As much as we wish it were otherwise, life has no easy answers to our struggles. Oh, I know, I know . . . God is the Answer. But what happens when the Answer doesn’t answer?
Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray.
But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see 3 lessons to help us understand why Jesus waits to answer our prayer.
The mustard plant in Israel grows to a height of 10-12 feet, but it has one of the smallest seeds.
Jesus compared the mustard seed to God’s coming kingdom:
The kingdom of God . . . is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants. —Mark 4:30-32
Compared to the large weeds in our daily world, God’s program seems like a mustard seed—small, insignificant, and ineffective.
But God’s plan is progressing in spite of its seeming insignificance now.
When we feel discouraged at the slowness and secrecy of God’s plan, remember the truth Jesus revealed. What seems small and insignificant now will become the largest of all kingdoms one day.
Keep going. Don’t give up. We have a future with God. (Tweet that.)
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. —Revelation 11:15
Video from SourceFlix.com.
Not long ago I walked down a country road and saw the spring leaves popping from the trees. Literally a week earlier the branches had nothing. One week! It got me to thinking.
(Photo by By Tsibin Konstantin, panoramio, CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
All the potential for the trees to leaf lay hidden, dormant all winter, until something inside the trees awakened them from sleep. Life was there all the time, hiding behind death, until something cued it to resurrect.
If this is how the earth responds to the stimulus of spring every year, how much more potential lay dormant—awaiting the moment God removes the effects of fallen humanity from our planet? Talk about an Earth Day!
The Bible uses this truth to encourage us in our struggles.
Some places evoke bad memories. Maybe it was your hometown. Or perhaps the house where you grew up or the school you attended. The place itself is neutral. But the events associated with it have forever changed it in your memory.
The Valley of Achor was such a site. After Joshua’s victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1, 21).
After this event, the valley served as a reminder of failure, of setback, and of defeat. But God would change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph.
He can do the same for you.
You’re ready for a change. You’ve asked God to open a new door in your life, and He has taken years to prepare you for it. Finally, you’re ready. There’s just one problem. Nothing happens.
The plan of God includes preparation and waiting. But why do you have to keep waiting once God has prepared you? What else must you do for God to open the door?
The Apostle Peter experienced something that may explain why your progress is delayed.
And what you can do in the mean time.
There’s not much we can be sure of today. We live in a world of broken promises, broken families, backstabbing friends, and personal failures. And that’s just at church.
After a lifetime of disillusions, we’ve come to expect little else. We often hope for nothing in hopes we won’t be disappointed.
It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of hopelessness. It happens because we live in an a culture that keeps God at arm’s length, one that claims His name but declines His Lordship.
God is a package deal. And when we refuse all of God then we miss all of what He has to offer. In refusing all of God we’re forced to fill those gaps with substitutes that disappoint and fail us.
But with God . . . ah, now that’s a worldview of a different color.
The Sovereign Lord, the Creator of the universe, offers true hope—and here’s why: He is the only one able to make good on His promises.
Here are 4 promises of God—cleverly disguised by the Apostle Paul as questions—that give you hope for your life.
I had to smile when I read what Jason Kidd said after the Dallas Mavericks drafted him years ago: “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees!” Life often feels like that, doesn’t it? A lot of effort with nothing gained.
At times, the Bible seems like a history book in which God makes and fulfills promises to the ancients, but the words somehow lack immediacy to our struggling lives. And yet, it’s funny how the anxieties that overwhelm our lives seem identical to those that biblical people struggled against.
Even though Scripture provides assurance of God’s promises, assurance doesn’t negate the stressful circumstances that force us to trust God.
Truth doesn’t make the hard parts of life go away. We still have to trust God with that truth.
Close one eye and look closely at a marble. It seems massive. In fact, the marble is all you see. It dwarfs everything else. But its size is an illusion.
A basketball is bigger. The planet earth is even bigger. Come to think of it, God is infinitely bigger than your marble. Your problems are like that.
(Photo by Sarah Charlesworth, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Life is filled with marbles. When you fixate on your marbles, you can’t see the reality that they are small in comparison to God’s power.
Sure, they’re real. Of course they hurt. But your life is more than your problems, just as the world is more than your marbles. Or it can be. You can stop staring at your marbles. You only need to sit up, blink a few times, and look around.
God is much bigger than your marbles.
I’ve probably seen Jaws a dozen times since 1976. And yet every time I watch it my heart pounds as I imagine myself as the scuba diver in that flimsy “anti-shark cage.”
Even though I’ve seen the ending twelve times—and I know the shark blows up—seeing those gaping jaws rip apart that cage still makes me nervous.
For most of us, our Great White isn’t a twenty-five foot fish. It’s an eighty-five year life.
(Photo by Alban, Own work, GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons)
Our monsters are the dishes and diapers, the mowing and mood-swings, the finances and friends, the sicknesses and sadness, and of course, the incessant, ever-increasing “to-do” list.
Some of these nibble at you, and others take off a leg.
With such problems as we have in the Christian life, it’s not hard to feel caged and wide-eyed at the monsters that threaten your joy.
In light of the world’s ugliness, it’s tempting to hole up on some mountain and just wait for God to come get us. It was no different in Jesus’ day.
Jesus brought three of His disciples up on the slopes of a “high mountain,” probably Mount Hermon. Six days after the prediction of His death in Jerusalem, Jesus gave affirmation of His glory, divine nature, and coming Kingdom. Jesus was “transfigured” on the mountain—revealing His true glory.
In light of such an awesome revelation, Peter had an odd request.
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah also appeared in glorious cameo appearances. They spoke of Jesus’ “departure” at Jerusalem, the very event Jesus had just revealed to His disciples in Caesarea Philippi (Luke 9:31). Peter blurted:
Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. —Matt. 17:4
What was Peter suggesting with these tabernacles?
He was asking Jesus for the same thing you and I ask Him for.