to this question from Jesus.  So, let’s picture it.  Right now, as we close.  We are so close, three feet from our healing, and Jesus is asking you the question.  What is your answer?

“Do you want to get well?”