Why is it that we can believe God peforms miracles in other’s lives but struggle to believe he performs them in our own?
Why is it that we can shout “Amen” on Sunday morning but be ready to throw in the towel by Tuesday night?
I think it has to do with our expectations. When our expectations do not line up with our experience, our faith is weakened. This happened to followers of Jesus 2,000 years ago as well.
John tells us the story, in the 11th chapter of his Gospel, of the death of Lazarus. Word reached Jesus that one of his dear friends was very sick, to the point of death. Being women of faith, Mary and Martha believed that if Jesus could hurry home, he could heal their brother.
Their expectation was that Jesus would return as quickly as possible to heal Lazarus before his untimely passing. Jesus even sets them up to be tested. In John 11:4 it says, “When Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death.’” The disciples’ expectations are high. Lazarus isn’t going to die! Jesus is going to heal him.
Then something strange happens. Jesus doesn’t leave to head toward Lazarus’ house. In fact, he decides to stay where he is for two more days. His best friend is dying, and he waits two whole days to go see him. By the time they arrive, Lazarus is dead, and he’s been dead for four days.
Not only is he dead, but his sisters, Mary and Martha, are mad. Mary didn’t even want to go see Jesus, so Martha went by herself to give Jesus a piece of her mind. “Lord, if only you had been here my brother would not have died,” she says.
The disciples fully expected Jesus to heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha’s expectations were for Jesus to arrive just in the nick of time, touch Lazarus on the head and heal him. When their experience fell short of their expectations, their faith became weak, and that frustrated Jesus.
In fact, verse 33 says, “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.”
I wonder if our lack of faith ever frustrates the Lord. I wonder if he ever thinks to himself, “I’ve brought you this far, and you’re questioning me now.”
Jesus had been traveling and performing miracles for more than two years, and now some of his closest companions are doubting not only his power but his judgment as well. They’re thinking, “It’s too late. You can’t do anything about this now. Why did you decide to wait two days to come? What a terrible decision.”
Have you ever questioned God’s judgment? Have ever doubted his timing? Have you ever wondered if he missed his chance to show off his glory? We say we believe in God’s miracle-working power, but when he doesn’t work in the way or the time that we think he should, we lose faith.
Jesus makes one statement in the middle of this mess that we need to cling to. In verse 4 he said, “… it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”
As believers we must always remember: God does things in his way and in his timing so that he will receive glory. His ultimate goal is to is to draw people to himself, and he knows how to do that far better than we do.
So how does the story end? Well, Jesus does leave Lazarus dead in the tomb. Four days after his death and burial, Jesus goes out to the tomb and commands them to roll the stone away from the entrance. Despite Martha’s protest, they roll the stone away, and Jesus shouts into the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”
Lo and behold, out walks Lazarus, alive and well, still covered in grave clothes.
When our experience doesn’t meet our expectations, we must remember that God is doing things his way and for his purpose, even when we don’t understand. Second, we must never forget he specializes in bringing dead things to life! Even when it seems like all hope is lost. Even when it seems like he’s too late. Even when those around you are grieving, doubting and giving up. It only takes one word from the Lord to turn your situation around.
Do not give up on your miracle. Keep believing for your breakthrough. Trust that God is still working together all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose. He will receive the glory, and you will see his mighty hand.
Adam Detamore is the pastor of Realife Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.