‘Thought I’d take some time off from poetry and arbitrary prose, today, to do some preaching, and at the same time introduce a book that I am currently writing. It’s called Waiting on God to Step in and is based on the story of Lazarus.
For those who know the story- recorded in John chapter 11- we know it is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. However, there are some underlying principles in this account which we need to consider when we try to summon God to intervene on our behalf.
Mary and Martha sent to call Jesus at a time when their brother, Lazarus, was sick. This was no ordinary scenario, though. This was a message stating, “He whom You love is sick” (vs 3) coming from Martha and “that same Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair” (vs 2).
Although that act of worship is recorded following that of Lazarus’ resurrection, it is evident that these siblings shared a special relationship with Christ at the time of their request. John clearly communicates this in saying, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (vs 5). What is perplexing about this account, though, is Jesus’ response to the message He received.
Immediately after expressing Christ’s love for this trio, John writes “SO when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (vs 6). This may rock your concept of Christianity. I, unconsciously, raced ahead in that verse, expecting an ending like …He dropped what He was doing and immediately returned to Bethany (where Lazarus lived).
I, in my belief in God, thought that He would swiftly answer when we call BECAUSE HE LOVES US. Yet, John makes it abundantly clear, that because of His love, Jesus ignored this urgent prayer, only to arrive in Bethany long after Lazarus was dead and buried. If we read the story to the end, though, we would realize that 1. Jesus had a greater miracle in store than the one requested and 2. His delayed response would served as a springboard to meet not only to Lazarus’ need but also that of the multitude gathered at his home.
It would really take an entire book to cover the depth of wisdom and spiritual instruction inherent in this account. But, suffice it, here, to say that sometimes when we do not immediately receive answers to prayer, it is not that God does not love us. But, It is precisely because He does, that He does not respond- at least not when or how we want Him to.
Again, when things seem to be go from bad to worse; when there is nothing left for us to do; when it seems like we have come to a place of total failure and it seems like God has rejected us, that is when God has a greater plan. The unanswered prayer is only an opportunity for God to do something we least expect. His delay is for our good, not defeat. More importantly, God’s entrance would only occur when the time and circumstances are perfect for the miracle He intends to perform.
Waiting on God in a time of crisis is not an easy thing to do. Praying through the tears and believing while the situation worsens is a test of faith we sometimes fail. But, even when we think that the time for God to step in is past, He still has the final say.
We will not get to know the power of God if every time we call He just comes running. We would not experience the fullness of His greatness if our faith is not stretched beyond what we know is possible. We will not see His glory if we do not dare to obey even when it seems like folly to do so.
It is only when Lazarus’ sisters rolled the stone away from their brother’s tomb- four days after their prayers should have been answered- that they received their miracle. When they called on Jesus, they were asking for a miracle. When Lazarus died, however, they thought that their miracle had been denied. So, for them to obey Christ’s command when “by this time he stinketh” (vs 39) required a different level of faith than what they initially used to call on Him.
God allows us to grow in Him because He loves us. He causes us to transcend beyond our “little faith” and small blessings because of His love. He takes us through extreme circumstances so that we can experience His extraordinary glory- all because He loves us!
So, despite the tears; despite the pain; despite the fears that we may endure while we wait on God, let us note that He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). We can rest assured of His love for us even when it seems like He does not care.