You Need a Friend; A Friend Needs You
They werenít sure how they were going to do it, but they knew it was worth a try. They were positive their friend could be helped. He was paralyzed, couldnít walk for himself, so four of his friends carried him on a mat. When they reached the house in Capernaum where Jesus was speaking, there was no way they could get through the crowds. The house, doorway, and yard were filled with people straining, stretching to hear Jesus, and to catch a glimpse of him if they could. The four friends of the paralyzed man were undaunted and creative. They refused to give up. They had carried their friend this far, and they were not about to give up. One of them had a bright idea, "Letís try the roof." So they lifted their friend up to the flat roof, and let him down through the roof into the room where Jesus was speaking. Jesus stopped his teaching, forgave the paralytic his sins, and healed him. The paralytic arose, took up his bed, and walked.
The intriguing, fascinating part of this story is what Mark said in 2:5. Jesus healed the paralytic because of the faith of his friends--"When Jesus saw their faith." Jesus was impressed with the faith of the friends. Because the friends interceded on behalf of the paralytic, Jesus healed him. Fascinating.
The theme this Lent is Our Inner Wilderness. Each of us is on a journey, a journey through life, a journey to eternal life. Sometimes itís a happy, carefree vacation trip, full of laughter and adventure. But, sometimes the journey detours through the wilderness where the devil questions, undermines and confuses. Life is a journey. In the words of the spiritual, "Nobody else can walk it for you; you must walk it by yourself."
But, friends can carry you at times! No one else could take the paralyzed manís place. But, his friends could carry him to Jesus, and their tremendous faith interceded with Jesus on behalf of the paralyzed man. Even Jesus had help when he struggled with the devil in the wilderness for forty days. The angels ministered to him. The angels helped him. Jesus was not alone.
Friday I sat in the dentistís chair thinking about this sermon. Iíve recently had a tooth pulled, so Dr. Lubman is preparing my mouth for a bridge. I sat there Friday thinking how no one else can get my bridge for me. I have to endure--I mean, enjoy--the needles, grinding, drilling, and spitting all by myself. No one else can substitute his/her mouth for mine. But, yet, I am not alone. I have my friendly dentist to help me. And Dick Lubman is a great dentist. He has mounted a bird feeder outside the window. Every morning he fills it with seed, so that his patients can enjoy the birds feeding. Besides that, he sings in my ear and tells lousy jokes. When youíre sitting in the dentistís chair all by yourself, you need a friend.
Arenít you glad for friends! Look at how many people have helped you on your journey because they care about you. They carry you at times, and intercede with God on your behalf. They pray for you.
And, there are many people out there struggling in the wilderness who need your friendship. There are friends, family members, fellow workers, neighbors, children, youth who need you. I doubt if there is a family you know, I doubt if there is an individual you know who has not experienced the wilderness. Life is not always friendly. There are people in your circle who need carrying at times. There are people in your circle who need the church fellowship, who need Christian friends. Imagine what itís like to make the journey without the church, without retreats, classes, groups, sermons, corporate worship, prayer. There are people in your circle who need the comfort, support, and encouragement of the church. They need to be accepted just as they are, without pretense.
How can you be a friend, like the friends of the paralytic? How can you help carry others to Christ, where your faith in Godís power can touch their lives?
Sometimes you need to say nothing. Joseph Bayly shared an experience of comfort he received when one of his children died.
I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of Godís dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true. I was unmoved, except to wish heíd go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me. He didnít talk. He didnít ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listening when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.
Sometimes you need to say nothing. Sometimes you need to share your faith. Sometimes you need to say, "Let me tell you what Jesus Christ has done in my life. Let me tell you how I have found hope, courage, love, by trusting in Christ for my salvation. Let me tell you about my church."
And, at all times you can pray. You have friends who need your prayers. God needs your prayers, your energy, your spirit, your caring, to touch your friends. Last week I asked you to select three or four people in your life for whom you care, people who are struggling on their journey without a church. I asked you to write their names down on a card, and to pray for them daily, to hold them before God daily, to intercede with God on their behalf, as the friends did for the paralytic. If you were not here last week, or if you were here and didnít do it, would you take a card from the pew rack, write their names, and keep the card. This is confidential.
Remember when you needed a friend. There is a friend now who needs you.
ã 1989 Douglas I. Norris