Summary: Prescriptions for keeping your hope alive as seen in Christ’s miracle of raising Lazarus.
One of life’s toughest challenges is staying optimistic about the future. Adverse circumstances can cloud your vision of tomorrow and make it tough to maintain a positive attitude. You can be tempted to lose hope.
The good news is - and we’ve been reaffirming this throughout this current series – Christ has encouraging truth for you so that you need never lose hope!
The Bible says in John 11:1 (NLT) A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, "Lord, the one you love is very sick."
4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, "Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God. I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this."
This is the final encouraging conversation with Jesus in John’s Good News account, each of which preceded His seven "sign" miracles. Three conversations actually precede this miracle: one between Christ and His disciples and one each with the two grieving sisters of Lazarus. We’ll consider parts of all of them.
Lazarus’s illness eventually led to "temporary" death – but the good news is, as Jesus said, "Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death." In this great story Lazarus is resurrected! Death is not the end for those who follow Christ! Death for every believer is only "temporary!"
What seemed like a hopeless situation became an indisputable testament to the fact that Jesus is the resurrection and the life! Grief and despair turned to joyful celebration! Heartbreak turned to amazement! Sorrow turned to new love and admiration for the Son of God! A bleak diagnosis made way for effective prescriptions for keeping hope alive, which prescriptions I want to share with you today.
If you want to keep hope alive the first prescription you need to have filled is this:
1. Establish and maintain a friendship with Jesus.
Nothing will give you greater hope in life and hope for the future than knowing Jesus. Absolutely nothing. The story of Lazarus is a story of hope and the catalyst for that hope is Christ.
Who was this man Lazarus? The communication from his two sisters reminded Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is very sick." (Verse 3) Lazarus, like you, is someone Christ loved.
This trio of siblings: Martha, Mary and Lazarus were Christ’s friends. Christ loved them. Later, when Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus the Bible says,
John 11:35 (NLT) Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, "See how much he loved him."
We know from Luke chapter ten that Jesus had been the recipient of this family’s hospitality. That too, gives us insight into the relationship between Christ and this family. During Christ’s itinerant ministry he relied upon the kindness of His friends and followers for food and shelter. This family was so close to Jesus that they provided one of His lodging places. They were more than just acquaintances. They were dear friends. They sat at Christ’s feet and heard His words intimately.
If you will develop that kind of a relationship with Jesus – a bond that is constant and close – you will remain hopeful when you come to the challenging crossroads of life!
Let’s quickly establish how you become God’s friend and how to maintain that friendship. The Bible is crystal clear on this point in both the Old and New Testaments.
Psalm 25:14a (TEV) The LORD is the friend of those who obey Him…
Jesus Himself said in John 15:14 (NLT) You are my friends if you obey me.
How do you establish and maintain a friendship with God? It’s very simple: you follow God’s instructions. You live by His precepts. You do what He asks you to do.
Don’t be turned off by this biblical principle. The point is not just, "Oh, I see, God’s love for me is not unconditional after all, there are strings attached. I have to obey God for Him to consider me His friend." That’s the wrong attitude. It’s more like this: "Since God has proven He wants to be my friend, then I want to be God’s friend. Like any other friend, I want to do the things that make Him happy! I want to live in a way that pleases the best friend I could possibly ever have."
God wants out of your friendship with Him what all friends want. He wants you to be considerate of Him. Of course God deserves more than any other friend you have since He is your Creator and Savior – but the point is, you treat God like a friend when you obey Him. And as you maintain that friendship with Him through obedience to Him you remain hopeful about the future. Friends give us hope for the future. We know that they’ll be there for us in the hard times. This is true of no one more than Jesus!