Summary: Encouragement for those times when God seems silent.
Two Big Questions
This story in our text is probably one of the most familiar stories in the New Testament. It is the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus, and we’re all familiar with that ... how Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead. But I want you to look at perhaps an aspect of this that you may let slide by in thinking of the dramatic resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. I think there is more than one reason why this account is here, but there’s one special reason to help us deal with a question and a problem we often face.
Let me read beginning in verse one:
Now these five verses read beautifully. These are friends. Jesus loves these folks. We know that many times in the life and ministry of Jesus, he would come to Bethany. Bethany is just over the hill from Jerusalem. And many times, Jesus would come to Bethany to find rest and re-creation and fellowship.
He would come to His friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
What an incredible friendship they had, and I’ll tell you how I know what good friends they were in just a few minutes. But this was a special place, and these five verses reveal what you would expect. Jesus, the friend, is called to help because Lazarus is sick. The sisters just know that if Jesus comes Lazarus will be all right, that he will not have any lasting consequences of his illness. Everything will be all right.
You read these first five verses, and everything seems in order. But, when you come to verse six, at first, it doesn’t fit. Listen to it: "Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days."
Now get the picture. Lazarus is sick, apparently critically sick. The sisters know that if Jesus could come, everything would be all right. They send a message to Jesus. He is about two days away preaching and teaching in some other part of the country. Jesus gets the message. He hears the urgent cry that Lazarus is sick. But instead of coming to Bethany, he doesn’t do anything.
He just stays there. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t respond. He just stays put.
That brings us to the 1st Big Question: Why is God Silent?
Has that ever happened to you? You’ve cried out to God, and you just knew that if God would just respond, everything would be all right.
But instead of some response, it seemed as if God was silent. It seemed as if God just didn’t say anything. You’ve cried and you’ve prayed and you’ve poured out your heart to God, but nothing happened. There was silence.
Your loved one was ill, and you prayed to God that there would be a healing.
But nothing happened, and the loved one died. Your business was unraveling, and you prayed that God would help you keep it together. Nothing happened, and the business went bankrupt. You needed a job, and you asked God to help you find a job. Your willing and desiring to work, and you did all you could.
But still, nothing happened, and no job came. You needed a relationship. You were lonely, heartsick, and grief-stricken, and you longed for someone to share and to build a relationship. And you asked God and you prayed. Nothing happened. Truthfully, most of us would have to admit that there have been times when we cried out to God, for our marriage, our children, our parents, our spouses, one situation or another, and for whatever reason, God was silent.
I’m convinced that part of our spiritual pilgrimage is learning how to deal with the silences of God. Now, having put that before you, let me say that I think that’s one of the reasons why this chapter is in the Bible. Not just to tell us about the love Jesus had for this family or the friendship he enjoyed, not just to reveal his power in resurrecting Lazarus, but I believe that this passage is here to help us to know why God delays.
Why is God sometimes silent? Why does He not respond as we want Him to, as we ask Him to? So, I have two things to say to you this morning, two things I want you to follow. First, I want to answer the question from this passage:
Why does God delay? Why are there times when God doesn’t respond on our timetable? Why are there times when He doesn’t seem to answer the prayer the way we prayed it, the way we wanted it answered? Why does He do that?
And the second question is: What should we do when that happens?
What should our response be when God seems silent, when God delays in responding to our prayer?