Sometimes God is provocative in how He responds to us. The degree of provocation or outrage from us is proportional to our understanding of Him and His good desires for us.
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I was chugging along in John’s Gospel a few years ago and came to John 11 where Mary and Martha were struggling with the sickness of their brother, Lazarus. They brought their concern to Jesus, and He said that He was glad for their brother’s illness.
This portion of Scripture is fascinating. It is one of my all-time favorite quotes from the Savior. “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad.”
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe. – John 11:14-15 (KJV)
For years, I have thought about making that quote a bumper sticker. In 40+ years of driving a vehicle, I have never put a bumper sticker on my car, but I think I could make an exception for this one.
His statement is intriguing to me and radically God-centered. Only Jesus could live in such untethered freedom from the fear of others to make such a bold statement. It was like He was saying,
Because what you think of me does not control me, I’m dialed-in to my Father, which enables me to know what to say at every moment. I know what you need, and I know you’re going to struggle with what must happen, but I love you so much that I’m going to give you the perfect words at the right moment. – Jesus
The context of the story was the death of Lazarus. Mary and Martha came to Jesus requesting that He go to another town to take a look at their brother and possibly help him. Lazarus was sick.
Jesus lingered a bit too long where He was–according to Mary and Martha. And because of His slowness, their brother died. If God had been more proactive, they surmised, this horrible death would not have occurred. And Martha shared that fact with her Lord.
Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. –John 11:21
Where Is God?
- As you assess the needs of your marriage, family, friends, or church, have you wondered about the lateness or slowness of God?
- Even worse, have you decided to take matters into your hands rather than patiently hanging out with Jesus?
- Have your desires, hopes, and dreams obscured your understanding of the more significant need?
- Can you see the bigger picture and the essential need or are your plans what matter the most?
Those of us who are proactive doers would be prone to jump in and get it done, even though wisdom and discretion may be wiser.
- Are you tempted to press the things you have learned onto others who don’t know what you know?
- Do you expect others to be where you are now while experiencing God the way you experience Him?
I have to remind myself often that God regenerated me when I was 25. For the first twenty-five years of my life, He was remarkably patient with me; loving me, caring for me, guiding me to a place of repentance.
Sometimes I can forget the patience of God in my life, which tempts me to place unrealistic or undoable expectations on others. It is self-righteousness that motivates a person to look down on others while expecting them to be like you.
Perfecting God’s Power
Sometimes God allows things to get to their seemingly absolute worst before He breaks through to bring about the best. And at times, God has to bring us to an end of our resources, ideas, plans, hopes, dreams, and schemes before He acts on our behalf.
I am not saying this is how He always operates, but I’ve seen it enough to know that He does, at times, patiently allows me to come to an end of myself before He responds.
God is careful and methodical in how He works with His children. He does not want us to work within our strengths and our plans. When we work from our strengths and our plans, the temptation is stronger for us to heap the glory of the favorable outcome onto ourselves.
But when we are at our wit’s end, and we have evaluated every option to exhaustion, and the desired result still has not come, it is in these moments that God is “glad” as the text suggests.
This response is not because God is cruel or unkind. God wants us to have faith in Him and what He can do, rather than trusting in ourselves.
The independent, proactive, get it done kind of guy needs to be brought to a place of weakness so he can experience God’s strength through his inability (2 Corinthians 12:10).
In such a case, God receives all the glory, which He will not give to others. God does not want anyone competing against Him when it comes to securing glory. And, as you know, we can be subtle (sneaky) when it comes to “glory robbing.”
Signs of the Times
Do you perceive the signs that manifest in your life when you’re not trusting God? Here are a few that tell me when I do not believe the Lord: anger, frustration, criticism, hopelessness, gossip, and impatience.
There are more, but you get the idea with this small sampling of the things that happen in my heart when I believe God is not working fast enough on my behalf.
If God was able to plan your salvation, which you see as early as Genesis 3:15, and bring it to pass at the perfect time, as you see in Galatians 4:4, don’t you think He can take care of any other problem you have? Let me ask it another way:
If God can resolve the most significant challenge that you will ever have–your alienation from Him, don’t you think He can solve your minor problems?
The problem with Lazarus comes down to a “good” question. What is good and who will I trust to bring about this good? Mary and Martha saw good as Jesus coming to the rescue on their timetable. Jesus saw good according to His schedule. Good, according to Mary and Martha, was life. Good, according to the Savior, was death.
Lazarus is dead, and I am glad. – Jesus
Call to Action
- What “good” outcome are you working on today?
- Should the good you desire not come to pass, can you rest in God?
- Rest does not mean killing your desires and dreams necessarily. Mary and Martha got what they wanted; it did not come according to the way they envisioned. The disciples had a similar problem with Jesus: they wanted a King. They got a King (future), but not the way they expected.
- How comfortable are you trusting God even when He does not answer your questions immediately?
Also published on Medium.