Conversations with God
April 10, 2016
We’re in a series called Conversations with God. Today, we’re going to talk about times when God tells us to wait. Who likes to wait? Waiting in line, waiting for slow computers! Waiting for a stop light to turn green. Waiting for something to warm up in the microwave? Who hates waiting on your spouse? Don’t raise your hand.
The reality is – – – there are many of you who are waiting on God to do something.
Most of us have asked, “God, why didn’t You do something? I don’t understand.” And the reality is, at different seasons of our lives, we face waiting seasons where we know God could do something, but doesn’t. We’ve seen Him do it in other people’s lives, we have faith, and yet God doesn’t do what we think He should do and we end up waiting and waiting. And it’s not easy!
Maybe you’re waiting for God to provide the right job. You’re ready to work, and it’s just not there. Maybe you’re waiting for God to do a miracle in a relationship. Maybe you’re waiting for a house to sell. Maybe you’re waiting for a child or a spouse to come to faith in Christ. Maybe you’re waiting for a miracle in some kind of situation where the doctors have given you a really bad report – – – – and you’re waiting and waiting. You believe God could do something and you’re praying – – – yet God hasn’t done something.
One thought is this – – – a waiting season is never a wasted season. To illustrate this, we’re going to look at a story in the gospel of John 11. It’s a key story in the life of Jesus and some of His friends. It’s about 3 siblings – – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were really good friends of Jesus’. Like last week, I’m going to read scripture and talk about it, then keep the story moving ~
1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
3 So the sisters sent to Jesus, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
Notice the closeness of their relationship. They didn’t even say Lazarus’ name. They just said the one You love. That’s how close they are. They are certain how this will end. We’re worried about Lazarus, but Jesus is healing people and we know He’s going to come and heal Lazarus.
And so they wait and Jesus doesn’t show up. The next day, they know He’s going to be here. He’ll be here by lunchtime. Isn’t that Jesus? Oh, that’s the mailman.
The next evening comes and goes. No Jesus. Not a text, not a snapchat, nothing. They can’t believe Jesus hasn’t shown up. They believe. They have faith. While they were waiting, maybe they did something many of us do. . . they start reminding God about something He’s supposed to do for you.
I’m a good person, right? I go to church, I serve, I give money, I help others. I listen to Christian radio. I even tweeted a Bible verse last week. God, I did all these things, so You’re going to do this for me. You were in our home. You ate my food. We’re close, right, Jesus? – – – – Jesus doesn’t show up.
For those of you that are waiting right now, you’re praying for something, you’re believing something, you have faith God could do this and yet God is not doing something. I want to give you 2 things to remember that I hope will build your faith in the middle of the waiting season.
The first thing, is this. God’s delays are not necessarily denials. In other words, just because God hasn’t done it yet – – – doesn’t mean God’s not going to do it. Just because He hasn’t answered your prayer now, doesn’t mean He’s not going to answer your prayer.
In fact, in verse 4, we read ~ 4 But when Jesus heard it He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
In other words, “I know what’s going on and I’m in complete control and when you get to the end of the story, you’re not only going to see the purpose, you’re going to see Me, Jesus, glorified through this very thing you never wanted to happen.”
Remember from last week too. God’s silence, doesn’t mean God’s absence! In fact, sometimes we may experience kind of a “divine delay.” It’s a God – orchestrated delay. God MAY do what you want, but He’s not going to do it now because He has a different purpose. Maybe God wants to do something in you before He does something for you. So, there’s a divine delay. It’s what you may do with your kids. I could give you this now, but you need to learn something first – – before I give you this blessing.
Just because God hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He’s not going to do it. Mary and Martha cried out, ‘You’ve got to come. Jesus, You’ve got to get here. You need to heal him. Without Lazarus we’ll be lost. We trust you. We know You’re coming.’
Time goes by – – – still no Jesus. Lazarus is now really, really sick. Jesus has to get here. This is what a friend does. Lazarus fights for his last breath and dies. Where’s God in this? He’s out healing Roman soldiers – – and we don’t even like Roman soldiers – – and at the same time, He didn’t heal the one He loves!
Yet,SLIDE we read this about Jesus and His feelings ~ 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6 So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
Really?! That’s how you show love? They loved Jesus and Jesus loved them. But when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, He took longer to get there! Remember from last week, Proverbs 19:21 – 21 Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it’s the Lord’s purpose that will prevail.
You thought I forgot that one. Remember, that’s a key verse . . . maybe for the entire series. We have lots of plans, dreams, hopes and expectations . . . but, in the end, it’s the plans and purposes of the Lord which will prevail.
Then there’s a discussion between Jesus and the disciples, in the next verses of John 11 ~ 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus knows Lazarus died, and now He decides it’s time to go. If you don’t know the story, Jesus has something up His sleeve. If we keep reading ~
17 Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.
Jesus finally gets there. And by the time He gets there, Lazarus has been dead about 4 days. Jews tried to bury their loved ones by sundown of the same day. By the time Jesus gets there, they’ve brought Mary and Martha meals. They’ve had the funeral and his body is in the tomb.
Now the fact that Jesus showed up on day 4 is hugely significant. And it’s totally not biblical, but it has to do with Jewish mysticism. You see the Jewish people believed that once a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for 3 days. They believed the spirit was confused and tried to re-enter the body, it’s home, . . . but by day 4 . . . the spirit finally understood and all hope’s gone. So, Lazarus has been dead . . . but there’s a glimmer of hope because of the mysticism. When day 4 hits, he’s all the way dead. The spirit and hope are gone! Jesus, You let us down. You failed us. You didn’t even show up. I don’t get this.
What do you do at that moment? Jesus, you could’ve done it. You did it for others. We believe! But you didn’t show up. Where were You?
Now, let’s move to the next part of the story . . .
20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Ooh, it’s kind of like one of those I told you so’s . . . Martha expected Jesus to be there. Hand on her hip, finger pointing, she’s angry, hurt, grief-stricken. Martha’s going to give Jesus a piece of her mind.
“Didn’t you get my text messages? I sent them daily. Don’t tell me there was bad coverage. You got my text when I invited You to dinner. You were on time for dinner. I thought you loved us, Jesus. I can’t believe this. We’re close. You couldn’t even do this for us.
Then Martha adds ~ 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
I love the reality of that because that’s where so many of us are. God, why didn’t You do this when You could have! I don’t understand – – but God, I still trust You.
Jesus, if You had been here, this wouldn’t have happened, but I know that even now, You can do anything. God understands our heart! He understands our hurt and our pain. He knows how we grieve and struggle. It’s like when you tell your kids, “NO! You can’t do something. And even though they don’t like the answer, they don’t doubt the love you have for them.”
So, we expect God to meet our demands, to meet our expectations of the God we want Him to be. You’re praying for a miracle and you know God can and He doesn’t. So, you cry out, “God, You’re not meeting my expectations. I believe in You. I trust You. I worship You. I honor You. I serve You. Why aren’t You doing what I asked You to do? God, you’re not meeting my expectations!!”
So, here’s the second point — If God always met your expectations, He’d never have the opportunity to exceed them. Let that sink in. If God always met your expectations, He would never have the opportunity to exceed them.
If we stop reading right here. We never see the glory. We never have hope. All we see is 4 days have passed and Lazarus is dead. Jefferson Bible ends with these final 2 verses ~ There laid they Jesus,1 And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.2 — 1 John 19:42 2 Matthew 27:60
That’s it! Where’s the hope!?!? There ain’t none! All hope is gone! But we don’t live in that reality, even when things don’t go our way! We can’t! We are a people of hope!
Now, verse 23, gives us a glimpse of the hope of what was to come. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha’s confused. She doesn’t get what Jesus is telling her. So, 24 Martha said to Him, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
In other words, we believe that one day, the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will rise, I know that, Jesus.
Jesus was like ~ “No, no, you don’t understand. You see, I’m going to be glorified through this. You thought that what you wanted was best, but I have something even better for you.
So, 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live,
26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Martha, please understand – – I am the resurrection. With Me, death no longer has the final say. Death isn’t the end of the game. You see, when I die for your sins, and you put your faith in Me, even though your physical body dies, your spirit will never die. You can live with God forever because I am the resurrection and I am the life.
If God always met your expectations, He would never have the chance to exceed them. Mary and Martha expected a healing. Jesus planned a resurrection. What they wanted was good. What Jesus planned was far better . . . it was eternal.
There are so many of us who are praying and wanting something we believe is essential today. And if we received it today . . . we would not receive the amazing blessing God has in store for us somewhere down the road.
You may be devastated about a relationship that didn’t work out. You thought you were going to marry her, but God has someone else already planned for you. Someone who will bring far more joy and love than you ever imagined.
You want a certain job. You don’t get the job and 9 months later you’re in a job you love and the job you wanted they are downsizing and laying off. You’re grateful God didn’t give you what you wanted, even though it made no sense at the time.
We want God to heal someone we love. We want that person, we need that person. But they die and we don’t get it. And while it may never make sense, the call is for us to embrace that God’s plan is better than ours. We have the hope that they are with God and living life like never before.
We don’t always get it! But we trust God!
So, Jesus, Mary, Martha, their friends are at the tomb. People are crying and so is Jesus. He was not crying over Lazarus, He knew what was going to happen. I believe He is crying for 2 reasons . . . because the people didn’t get who He was — — and their grief at the finality of life – – touched His heart as well.
As they stand there, all eyes are on Jesus.
35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Yup, the jury is still out about Jesus. Couldn’t He have saved Lazarus? He could have, but He didn’t. Now, He weeps like all the rest of us.
You’ve got to love what comes next . . .
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
The wonder of doubt! Martha, ever the practical one, says “No way, Lord! There’s going to be a real stink coming out of that cave. I’m already sick with grief. I don’t want to be sick to my stomach. Remember, the Jews don’t practice embalming.
Jesus gives them a look then – – 40 Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.
42 I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent Me.”
43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
God did not give them what they expected. He exceeded their expectations. I want you to understand God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials. With God, a waiting season’s never a wasted season. Maybe God wants to do something in you, He wants you to change – – before He does something for you.
You may wake up and realize the scene of your greatest disappointment may become the setting for God’s greatest miracle. The pain and loss you’ve experienced has led you to become a person so many people look up to and admire because of your faith in the midst of adversity. The thing that you never, ever wanted is used by God to reveal His goodness and plans for you beyond your greatest expectations.
What do we do when God doesn’t make sense? What do we do when we’re waiting?
We hear so many stories of people, many of them friends – – – who are suffering. Right now, we’re not sure what will happen. It doesn’t look good. Yet we are prayerful, we are hopeful, but there are no guarantees we will receive what we want!
There is no guarantee the sick will go home! There’s no guarantee you’re going to get a better house with granite countertops. Or you’ll get a higher-paying perfect job or your spouse will always do the right thing or you’ll never get sick or injured. That’s the American version of Christianity. That’s just not accurate.
We’re praying for a miracle. All I can guarantee you is that whatever happens when we turn the page . . . Jesus will be glorified. He always has a plan. We don’t know the end of the story . . . But we believe in what we can’t see. That’s faith.
I’ll trust God. If I don’t understand, I will tell God about my lack of faith. I may cry out, I may weep, I may whisper . . . yet, Lord God, I believe You can.
Here’s the amazing thing is that if God always met your expectations, He would never have the opportunity to exceed them because our God is a God who works in everything, good and bad,
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
In the waiting season, we choose to trust God, believing He’s always a good God.