Rising From Life’s Difficulties
Text: John 11:1-46
Illustration: Walking Dead – Hershel Greene -I can't profess to understand God's plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.
Are things not quite what you had in mind?
Let me ask you the question, how many of your lives are going exactly as planned or as you envisioned 5 or 10 or even 20 years ago. With more than 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, with more than 53 million abortions since 1973, There are 643,067 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States, and 12.8 million people unemployed, many people have had to abandon their goals and dreams for the future to work to just to get by for today.
Illustration: In September 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “young baby boomers” (those born between 1957-1964) changed jobs, on average, 11 times between the ages of 18-44 and were expecting to make major career changes after age 50.
For many, if not all, of us, life hasn’t gone exactly as we planned. We are note where we thought we would be. Whether good or bad or indifferent, life threw a curve ball. Most often the change was difficult and costly. When you are in those difficult times of change, uncertainty, loss, and even despair, it is natural for us to ask, “Where is God?” or “What on earth is God doing?” or “Why isn’t God doing?” You may be in a relationship, a marriage that hasn’t turned out the way that you thought it would, and you are wondering if you can even make it. Your thinking “I vowed not to divorce, but murder…” Maybe your family situation has deteriorated and the well-rounded family you dreamt of becoming has been nothing but your worst nightmare. Or a few years ago, you were comfortable in your career and now it has been months since you even had an interview for a job, and none of them near the income you once earned. You feel like throwing in the towel and selling the house and moving on, but you can’t sell because the your now upside down. You believed in God much more when things were good (though probably ignored Him a bit) and now when it seems you need Him the most He seems silent. Distant. Why is God not rushing to help us? And when He does it seems to be too late? Why is God not delivering us from these difficult days as so many teeter on the edge of financial, emotional, and spiritual bankruptcy?
Personal Story – last several months
Read John 11:1-5
II. Practice #1: Remember God loves you and what you are going through will not end in death (vv. 1-5)
A. They did not give Lazarus’ name, but Jesus knew who they were talking about.
Lazarus is described as ‘the one You love.” That description is true for all of God’s children.
Lyrics: He Knows My Name
I have a Maker, He formed my heart, Before even time began, My Life was in His hands. (v. 2) I have a Father He calls me his own, He’ll never leave me, No matter where I go. Chorus: He knows my name, He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, And hears me when I call.
Jeremiah 1:5 — “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
B. Principle to Remember: Jesus didn’t promise there would not be death, but that things would not end there.
Death may come in the form of unrealized dreams, unmet expectations, or failed situations. Maybe even in the physical death of someone, but it is not the end.
1 Corinthians 15:54–57 — When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah 29:11 – most people forget that Jer. 29:11 follows Jer. 29:10. – “After the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” Jer. 29:6 – “I carried (you) into exile…” The exile must be completed in order for the promise to be fulfilled.
If physical death has been conquered by the death of Jesus Christ then how much more have spiritual, emotional and financial and every other form of death been overcome by His Resurrection!
Read John 11:6, 11-15
Read John 11:17-22
III. Practice # 2: Pursue God and His Purposes with the vision that your faith is strengthened (vv. 6, 11-22)
A. Expect God to operate on His time schedule, not ours (v. 6, 11-22)
In our hustling and bustling, busy world, it seems we spend a lot of time waiting. We are not ‘waiters’ – we have express lanes at the grocery store, our banks have drive-thrus so we don’t have to take the time to stop and go in. We even have fast food restaurants when regular restaurants would take too long. And if those aren’t fast enough – well, we’ll use the drive-thrus there as well (because we all know food should be eaten in the car.) We go for the fast lane. We look for the fastest lane in traffic. We even rate customer service on response time and not the quality of the service.
1. Jesus waited two days – It is actually for God’s glory
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ecclesiastes 11:5 — As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
2. Our expectations may not be God’s plan
C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters – (Screwtape to the lesser Wormwood) – “Whatever men expect, they soon come to think they have a right to; the sense of disappointment can, with very little skill on our part, be turned into a sense of injury.”
We are too often guilty of superimposing our expectations on God’s will rather than God’s will being our expectation.
B. God allows us to wait to grow our faith (vv. 11-15)
The reason it is difficult: Waiting makes us feel powerless – reminds us we are not in control
Waiting – Abraham, Moses, Jesus all waited
Not yet is often interpreted as No
Delay does not always mean denial, it may, but not always
1. So that we might believe (I am glad for your sake (I am glad he died)…for now you will believe)
God may be glad in the death of your dreams, not because He is cruel but your sake, so you might believe. Glad that the false ideal you have of marriage is dead so that you might believe and have it become what it should be. Glad that sense of identity you received from your job or level of income is dead, so that you may believe and find your identity in Christ. Glad that the illusions of this world are dead, so that you may believe and see the reality of the Supreme God.
2. So our faith/trust will be put in Him.
Quote: We have to decide will we put our trust in what we want God to do or in who God is. Big Difference! We have to decide are we going to look to the stars for charting our course or the one who gives the stars their course. Are we going to serve the false idols of this world or the One who is True? We have to decide are going to follow from guru to guru who changes their philosophies with the times or the One who spans the ages and from Age to Age the same.
3. God is as concerned with where we are going as to who we are when we get there and that we are fully equipped. It is part of growing us. You haven’t arrived just because you reach a certain goal for money or status or position. You have arrived when we can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 - And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
James 1:2–4 — Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
C. Learn to trust God’s timing (vv. 17-22) –
Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days – implies that Lazarus was in fact dead by the time Jesus got the message to come.
Martha doesn’t doubt Jesus’ power, but His timing. Martha’s (and Mary’s) words are words of grief, not rebuke.
Proverbs 3:5-6 –Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.
Principle to Remember: God operates on His time schedule (not ours), in part, so our faith is increased.
Read John 11:23-29
Read John 11:30-35
IV. Use God’s motivation as the basis for action - compassion (vv. 23-35) – Mary’s words are also words of grief, not rebuke.
Church at the Springs – Ocala, Fl – Facebook post today: compassion (n.): a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
A. God sees your tears and your heartache and is not indifferent to them.
B. Ministry without compassion is indifferent at best and Pharisaism at worst.
Ministry by its nature is messy and dirty, because people’s lives are messy and dirty. It is the sick who need a doctor to deal with the infections and ills. It is the hungry who need food. It is the desperate who need hope. It is compassion that often moved Jesus to minister and to heal. In Matthew 20 Jesus heals two blind after He has compassion on them. Mark 1 Jesus heals a man from leprosy, because He had compassion on him. In Matthew 14:14 the reason given for Jesus feeding the five thousand, was He had compassion on them. Paul tells the church at Colossae to Colossians 3:12 — Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
There is one thing that the church has become really good: doing good things without compassion.
Even when it comes to sharing the Gospel, Jesus was motivated by compassion. Matthew 9:36–38 — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Principle to Remember: Compassion is the prompt for Jesus’ most profound miracles.
Read John 11:38-41a
V. Practice 4: Remove the obstacles that prevent us from seeing God’s miracles. (vv. 38-41)
A. Description of tombs – often caves with large stones to rolled or slid in front of the opening.
B. Types of stones –
3. Our past/history (Philippians 3:13-24 – “Forgetting what is behind…”)
4. Perspectivesbeliefslack of faith (Matt. 13:58 – Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of…”)
5. Sin – esp. Arrogance/self-centeredness
C. Principle to Remember: The obstacles (goodbadneutral) must be removed no matter how difficult in order for some miracles to be seen.
Read John 11:41b-45
VI. Practice 5: Don’t give up hope because the miracle/blessing will come (vv. 42-45)
A. Very often what appears as the death of your dream can be the birth of your next miracle and or blessing.
Very often we find that what we thought was the edge of bankruptcy was the “edge of Glory.” God gets the greatest glory through our shattered dreams/heartaches resurrected to walk brand new.
Note: If Jesus had healed Lazarus from His sickness only the disciples and Lazarus’ family would have seen. But because of the death, a large crowd saw the resurrection and believed! So, your dreams/goals may have to go through death and be resurrected in order for others to believe!
Illustration: My family, friends are watching – even praying for us!
B. God still brings dead things back to life. He is still in the resurrection business. God can resurrect your career, marriage, family, finances, reputation,
Many put their faith in Jesus after Jesus restored Lazarus. They discovered something in the process: death always precedes resurrection. In order for the greater witness to be done, a greater circumstance had to be overcome.
James 5:10–11 — Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
C. Take off the grave clothes, you have been set free!
How do we face these times of waiting and difficulty? With this assurance: Romans 8:28–39 — And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (No one. Why? Because) It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (No one can, Why?) Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things (what things?) we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.