By: Pastor Greg Laurie
What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Where am I going? Certainly those are questions that we all get around to asking at some point in our lives. But as the years pass, there are new questions that we eventually have to face: Is there life after death? What happens beyond the grave?
In the New Testament gospel of John, Jesus answers those questions for us. We find them in the story of one of the most, if not the most, dramatic miracles Jesus ever performed.
Lazarus was dead. When his sisters, Mary and Martha, originally sent word to Jesus that he was sick, they expected to see him recover as soon as the message reached Jesus.
After all, Jesus was friends with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They lived in the little village of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Often Jesus would spend time in their home. We know of one occasion in particular when Jesus had a meal with them. So they were friends.
They knew Jesus loved Lazarus, and they assumed that Jesus would heal him. Therefore, it was a done deal, right?
Well, not quite. Instead of coming to see Lazarus, Jesus intentionally waited. And by the time He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.
From this we learn that Jesus may be completely informed of our trouble and yet act as though He’s indifferent to it. In other words, He may not do what we expect Him to do. Meanwhile, we’re saying, “Excuse me, God, are you paying attention here? We have a problem. What are you going to do about it?”
Looking out for Our Good
The great comfort in our prayers is not the fact that God always answers as we wish, because He doesn’t. The great comfort is that He who made all things and controls all circumstances knows what is best and will act accordingly. He will do the right thing.
Here’s what God says about Himself: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9 NKJV).
There are times when we won’t understand what God is doing. And there are times when we don’t understand why God isn’t doing more in a certain situation.
Mary and Martha were thinking of their temporal comfort, but Jesus was thinking of their eternal benefit. They wanted a healing, but Jesus wanted a resurrection.
Jesus waited to go to Bethany because He loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And He also went to Bethany because he loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. For their sake He waited, and for their sake He went.
And when he finally arrived, Martha was waiting for Him. She said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 NLT).
You have to give her credit. She was honest. She said what she was thinking. What I like about Martha is that you always knew where you stood with her.
And even though she was disappointed, Martha still believed in Jesus, because she went on to say, “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (verse 22 NLT).
Jesus told her that her brother would rise again.
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Martha replied.
Then Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (verses 25–26 NLT).
A few verses later, we see Jesus, Mary, and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, where Jesus called for the stone to be removed. Then the Bible tells us that “Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’ Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” (verses 41–43 NLT).
And sure enough, Lazarus came walking out of the tomb, still wrapped in his grave clothes.
Falling Back on Certainties
We don’t always see the big picture. Like Mary and Martha, we are only interested in what benefits us temporarily. But God is more interested in the long term.
There are some things this side of Heaven that I’m never going to understand. I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes people will come up to me and say, “Greg, why did God do this?”
Instead of trying to give some canned answer, many times I will say, “I don’t know. I just can’t answer that. But I know this: God loves you. I know this: God is wiser than you. I know this: ‘All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose’” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
So when I don’t know something, I fall back on what I do know. It’s during those times when we don’t understand, when there’s turmoil going on deep inside, that we need to walk by faith. We don’t know what God has in store.
Maybe you’ve have had a setback in your life and you’re asking, “What’s this all about? How could this possibly result in anything good?”
One day we’ll be able to look back and say, “Now I know why God did that.” For some of us, it only will be on the other side of eternity that we’ll be able to look back and understand.
The great hope of Christians is that when we take our last breath on Earth, we’ll take our first breath in Heaven. We think that living a long life is the ultimate. And yes, it’s good to live a long life. But what’s more important is to live right—to do what is right before God and live a life that is pleasing to him.
Reflect + Respond
- Have you had instances where you look back and can understand the hand of God in it? How can you apply that to your current circumstance?
- What characteristics of God can you hold onto and trust in, in your current challenges? What hope can you gain from the character of God?
- Is your hope founded in Jesus? If not, would you like to receive Him as your Lord and Saviour? He alone is the resurrection and the life. Through Him there is eternity. You can begin a personal relationship with Jesus through the prayer listed here: You Need Jesus – Vision Christian Media
Listen to ‘A New Beginning’ with Pastor Greg Laurie weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Find your local times and more messages here.
This article originally appeared on Harvest.org and has been used with permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514 USA