by Donny Abbott on February 08, 2023
In past speaking engagements I have mentioned that I spent almost four years in the Army. During my first two years, I was attached to an Airborne unit. I think you would agree that it takes a great deal of faith to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Prior to jumping, I was packed into an aircraft with a couple hundred other jumpers. Wearing a lot of heavy and bulky gear, it’s pretty hot and miserable. After about an hour of apparently flying in a circular holding pattern, the jumpmaster says, “Stand up!” At this point, we knew the drop zone was near. We were then led through various equipment checks, which is a really good thing. Finally, the side doors of the aircraft open, the drop zone comes into view, and the jumpmaster says to the first guy in line, “Stand in the door.”
The fear and anxiety are palpable as the green light comes on, testing the paratroopers’ faith. All of our preparatory training and confidence comes to the fore with this next step. Do we really believe our parachutes will open? Are we ready to apply all we have learned and put it into practice? Countless prayers are launched heavenward as, one by one, the paratrooper’s step from the plane and drop toward Earth.
A paratrooper thinks about a lot of things prior to exiting the aircraft. The battle waged in his head could be summarized by Dr. Dan Allender, who says, “The known is a safer enemy than the unknown. Yet we were made for the unknown and to risk danger.”
It all comes down to faith, doesn’t it? But it’s hard to know exactly what faith is. The writer of Hebrews describes faith as being:
“Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not
see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1
Faith is an action word; it’s a verb. There is movement when faith is put to use. I love how author and pastor Mark Batterson describes faith. He says, “Faith is taking the first step, so that God can take the next.”
There is an interesting story in the Gospel of Mark chapter two that illustrates faith in action. In the story, a paralyzed man lying on a mat is carried by his four friends to see Jesus, who they think will be able to help their buddy. Approaching the house where Jesus is teaching they realize there are so many people in the house that they are unable to make their way inside. This brings us to a common lesson with faith; there are usually barriers to the things unseen. Whether it’s our fears, self-doubts, or crowded houses, there is usually something that gets in the way of practicing faith.
Undeterred and filled with hope, this guy’s four buddies took the first steps so that Jesus could take the next. So, they climb on top of the roof and make a hole in it big enough that will allow for their friend to be lowered down to where Jesus is. As they do this, everyone inside fixes their gaze on the spectacle unfolding before them, and they anxiously wait to see what Jesus is going to do next. This is similar to what we all do as we bring our wants, cares and needs to Jesus. We wait to see how He is going to respond. And oftentimes the wait is painful. But in this moment Jesus saw the desperation in their faces and:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5
The paralyzed guy probably didn’t have very high hopes for what his friends were putting him through. You could easily say this was as much an act of desperation as it was of faith. Nevertheless, they trudged on and were rewarded with a strange response by Jesus; “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This must have been a real head-scratching moment for the four friends who I’m sure told Jesus, “No, no, no, you don’t understand, you see, Jesus, our friend can’t walk. We were wondering if you could heal him so that he could stand on his legs again.” What the four friends didn’t realize is that the man had a physical need for sure, but he more importantly had a spiritual need.
It's the same spiritual need that all of us have; our sins need to be forgiven by the Savior. The man’s paralysis was temporal as far as this earthly life is concerned. But Jesus looked beyond the temporal and reached into the eternal by speaking to the man’s heart and thereby offering forgiveness. It’s a message that still resonates today.