A Startling Good Turn

Almost anybody. Almost anybody can recite the Golden Rule. Give it a shot: (Congregation) "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Our Scouts have learned the same lesson in a positive way. Their slogan is, "Do a good turn daily." In Jesus day, they called such turns "good works". Often quiet, humble, nearly unnoticed. But there are moments, real moments, when what we see in the company of Jesus is a startling good turn! Consider…

They could've been Scouts! They sure were into ropes and knots. And they literally knew how to raze the roof. (Our kids have nothin' on these guys.) Maybe they were called the Pity Patrol, in honor of how much they cared for their friend. After all, theirs was not a little but a startling good turn. And in more ways than one. These four friends carried the dead weight, the sin weight they called it in those days, of their friend, all the way to Jesus. He could not move. Paralyzed, without a word from the Lord. So they brought him. What's more, they wouldn't let anything stop them, or keep them from the power they longed for in the Savior. HE had the power, and the will, to lighten their load. HE had the power and the will to heal the afflictions of body and the spirit. Assumptions, like crutches could now be thrown away. Superstitions and suspicions that limit God would rise and fly away like smoky haze through a hole in the roof. And the result? A startling turn of events, the most startling good turn of them all. Jesus says to the one who could not, "Rise, pick up your bed, and walk!" No wonder folks were amazed. Why, we've never seen anything like this before!

If you're looking for a good turn in your life, turn to Jesus. If you're ready for a startling turn, carry somebody else, who otherwise, couldn't come at all. And see what happens next! We don't really know much about these fellows who brought their friend to Jesus. But some guesses won't be too far off. Likely these guys'd been brought up to be their own man. A man's man, each one of them. Men accustomed to pulling their own weight, likely fishers whose muscles knew well the weight of the haul. The kind of guys we often want our sons to be. (Scouts or no.) But these fellas had already made a good turn in their life we all need to make too. Maybe from the teamwork in the fishing boats, they'd learned to turn away from trying to go-it-alone. They knew enough to watch over and help each other. And they'd learned that when one of us is hurt, left out, paralyzed (maybe from birth, maybe in some accident), why, all of us are held back. (Not a bad lesson for those of us in the front rows, in all the rows). And one more thing. They'd learned they could come to Jesus. Trust Jesus. Hope in Jesus. They'd heard, maybe already seen, certainly believed of the power in Jesus. Like nobody else, Jesus can turn things, turn people, turn lives around. Do you know that? Trust that? Believe that? This Pity Patrol sure did. And they were ready to do a good turn because they had a friend who needed a turning in his life. How about you? How about me? Don't we all know somebody who's paralyzed, in their body or their soul?

There are folks all around us who need a turning in their lives. Who need to get on their feet again. Who are stuck, stricken, strapped to beds of pain and loss. Isn't there at least one of them you'd like to bring to Jesus? Anyone you can be determined to bring to him? I know no better turn. Way back then, those friends let nothing stop them. The crowds got in their way. They often do. So many other people's wants, needs, demands on us, keep us from doing what we know we need to do. So many get in our way when coming to Jesus…. (I wish we had one disciple for every two folks who've told me they were turned off to God, Jesus, or the Church by what somebody else did or said in the congregations all over the land. They let others block them from the Lord. Oh, if we had just one for every two, it would be a veritable revival in the making!) Crowds, shmouds, for that Pity Patrol of old. They climbed up. They tore the roof off the place with their bare hands, we suppose. They came prepared for any obstacle. Do we? They had their ropes, or used their garments. Whatever. They lowered their friend and laid him at the feet of Jesus. Friends, what I'm asking is, is there somebody in your life for whom you need to do the same, do whatever it takes, to place them at the feet of the Master? A friend of a friend of mine was a friend indeed. The problem was alcohol. It was ruining everything. The one did all he could to redeem the other. Nothing. Not Counseling, AA, Changing Point at Shepherd Pratt. Not the church. Nothing would do but Jesus. Every obstacle the afflicted soul could offer up was laid aside. Finally, after 4 years a breakthrough. And the one who was bought back, now safe and secure in the arms of Jesus and sober 20 years, will tell you as he has me, "I couldn't get on my feet until Bob laid me at the feet of Jesus. And when I looked up, all I could see was that face. That lovely, loving face of Christ. Drink that in just once, and you'll never need a drink again. But I couldn't get there, 'til somebody cared enough to get me there. Me. Even me." For someone, you can be that one. And you can do it, even if you have to grab three friends to come with you and carry the load.

Jesus turns us toward wholeness, healing, even salvation. What better turning than this could there be?! Oh, we need to do a good turn ourselves now and again. And offer others the same chance. But isn't it just great to know that when we finally make it into the company of Christ, there is power for turning, there for the taking! Jesus can be moved. By our faith. The faith of our friends. Don't miss this. That fellow down through the roof touched Jesus' heart with his pain. But it was the faith of the friends that prompts the first healing promise. Think about the power in that… the next time somebody asks you to pray for them, or you just do it on your own. It matters to Jesus that others matter to you! It moves his heart to move in the life of those for whom you work or pray. There's more. When Jesus proves his power for those who object he asks, "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins or forgiven,' or, 'Rise, pick up your pallet and walk?'" Don't let it be lost here. Christ affords to the sufferer, the chance to participate in his or her own healing, body and soul. You have to muster the will to move, borrowing on his power. That fella needs to push off on muscles unexercised in that way a long time. 'Has to pull up. 'Has to lean over and pull up his bed (a sign he will not just fall over, or lie down again). He will not just revert to form. This is no Monday diet or midweek once-in-a-blue-moon trip to the gym. This isn't the Valentine's card and candy and then just ignore my partner for the rest of the week kind-of-deal. This is the real deal. The real thing. The I'm not-going-there-any-more, no-turning-back kind of thing. And whatever the difference between our disability and healing's possibility, Christ makes up the difference.

Turn to Jesus. Carry others to his side. And all of us will walk away, none of us paralyzed, each of us amazed, renewed and redeemed. Here's the promise to take away today. And what was true a thousand, no two thousand years ago, will still be true this afternoon. "None of us have ever seen anything like it." We can't imagine what God can do in Christ. We don't have to either. We can see it, face to face. There's a little sign in my office. Somebody gave it to me, I guess, 10 years ago. It reads, "Success is the intelligent use of mistakes." It was given to me by someone with whom I'd shared many, many hours in counseling.

There were so many problems. A shocking divorce. A variety of debilitating physical reversals. A Bi-polar condition. Depression. Assailed on every side, this dear soul had come to that place where quite literally she couldn't take another step. But more than all the rest two things kept her on a pallet of pain. She needed somebody to love her as she was. And she needed to roll up, to set aside, the things that tormented her and refuse to lie down in or on them anymore. With a little help from me (my part was no big thing) and a lot from three dear Christian friends, this sweet soul came to this place of peace in her spirit. When she did, she gave each of us a sign. They were really a set as she explained it. One says only, Jesus. She gave it to another woman… who had shown her his heart. The second reads, "Nothing makes you more free than forgiving… except being forgiven." The third one says, "Get up. The Lord needs the bed space for somebody else." One Sunday, all five of us were together. We were told why each received the words we had. But it was what she said last I remember best. "Hey, you weren't exactly the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But you sure were like those guys who wouldn't stop 'til I got set at Jesus feet. I'm glad you let me down in front of him. And glad he told me to get up. And glad I could, once he said the word. What a turn around." Amazing. Nothing like it. A startling good turn. Jesus may just have one in store for you. And he can't wait for you to do a good turn and bring somebody else. Even if you have to raze the roof and lower them at his feet. Who knows, maybe one day our scouts can show us the ropes, teach us the knots, if we have guided them in the way.

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