Tenacious Friendship | Wk 4

I want to be involved with these children. I want to learn from them. But according to Mr. Rogers – we should not only be teaching children…we need to learn from these children. And that’s what Jesus highlighted too.
 
Matthew 18:3 …”I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Jesus says unless you are “like” these children…unless you become like these kids…unless you listen and learn and grow and have faith just like these little kids we will never experience heaven. It requires faith like a child…
I think most of you would likely say that “I have faith.” And we do…most of us believe in Jesus…most of us would agree that His death has saved us…we have faith. Most of us truly believe that…but that’s where it stops. The question I want to ask this morning is do you have faith that impacts other people?
 
Which is an odd question…I know. For years I’ve always thought about faith for myself. Faith is important for me but my faith doesn’t really make a difference for other people…I mean they should have faith on their own…THEIR FAITH is up to them, mine doesn’t affect them.
 
Faith seems to be a kind of self-centered thing. My faith is all about me. My faith is important for MY eternity, MY salvation, MY relationship with Christ – it’s MY faith…often times we interpret that from scripture too…
 
Remember when a woman with a terrible reputation washed Jesus’ feet…Jesus told her… Luke 7:50 … “Your faith has saved you…
 
And to the only grateful one of the 10 lepers that he healed…Jesus said… Luke 17:19 … Your faith has healed you.”
and the blind man Jesus healed – He said…
 
Luke 18:42 … Your faith has healed you.”
With each of these cases our self-centered thoughts are reinforced…our faith is important for our own benefit. Even if it is
 
FAITH like a child…it still feels like it’s all about me.
 
But today I want to suggest to you that YOUR faith is important to YOUR NEIGHBORS. The faith that saved you…and healed you…is the same faith that can save and heal them. Your faith is not just FOR YOU.
Today I want to look at the events that led up to Jesus saying…
 
Mark 2:5 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
 
This statement opened my eyes to just how important MY faith is. And not for me. Those first 3 words… “Seeing THEIR faith…” It had less to do with the paralyzed man…and so much to do with the people Jesus was watching. It was because of those people… because of “their faith” this paralyzed man was healed.
 
YOUR faith can and will impact the people around you. I don’t know if you ever realized “my faith can transform my neighborhood?”
 
Whose being healed because of your faith?
 
So let’s start at the beginning of the story…let’s see who Jesus was talking about what their faith looked like. Will you look with me at Mark chapter 2?
 
BACKGROUND ON STORY… Mark, the author of this book doesn’t start with the Christmas story like the other gospel writers. Mark begins with a grown up Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.
And so in Mark chapter one Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist…then Jesus recruited some disciples – first Peter and his brother Andrew then James and his brother John…then Jesus performed a couple miracles and a few teaching engagements for the public to see.
 
START AT HOME… He launched His ministry on Earth…he was beginning to spread the gospel – this was the start. So when we turn the page to chapter 2…we read…
Mark 2:1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
 
So after Jesus official launch into ministry He heads home. This makes sense to me…the place you’d want to start is with the friends and family that have known and loved you.
 
ILLUSTRATION…This is what we did…when we were ready to launch Branches – we started in my home town. In fact, we started in my school – in the auditorium where I preformed my 7th grade band concerts and I starred in the 8th grade musical. We connected first with the people that new me.
Selfishly – I wanted to see God impact the people that I grew up with…my neighbors. Because if I have faith like a child…then like any child…I want to tell someone else about it…right? Isn’t that what kids do?
 
ILLUSTRATION…Kids are so excited about what’s new and exciting…that they can’t keep it in…they have to tell the people we love. And that’s what Jesus did…He wanted His closest friends and family to experience the gospel first.
That’s why ministry of the gospel started in Jesus’ living room.
 
It’s crazy to think about that…but according to scripture Jesus started “at home.” Now we don’t know for sure that this was His house, but what we do know is what the Bible says…Jesus “returned” to Capernaum to “his home”…
 
Mark 2:1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
 
And on top of that we know Matthew wrote in his gospel…
Matthew 4:13 – He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum…
 
This little town was clearly important to Jesus…he lived there and loved the people. Jesus’ first disciple, Peter, lived here too – with his wife and mother-in-law.
 
In fact 7 of the 12 disciples were from this small fishing village. Peter, Andrew, both James’, John, Matthew, Jude, and Jesus. Jesus ministry impacted the people He lived with first…and some might say, most incredibly. The greatest impact, the deepest impact was with His family and friends.
 
TOWNS PEOPLE Mark 2:1b-2a …it was reported that he was at home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. People heard…the word got out…the rumor mill started spinning – and a crowd formed in Jesus living room.
 
No hesitation… I love that people didn’t wait for Sunday. People didn’t hesitate for the time when Jesus would show up at church. They couldn’t sit back and get the news in a day or two. The community needed to see for themselves the miracles and the teaching…they were drawn to the excitement.
 
Jesus had been away at a wedding and preaching around the tristate area and this was His homecoming…people wanted to experience this phenomenon first hand. People are drawn to life change!
 
Story of FRIENDSHIP And so while Jesus was preaching…
 
Mark 2:3-4a 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd,
They couldn’t get to Jesus…they were cut off and saw no way in. All entryways were cut off. And I think for most of us that’s where we stop. We did our best…we tried our hardest. We did the dirty work and carried our friend all the way across town. He knows we tried and we meant well… it’s the thought that counts, right? WRONG – we need to see things through.
How many of us run in to an obstacle on our first attempt and quit? I think in general, most of us get discouraged too easily. Isn’t that the truth? We want something but stop trying for it almost before we even start. We rarely see things through to completion…
 
ILLUSTRATION…That’s why gyms are empty by February… that’s why most business startups fail in the first year…that’s why very few of us ever actually learn a foreign language. We have a great idea, we’re inspired but then we give up.
 
ILLUSTRATION…We want our parents to know Jesus and we even tried to talk to them about Him once…but that didn’t go well. So now we just avoid all religious discussions all together. We lose our nerve – we lose faith…and we quit.
We give up too early…we don’t see things through – but these guys…these 4 men…they didn’t quit…
 
Mark 2:4 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.
 
*The moral of the story – If I can’t get a ticket…then breaking and entering is justified.  It says it right here in scripture!
But do you see what happened here? These neighbors were not deterred. “Wild horses couldn’t keep them away”. Their faith was determined. Because of the combination of love for their friend and faith in Jesus NOTHING could stop them. Their faith was fully engaged…
 
I think they knew, if they could carry their crippled buddy to Jesus, they wouldn’t have to carry him anymore.
They knew that if they made the investment and put in the extra work to get this guy to the one that could heal him – then everyone’s lives would be changed for the better. So they picked him up.
They had the kind of faith that KNEW Jesus could do something. So they were willing to do anything in their power to see him blessed. They had faith in Jesus.
 
It was much like Jacob of the Old Testament…who wrestled with and wouldn’t let go of God until he was blessed…
 
Genesis 32:26 – “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
 
These men were not going away without Jesus’ blessing.
Action Point #1… This is how we should act…as believers as “neighbors of Jesus” we can’t give up on our neighbors. If we have faith then we have to put it in action. We have to carry our friends all the way to Jesus.
It’s our responsibility, it’s our job. If we love our neighbors we should labor for our neighbors. We should be working to get the people that need to be healed to Jesus’ house.
 
ILLUSTRATION…Who’s burden is it? But for too many of us we look at it as a burden for them. Don’t you think? We often times don’t even ask someone to come to church because you know there’s a possibility they’ll say no. “My friends are already so busy…going to church with me would be too much for them…they’d never be able to do it.”
And so we walk away…never having asked. Deterred too easily…we never put our faith in action. All because we tell ourselves it would be a burden on them.
 
I want you to know the BURDEN is not on them. Do you hear me? Think about this crippled man. Is he burdened by riding on a mat across the street? No! Is the weight too heavy for him to be lowered down into a room in front of Jesus? No! There is no burden on him…he simply had to lay there.
 
The labor the effort is all from the 4 friends. They picked him up, they carried him down the road, they hoisted him up to the roof, and they lowered him down to the living room floor. The burden is on them…the future of this man is hanging by the rope that they hold.
 
Action Point #2… This is what Jesus has asked us to do. The future of your neighborhood is on you. Will you shoulder the load for your friends? Will you carry the weight for your family? Will you pick them up and bring them to Jesus?
 
“Their Faith”… Mark 2:4b-5 Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
It wasn’t the faith of the paralyzed man…it wasn’t something that he had done. This man was forgiven because of the faith of the 4 men holding his life lines.
Then Jesus says “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
It was because of 4 men’s faith that this man walk…he walks in new life in Christ because of his friends.
 
CLOSING… What if they hadn’t brought him…what if they hadn’t responded to their love for him…what if they hadn’t fought through the obstacles that stood in their way… this man might never have experienced God’s forgiveness. Their faith and their determination changed this man’s future – it changed his eternity.
 
WHO ARE YOU? So when you hear this story who are you? Which of the men in this story do you relate to? My fear is that you see yourself as the cripple? My fear is that you still look in the mirror and you see a person that can’t walk on your own…you still need too much help. I’m afraid too many people identify with the paralyzed man…
 
But if you’re sitting here today…you’ve likely met Jesus…if you’re here this morning then you’ve been to Jesus’ house. You’ve probably experienced the forgiveness that Jesus offers and yet you still lay there…paralyzed.
I want to say to you this morning “Get up and walk!”
 
Your legs work, Jesus has healed you…He’s forgiven you and He has sent you out to bring others back. It’s now your
responsibility to have faith like these 4 men…faith like a child. Confident in the power Jesus has to impact your friends and family…
 
You’re no longer paralyzed…you’re a child of God. You’re no longer incapable…you’re a child of God. Don’t let anything stop you…with faith like a child – SEE IT THROUGH!
And especially do not disregard the power of the Spirit to do something miraculous. Whose life might be changed by your faith?
 
TAKEAWAY… And as we finish today I want to offer you an easy invitation. Next week as we wrap up this series of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” we want to celebrate our neighbors. We want to show them this kind of love and care. Next week we have a special day of “Giving Thanks” for the people in our lives. They may be a physical neighbor and live next door or they may be someone with the desk next to yours at work or school…but we want you to invite your neighbors.
 
We’ll have gift for them, we’ll celebrate a time of baptism and we’ll have a chance for them to hear about Jesus’ love for them.
Will you carry their mat this far? Will you show faith in what God can do in their life? Will you take action?
 
This final song is a time for you to be encouraged in your faith. We have a God that removes barriers and empowers us to do great things for him…
 
He split the seas so we could walk right through…he drowned our fears in perfect love…I am a child of God!
 
SONG: No Longer Slaves

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