Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:1-44 is a beautiful narrative of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the friends of Jesus. At first blush, we see a strange way for Jesus to treat his friends, especially when they are in need. In fact, John makes a point to emphasize in vv. 5-6, that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” This is a great place to insert the ‘shocked face emoji’!
Now, if you are like me, I have serious problems – and quite a few questions – with the actions that Jesus chose to take, or not take, in this situation. A few of my questions are: ‘If you loved them, why would you wait?’ ‘Why would you not come when they called; why would you not meet this need?’ ‘This was not a trivial ask for those that you love; Lazarus needed a legitimate thing and apparently you did it for others, why not for them?!’
I can only imagine the myriad of emotions Mary and Martha experienced during these days of waiting for Jesus to answer, and then the unthinkable happens, Lazarus dies. Surely there was worry, anguish, fear, and possibly even anger at his delay. What is clear, is that when Jesus finally shows up, Mary is overcome with grief, and I detect disappointment too. She clearly verbalizes what I have in seasons of my life; “God, I expected this, but instead, I got that.” Or to carry that further, “I expected you to do this, but instead, you gave me that!”
This disappointment has been so tough for me to handle at times, that I even resolved to just stop asking; to stop praying. Not the “God, I know you are in control, so whatever you do is fine with me” kind of stop, but rather, the “I cannot bear the pain of not having what I am asking for” kind of stop.
This disappointment reflects that I have misunderstood the point of asking in prayer. Prayer is the intersection of my will and God’s will. Much like two cars that show up at a physical intersection, one has to yield to the other because he has the “right-of-way”. When it comes to praying, I know instinctively that I should be the one to yield, because it is best that God’s will gets the right-of-way. But, how exactly does that happen when I want what I want, think what I think, and even sometimes, legitimately need what I need?
This story helps us to see a key factor in the way God answers prayer. Notice what Jesus says when he first heard that Lazarus was sick, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus deliberately delayed going to take care of this family’s need, not because he did not care, but because He had a greater purpose than just healing Lazarus of this sickness. He was creating an opportunity to be glorified above this sickness. He was placing His priority over their priority.
I am reminded that I, too, should elevate His priorities above my needs and desires, and make my priority, his priority. This is the cure for disappointment in prayer, yield to the right-of-way – God’s glory.
Published on Jan 02 @ 3:56 AM EDT
A reminder that God's presence in my life is for His glory and His purposes even when I don't clearly see or understand. I must constantly seek Him for guidance thru prayer and reading the word and yield not to my own understanding.
Posted on Sat, Jan 2, 2021 @ 7:24 AM CST
I've always enjoyed listening to your sermons and how you break it down to make me think. You're so right it's not about our will but God's will. This was beautifully written.
Posted on Sat, Jan 2, 2021 @ 8:30 AM CST
And I too have to realize that God's priority may be different than mines and that I have to be patient and wait on him to lead and show me the way. Every day I pray Lord your will not mines, your plans for my life not mines, your schedule for me to follow not mines, .....some things are easier said than done. But I'm learning. Even though Mary was upset and disappointed, she still had the faith because she bowed down at Jesus's feet. She wasn't hollering and screaming and calling him all kind of names. I feel she knew in her heart that Jesus could still heal her brother. Be blessed.
Posted on Sat, Jan 2, 2021 @ 6:32 PM CST
Oh My God ~ What an excellent devotional to understand this passage on a whole new level... It's true God's priorities (must) exceed mine. Thank you ~ Minister Botts
Posted on Sun, Jan 3, 2021 @ 3:35 AM CST
Awesome message! Thank you for confirmation!
Posted on Sun, Jan 3, 2021 @ 6:29 AM CST
Author: L.B. Cowman
“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
When we have doubts or are facing difficulties, when others suggest courses of action that are conflicting, when caution dictates one approach but faith another, we should be still. We should quiet each intruding person, calm ourselves in the sacred stillness of God’s presence, study His Word for guidance, and with true devotion focus our attention on Him.
We should lift our nature into the pure light radiating from His face, having an eagerness to know only what God our Lord will determine for us. Soon God will reveal, by His secret counsel, a distinct and unmistakable sense of His direction. It is unwise for a new believer to depend on this approach alone. He should wait for circumstances to also confirm what God is revealing. Yet Christians who have had many experiences in their walk with Him know the great value of the secret counsel of the Lord as a means of discerning His will.
Are you uncertain about which direction you should go? Take your question to God and receive guidance from either the light of His smile or the cloud of His refusal. You must get alone with Him, where the lights and the darkness of this world cannot interfere and where the opinions of others cannot reach you. You must also have the courage to wait in silent expectation, even when everyone around you is insisting on an immediate decision or action. If you will do these things, the will of God will become clear to you. And you will have a deeper concept of who He is, having more insight into His nature and His heart of love. All this will be your unsurpassed gift. It will be a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege, and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting. DAVID
Keep still! When trouble is brewing, keep still! When slander is getting on its legs, keep still! When your feelings are hurt, keep still till you recover from your excitement at any rate! Things look different through an unagitated eye. In a commotion once I wrote a letter and sent it and wished I had not. In my later years I had another commotion and wrote another long letter; my life had rubbed a little sense into me, and I kept that letter in my pocket until I could look it over without agitation, and without tears, and I was glad I did—less and less it seemed necessary to send it. I was not sure it would do any harm, but in my doubtfulness, I learned reticence, and eventually it was destroyed. Time works wonders!
Wait till you can speak calmly and then perhaps you will not need to speak. Silence is the most powerful thing conceivable, sometimes. It is strength in its grandeur; it is like a regiment ordered to stand still in the mad fury of battle. To plunge in were twice as easy. Nothing is lost by learning to keep still. HANNAH WHITALL SMITH
I do not believe we have even begun to understand the wonderful power there is in being still. We are in such a hurry, always doing, that we are in danger of not allowing God the opportunity to work. You may be sure that God will never say to us, “Stand still,” “Sit still,” or “Be still,” unless He is going to do something. This is our problem regarding the Christian life: we want to do something to be Christians, instead of allowing Him to work in us. Think of how still you stand when your picture is being taken, as the photographer captures your likeness on film. God has one eternal purpose for us: that we should be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29 KJV). But in order for that to happen, we must stand still. We hear so much today about being active, but maybe we need to learn what it means to be quiet. Perhaps we simply need to learn to be still and watch God work out the details that challenged us so greatly and caused us so much distress. You will find that He works wonders if we can just still our hearts and sit before Him until He speaks.
Oh Lord, You know my heart better than I know it myself. You know my struggles and You hold each hope and fear in Your caring hands. Teach me, LORD, to be still and to know that You are God. I trust in You alone. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
An excerpt from the book: "Streams in the Desert: Morning and Evening"
Published on Jan 31 @ 12:46 AM EDT