Lord, Please Rearrange My Life
Key Text — John 5: 1-9 (KJV)
V1- After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
V2- Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
V3- In these lay a great multitudes of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
V4- For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
V5- And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
V6- When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
V7- The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another stepped down before me.
V8- Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
V9- And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.
One of the greatest dangers of life is to be stuck in the rut of the same-old-same-old.
We are not created by God to be static in life. We are created to be creative and upward moving. Yet the harshness and the cruelty of this fallen world have a way to paralyze us and make us impotent. To be impotent, is to be powerless and ineffective.
Our key text is about an impotent man who has been lying beside the pool of Bethesda for 38 long years, waiting for the waters of the pool to be stirred by an angel, so that his life can be rearranged once more with vitality and meaning. You would think that after 38 years of nothing happening to anybody, the man would go elsewhere and stop hoping. But no! He lay there waiting and hoping. Like the Delirious song, Miracle Maker, says, “I am waiting here for my life to change. When the waters stir, You can rearrange me. Just one touch is all I need. I have nothing much but the wounds I feel. I have come here to find the hand of the miracle man.” That was the hope this impotent man holds onto for 38 years – a hope for a rearrangement of his impotent and static life.
This morning, I would like to share on the need for God to rearrange our lives. I would like to title my message as a plea to God, “Lord, Rearrange my life!”
What is the meaning of the word “to rearrange”? It means “to reset in order; to readjust”.
Many of our lives today need a reset by God to order; we need God to readjust our lives so that we can be potent and forward moving for His kingdom purpose. We need to respond to what God says to the Psalmist in Psalms 50:23:
“To him who orders his way aright, I will show the salvation of God”.
Do you want to see God’s salvation in your life? Do you want to see God’s salvation in the paralyzing problems you are facing for many years? Then there is a need for a rearrangement, a need for a reordering of our ways and lives before God.
II. Our Life Is Like A House
Hebrew 4:4 – For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God…
V6- Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if we held fast our confidence and pride in our hope.
Hebrews likens our life to a house. To be specific, the author of Hebrew says we are God’s house. That means to say the builder of our life is God and Jesus lives in our “house”, as God’s Son.
As in any house, there are many furnishings. God has by “His knowledge filled the rooms of our house (our lives) with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3-4).” In your “house” (your life), there are precious and pleasant riches such as the Holy Spirit, which is God’s deposit for the eternal life; faith; love of God and love for God; wisdom of God; passion; compassion; sensibility; eternal life; strength of God; the grace of God; hope; calling of God; word of God; promises of God; dreams and visions; and the purpose of God for this present living. These are all the precious and pleasant riches which God has furnished our “house” with.
But what happens to all the furnishings in the rooms of our lives over a long period of time?
(1) By Our Neglect and Carelessness
We turn our spiritual house into a MESS.
We fail to upkeep our spiritual house. We fail to clean it by the blood of Jesus Christ daily; we fail to use the searchlight of God’s word to check which area of the room of our hearts are filled with wrong things. We began to bring in furnishings which are not of God into our house and mess up God’s original design for our house. We begin to live willfully and rebelliously against God’s commandment and ways. We start furnishing our spiritual house with foreign gods and idols; vices and youthful passions. The impotent man in our key text, became paralyzed and stayed the same in his dilapidated condition for 38 years because of his sin [That is why Jesus admonished him in verse 14 after he was healed, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”]
(2) By Our Complacency
We sweep our house clean and REMAIN UNINVOLVED.
Matthew 12:43-45 gives a very interesting account: “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it EMPTY, SWEPT, AND PUT IN ORDER. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” Like the delivered demoniac, we refuse to fill our “house” with the precious and pleasant riches of God like the purpose of God. Matthew specifically describes the condition of this man’s house – empty, swept and put in order. His house is empty! Not one furnishing of God is there.
There are so many of us sitting here today, who have been delivered by Jesus of our uncleanness, sins and bondages and yet, we have nothing to do with Christ with our house. We are empty of God’s filling and purpose. We are still uninvolved in the church and the kingdom agenda. Our lives are not constructed to be left empty. Either it is filled with God’s things or the devil’s things. If you sweep your house so clean, then the past sins which Christ has delivered you from, will in the end come back with greater intensity to entangle and enslave you. And your last state will be worse than the first. In other words, you are worse off after receiving Christ and doing nothing than when you were not saved.
This is another condition of our lives that calls for the need for God to rearrange our lives one more time – when we are uninvolved with the things of God. We need the Holy Spirit to come and stir these passive hearts of ours and make them beat one more time for lost souls and for the ministry. Today you are saved. Is your “house” empty? Or is it filled with the dreams, purpose and heartbeat of God?
(3) By Our Long Service
We find the furnishings that God has given LOSING ITS APPEAL.
We become tired of the same-old ministry, same-old church activities; same-old preaching, same-old jobs and same-old people. We become RAGINGLY BORED with the calling of our lives. The rooms of our heart begin to ache for something exotic and out of the ordinary.
This kind of condition normally affects those in the mid-life. Someone likens our mid-lives to be like a river:- “The beautiful, mysterious St John River meanders through central Florida. Near the headwaters the river runs swift, but the waters slow as the river deepens and the journey lengthens. Halfway to its final destination, the river opens into a huge lake. Without its two banks, the river has no direction. The waters spread out and barely move. Each droplet of water entering the mouth of this lake travels a different course. But this is not the Dead Sea, so eventually two riverbanks gather the waters, and the river once again runs steady.” Midlife is like a lake. Early in our lives we run swift like a river, but shallow. As we put years behind us, though, we deepen. Then one day, we enter the open jaws of midlife. When once we felt direction and velocity, suddenly we find ourselves swirling about, sometimes aimlessly, or so it seems. Each of us, like individual droplets of water, will take a different path through this part of the journey. For some of us it will only be a slowdown. Others will feel forgotten and abandoned by the father of the river. Some, unable to see where the waters converge, will despair. Time, however, stops for no one and nothing. Eventually all the little droplets of waters, however depressed they may be, find themselves regaining speed as the riverbanks once again gather the waters, point them forward, and give them purpose. Each of us will experience midlife in our own way. We cannot project at what age it will begin, how long it will last, or the intensity with which it will hit us. Each of us will drift through a different part of the lake. For some it will be a mere “slump”; for others a “funk” (fear/panic); for still others an all-out crisis. As there is restructuring cycle in business, so there is a restructuring or rearrangement in our private lives. This rearrangement takes place during our thirties, forties or fifties and can span several years, even a decade.
Today, if you feel you are in one of the three categories mentioned above, you really need the Lord to rearrange your life. The life God has furnished you with is a good life but by your neglect and carelessness, you have messed up your “house”. Your life is laden with sins and rebellion and you have put in your own furnishing without God’s permission. Some of us have even thrown out the good furnishing of God. You have deviated from the plan God has for you.
For some, you literally have to cry to God to put that mission in your heart- to ask the Holy Spirit to convict you that we are saved not so that we can stay saved and not fill our lives with the eternal purpose of God. You need the Lord to rearrange your purpose and mission of your life.
For others, you have not committed any sin or that you have gone against God. It is simply the fact that you are long serving here in the kingdom of God and today you are already in the mid-thirties/forties and suddenly you find everything round you very boring and meaningless. Welcome to the midlife club. All the more you need God to step in to remake you, reinvent you, so that you know which direction to flow out from the lake of midlife.
III. How Jesus Rearranges Our Lives?
In our key text, John describes the people waiting beside the pool of Bethesda as “impotent, blind, lame, paralyzed [withered KJV]-(v3)”.What havoc sin has wrought in this world. Whether it is your own neglect, complacency, long service or midlife syndrome, life has a way to make us impotent, blind, lame and paralyzed. We can’t move forward anymore. We have no more power left to fight the battle of life. We become crippled in life. We have become powerless and ineffective.
In our key text, John noted that the man had been ill for 38 years. Perhaps he saw in this picture of his own Jewish nation that had wandered in the wilderness for 38 years. Spiritually speaking, Israel was a nation of impotent people, waiting hopelessly for something to happen.
As Jesus walked around the porch, it may be that this impotent man was pointed out to him as the most pitiable case because his disability made it very unlikely, even impossible that he would ever be the first to get into the pool after it had been stirred. This impotent man had no one to help him in. After 38 years, this man’s problem had become a way of life. His situation looked hopeless. But Jesus was always the friend of the friendless and the helper of the man who had no earthly help. He did not trouble to read the man a lecture on the useless superstition of waiting for the water to be stirred. His one desire was to help and so he healed the man who had waited so long. Jesus finally stepped in and rearranged this impotent man’s life.
In this story, we see very clearly the conditions under which our lives can be rearranged by God.
1. Have an Intense Desire for it
V6- When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Jesus began by asking the man if he wanted to be cured. It was not foolish a question as it may sound. The man had waited for 38 years and it might well have been that hope had died and left behind a passive and dull despair. In his heart of hearts the man might be well content to remain an invalid for, if he was cured, he would have to shoulder all the burden of making a living. There are invalids for whom invalidism is not unpleasant, because someone else does all the working and all the worrying. But this man’s response was immediate. He wanted to be healed, though he did not see how he ever could be since he had no one to help him.
The first essential towards being rearranged by God is to have intense desire for it. Jesus says, “Do you really want to be changed?” (v6); “Do you really want your life to be rearranged?” If in our inmost hearts we are well content to stay as we are, there can be no change and rearrangement for us.
In this church, we have members who come and stay; members who come and go; members who come, stay and then go because of an area of correction and discipline that was imposed upon them. Because of worldliness and rebellion, certain group of members in this church just refuses to change. Though changes seem impossible, still if these members were to have an intense desire against all odds for Christ to change their lives, their impotency and messed-up life can be reordered and restored by Christ. But how many of us really have the desire for this rearrangement? It is easier to stick to our messed- up pattern of life; easier to stick to our sinful, withered old life, arranged and designed by ourselves. We hate to lay down our ways and wills for Christ to come in as our Rearranger and readjust our lives back to where it should be in the eyes of God. We don’t want our lives to be reset by God. And so we live throughout our lives with this mindset: we are born like that, live like that and die like that.
Do you have an intense desire to break free from your impotency? There are so many of you living impotent lives before God. It could be sin or people that make you impotent. As I’ve said, this man became what he was because of his sin. But today, do you have this deep cry to God nonetheless to still change you and rearrange your life, even though it looks so impossible and hopeless?
2. Our Will Must Cooperate with God’s Power
V8- Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Jesus went on to tell the man to get up. It is as if he said to him: “Man, bend you will to it and you and I will do this thing together!” The power of God never dispenses with the effort of man. Miracles happen when our will and God’s power cooperate to make them possible.
When I hit mid-life, the energy level within me plummeted to its all time low. Nothing I did could bring back the zest of life. Despair and depression were the common emotions I carried daily. I had trouble pulling myself out of bed every morning. That’s why Pastor Toh Nee found an appropriate slogan to make fun of me: Get up/survive/Back to bed. Gone was the velocity of life that I used to possess. This lasted for about 2 years to the point, like this impotent man, I desired that the Lord do something in my life. I can’t accept this paralyzing feeling. I have been serving in the mission field for 24 years –it is too long and has become boring for me. Ministry was losing its appeal to me. One day, while reading a Christian book, I was given the way out – I have to reinvent myself; I have to have a makeover. That time, I looked at my physique and realized I was overweight by 4 kg. My mum on seeing my photos was shocked that I had become as fat as my second sister. My two sisters also began to jeer at my overweight. I wanted to break free from this downward spiral of emotions. You see the more you put on weight, the more you hate yourself and this aggravates self-hate. I began to yoke my will with God’s power to go on a diet and to exercise. I am not an “exercise” person but by the cooperation of my will and God’s power, He helped me to rearrange my physical life and to be consistent in my exercise and diet regime. I began to gradually see energy and power coming back to my life. Then God also rekindles my teenage dream of baking and I cooperated with God by trying new things. Each time, when I felt that depression is coming over me, you’d see me running to the kitchen and baking new kinds of cupcakes. That is how God helped me to link my will with His power to rearrange my midlife doldrum. That’s how God helped me to navigate my way out of the mid-life lake to something more purposeful and forceful.
3. Attempt the Impossible
In effect, Jesus was commanding the man to attempt the impossible. “Get up!” he said. His bed would simply be a light stretcher-like-frame, which is a pallet and Jesus told him to pick it up and carry it away. The man might well have said with a kind of injured resentment that for 38 years his bed had been carrying him and there was not much sense in telling him to carry it. But he made effort along with Christ and the thing was done. He attempted the impossible.
For almost two and the half months, I dissociated myself from the Sunday pulpit ministry, seeing that our Senior Pastor, Pas Toh Nee would be returning to Spore on Oct 20 for almost 5 weeks, I wanted him to preach as much as he could to all of you. I forego my turn. But those weeks of dissociation from the pulpit almost withered me off. I felt like dying and gradually that feeling of impotency crept over me. No matter how much I prayed, it seemed my spirituality was coming to a halt. I told God I didn’t want to go back to the midlife lake. Then one morning, God spoke with a warning voice to Pas Toh Nee that it was high time we lay the church foundation. God has been revealing to me too about the need to strengthen my hands and to put my fear aside and build the house of the Lord but due to the crippling emotion of impotency, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. We then fixed an appointment with Michael Supetran so that we could show him the building that we wanted. When we were at the place surveying the structure of the building, discussing the budget of the construction and then finally going to the actual land to zone the land, a new spirit of excitement and life came over me. Yes, I could see this is a mammoth project and it is quite an impossible task for Evangel Family Church but somehow after embarking on this “impossible task”, direction and zeal came back to my life. I can feel that it is the Holy Spirit leading me to this venture of faith and any venture of faith is exciting because it gives God an opportunity to release His power. It pumps adrenaline back to my life. As believers of Christ, one of the ways Christ wants to rearrange our lives is to put a dream bigger than ourselves inside us and as long as we dare to believe Him and attempt the impossible, we will be out of the rut of the same-old same-old. The funniest thing is after we viewed the building and our land, we (Pas. Toh Nee and I) both went home with a sense of peace – there is an assurance that God wants us to venture out. I thank God for this big project of the church construction. It saves me out of another bout of depression and raging boredom.
Here is the road to rearrangement. There are so many things in this world which defeat us. When we have the intensity of desire and determination to make the effort, hopeless though it may seem, the power of Christ gets its opportunity and with Him, we can conquer what for long has conquered us. I can imagine this impotent man after being healed by Jesus, exclaimed like the song, Miracle Maker, says,
“I’m holding on with Your life in mine. Living water’s come. And You have rearranged me.”
The stirring of the water in the bible passage here symbolizes the baptism of the Holy Spirit. During the time of Jesus, the angel only came and stir the waters of Bethesda once in a blue moon. That’s why the impotent man waited for 38 years. But today, thanks be to God. We are living in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. As long as we recognize we are in need of a rearrangement by God, and intensely desire for it, the Holy Spirit will step in the waters of our hearts and stir them up to be vital and whole again.
Many of our “houses” need a total rearrangement from the Lord. Our church is already 24 years old and many of us are more than a decade-old Christian. With the same-old ministry, the same-old pastors; the same-old church activities and friends and same- old barangay and life, our lives can become boring, purposeless and impotent. Just as many music producers take retro songs and rearrange them by putting in a new beat and rhythm to it, we need Christ to come into our same-old life of rut and put in a new stir, a new spin, a new power, a new spirit so that our life will sound melodious again with spark and spunk. If not, we will really find that this life is not worth living.
During the last two and half months of inactivity from the Sunday pulpit ministry, I find myself deteriorating in my spiritual house. I was reading 1 Peter 3:8 and realized that all these precious and pleasant riches which Christ has furnished my heart with, are disappearing. Precious and pleasant riches like the unity of the Spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, tenderness of heart and humility are slipping out of my “house”. As I checked my life, I had to admit that instead of upholding the unity of the spirit, I had become belligerent. I felt bad that the recipient of my belligerence had to be the teller clerk of PSBank. I really dressed her down badly for double debiting my account. When the 8 Hong Kong tourists were shot dead, there was no sympathy in me for them at all, unlike Pas Toh Nee who felt so sorry for them. I also struggled with some members in this church. I find it hard to love a certain group of people in this church and I wasn’t tender with them. Worse was I saw myself losing humility and becoming arrogant over my culinary skill. I even asked boastfully to all my staffs when I made the SW slaw for the Cell Group BBQ- “Come on, tell me who is the best cook? Me or that person?” I didn’t like what I was saying but those were all signs that the precious and pleasant riches that God has furnished my heart with, are disappearing and I needed to quickly implore Lord Jesus to step into my heart and rearrange my life again. I’ve messed up. I need Christ to redirect me, to change me and restore all those precious and pleasant riches back to my life. And thank God, He is doing just that when I intensely desire after it. God led me to the song, Miracle Maker in such a timely way that when I heard it over the Youtube, I wept and realigned my will with God’s will and to allow him to restore all those “pleasant and precious riches” that went missing from the rooms of my heart. ‘Lord, rearrange my life!’
End of Sermon