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God does not always give us what we desire

By Timothy Johnson

Preacher’s Point

When rotten things happen in life; God does have a plan.

In John chapter 11, there is the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

For some background, this is how the story goes.

Lazarus, a man from the town of Bethany, is sick. Lazarus lives with his two sisters Mary and Martha.

The three of them are good friends with Jesus and His Apostles. Often when Jesus and His entourage are in the Jerusalem area (Bethany is about a mile and a half from Jerusalem), they spend time at the siblings’ home. The three of them open their doors to more than the 13 visitors. Often others are traveling with the Messiah, others are there to hear Him speak, but Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ door is open to all who will come with the Lord. Not only do they offer a place for the weary to lay their heads for the night; they also take on the added time, effort and expense to feed the hungry travelers (Luke 10:38-42). It would be safe to say, that Mary, Martha and Lazarus would be the closest earthly friends Jesus had apart from the 12 apostles.

The timeframe of the story is essential, as well. The events of this story take place about two weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus had healed thousands of people in the previous three years. There is no doubt that the siblings had been eyewitnesses to the miracles of Christ.

When Lazarus becomes ill, the sisters send word to Jesus.

Judging from both sisters first words when Jesus arrived, they fully expected Jesus to come and heal their brother.

John 11:21, Martha, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

John 11:32, Mary, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

The 13 are about a day, and a half walk away, on the other side of the Jordan river when the messengers arrive, with word of Lazarus’ illness (John 10:40). Jesus does something unexpected — He waits two days before leaving (John 11:6).

Jesus’ response when He receives the message of Lazarus’ illness shows that He has something greater planned. What He has planned has nothing to do with anyone’s immediate desires (healing Lazarus), but has everything to do with bringing glory to God. John 11:4, “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”

Jesus waits.

Lazarus dies.

Right before Jesus and the Apostles leave for Bethany, Jesus explains what is going on, but the 12 do not understand. John 11:14-15, “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; nevertheless let us go unto him.”

Let us take a step back and look at what is going on thus far. A good friend of Jesus is sick. Word of the situation comes to Jesus, with every expectation of Jesus’ arrival and healing of the disease. Jesus does nothing, and Lazarus dies. However, Jesus claims what is going on will bring glory to God by bringing people to faith.

When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead for four days.

No one is expecting Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead. How the people respond to what Jesus says is an indication of this. When Jesus tells Martha that her “brother shall rise again.” She talks about the resurrection in the future at the last day (John 11:23-24). When Jesus tells them to roll the stone away from the grave, they warn Him the body is already in decay (John 11:39).

Upon removal of the stone, Jesus yells, “Lazarus, come forth.” Lazarus rises from the dead and walks out of the tomb (John 11:43). A side note here — if Jesus had yelled, “Come forth!” without inserting Lazarus’ name, every grave in the cemetery would have been empty as all the dead would have walked from their graves.

Upon Lazarus’ resurrection, God accomplished His desired result — more people believed on the Son of God.

God does not always give us what we desire. In the case of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, God had something greater in mind than what anyone else could imagine.

God is working in your life, and the odds are good His desired end is an increase in faith, but do we get bogged down with self-sightedness because He does not do what we expect or want Him to do at the time?

God will work to boost your faith, God will work to increase someone else’s faith through you, or He is working to do both.

Timothy Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Kingman, Indiana. Email: preacherspoint@gmail.com. Sermons and archived Preacher’s Points can be found at www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com.