AND not OR

 

Often we hear the question, “Are you a Mary or a Martha?” However, scripture refers to Mary and Martha – not Mary or Martha. We are not required to live exclusively like Mary or Martha. We are given the privilege of exemplifying character traits of both women.

Mary and Martha were sisters. Although closely related, they had very different personalities. If I were to choose a scripture to describe Mary, I would quote Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” For Martha, I would select Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world….”

Martha was frequently looked down upon because of a conversation she had with Jesus in Luke 10. Jesus had come to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus for a visit. Martha was frustrated because Mary exclusively spent time with Jesus while she had to prepare the whole meal by herself. In Luke 10:40, Martha asked, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!Jesus’ responded in verses 41-42, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.

When Jesus came to their home, each woman chose how she would honor their guest. Mary chose to sit with Jesus and listen to His wisdom. She wanted to learn everything possible from the man who was her Savior and Lord. According to Romans 11:6, we are saved by grace, not by works. She was hungry for spiritual nourishment. Martha chose to prepare a meal for Jesus and His disciples. She wanted to nourish their physical hunger.

Jesus complimented Mary for making a good choice. Today, a person with a Mary personality would desire to spend time with Jesus through praise and prayer. According to Psalm 22:3, the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 100:2 tells us to “Serve the LORD with gladness; come into His presence with joyful songs. Verse 4 goes on to say, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.

Martha’s actions concerned Jesus only because she allowed responsibility to take priority over relationship. Serving is not a bad option. An individual with Martha traits today might remember James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” Paul exhorts in I Thessalonians 5:13-14, “Now, we ask you, brothers, to respect these who work hard among you,… Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

Like Mary and Martha, we have a choice. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.How will we choose to honor Jesus when we answer His knock on our heart’s door?

Will we want to spend One on one time with Him? If so, we may make our choice based upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.We may also validate our choice according to Jesus’ words in John 6:35. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.


Our other option would be to express our love for Jesus by satisfying and gratifying physical needs of others. This decision may be based upon Isaiah 58:10. If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.We might also remember the conversation in Matthew 25:37-40. “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”


It is good for us to begin our day sitting at Jesus’ feet and studying the Word. Then we will be ready to put feet to our faith while fulfilling our responsibilities. Works are not the reason for salvation. Works are the evidence of salvation. James 2:17 NLT points out, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

We are not required to just make a one-time choice of being a Martha or a Mary. God created each of us to be a mixture of Martha and Mary. Does your character better exemplify one woman over another? God has placed within you specific gifts and talents. Embrace who God created you to be. Do not be jealous of a Mary if you are more of a Martha. Do not look down upon a Martha if you have more of a Mary personality. Some say we need to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. We each must discern what is required of us in a particular situation. Sometimes we need to strengthen our spiritual heart like Mary. Other times we need to manifest our servant heart like Martha.

Matthew 6:33 NLT is a good scripture for us to remember. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously.Our life’s goal should be I Corinthians 16:14. “Do everything in love.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leaves – Objects and Actions

The seasons change. Summer leaves and fall arrives. The leaves are displaying brilliant colors. Leaves are falling from the trees. People are raking piles of crunchy, dry leaves. Leaves, leaves, leaves! This causes me to think about scriptures that include the word leave. Yes, I know leaves and leave are two very different things, but let me share what I have discovered about leave. There are scriptures that assure us God will never leave us. There are other verses that instruct us to leave. Occasionally, we are told to leave something or someone alone.

While people may be creating piles of tree leaves, let us gather scriptural leaves.

God never leaves:

God told Jacob in a dream that He would not leave him. He also told Joshua He would not leave him.
What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you (Jacob) wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not LEAVE you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.Genesis 28:15 NLT
No one will be able to stand against you (Joshua) all the days of your life. As I (God) was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never LEAVE you nor forsake you.Joshua 1:5

Moses shared with the Israelites God’s promise not to leave them.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you(the Israelites); He will never LEAVE you nor forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6

Although Jesus told His disciples He would leave them, He also told them that He would not be leaving them because the Holy Spirit would come.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to LEAVE this world and go to the Father. John 13:1
The world cannot receive Him (the Holy Spirit), because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you. I (Jesus) will not LEAVE you as orphans; I will come to you.John 14:17-18

Because of God’s faithfulness throughout history, we are assured He will not leave us.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I LEAVE you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

There are times to leave:

God spoke to Abram and Paul directing them to leave a specific location.
The LORD had said to Abram, “LEAVE your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 NLT
the Lord speaking to me (Paul). “Quick!’”He said. “LEAVE Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about Me.” Acts 22:18

God may instruct us to leave a particular lifestyle.
LEAVE your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight. Proverbs 9:6
Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery, “Go now and LEAVE your life of sin.” John 8:11
Therefore LEAVING the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, – Hebrews 6:1 NASB

Jesus shared how a shepherd might leave many sheep to find one that is lost. He was giving an example of what He would do for those lost in sin.
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he LEAVE the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?Luke 15:4

Jesus lived a life of coming and going. He left heaven to come to earth. Thirty-three years later, He left earth to return to heaven.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to LEAVE this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.John 13:1

May we be sensitive to the Lord’s leading for when to leave a location or a lifestyle.

There are times to leave someone or something alone:

As involved as Jesus was in the lives of those around Him, there were times He told people to leave others alone.
LEAVE her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her (Mary who anointed Jesus feet)? She has done a beautiful thing to Me.” Mark 14:6

Gamaliel gave similar instructions when the apostles were persecuted.
Therefore, in the present case I advise you: LEAVE these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.Acts 5:38

Wisdom is requred to know when to act and when not to act. Paul gives good advice to us as well as the Romans.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but LEAVE room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.Romans 12:19

There are leaves in abundance whether referring to leaves of trees or leaves of scripture.

I love the promise that the Lord will never leave us. Jesus told the disciples in Acts 1:4, “Do not LEAVE Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. Each day I receive a new impartation of this gift – the Holy Spirit. It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit in me that God never leaves me.

Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I LEAVE with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who never leaves me. He shows me when to leave. He also helps me know when it is best to leave a situation in His hands. He gives me peace in all circumstances.

I love the autumn tree leaves that never fail to appear during this season. I also love the promised leaves of scripture that never fail whatever the season.

God’s Got It!

Fact #1 – I’ve got a problem.
Fact #2 – God’s got it.

Which fact is more powerful? Which fact is foremost in your mind?

Personally, I know God’s got it, but often my mind meditates more upon the specific problem I am facing. I will pray, “God, help me as I encounter this current challenge.” Then my mind meanders to the details of the sticky situation. I end up trying to tell God how to resolve this negative issue. I’ve got the problem in my hands rather than placing the problem in God’s hands!

My Reader, does this scenario sound familiar to you? Most of us will have to admit we can identify with this train of thought.

If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate…” These words were part of a post by Pure Glory 8/7/19 entitled Meditation from Your Heart.  Since most of us have the tendency to worry, we should redirect our focus. May we say with David in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.Don’t worry – God’s got it.

When facing a conflict, our human tendency is to focus upon our problem rather than upon God’s nature. What happens in the natural realm can overpower what we believe spiritually. We must choose carefully what we allow to dominate our thinking. We do well when we remember such promises as Lamentations 3:22-23, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,  For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

We would be wise to replace our worries with worship. Then we will remember God’s got it.

David spent more time worshiping than worrying. He encountered many difficult times while fleeing from King Saul. Yet, he focused upon God and His faithfulness. Let’s look at Psalm 31. I encourage you to read the entire Psalm but I will highlight a few verses. David begins by crying out to the Lord.  Verses 1-2, “In You, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; save me by Your righteousness. Incline Your ear to me; come quickly to my rescue. Be my rock of refuge, the stronghold of my deliverance.In verse 7 he continues to praise the Lord while admitting he is in trouble. “I will be glad and rejoice in Your loving devotion, for You have seen my affliction; You have known the anguish of my soul.In verse 10 David admits, “my life is consumed with grief and my years with groaning; my iniquity has drained my strength, and my bones are wasting away.However, by verses 14-15 he declares, “But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.David concludes with verses 22-24, In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from Your sight!’ But You heard my plea for mercy when I called to You for help. Love the LORD, all His saints. The LORD preserves the faithful, but fully repays the arrogant. Be strong and courageous, all you who hope in the LORD.We find both worry and worship in David’s words. However, worship overpowers worry.

James and Paul wrote New Testament letters. Both encountered adversities. However, they were able to find positive results from negative circumstances. They were speaking from experience when they wrote the following verses.

James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:12 goes on to say, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, “we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke says that with every new situation there is a fresh provision. However, while taking on new responsibilities, we tend to not raise our faith to the new available level. Spiritual worship helps to overcome natural worries.

Cooke writes, “God knows our journey better than we do, and He has strategically placed a provision next to every problem, obstacle and opposition.” God’s got it! He also stresses that our confidence must be in God’s nature, not just His power.

I like Cooke’s phrases that we are to be “patiently confident and confidently patient.” May we remember Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

We will have problems. God has solutions. Our responsibility is to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.according to Proverbs 3:5-6. God’s got it!

 

 

Into-Me-see and Into-me-see

One definition for intimacy is closeness. With a few changes to this word, it could be phonetically pronounced “into me see”. Nothing is held back during intimacy. To spiritually define intimacy, I hear God saying “into-Me-see.” My response is “into-me-see.” God is a relational God and He desires intimacy. He created me for intimacy with Him. I am created in His image. So, I too, want intimacy.

Intimacy is often associated with love expressed between a husband and wife. I perceive four things transpiring in physical intimacy. There is penetration and receptivity. This results in consummation with the possibility of new life. I believe physical intimacy is a shadow of the spiritual intimacy God desires to have with me. These same steps apply. John 3:6 says, “Flesh is born of flesh but spirit is born of Spirit.

Do I hear Jesus saying, “Into-Me-see”? God is an open book when it comes to revealing Himself. In fact, His open book is known as the Bible. I want to dig into His written word and let it penetrate me. May I be receptive to God’s written word (logos) as well as the Holy Spirit’s pricks (rhema). Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all His kind deeds.

The consummation of Jesus inviting me to “into-Me-see” and my response of “into-me-see” is known as faith. Ephesians 3:17 says that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. There is new life according to II Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Although there is new life, the need for intimacy continues. God invites me to “into-Me-see”. Am I receptive in allowing God to “into-me-see”? I want to consider how well my soul (mind, emotions and will) align with God’s plan. Do God and I become one?

My Mind: What thoughts do I think?
Are they predominately positive or negative? When I allow God to “into-me-see”, then He will give me the mind of Christ according to I Corinthians 2:16.

My Emotions: What emotions do I most experience?
Do I show more love or anger? In I John 4:8, I learn that God is love. I Corinthians 13:3-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind,etc. Ephesians 4:6 warns, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Do I yield to God’s peace or do I worry? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do I feel more joy or sorrow?
Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Do I spend more time believing or doubting?
Mark 11:23 tells me not to doubt in my heart but to believe and it will be done.

My Will: How would I describe my will?
Am I strong willed? Do I want my will or Thy will to be accomplished? In
Matthew 6:10 NKJV, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”

Graham Cooke says that the mind will reason us out of what God desires. He also says that our emotions are not dependable feelings. We need our will to connect with faith.

Intimacy involves a knowing. When the “into-Me-see” and the “into-me-see” are consummated, there is a deeper knowing that occurs. Intimacy penetrates into the heart and does not stay in the head. Heart knowledge (knowing Him) is born rather than just head knowledge (knowing about Him). In Philippians 3:10 Paul says, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.

My intimacy (into-me-see) with Him is based upon His intimacy (into-Me-see) with me. In Manifesting Your Spirit, Graham Cooke says, “God loves to be close. He loves to declare who He is for me. His intention is always about a deeper relationship. He is totally committed to upgrading our experience of Him and to bringing us into a deeper place of rest, joy and assurance in Him. He seeks to develop the capacity in us for trust and faith at a high level.”

Cooke also points out that worship leads to deeper intimacy. Intimacy gives birth to trust and confidence. David says in Psalm 57:7, “My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.

Psalm 86:9 says, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.” This allows me to experience God’s “into-Me-see.” Psalm 22:3 says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. This gives God the opportunity to “into-me-see”.

I want to draw near to the Lord in order to see things from His perspective (into-Me-see). I also want to know what He sees in me (into-me-see).

My Reader, do you want intimacy with God? Do you want to see into who God really is? Accept His invitation to “into-Me-see”. Are you willing to allow God to see intimately into who you are? Extend an invitation to Him to “into-me-see”. Intimacy is Christ in you and you in Christ.

God of All

Do you realize that God wants to be as intimately involved in your life as He was in the lives of those recorded in scripture? A friend recently pointed out how reassuring it was knowing that we serve the same God whom Abraham, Isaac and Jacob served. This knowledge can be a validation for who God is. It may even give you a reason to trust God.

While thinking about some of these men and women of faith, we will highlight how God intervened in their lives. Then we will think about how we can relate to these individuals.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
These men are often referred to as the patriarchs of our faith. God cares about families and lineage and heritage. God first revealed Himself as the God of these three men when He spoke to Moses through a burning bush. God said in Exodus 3:6, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
God cares about your family. Do you have grandparents and parents who set a Christian example for you? Thank God for them! Maybe you are the first one in your ancestry to become a believer. Blaze the trail for future generations.

Moses and Joshua
God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. Joshua was their leader when they entered the Promised Land.
Who has God used to lead you to Jesus and out of sin’s bondage? Who may become a believer in the promises of God because of your influence?

Ruth
Ruth was a Moabite. She did not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because of the influence of her mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth became a believer. She says in Ruth 1:16, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
As a believer, you are a witness for Christ. You may be unaware of your influence upon those around you. Is there someone specific to whom you are called to be a witness?

Isaiah and Jeremiah
These two men are examples of the Old Testament prophets. Prophets foretell and forth tell words of the Lord.
Prophecy is one of the nine gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12:8-11. Do you have the gift of prophecy? If so, use it according to Romans 12:6. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.

Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth
T
hese women had trouble conceiving a child. However, over time, God was faithful to answer their prayers.
Conception problems can be either physical or spiritual. Is there an area in your life where you are struggling to give birth to something new? Be encouraged by how God intervened in these women’s lives.

Mary the Mother of Jesus
An angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would give birth to a son named Jesus. Although Mary did not completely understand all that was happening or the significance of it, she carried Jesus within her body for nine months.
Have you asked Jesus into your heart but still have things of faith you do not understand? Just as Jesus grew in Mary’s body, your faith will also grow with time.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
These men are the authors of the four gospels. They wrote about the stories of Jesus’ earthly life. Their messages tell a spiritual history.
Your story, your testimony, tells His story in your life. It is your spiritual history. Your story becomes HIStory. Revelation 12:11 says, “They (believers) triumphed over him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

Saul/Paul
This man’s story begins in the book of Acts. He was first named Saul, but later was known as Paul. Both his nature and name were changed when he encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus. He went from persecuting Christians to proclaiming Christ.
May you never quit praying for family and friends to personally encounter the Lord. Lives can be changed. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You.

Ephesians 4:4-5 says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” God is God and Father of us all! Just as God was God of each of these Biblical people, He wants to be Lord of your life. With which individual do you most identity? Which person gives you the hope that God is with you and understands your situation?

According to Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” God wants to minister to you. He is alive. God knows everything – He is omniscient. God is in everything – He is omnipresent. God is working – He is omnipotent. All fo us learn of His faithfulness through stories recorded in His written word. What He has done in the past, He will continue to do.

May your faith and your confidence in God grow as you meditate upon what He has done for those who have gone before us. Hebrews 12:1 encourages us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Listening to the Living Water

One afternoon while on vacation, we strolled around our hotel grounds. We sat down on a bench in front of a wonderful waterfall that serenaded us with tinkling, trickling sounds. The waterfall was a sliding stream of water that became a fanciful, frolicking falls seeking to splash upon our feet. It seemed like the water was talking. It was as if I were hearing water words. I desired to see and hear with my spiritual eyes and ears as well as with my physical eyes and ears.

Living Water is a description of the Holy Spirit. In John 7:37-38, Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus was referring the Holy Spirit.

Seeking the source of these sacred sounds, we trekked up the hill. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He returned to the presence of His Heavenly Father. Symbolically, as we ascended the hill, we were getting closer to the source of the falls and our faith.

The water originated higher up the hill. Then it cascaded down its course and rippled over the rocks. At some points, it was a tiny trickle. At other spots it was almost a rushing river. However, the water was always present. The same is true regarding the Holy Spirit’s presence. God never leaves us. He is with us at the low spots as well as the high points of our lives. He is with us during turmoil and tranquility. Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

The water words I heard were Living Water. The Holy Spirit was speaking to my spirit. I may not have heard audible words but I was reminded of God’s Word.

The sounds of the waterfall were like laughter. Job 8:21 says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” I, too, laughed.

There was a resounding rejoicing revealed by the falling water. Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” A smile spread across my face.

I let out a sigh as I experienced a calmness. I felt like I was responding to Jesus’ invitation of Matthew 11:28. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I sensed a refreshing spray of Living Water in addition to wet water as we spent time by the falls. Psalm 23:2-3 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.

Simultaneously, my heart was flooded with joy and peace and hope. I felt like an overflowing waterfall. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord promises in Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.” There must have been a thirstiness within us that led us to this waterfall of faith. The afternoon became a time of worship at the water’s edge. The little waterfall was like liquid love that tumbled down a hill and then rested at our feet and in our souls. We were refreshed physically and spiritually.

Mary and Martha’s Prayer

While reading the account of Lazarus’ death and new life in John 11, I gained a deeper understanding of prayer.

Previously, we have been introduced to the family of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. They were Jesus’ friends. He often visited at their home. They had a personal relationship with Jesus. John 11 begins by telling us that Lazarus is sick – very sick. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to know what was happening.

Verse 3 says, “So the sisters sent word to Jesus. ‘Lord, the one You love is sick.’” When Mary and Martha sent this message to Jesus, they were praying. (Most everyone who has a personal relationship with Jesus prays. At the very least, we cry out to God during our times of need.)

Time progresses and the story progresses. Although Jesus received the message, He did not respond as Mary and Martha expected. Jesus did not come to them. Verse 6 says, “So when He (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” Not a quick response to Mary and Martha. (All of us know what it is to wait for answers to prayer.)

Jesus says in verse 7, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory…” Jesus got the message, but He had other plans. (Have you ever prayed a prayer that was answered differently than you expected? Of course – all of us have! However, God’s glory should always be our motive.)

I wonder how the sisters were feeling two days later. One may have asked, “Why hasn’t Jesus come? What is taking Him so long?” Or, the other one may have said, “I thought Jesus loved us. Maybe He doesn’t care about us as much as we imagined.” (Have you ever made such remarks when a prayer you prayed was not answered immediately?)

It is interesting that Jesus says to His disciples in verse 15, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Jesus desired to deepen the faith of His disciples as well as that of Mary and Martha through His answer to their request. Jesus had a greater truth to reveal than just healing Lazarus from his sickness. Jesus was not in a hurry. He knew how and when He would respond. Mary and Martha’s expectations of how Jesus would respond had to die as well as Lazarus had to die. (God may have more in store for us than we realize when we pray. Do not limit God by expecting Him to only answer as you desire.)

Lazarus died. Jesus had not arrived yet. But, He does eventually come. Verse 17 says, “On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” (Have you ever felt like it was too late for Jesus to answer your prayer?)

Martha is the first sister to meet Jesus when He finally comes. Her first words to Jesus are recorded in verse 21, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Notice Martha’s words “but” and “if”. Have you ever used these words when questioning or explaining something about your faith?)

Although Martha did not completely understanding all Jesus was saying and doing, she still believed. I think she passed a test of faith.  And, Jesus had more to reveal to her. (We, too, must keep our faith and not doubt.)

Mary then arrives on the scene. Her greeting in verse 32 is, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Sounds familiar! Mary’s words are the same as Martha’s words. It is not that she does not believe, she just limits God. (Beware! It is very possible that we have not interpreted Jesus’ words and promises correctly or with full understanding. He is able to do so much more than we can ask or think.)

The next verse that catches my attention is verse 35, “Jesus wept.” Shortest verse in the Bible. Why did Jesus weep? In verse 36 the Jews say, “See how much He loved him!” Although this statement is true, I believe Jesus wept for additional reasons. I think He was sorrowful that those around Him were not able to understand all He could do – all He was still going to do. (Have you caused Jesus to weep because of your limited understanding or expectations?)

We are nearing the climax of the story. In verse 39, Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” The stone in front of the grave hindered Jesus from doing what He was about to do. (Are there any stones you need to remove before Jesus can fully answer a prayer you continue to pray?)

Jesus prays in verse 41, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (Jesus gives us the example of how we are to pray. We are to thank God for what He is going to do – not just thank Him after we have received the answer.)

In verse 43 Jesus commands, “Lazarus, come out!” Finally Mary and Martha receive their answer to the message they sent to Jesus at the beginning of the chapter! Lazarus is not merely healed but brought back to life. A greater miracle than either sister could have requested. (Yes, God answers our prayers – not always when and how we want, but in the way that most glorifies Him.)

Jesus makes on final statement in verse 44. “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” There was still something for those surrounding Mary, Martha and Lazarus to do. Lazarus was alive but he needed the help of others to freely walk in the life given to him. (I think God requires us to be stewards of the answered prayers and miracles we receive. He may want us to help the person who has benefited from our prayers. Maybe we are to share the testimony of how God has answered our prayers.)

This account of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, is a wonderful miracle in and of itself. However God also has a message for us regarding prayer. Meditate upon what I have shared. See if it applies to you.