While travelling along the freeway recently I found myself in the wrong lane.
I saw my exit getting closer and closer.
I just needed someone to realise I had my blinker on and slow down to let me in.
It was just there but I couldn’t get a break to let me in.
And at the last moment the car to my left slowed down and flashed his lights to let me in and I waved the biggest thank you to him.
So many ignored my plea to let me in to their lane as they weren’t looking at others and just kept focusing ahead.
How often do we miss the needs of people calling out for our help because we are so focused on our own journey?
I feel that this is what we are seeing in our Gospel reading today with the man who had been ill for 38 years waiting for his turn to enter into the healing waters of Bethesda.
Unfortunately it only allowed one person to enter the waters after which the healing properties would stop until next time.
And so those who were there weren’t looking to see who else needed to enter – they just had their own needs in focus and therefore the sick man kept missing out.
Presumably those who jumped in ahead of him thought that maybe the person after them would let this man go in ahead of them.
And that’s how life can sometimes go that we are so focused on our own needs that we can walk right past someone who needs our help and think – someone else can help them.
But we can be so focused on our needs and what we need to accomplish that we fail to see what is happening around us and all the wonderful blessings that God is placing right under our noses.
It is so easy to become transfixed on the busyness and stresses of life that we fail to discover what God is doing in our lives.
This life is a gift from God and as a result God’s blessings are all around us.
And what we discover, when we can take time to just pause life for a moment, is many times those blessings are discovered when we stop to take time and help someone else.
I’ve been in that situation before when I was the one in a hurry and thought to myself that the person behind me can let that person with their indicator on into our lane – I don’t have time.
But I’ve also been the one that has seen the person trying to get in and slowed down and waved them in – and I can tell you it’s a calming situation when you do that and really doesn’t add that much extra onto your time.
In our bible reading those who went ahead of the man who had been waiting for 38 years wouldn’t have missed out on their own healing if they had helped him in ahead of them.
They may have just had to wait a little bit longer for the next time.
Likewise, stopping to help someone in need might add a couple minutes to your routine – or even less – but the feeling of helping out another person in need is priceless.
Sometimes God places those opportunities in our way so he can bless us and others through us.
But it can disrupt our plans and put us out.
But if it’s to do something God has placed in front of us then we can be sure that a great blessing will come from it.
In our first reading we can see how sometimes our journeys can be disrupted by God.
We have Paul who is on a set course.
But during the night God disrupts his plans.
During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
Paul could have dismissed it an kept going on his decided course.
Have you overlooked an opportunity for a blessing from God because you weren’t prepared to let a disruption take you off course?
If you feel that there is a blessing missing from your life to be thankful to God maybe it’s because you overlooked an opportunity that God put before you because you were too busy.
We need to look and listen and see if there is anyone around us that God has placed in our lives to help.
Those opportunities are easy to dismiss because we are so busy and to let someone else do it.
And the chances are that someone else will do it – so they don’t miss out.
But it is we who miss out because hidden inside that disruption is a blessing from God.
If we look at Paul’s life, to the outsider it might look as if he has not much to be thankful for.
In his letter to the Corinthians he tells them of what he has endured as a Christian:
I have been in prison, been flogged, exposed to death again and again, five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
And yet he says: but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
It’s true that those who ignored the plight of the man waiting 38 years got their physical healing but they missed out on an even greater experience of helping a person in need and receiving a blessing from God.
Don’t confuse material blessings which the world provides with spiritual blessings that God provides.
They are very different in nature and very different in how they are received.
Material blessings are rewards for success.
And the moment you receive them they can disappear with your next failure.
Spiritual blessings from God are hidden in humility and servanthood.
They are often missed because we don’t recognise them like the servants who naturally served others without knowing in Jesus’ parable:
‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “
And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Look for those opportunities to serve others – they are there.
They may be simply letting a person into your lane – letting someone go ahead of you.
They will provided inner spiritual blessings for you but they may be preparing your for an even greater opportunity to serve without you even realising it
We have so much to be thankful to God for but so often we miss them because we are so focused on our own journeys.
Imagine if Paul was so focused on where he wanted to go.
Paul’s vision was while he slept.
Maybe we need to make intentional times to find a quiet place away from our worldly interruptions and allow God’s spiritual disruptions to our plans.