Following the story of Lazarus found in John 11:1-44, each section below is an illustration to build a foundation of faith in God, hope in His promises, and increase our desire to live in His love. Please feel free to send thoughts, questions, and prayer requests to Tiffany@bigviewsmallwindow.com.
Think of Mary's disappointment after sending Jesus a message to come and visit her brother only to have Him seemingly ignore the request. Mary believed the Lord loved her and her family. God knew her heart of service and how much she cared for those He placed in her life. She honored Him with everything she had and so she anticipated, if not expected, God to answer her prayers.
When our prayers go unanswered, it can be difficult to push past feelings of sadness and rejection. You wonder, doesn't God want to heal this sickness? Doesn't God want this marriage to work? Why did the one person who understood me have to die? If the Lord sees how hard I work for this company, why didn't I get the promotion? When situations are out of our control, we should pray and ask God for divine intervention. His children have the right to claim the promises in His Word. Faith pleases God so don't cease crying out to Him for whatever you need.
No matter what life looks like, we must continue to trust God's sovereignty. His Word promises provision, advocacy, and comfort in our times of need. Sometimes prayers go unanswered for no reason other than the Lord's allowing our faith to be tested, to see whether or not He will receive glory in difficult times. Concerning Lazarus, Jesus said, "...it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this" (John 11:4). In moments of unanswered prayer, ask God to show you His glory.
We know how the story ends for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, but they were unaware of what God intended to do. Although He loved this family, Jesus did not immediately respond to Mary's desperation. By the time the Lord decided to start His journey, Lazarus was dead. It's not hard to imagine Mary's heart growing faint, her hopes giving way to deep disappointment.
Waiting, or transition, can be more difficult than unanswered prayer. Imagine being single and waiting years to find a mate, think of parents waiting for wayward children to come home, or the entrepreneur waiting for investment returns. Deferment and delays tend to test our resolve and sometimes bring out the worst in us. Negative emotions spring up like thorns in our souls and we wonder, where is God!?
Don't let waiting cause you to doubt His goodness. The moments between praying and receiving the answer are always useful for spiritual growth and preparation. When we ask God for something and He responds with wait, we should remain patient and trust in His faithfulness. We know God never wastes time, so we continue to pray for wisdom and seek His will in all things.
The disciples were clueless at times, but God loved them and let them be part of His plans anyway. Their response of dread to going through hostile territory, and their naivety about Lazarus's death, were indications of spiritual immaturity and uncertainty. The miracles Christ performed, His identity as the Son of God, and His confidence in the Father should have been enough to give them peace of mind as they set out to bring Lazarus back to life.
Have you heard that saying, "I may not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow"? Our thoughts and feelings of uncertainty usually surface when we're no longer where we used to be but we still haven't arrived where we want to be. This is a season when worry, anxiety, excessive concern, and panic try to rob us of our peace. We can even become paralyzed with fear and fail to keep our commitments.
In times of doubt and uncertainty, don't forget what God has done for you in the past. Remember how He provided for you, vindicated you, and made ways where there was no way. Use your prayer times to partner with Him, to prophesy His goodness and faithfulness. Continue to invest faith and hope in the future He has promised. Nothing is too hard for the Lord!
When Mary heard that Jesus had finally come, she chose to stay in the house instead of going out to greet the Lord. This is the same Mary who, in Luke 10:38-42, couldn't be disturbed as she sat at His feet enjoying her portion in the presence of God. What changed from the moment they shared in her living room to His arrival? The Bible doesn't elaborate but we can assume after unanswered prayers, waiting for the Miracle Worker to show up, and living with uncertainty for days, she finally gave up hope.
Apathy is a lack of interest or suppression of passion. Lethargy is a state of laziness or indifference. These are the driest of all places. It's understandable how we end up here. Life is hard, messy, unpredictable, and unfair. Sometimes our efforts come to nothing, prayers bounce off the ceiling, and plans just don't come together. Disappointment gives way to emotional decay. If we're not careful, our heaviness can make us numb and rob us of the good moments that are coming our way in the future.
Mary nearly missed the most miraculous moment of her life. Don't let this happen to you! We know the Lord is always for us. Don't let the opportunity for a miracle pass you by. Find your desperation again and cry out to God. He will not long ignore the cries of His people!
Contrast the Martha and Mary we see in Luke 10:38-42 with this reading in John. Martha was buzzing around the house putting things in order for their guests while Mary sat at the Lord's feet. Jesus affirmed Mary's decision to abandon the cares of earthly life for the brief moments He was in their midst. In turn, it was Martha who stood with the Lord, professed faith in Him, and urged her sister to greet the Savior.
Understandably, Mary blamed her brother's death on the Lord's delay. Blame is the natural human response when expectations go unmet. The mourners who followed Mary caused quite a commotion with their professional bawling and manufactured grief. All the weeping and wailing were rooted in faithlessness and so it angered the Lord. In His goodness, He still blessed them in the end. He is a God who brings dead things back to life!
If you're going through lifeless motions, licking your wounds, rehashing emotional pains of the past, and serving God out of rote obligation, stop today! The Lord knows we will experience moments of genuine sadness - even Jesus wept when He knew He had the power to raise Lazarus! God cares for us and knows the depth of our sorrows. Yet, He is also the God of hope and He doesn't approve of us overindulging in gloominess and emotionalism. Encourage yourself and surround yourself with others who will encourage you! Nothing on this side of eternity lasts forever and let's be thankful each day is only twenty-four hours!
Martha believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but she had not yet witnessed a demonstration of His power to raise the dead. Rather than holding her nose and waiting for the miracle, she protested the Lord opening the tomb - and with good reason! Martha probably figured Lazarus had been dead too long, so what was the point of exposing everyone to the stench of death? In response to her warning, Jesus said, "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believed?"
There will be times when we've prayed every prayer we know to pray, when we've waited expectantly to no avail, when uncertainty and doubt come knocking, and it seems all hope is lost. In these times we must continue to stand firm on the promises of God. We cannot allow anything in this life to bankrupt our faith and trust in God. Since He has proven His faithfulness to us in the past, why not stay in agreement with His Word and believe all the way through this time?
Miracles require faith. When we've done all we know to do, we must keep contending for faith's sake. Remember, It's faith that pleases God. He's not concerned with our ability to think up new strategies to solve our problems. If we prayed in faith, and according to His will, then we can be sure He heard us. Now, is the time to cease worrying about all the details and invest all your faith in the expected outcome. He is good, therefore all His plans are good. Stand and see the glory of God today!
The unseen warfare surrounding our mind, will, and emotions is a reality that all Christians will either deny or face head-on in their walk with God. Until we pass into eternity, we will battle against the enemy of our soul (the devil, demons, evil spirits) and contend with our flesh (1 Pet. 5:8-9; Rom. 7:14-25). Generational curses, unhealthy patterns and cycles, demonic oppression, and carnality are real and present issues that can threaten our peace and affect everyday life.
Prayer, reading, and fasting, as well as praise and worship, are weapons that build resistance against the flesh and destroy the schemes of demonic forces. In Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in us and upon us, we wage war against anything contrary to the Word of God. We contend for what we know the Savior died for us to experience - abundant life now and for eternity!