Summary: One of the hardest things for Christians to do is to wait on God. The story of the resuscitation of Lazarus tells us many important things as we wait on God in what we think is a hopeless situation.
John 11:1-45 “When God Delays”
One of the most difficult situations in the Christian life is when God remains silent to our prayers.
Faye and I have good friends who have two teenagers. Their son has been diagnosed with ADD, and he has been treated for this condition for years. For the past couple of years, the young man has also battled depression undergoing both counseling and medication therapy. His life hasn’t been charmed. He has been a handful to raise. He has struggled and his parents have struggled with him. Throughout the teen’s life, his parents have kept him in prayer. But it seems that God has not heard their prayers. Recently, he has been hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting into drugs. The couple wrestles with why God hasn’t answered their prayers and help their son.
A middle aged woman was pink slipped about a year ago. Since that time, she has been diligent in seeking another job. She’s gone on three second interviews. She’s prayed and prayed that the Lord would open the door for these jobs. They were great jobs. But she was not hired for any of them. She wonders where God is in this situation and why God hasn’t answered her prayers.
We know people with similar stories. WE have similar stories. This story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead allows us to catch a glimpse of what God is doing in our lives and in our world.
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was sick in Bethany—a town near to where Jesus was staying. His sisters sent word to Jesus of his predicament. They hoped that Jesus would come and heal Lazarus. Instead, Jesus does a very strange thing, he waits. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were people whom he loved. Still he waited.
Not only does Jesus wait, but he also makes a rather strange comment to rationalize his waiting. Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” There appears to be more a stake here than simply curing a serious illness. Jesus sees this as an opportunity for God to be honored and glorified.
We can’t explain all the reasons why God delays, but one explanation is that God delays because he sees the bigger picture. There may be issues with which we need to deal and God’s delaying allows us to address these issues. Perhaps someone else needs to face elements in his or her life that need to be changed and God’s slow response to our prayers allows the individual to do that. God may want something better for us. There may be hundreds of things that God sees that we do not see, which cause God to pause in answering our prayers.
Though God waits, God is still in control. God is still able to answer our prayer. God is still able to be glorified. And, God cares.
While we wait and we carry on that internal discussion, we sometimes begin to tell ourselves that God doesn’t care about us. “If God did care for us, then God would answer our prayer,” we rationalize to ourselves.
Jesus was very caring in this story, even though he waited. John writes that Jesus loved Mary and Martha. When Jesus arrives at Bethany and he is surrounded by all of the mourners, Jesus feels their grief and pain and begins to weep.
When we shed tears, God sheds tears with us. When we ache at the very core of our being, God aches with us. God shares our suffering, just as he shares our successes and victories.
Life Martha and Mary, we discover that there is no situation that his hopeless.
Martha voices trust in the resurrection from the dead—that things will be made right eventually. Jesus corrects her by proclaiming that he is the resurrection and the life. The resurrection life is now, and the situation is never hopeless.
Jesus is taken to the tomb. He orders the stone rolled away. Martha protests. Jesus calls for Lazarus to come out of the tomb and moments later Lazarus does.
Eventually, Jesus acted, and when he did the people around him realized that a miracle had occurred. They gave glory to God for what had happened. People came to faith. It was also the turning point for the Pharisees who now saw that they needed to quickly eliminate Jesus.
We may not have all of the answers, but we can still take comfort in the truth that God is present and in control. God also loves us and wants the very best for us. And, God will be glorified in our lives.