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Easter - Hope for the Hopeless
Chip asks the question: Where is God when you hurt? When you’ve lost heart? Lost courage? Lost hope? If you’re struggling, and it feels like God is a million miles away, you don’t want to miss this message. You’re not alone, God is VERY present, and you can have hope because He is good, and He never fails.More from this series
So often when we think of Easter we think of hope and resurrection and we have sung those great songs about Jesus rising from the dead and sort of a great moment, but what about, how does that work in everyday life?
And so what I am going to do is take you on a journey with me and I have a question to ask, I have a story that I want to ponder with you – not just read or tell. I really want to ponder it. And then there’s an answer for you and me and the struggles that we have.
So there are some notes, why don’t you open those up. And here’s the question. The question I have, it’s an honest question is: where is God when you hurt? Or maybe someone really close to you. When you have lost courage, you have lost hope, you have lost heart, maybe you have lost a mate, maybe you have lost your home as so many have, maybe you have lost your job, maybe you have even lost a child.
Where is God when your boyfriend betrays you or you find out your boss used you. Or you have been one of those people that you have really sought to break some kind of an addiction and you have prayed and cried and tried and then you keep falling back into the same hopeless situation or maybe that describes your son or your daughter or your mate or a roommate. And you’re saying, God, please help! But experientially He just feels silent and distant.
In fact, there’s some rare times, despite how God so often lovingly, lovingly intervenes and provides dramatic answers to prayer and helps us. There are some times, even among those that He loves and cherishes the most, and instead of when we come with our hard, difficult, hopeless situation, it doesn’t go from bad to worse. It goes from bad to impossible.
And we are going to ponder a story of two women who find themselves in a situation where their experience with Jesus is: “I know He loves us. At least I thought so.” And their situation goes not from bad to worse but from bad to impossible.
And in the midst of this story that we’ll ponder, they get an amazing, amazing answer. And you’ll notice in your notes, do you notice? You might want to pull out a pen. It says an amazing answer and then, “So that you,” and then there are two blanks. Are you ready? I’m not going to give you what to fill in. Here’s what I will tell you. When I get done, you will very easily be able to go back and fill those in, but better than filling in a blank, you’ll be able to fill those in in your life. You’ll know how to find hope when you feel hopeless.
So, let’s ponder the story together. And when I say, “ponder,” as much as your imagination, go there with me. Feel what they feel. Jump into the life of this story. These are real people in a real situation. It’s just a few days before Jesus is going to be nailed to a cross.
“Now, a man named Lazarus was sick. And he was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one You love is sick.’”
And, so, there’s a problem. And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up as a Christian but I did go to Sunday school some. And I was taught at Sunday school: if you have a a problem, you should take it to Jesus, right?
And so here are these two people and if you have a little background, they are personal friends. These aren’t just people out there. These are, this is where Jesus went for R&R. It was a little suburb outside or Jerusalem and you watch Jesus’ ministry and He does all this teaching and then there’s some people, He just needs to let His hair down and hang out with.
And Lazarus was a personal friend. Martha, often, would fix meals for Him and Mary just had that really close relationship with Him that she wanted to listen and to learn and to grow and so He’s off doing ministry and we will learn a little bit later that He’s doing it in a way where He is getting near the end of His life and the religious leaders have decided, “This guy has got to go,” so there’s a contract out on Him. They want to kill Him.
And their brother is critically ill. This is a very serious illness. And, so, they send a messenger to Jesus to say, “Hey, the one that You love is sick. Obviously, You care, You love, You’re going to take care of this.”
Well, let’s find out what happens, not to people who are bad, not to people that in any way could be punished or that God doesn’t care about. How does Jesus respond, on occasion, to some people that He loves the most?
Jesus responds, “When He heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’” And then a little piece of commentary. “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So,” would you circle the word so? So He loves them. He gets word from a messenger and He says the purpose of this will not end in death, but this is so the Son will be glorified. Put a little box around the word glorified, because the Hebrew word, it’s origin has to do with weight. It means to enhance their reputation. It will give weight to who Jesus is. It will give weight to His identity. It’s going to reveal with power and clarity exactly why He came and what He is going to do. So this isn’t going to end in death but it’s going to help people see something about who Jesus is like never before.
And, so, then the author says, “I want you to know that everything that’s going to happen is motivated out of a deep concern and love.”
So, here’s how He expresses this deep concern and love. “When He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” I don’t know about you, but if I called 9-1-1 and a friend had come to my house and had a heart attack and I called 9-1-1,
If the person on the other end of the line said, “You know, I just really want you to know, we here at 9-1-1 really love you, and we’ll be there in a couple days.” That would not exactly warm my heart.
Have you ever had a situation like that where you, maybe it’s right now, and you feel like you cry out to God and as far as you know, there’s no big issue, no big problem, and you love Him and you have asked for help but it feels like He must be doing other things. Jesus, out of His love, is going to stay a couple more days.
I remember the first time this passage, I have obviously read it a few times in the last many years as a Christian. But in terms of real personal, when this spoke to me, I was asked to lead this organization on the other side of America. And so it meant leaving a church I loved and being uprooted and my wife wasn’t really happy about it. And as soon as I said yes, a month later, her mother died. And my youngest son was ready to get married and he wanted to do it where we used to live.
And if you’re a mom and that changes, and then as soon as we landed there she needed oral surgery and she was in pain all the time, but the oral surgery didn’t work. And so we put everything that we owned in a truck and the truck slid on ice and so the car on the truck, it was damaged. And then the organization that I joined, remember 2001, beginning of 2002? The bottom drops out.
So people had made millions and millions of dollars of commitments to help these people all around the world and I start getting calls and letters going, “I would love to help you, but all the money I had now is gone.”
And I remember sitting in my basement and you how the phrases in the psalms, “Cry out to God”? I wasn’t crying out to God. I was just crying. Have you ever been there?
And I, literally, I was reading this and I thought, literally, because here’s the issue. The little messenger that comes back, Mary and Martha are thinking, Jesus, we have watched Him feed four thousand, feed five thousand. We have seen Him raise someone from the dead. He’ll either come back and heal our brother or He’ll do one of those long-distance miracles. Remember the one with the centurion?
He says, “I’m not worthy for You even to come into my house.” And He says, “Great, he’ll be healed.” But what you’re going to find is Jesus doesn’t respond. See, this message isn’t for people that are wondering where they’re at with God. This message is for people that, on occasion, how Jesus responds to people that He loves the most, that haven’t done anything wrong, that find themselves in a situation they don’t understand.
Now, it applies to all of us. But I remember saying, God, if You really love me, I obeyed You, I did what You wanted me to do, and I sort of had that unconscious formula that if you do what God wants you to do, everything will turn out right and easy. And I know that’s not true, but it’s so deeply in me. And the first two or three years there, it was horrendous.
God doesn’t always show up on your timing, with your expectations, to fulfill your agenda or mine the way we think. So let’s find out what He does and why He does it. How does He give hope to the hopeless? Because these two ladies feel pretty hopeless right now.
The messenger came back and I just have to believe Mary and Martha said, “What did the Lord say? What did He say? What did He say?” And I think the guy said, “Not coming.” “What?!” “He’s not coming.” “Well, is He going to do something? We don’t know. He’s just not coming.”
And Mary and Martha, we’ll learn in just a minute, will bury their brother. And not only will they have the sorrow of losing their brother, but they are going to scratch their head and say, “Was I wrong about Jesus? Does He even care? Does God care?”
Have you ever thought that? Have you ever had something happen in your life that is so devastating or hard or maybe you have lost your home or you don’t have a job or you’ve got cancer and you say, Hey, God, what’s…? Let’s find out how Jesus operates.
Verse 7, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they said, ‘a short while ago the Jews tried to stone You, and yet You’re going to go back there?’ And Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. If he walks when it’s night, he stumbles, for he has no light.’ And after He said this, He went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.’
“His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’” Translation: We don’t have to go. He’ll wake up on his own. “Jesus had been speaking of his death, but the disciples thought He meant natural sleep. So He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas called Didymus said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us all go, that we may die with Him.’”
So, now, all of a sudden, this is where there is a mystery and it doesn’t seem to make sense. And these two people that He really loves, He doesn’t respond to them initially, He waits a couple more days. We are going learn in just a minute that He was far enough away that Lazarus has died, He has now been dead four days.
And He says to the disciples, Okay, guys, we are heading back to Judea. And they raise their hand and I like what they called Him: Rabbi. Term of endearment, it’s: You’re the teacher; You’re the wise one.
By this time, they have confessed that He is the Christ. They believe He is really the Son of God. And so, You’re wise, You’re all knowing, You’re smart. This is not a smart move. You’re going to go back there, there’s a contract out on You. They want to kill You; You go there, we go there, You die, we die. Not a good plan!
See, sometimes when you feel hopeless, God will very clearly say, This is what I want you to do and I want you to go to a place with Me, and we are afraid. Because it doesn’t seem to make logical sense.
And then we get what I call a “Jesus-ism.” These times in Scripture where you say, Lord, that doesn’t make sense. What are we going to do? And then can you imagine being those guys and thinking, your heart is beating fast, If we go there, we are going to get killed. We are going to get stoned. And here’s the answer: “Are there not yet twelve hours of light in the day? If you walk during the day, you will not stumble, but if you walk at night you will stumble. So let us walk while it’s light.”
I’m thinking Pete is going to John, “Do you have any idea what He’s talking about? I don’t have a clue!” Jesus speaks in these sort of: here’s a literal truth, but there’s a spiritual truth behind it. And, basically, He’ll say to them, Guys, when you go anywhere in life, and the sun is out and you can see, you don’t stumble or fall into a ditch or trip over a rock. But at night that happens. Have you guys forgotten? Chapter 8 I told you I’m the light of the world. When you feel hopeless and when you feel I haven’t come through at the right time in the right way to fulfill your agenda, here’s what you know: Draw close to Me; I’ve got a plan. If you will do what I ask you to do, whenever you’re with Me, I am the light and you’ll never get in trouble as you’re close to Me. So, guys, I am the light of the world. You stay with Me, you don’t have to be afraid.
Our response, when we don’t understand and feel hopeless is fear and we get paralyzed and we often don’t want to go or do exactly what God has told us to do. And the other is not fear, it’s fatalism.
This is Thomas. Some of you are a little more familiar with the New Testament and this is not the hero in terms of who has a lot of faith, this Thomas guy. This is the guy that, even after the resurrection, won’t believe unless he personally can stick his fingers into the holes in His hands and into where His side was pierced.
And I call this fatalism. It’s like, “Well, it’s really hard, it’s really difficult and this marriage is really a challenge but I know I’m a Christian and my son or daughter is having a big problem. And our house is upside down and I need a job but, you know, God is out there somewhere. Whatever will be, will be. What the heck.” There’s no faith there. It’s just, “Let it roll out. I just go through the motions. I’ll just intellectually say I believe in God, I trust Him,” but in your heart of hearts, bam, you’re capped out.
I want to tell you that when you are hopeless, God says, I want you to trust Me. I don’t want you to be afraid, I don’t want you to go on autopilot and just whatever will be will be. That’s just not true.
And now what He’s going to do is something very powerful for these two ladies, but maybe more powerful for us today. Because, see, what I wanted God to do in my situation: Fix my life. Would You cause my wife’s health to get better? Would You get me a car that works? Because the one that go wrecked in the storm doesn’t work now. And gasoline poured all over it so it’s in the middle of winter in Atlanta and I have to drive with the windows down. It was crazy! But I couldn’t afford another car but this one is kind of ruined but I signed off on the papers.
And, by the way, you know all those people who committed all these millions of dollars before I got here? Could you bless them so I’ve got all these guys around the world and I’m supposed to pay their salary and, God! God! Where are You?
Answer: “I’m the light. Trust Me. There’s enough grace for today. Just take the next step. I will deliver you, not always out of it, but through it.” Sometimes God has a bigger gift than fixing your problem.
Sometimes He has a bigger gift than just snapping His fingers and causing your marriage to be more fulfilling or one of your kids to come around or getting a better report on your scan. And that’s what Jesus does with these two ladies.
Jesus’ gift to Martha and Mary is better. Verse 17, “On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home.”
And you need to just get a little picture. The Jewish form of mourning was very, very serious. For seven days, no food could be prepared, no one could do any business in the home of the person who died, people would come from all over. You talk about a moral obligation. If you knew these people, out of respect, you would come.
And the women would go first and they would walk to the tomb and then they would walk to the house and people would line on both sides. And unlike us where we talk, “He has passed,” and people are very quiet and we don’t really want to look death in the face, they would mourn and they would wail. Sometimes they would hire professional mourners. The more mourning, it was thought, more honoring of the dead.
And, so, they are crying and they are weeping and there’s a sense of chaos and you’re hearing these people moan and, “Oh, God!” And the loss. And into that, Mary is there and Martha is there and as they are there, she gets word that Jesus is here. So she pops up and she goes over to Jesus. Now, what do you think she’s thinking? What do you think she is feeling? Where have her emotions been the last four days?
Number one, where would you be if you lost someone very close to you? Your mate, your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister. So, she is dealing with sorrow over here, but nagging in the back of her mind, Where is Jesus? I thought He loved me. I thought He cared and He didn’t show up.
And, so, Martha comes. She meets Jesus and the first words out of her mouth, “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’” Translation: I don’t get it. Where are You when I really needed you? I am the one that fixed those meals and I heard all Your messages and my sister, she sat on the floor and she listened to You. And Lazarus, I overheard all Your conversations. We were Your friends! If You would have showed up – why don’t You fix my problem? I love You. I believe in You. Why don’t You fix it?
And I think it was unvarnished what was really in her heart, and I think immediately after it came out of her mouth, she kind of remembered who she was talking to and she backpedals a little. And then she says, “‘But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ And Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’”
I have been to Your seminar, Jesus. I get it, okay? I have heard the sermon on the mount, You’ve been in our house, I heard the Q&A with the disciples. I really get it that everyone is born and everyone has an opportunity and those people that trust in God and trust Yahweh and believe in the Messiah and those will go forever and ever to heaven and resurrection with You and those who stiff-arm You and reject You will be separated because they don’t want to be with You. And You have created a place for them. I get it. I understand the facts of the theological teaching. There is a resurrection. And my brother, someday, someway, will get resurrected.
See, that’s where an awful lot of us grew up. I don’t know about you, but if you would have asked me when I was ten years old, twelve years old, fourteen, fifteen, maybe close to sixteen even, “Do you believe in the resurrection?” “Yes.” “Do you believe in Jesus?” “Yes. I’m an American, are you kidding?”
But it was a fact. It was a concept. It was what I heard, it’s what my parents said. It’s I probably would have believed in something else. But it was a fact that I intellectually marked off as that must be true, not because I reasoned it, not because I have experienced anything, just because that’s what I was told.
And I think Martha was farther along than that, but Jesus is going to do something for her that He wants to do in you and He wants to do in me.
And He wants to do it whether you have walked with Him for thirty years so that you grasp it with power and reality like never before. And He wants to do it if you happen to be here because your mom or your grandmother or a friend or a co-worker said, “Why don’t you come to church for Easter?” And you’re thinking, They’re nice people. It’ll probably be an hour, an hour and fifteen minutes. How bad can it be? Right?
But I want you to ponder the story. She is hurt and she wonders, her cheeks are swollen from crying. She really wonders: Will Jesus come through? She has all the right information in her head and what Jesus is about to say is going to change a fact to a face.
He is going to talk about just, instead of your personal belief system, it’s going to move to a life changing reality in a person.
Follow along as I read. “Jesus said to her,” and I believe piercing into her eyes, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” And I think coming out of His lips right now, it went into her eyes and into her brain and down into her heart and there was emotional connection that took concepts and all of a sudden she realized: This isn’t about believing a set of truths. This is about a personal, living relationship.
The Jewish leaders had tried to pin Him down, “Are You the Messiah?” People questioned over and over. And now just very few days before He’d go to the cross, He says to this woman directly, “I am,” not just the resurrection, “I am the life.” I want to give you more than fix your problems. I want to do more than just make your life and your agenda and your expectations and what has gone on with you a little bit better. I want to get behind and under all that. And I want to give you a brand-new life. I want to forgive all your sins. I want to live inside of you. I want intimate relationship with you. And I don’t always promise to take you out of it
But I will be with you and I will take you through and I will give you hope in the midst of the darkest, darkest things you ever go through.
And then He looks at her and He says, “Do you believe that, Martha?” And in a moment of faith she says, “‘Lord, I do. I believe that You are the Christos, the Son of God, the One who is to come into the world.’ And after she said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here, and He is asking for you.’ And when Mary heard this, she got up quickly and she went to Him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met Him. And when the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn. And when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him,” picture this, “she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if You had been here, would not my brother have died?’”
Same question. “Where were You when I needed You? If You had been here, he would have lived.” Martha is the pragmatist and she intellectually deals with the issues. Mary is the emotive one and she just is weeping and the word weeping here, it’s wailing. This isn’t an [softly cries]. This is a wailing. And she is at His feet. The same place she was at one time when she poured perfume and wiped it with her hair.
And her heart is bleeding and she is crying. And look at the next line. The Jews that are with her, they are crying. It’s an emotional moment and Jesus sees her crying and He sees the Jews crying and it says He is deeply troubled in His spirit and disturbed. Two very interesting words.
There was an emotion that was visceral. This word in the ancient language, it’s literally used of a horse when it snorts, when something is happening. It’s a picture of emotion welling up in Jesus and there is this compassion and His heart goes out to her.
And look at the next line. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” And then Jesus begins to weep. This isn’t some God who is far away that doesn’t care. This isn’t some God who is angry that you’ve got to pray to so many times a day. This isn’t some invisible force that you can somehow get to higher levels of consciousness and hope that your next time around you come up and come back a little bit better than you were.
This is the personal God who said, “I created all that there is and I am going to prove it in just a minute, and I care about you.” And He is angry at death and He is angry at what sin does. And His heart goes out to this woman that He loves.
And then He begins to get on the solution side. But there’s always a couple responses to what Jesus does. “Some of the Jews who watched this said, ‘Oh, how He loved them.” He loved Lazarus. “But there were some who said, ‘Well, could He who opened the eyes of the blind, couldn’t He have kept this man from dying?’”
See, no matter what God does, we can come up with solutions to reframe it and say, “He should have cared more.” This is the third time in one passage where: does God really care? Does Jesus really love me? – come up.
Have you ever felt that way? Anybody feel that right now? Does God really care? This is that catalytic moment of a category of religion; I believe in God, intellectually; I believe there’s a resurrection. Some people need this and some people…to: what about you when He looks into your eyes and says, on this day, I brought you in this room because I want you to know something. I know you’ve got problems in your finances and I know you’ve got problems in relationships and it’s a fallen world. And I know some of you have health problems and some of you have job problems and some have pressure with your kids and some may have struggles in your marriage. And I know that, really, a lot prayers or a lot of people say, Oh, God, help me. Oh, God, help me. Oh, God, oh please fix this, please fix that, please fix that.
When He does and if He does, in the way that you want, often the way it happens is, Thank You, thank You, thank You, and three months later we kind of forget it, right? Do you remember what He said? He said to the disciples, “I am glad that I wasn’t there.” You ought to scratch your head and say, “What do you mean You’re glad You weren’t there? You chose not to be there.” It’s purposeful.
He let it get to a point, not where it was hard, not where it’s difficult. He let it get to a point where it was impossible, so that what He would do would be bigger and more beyond anything. He wasn’t going to fix Mary and Martha’s problem. He was going to demonstrate who He really was – the Messiah, the Savior of the world – and He was going to do it in a way that would be unmistakable, that He is not one option on the salad bar of religions. He speaks by His word and a man is going to come back to life.
Jesus solves the problem in verse 38 on the back of your notes. “He once more, again, deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. ‘Take away the stone,’ He said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, ‘the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been in there for four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
Could you circle the words if you believe? There’s a theme developing. It has been developing, but now it’s coming to a climax. “So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked up,” and now He’s going to pray a prayer, not for His sake but so people can get a real snapshot of who He really is and what He is really about. “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I know that You have always heard Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Could you circle may believe?
“When He said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, His hands and feet wrapped with strips of linin, and a cloth around his face. And Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”
Now, don’t you think if when they sent the messenger, if Jesus would have gone back and healed Lazarus, that would have been at least a B, maybe even a B plus, right? Wow, that’s great! Thank You! Or He could have done a long-distance miracle. He could have said, “Tell Mary and Martha that at this very hour, Lazarus will be well.” And He goes back, yeah, it was noon, it was noon. Yep! That would be a good B. Someone is critically ill, they are totally restored.
Jesus didn’t want to give them a B. He wanted to give them an A-triple-plus. See, He didn’t want to help them. He didn’t want to solve a problem. He didn’t want to fix what was going on where they felt pressure. He wanted them to have a gift of Himself and life that, no matter what they faced for the rest of their life, they would know He comes through. And He is going to come through not only in this life, but forever and ever and ever.
And when He walked up and said, “Lazarus,” and I like what some commentators say. He had to use his name lest everybody come back to life. Think of that.
Jesus was a very narrow person. “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.” This is the Second Person of the Trinity, the Godhead, who takes on flesh in the womb of a teenage girl. Fully man; fully God. Lives an absolutely perfect life for thirty years, does a three-year ministry, and then is rejected by His own people. And He will hang upon a cross in about a day or two from this event.
And He will take on Your sin and my sin and the sins of all people. And the just wrath of God, because God hates sin, it makes Him angry just like it makes you angry. When someone gets betrayed, you get angry. When kids get abused, you get angry. When over in places in Africa right now, where little nine and ten-year-old boys are given guns and they are put in their hands and they said, “You join this army and kill these people or we kill your parents.” And they say, “Oh, we can’t,” and they kill their parents in front of them, often in grotesque manners.
If that doesn’t enrage you, if the sex trade doesn’t enrage you, something is wrong with you. Sin is evil. And it’s a fallen world. And there’s a byproduct of evil that hits all of us.
Jesus declares, “I am going to address the core – sin. And the result of sin is death. Lazarus, come forth.” But all that was was the prequel. All that was was to tell the people He loved the most, I am going to come through for you here, but I am going to come through for everybody in about a day or two. And then He paid the price for your sin and mine for all time.
The word is atoned, or He covered for it. It’s like if there was a huge bank account of sin that had to be paid for, His blood covered it all and it’s called “paid in full.” And then He says, Whosoever would accept this gift of “paid in full,” you need to write a check. You need to appropriate and say, “I want this grace for my life,” and you fill in your name. “By faith, I receive that personally, not as an intellectual construct, but I want relationship with the living God through the work of His Son. And then He rose from the dead to prove that it’s true.”
And then, how did He heal Lazarus? Exactly the same way that He created the earth and the universe. Hebrews 11 says, “He spoke the universe into existence. He didn’t touch him, there wasn’t a formula, He didn’t get a dream, there’s not some little thing that you do to earn your favor or appease some angry God. This is God coming to His people, “I am the resurrection. Me! The Person. I am Your life. I want to give you a bigger gift than fix your problems.”
And there are always two response, again, when God enters in and provides truth powerfully and demonstrates it.
“Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.” Here’s the opposite response, “But some of them went to the Pharisees and they told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin, ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they said. ‘Here is this Man performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and they will take away our temple,’” literally, the word is our place, “and our nation.”
Now, do the math on this. This isn’t out there. This is our story. We are there. We are with Mary and Martha. We are close friends. There’s this itinerant preacher who makes these outrageous claims. He feeds these people, He has raised a couple people from the dead, He says strange things, He is messing with our spiritual leaders that, as little children we grew up and we revered the Sadducees and the Pharisees and He basically says, “The most religious people in the world are the farthest from God. They have missed God’s heart. They are religious; they have no relationship. They are hypocrites.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a church just like that. I had no idea you could have a relationship with God through Christ. And, now, He raises this man from the death to demonstrate it’s true. And, literally, a portion say, “We believe.” And biblical believing isn’t like, “I now intellectually agree with that.” Biblical believing, faith is in trusting and saying, “I now receive the gift of salvation and I believe to the point that I am going to obey what He says
because when He speaks the universe comes into existence.”
When He speaks, Lazarus comes from the grave. When He speaks to me, He says, I want you to follow Me. I want you to walk in the light as I am in the light. And when you do, I will do things in you that you couldn’t imagine that solve some of those issues in your marriage and with your kids and with your future. I want you to do finances My way, I want you to have your dreams My way, I want to give you exceedingly, abundantly beyond what you could ever ask or think. But it starts with relationship. And it doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges and hurts and pains and difficulties in a fallen world, but I’ll be with you and I will never leave you and I will never forsake you. I didn’t come just to fix your problem. I came to give you a new life.
And, basically, one group said, “We want it,” and the other group said, “Now, wait a second. If everyone believes in Him,” remember what He said to Martha? “Martha, do you believe this?” You might circle that. “Anyone who believes in Me will not die.” He said to the disciples, “It’s good that I wasn’t there in order that you may believe.”
It’s not real hard. There’s an honest question, a powerful story, and the amazing answer is so that you may believe. Sometimes God lets your problems go from bad to impossible so that you may believe. Not intellectually agree with – actually believe.
Like when you believe in a surgeon, you don’t say, “I believe you can do those operations on other people and have been very successful. That’s intellectually agreeing. You believe when you say, “I believe that you are the best surgeon for this very delicate operation and next Monday morning at six o’clock I’ll be there at pre-op and I believe to the point that I’m going to let you cut me right through here – that’s belief. And that’s really what He wants to do for you and me.
And there are really two things He wants you to believe. He wants you to believe the extent of His love. In my journey through all that time and that new job, God took me through something and I think down deep in my heart there was something like, I love Jesus, and I had been a pastor about twenty-five years at the time, and I really want to follow You and have my wife happy. And I want to follow You and be involved in a great ministry. I want to follow You and all my kids doing well. And intellectually I knew that wasn’t really biblical but then God said, Okay, you know this stuff you have been preaching to everybody else? Why don’t you try it on for four or five years? How about just Me is enough?
And I have to tell you that at a new level, I experienced Jesus as my life and my resurrection. And I got to where, You know what? Lord, it’s a fallen world. I can’t control things. By faith, I believe that You love me. And here’s what I want You to know: I think I made the right decision. But here’s, Father, I still remember one early morning saying, Lord, even if all these circumstances reveal that maybe I didn’t make a very wise decision or I didn’t make it in the right way, I will just do whatever You show me.
And an amazing thing happened where He did something in me and then after that, I watched Him turn those things around. And sometimes the way God shows His love to those of you that He loves the most and you have walked with Him for years and years, is He lets things go from bad to impossible that you could have a level of understanding of His love for you. And, secondly, that you could grasp how available His power is.
Because it often takes more power to endure difficulty and pain and struggle and persevere than it does to just see Him deliver in some miraculous way. And, so, I would say to you, whether you have been walking with God for thirty years or you just visited and in your mind you’re thinking, I think I get what it means to believe and I think it’s God’s will for me to find hope today by placing my faith in Christ with all the implications.
Because they didn’t believe because of the place, their position and their nation, their control. And people don’t believe today because we don’t want to lose our position and we don’t want to lose our control. And position and control have to do with pride. I’ll run my life my way, thank you. And to people who choose to do that, God says, “Thy will be done.” And to those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” He says, “Enter in to a new relationship with Me.”