Making A Difference

Our gospel reading today looks at how four men responded to the need of one man, and how they made a difference in his life.

And this is an appropriate story for today as we celebrate Mother's day and recognize what a difference Mother's make in the lives of their children.

Although our scripture from Mark this morning deals with men it's not difficult to see how this story really speaks of both men and women and our roles as Christ's followers.

The scene described is a familiar one. Jesus is back at His headquarters in Capernaum in a house preparing to preach. The crowds are literally pushing and shoving to enter the house to hear Jesus. As Mark explains it, "So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door..." (2:2).

Lets take a closer look at the four men who brought the paralyzed man to Christ, and what a difference they made in his life through their unselfish act of kindness.

Not much is known of these men but chances are they were not much different then you or I. They were probably not known as men who achieved great things, yet they did make a huge difference in the life of the paralyzed man.

Have you ever asked yourself, what can I do to make a difference in this world? I think we've all asked ourselves this question, or one similar, at some point in our lives, and perhaps more than once.

Many feel that in order to make a difference you need to devote your life to some great cause. And there are many great causes to which a person can devote their life.

Some say diplomacy is life's greatest contribution. What a blessing it would be if you could stop all the wars and bring peace to the world. Can you imagine what would happen if the world took the over one trillion dollars it spent on military weapons this year and spent it instead on feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and finding a cure for life threatening diseases?

In fact some would argue that the most significant contributions to our world would be in the field of medicine. Can you think of a greater achievement than finding a cure for cancer, Aids, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and others? Just think about how cures for these tragic diseases would positively impact the life expectancy rate for people around the world.

There are those who say philanthropy is life's greatest achievement. Wouldn't it be great to be rich and to be able to pay for peace; to pay for food and clothing; and to finance the research and cure for all of the various diseases that afflict people every day.

I don't think anybody could, or would, argue that these would all be noble causes to which one can dedicate their life. And it's true these individuals would make a difference in the world we live.

But I submit to you that our scripture reading today provides us with the best answer to the question, what is the one thing I can do to make a difference in the world? Our scripture reading speaks of a man immobile, weak, and not capable of coming to Jesus on his own. He had to be brought by four men who loved him enough to take him to Jesus.

This man, and what happened to him, is an illustration of the greatest thing we can do for another person, and that is lifting them up and bringing them to Jesus Christ.

After all, what is more important, the sickness of the body, or the sickness of the soul. To lose one's wealth is sad. To lose one's health is sadder yet. But to lose one's soul is such a loss, that no person can restore it, only God can.

Now of course there were problems that hindered this man and obstacles that kept him from coming to the Lord. Verse 3 describes this man as being paralyzed. On his own he was not capable of coming to Jesus. Likewise, he represents every person who is lost without Christ.

This world is filled with Spiritual cripples who are lost, who need the Lord, but will never come unless they are brought to Him. Keep in mind this man was not only paralyzed by sickness but he was paralyzed by sin. Remember the first thing Jesus says to the man in verse 5, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

This man's primary problem was not physical, it was spiritual, and Jesus knew that. Likewise our world today is full of people who are disabled by corruption, immobilized by wickedness, and who left to themselves will never come to know Jesus. These are people we need to reach out to.

The Crowd Now lets consider the crowd who gathered to listen to Jesus. Even if the man could have gotten up and walked he could not have gotten in to the house where Jesus was located. Verses 2 and 4 tell us that there was a great crowd that had gathered, and had moved into the little house where the Lord Jesus was preaching. They had taken all of the seats in the house. They were standing outside the doorway and no one could get in.

Now I'm sure that the men who were carrying this paralyzed man tried to push and plead their way through the crowd, but nobody would move. Here was an army keeping its own wounded from the infirmary. You see this crowd cared more about having a seat then they cared about the welfare of the man. They were self-centered rather than spiritual-centered. It's unfortunate but as we know there are people today who confess to be Christians but do not live a Christ-centered life. They are more concerned with themselves then they are for the well being of others.

Are we a stepping-stone to Christ or a stumbling block? We all need to carefully evaluate our lives to ensure we are stepping-stones. Our mission as Christians, and as a united church, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Obstacles Lets address the issue of obstacles. Along the way, no matter how hard we work to bring people to Jesus, we will run into obstacles. This was the case for the paralyzed man as well. I believe the biggest obstacle this man ran into was not the crowd or his crippling disease, but rather were the Scribes and Pharisees.

You see they weren't interested in anybody being healed, much less saved. They were interested in finding something negative and critical about Jesus. Instead of enjoying the miracle, they were sitting there reasoning in their hearts saying, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (2:7).

I believe that the greatest obstacles today that prevent people from coming to know Christ are not the atheists, the agnostics, or other non-Christian organizations.

The greatest obstacles to people coming to Christ are those who profess to be Christians but by their attitude, words, and deeds give a lost person every reason not to come to Jesus.

These are the "Christians" that look for things to complain about within the church, much like the Scribes in our scripture reading. These are the Christians that may or may not come to worship on Sunday, these are the Christians that do not get actively involved in the church's ministries, and these are the Christians that deny Christ by there very lifestyle.

In other words they may be Christians, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, but they are not spirit-filled Christians as defined by Christ.

In many ways we Christians can be our own worse enemies. Instead of focusing on living our lives as Jesus would, we succumb to earthly pressures and become self-absorbed.

We are human so we will make mistakes and we will lose our Christian focus sometimes. But as a community of believers we need to continually lift each other up, encourage one another, commit and dedicate our lives to doing the Lord's work, and to actively care for and love each other as our father in heaven loves us.

The best way to lead people to Christ is by living a Christ-centered life, and by witnessing to them about how wonderful it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Simply put we Christians need to walk the talk.

Now lets consider the four people who helped the man come to Jesus. First, they were concerned and cared about their friend. You see the first step to sharing is caring. Meaning no matter how much we have to share, if we don't care we will never share. These men cared enough about this man to go and get him and bring him to Jesus.

We all need to ask ourselves, am I concerned? Do I care about others? Do I want to help others come to know the love and joy a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring? Do I share the good news with others? These are all questions each of us should think and pray about while opening our hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I believe if we each think long and hard about it, we came to know Jesus Christ as our savior because someone cared enough about us to share God's greatest gift to humanity with us.

It may have been our mothers or fathers, it may have been a friend, it may have been a pastor or Sunday School teacher, or it may have been a person we didn't even know, who simply shared the love of Christ with us in a very simple way.. But somebody was concerned enough to bring you to Jesus.

We need to be faithful witnesses for others. Why do we shy away from telling others about the good news? We don't hesitate to tell our friends about an excellent restaurant we tried, or a great website we found on the Internet. Why is it so difficult for us to share our faith with others?

Are we ashamed? Are we afraid of being labeled or made fun of? What are the roadblocks in our lives that keep us from proclaiming the good news to others?

As we strive to fulfill the mission of the church we will run into obstacles and roadblocks, much like the four men did. They couldn't get through the crowds and were forced to climb to the roof of the house where they cut a hole to lower the man down through the roof toward Jesus.

They didn't care about criticism. They didn't care about rejection. They didn't care what people thought. They were just determined to get this man to Jesus. How I wish we all had that kind of attitude and commitment. If we did no obstacle would be too great.

Unity As we look closer at the scripture reading, verse 3 tells us that all four of these men were bringing the paralyzed man to the Lord. Lets not miss the point that they did it together. One man alone couldn't have done it.

What would have happened if just one of the four men had let down and not done his part. If one man had let go of a corner of the mat, the man would have fallen. It took all four of these men to bring their friend to Jesus.

As a church family we need to be unified in this matter of reaching out to people. I am convinced that the most powerful force on earth is a church that truly stands together, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart with the single purpose of bringing people to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is such tremendous power in unity.

Verse 5 is also very interesting. It says, "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" This is an amazing statement. Let me restate it "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'"

You see Jesus forgave this man and healed this man not because of his faith, but because of the four men's faith. It will be a great day when every Christian wakes up and realizes and believes that God can use them to help others come to know His Son. God can use all of us to bring people to Jesus if we will just believe that He will.

Lets now look at the person who healed the paralyzed man. Notice that the paralyzed man was brought to Jesus. If they had brought this man to the synagogue he would have died a cripple. If they had brought this man to the religious leaders of that day he would have died a cripple. But they brought him to Jesus and Jesus healed him. In this one episode we learn some wonderful things about the Lord.

First we learn how he healed the man's sickness. Secondly, we are told that Jesus was preaching the word unto them, but yet the Lord stops his sermon so He can minister to one man. This tells us that salvation through Jesus Christ is granted to individuals that seek Him, not to the multitudes that gather around just to hear Him. Jesus healed the man not the crowd.

In other words salvation is not granted to us because we gather at worship on Sunday, although worship is important for other reasons. Salvation comes to us as individuals when we seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now some may say, "What is the big deal in bringing one person to Jesus when there are millions that are lost? What difference does it make?"

There's a story about a storm that had come up on a beach and thousands of starfish had been washed up onto the shore by the rough tide. After the storm a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a figure off in the distance.

As he got closer, he realized the figure was that of a young girl picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the girl, he asked, "what are you doing?"

The young girl replied, "Throwing a starfish into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."

"Young lady," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and thousands of starfish? You can't possibly make a difference!" After listening politely, the girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, she said, "I made a difference to that one."

Jesus preached to the multitude, but healed one man. We are called to be a conduit to Jesus and to bring people to Him one by one, because each person does make a difference.

Imagine if each of us brought two people to Jesus and each of them brought two, and so on and so forth. Before to long millions of people will come to know the love and saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all can make a difference in this world, and I pray by the power of the Holy Spirit we all will.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade