"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." John 11:4
Our perspective, or as the Bible terms it our vision in life, determines everything from how we move and breath to how we think and feel. Circumstances and even trials will be perceived by our vision of God. The big 'why' question often plaques us, normally in times of difficulty. It is interesting to note that the 'why' question normally does not come during times of great blessing. Our God desires us to have the right vision of Himself. And so as the Bible unfolds from Genesis to Revelation, it not only shows us how to be saved but it also shows us how to live in relation to Him. Seeing our lives God-ward is key to living the abundant Christian life. In other words, our eyes fixed upon the Savior will make all the difference in the world. Over and over again God demonstrates His glory through the pages of Scripture and compels us that we are privileged to glorify Him. In John chapter 11, we are told of a man by the name of Lazarus who has been recorded for all eternity in the pages of God's Word as the man Jesus raised from the dead. Just a few chapters later he would literally be a living testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ. And yet without the perspective given to us in verse 4 of this chapter, people would see Lazarus' sickness and death as nothing more than a tragedy of the present cruelties of this world.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus himself at this point in chapter 11 were grappling with the big question 'why.' No doubt they also had scores of other emotions that come with an untimely sickness that continues to get worse and worse. Knowing that Jesus could heal Lazarus if He wanted to, Mary and Martha sent saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3) Can you hear the present cry that many of us share in times of difficulty, "He's sick, come quickly, help!" ?
Jesus however gives us (the reader and those present at this statement) some vision concerning our lives in relation to God. Our Lord and Savior states, "This sickness is not unto death, but..." (John 11:4a) But what?? Underline the following statement of heavenly perspective, "but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." (John 11:4b)
Sickness is one thing, but physical death is something entirely different. Temporary inconvenience is unpleasant, but what about a complete giving of our lives that God may be glorified? Do we say Lord I am willing to suffer to a point in this world but only to this point? Are we willing to have the 'all in' heavenly perspective concerning our lives in their present circumstances? I wonder myself, if I were given the knowledge that God was going to take my life for His glory, would I say, "not my will, but thine, be done" even as our Savior said? Knowing the rest of the events in the life of Lazarus it is easy to sit back and say, "No problem, I could deal with that!" If we were to be honest however, all of us have trouble when times get tough.
Notice some startling truths we can see concerning our lives in relation to God.
1. God knows the totality of our circumstances.
This is evident when Jesus states, "...This sickness is not unto death..." (v4) and later in verse 6 we are told "...he abode two days..." The beginning, the ending, and everything in between is known by God. The good times, the sicknesses and the struggles alike are also known to God. The poor decisions and the right choices; none of these things are hid from God. Notice these two compelling verses, "O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee." (Psalm 69:5) "For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings." (Job 34:21) Clearly God knows the totality of our circumstances.
2. Our lives have the potential of glorifying God.
Why was Lazarus chosen to get sick, die, and be raised from the dead? Why were Martha and Mary chosen to witness and be involved in the events surrounding Lazarus' death and raising? Why did Jesus speak these very words in the presence of the disciples concerning the reason for Lazarus' death? The answer is ..."but for the glory of God..." What a privilege it is then to be allowed to glorify God.
3. God loves us.
In case we had doubts about God's goodness toward us we are given verse 5 as an affirmation concerning this present situation with Lazarus. "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Mary and Martha obviously understood this according to verse 3 and we come to understand this also by the Holy Spirit's commentary in verse 5. It is as if the Holy Spirit could here us thinking, "Well if you loved Lazarus, why would you let him suffer and die?" Littered throughout the pages of Scripture we are constantly reaffirmed that God loves us. In fact, He loves us so much that he perfectly demonstrated that love on the cross. (Romans 5:8) This means He loves us even when we cannot see the end and explain the why. This means He loves us even when we cannot explain our current situation or struggles. God assures us by stating and demonstrating over and over again 'I love you.'
These first three truths ought to do much for us in traversing difficult times, not in making our problems go away, but rather giving us some heavenly perspective. But how do we traverse the difficulty? How do we keep going when life is difficult? We understand God loves us, we understand God knows our present circumstances and we also understand we are to glorify God in our lives, but now what? This last truth will help.
4. We are participating in God's unfolding drama of redemption.
Purpose goes a long way when it comes to our actions. Borrowing a title from W. Graham Scroggie's book entitled The Unfolding Drama of Redemption, our vision of God should help us understand that we are participating in His unfolding drama of redemption. In other words, there are so many effects of our participation that we cannot possibly fully understand the end of all of our actions (I dare say we do not in our present earthly tabernacle have the capacity or ability to see the end from the beginning as God does). Let me demonstrate what I am referring to by using this event as an example. Is it possible for anyone to calculate how many people were positively affected by Lazarus' death and raising? We can say for certain that for thousands of years people have been affected by this event simply because it is recorded in God's Word. But even if that were not the case, how many generations of people were affected by this singular event? Think about those present, and then also those who were told by those present. The answer is that none of us have the understanding to know how widespread God is glorified by Lazarus' death and raising. As we study God's Word we would come to the same conclusion about any number of saints that have through the ages gone through challenging times. (Stephen's stoning, Paul's near death experiences, Daniel's night with the lions, Noah's testimony to his children building the Ark and the list could go on...) The same holds true for you and I. How many will be affected by our glorifying of God? And even a more pressing question is this, am I wasting opportunities to glorify God because I have the wrong vision of God and my circumstances? Let our prayers be this then, "God I do not understand this, but I pray you will give me the help to glorify you by it!"
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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