Rest

“‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.’ Yes, for Him. Seek not only the help, the gift, seek Himself; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him. This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into Him hands. It lets God be God.” — Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

I Am The Way

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” 

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:2-6 

I love how Thomas speaks up and says and asks the potentially dumb, or embarrassing, things for all of us. He was an all-my-ducks-in-a-row type person that I can relate to. He wanted to see the nail marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side. He wanted to hold the map in his hands.  

“How can we know the way?” This time, when I heard him ask the question, I heard the underlying panic (or maybe it was mine). Wait! How can I follow you when I don’t know the way? It sounds like you are saying that I have to DO something. Perform, be perfect. I’ve got to be RIGHT (read self-righteous). I need a detailed map. Where is this way?! 

But what did Jesus say to him? “I am (I exist, I am present, I was, I am, I will be) the way …” 

Basically, Jesus was saying “I am the map.” The get-it-right-performance junkie in me (and, in my imagination, Thomas) immediately is anxious. What does that mean? How do I DO that?  

But Jesus compassionately went on to say, “No one comes to the Father except through (through, with, in, by the means of) Me.” 

We don’t get a map and detailed instructions when we decide to follow Jesus. We get Him.  

Recently I read a quote from Oswald Chambers that took my breath away. 

“To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your commonsense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest 

“You are God’s will.” At first the idea repelled me. It almost seemed blasphemous. How could I be the will of God? This is how my wise sister answered my question: 

“This confirms in my spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have the mind of Christ and do hold His thoughts, feelings and purposes. We grew up “wrong” but we are now God’s masterpieces created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). In Christ we are new – the old has gone (2 Corinthians 5:17) and we are whole in Christ (Colossians 2:10). 

And really, what’s the worst that could happen if we get it wrong now? God makes all things new. Faith steps out of the boat.” 

Praise God for wise sisters! What is the worst that can happen if I mess up? I get to experience his gentle correction, the rod and the staff of the loving Shepherd.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4 

So, what does it take, walking this Way? Complete surrender. Drawing my life from His. Dying to self and letting him live in and through me – this temple of the Holy Spirit. Walking forward, sometimes in the dark, through, with, in, and by the means of Jesus. 

It’s not about my righteousness – about me getting it right – but about his righteousness. His is the righteousness; his is the faith; his is the love; his can be my actions and my words. If I lean on Him. If I abide in Him. 

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 

I get this feeling that we will need to be abiding, hidden in his great heart, more and more as we follow him forward. If you are not already abiding in Christ and he in you, please give your life to him today (see wrestlingwordblog.wordpress.com/salvation/ for help.) 

For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, Here’s what: Trust in God. Lean on your God! Isaiah 50:10-11 (Message)  

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  

And He said, “Come!” i 

Image, You Are Here by Mario Klingemann https://flic.kr/p/ddNU5   

iMatthew 14:27-29 (NASB) 

Yet God

I am reblogging this post from a while ago. Still true. Always my heart.

Hidden Treasure

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

“Yet” is my favorite word in the Bible. That may seem weird, but what comes after “yet” in many verses so often is a startling declaration of the faithfulness of God, of faith, hope, or of steely resolve to persevere. Many times, these are some of the most beautiful and inspiring verses in the Bible.

What comes before David’s declaration above in Psalm 73 is his expression of frustration and anger at the seeming injustice of God, saying at one point, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” (Psalm 73:13-14). His doubt and bitterness increase to the point of acting “senseless and ignorant” like a “brute beast” before God.

Yet!…

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Reckless Faith

I think that kind of reckless love deserves a reckless faith in return.

“The Lord desires that you believe him to bring you into his promised rest. God never intended that his children live in fear and despair. We need a reckless faith and trust in God in the face of fear, trouble and death itself.” — David Wilkerson (1931-2011), Promises of God for Every Season 

What a good quote for the times we are in! The phrase, “reckless faith,” especially caught my attention, for a couple of reasons. Most of the time, the word “reckless” has a negative connotation to us. While to “reck” means to care, even to worry, about something, “reckless” is defined by The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as “Careless of the consequences of one’s actions; heedless (of something); lacking in prudence or caution.”  

The phrase also reminded me of Cory Asbury’s song, Reckless Love.  

The overwhelming, never-ending 
Reckless love of God 
It chases me down 
Fight ’til I’m found 
Leaves the ninety-nine 
I couldn’t earn it 
I don’t deserve it 
Still you give yourself away — from Reckless Love by Cory Asbury 

Cory received some criticism for calling God’s love reckless. I love the defense and explanation he offered on his Facebook page: 

“When I use the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God’, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.” — Cory Asbury, on Facebooki 

God’s reckless love is portrayed by the father in the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal’s father was reckless with his love. Running out like that with his robe flapping, probably exposing his legs (and himself to ridicule). Going against all polite etiquette, tradition and rules pertaining to that sort of situation. Risking his success, reputation, possessions – everything he had worked for all his life.

God’s love is that kind of love – the kind that would send his only son down into this hateful, dark chaos and broken mess. The kind that would “bankrupt heaven” for us.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 

I think that kind of reckless love deserves a reckless faith in return. David had such a faith. Running straight out toward the giant (1 Samuel 17:48), dancing in crazy joy at the return of the Ark – heedless of what people thought, lacking prudence or caution for his safety or reputation.  

David returned home to bless his family. Michal, Saul’s daughter, came out to greet him: “How wonderfully the king has distinguished himself today—exposing himself to the eyes of the servants’ maids like some burlesque street dancer!” David replied to Michal, “In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned . . . I’ll gladly look like a fool . . .” 2 Samuel 6:20-22 (Message) 

What David was saying is, “I will praise and glorify God with all my strength, with all my being, not caring what anybody thinks!” David was a “man after God’s own heart” because he had reckless faith, banishing all care about his reputation, or even care about his personal welfare, striving only to delight his God. In Psalm 62 David wrote: 

My salvation (deliverance, salvation, rescue, safety, welfare) and my honor (glory, reputation) depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Psalm 62:7 

Lord, thank you for your reckless love for me. I want to have a reckless faith in return. In this time of “fear, trouble and death itself,” help me not to live in fear and despair. Give me a reckless faith, a reckless trust, in you and you alone. A faith that simply gives myself away. Let me proclaim, “My salvation and my honor depend on God.” 

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. — J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King 

i quoted by Jake Gosselin in Reckless Love by Cory Asbury – Song Meaning, Review, and Worship Leading Tips https://churchfront.com/blog-churchfront/2017/11/8/reckless-love-by-cory-asbury-song-meaning-review-and-worship-leading-tips  

Photo, Sunrise on the River, copyright Derek Bair

Joy Beyond

In this dark world the shepherd needs to be our LORD.

I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:23 

This verse is a little oh-by-the-way postscript to the letter to the Hebrews. It is like “and, oh yeah, Timothy has been released from prison.” The way it is tacked on at the end like that really struck me. It communicated to me that this was a common occurrence. This idea of persecution for our faith is foreign to most of us in the United States. But there are thousands and thousands across the world for whom this, and worse, is still common. I was thinking about this when I read this from A.W. Tozer speaking to the Church here in the U.S.: 

“The gradual disappearance of the idea and feeling of majesty from the Church is a sign and a portent. The revolt of the modern mind has had a heavy price, how heavy is becoming more apparent as the years go by. Our God has now become our servant to wait on our will. ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ we say, instead of ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and the difference is as wide as the world.” — A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man 

The first emphasis keeps our gaze on ourselves. What we crave, what we need, what we think we deserve. Affliction is no longer unexceptional, it is unacceptable. The idea that “the lord is my servant, I shall not want,” keeps us in the little-lamb baby state always looking for the next blessing. When my heart’s attention is only on what God can do for me, it is easy to slide into errors like prosperity-gospel-type thinking. Trials and afflictions shake my cozy, planned-out little world and my faith wavers. 

But, the second emphasis puts our Lord on the throne (or realizes that he is on the throne). It opens our eyes and minds and hearts to Amazing Grace. The amazing, almost incomprehensible, uncontainable grace of the unfailing love of the Mighty God. Creator, King – God of gods and Lord of lords – who has bent down to pull us up out of the pit and lead us into His very Presence. Unworthy, self-centered, rebellious as we are. When the emphasis is on the LORD, gratitude and thanksgiving and praise naturally flow. We are enabled to bear the Shepherd’s rod and staff of testing and discipline willingly and joyfully. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds James 1:2 

This is a hard saying whenever, but it is especially hard when our assumption is that the job of the lord (small “L”) who is our servant-shepherd is to lead us to good pasture and quiet waters and make us feel good. 

“The prosperity gospel believes that God wants to reward you if you have the right kind of faith. If you’re good and faithful, God will give you health and wealth and boundless happiness. Life is like a boomerang. If you’re good, good things will always come back to you. Think positively. Speak positively. Nothing is impossible, if you believe …. 

“In his sermon on the mount, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will never have to deal with infertility. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive a Porsche 911. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will never have medical complications or financial hardship.’” — Rachel Chimits, Do Bad Things Happen to Godly People? i 

But if our eyes are on our majestic LORD and his Amazing Grace we can expect afflictions – In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) – but we can consider it all joy because we see beyond – But take heart! I have overcome the world. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 

The joy was beyond for Jesus (and that joy was us, by the way, us with him). The joy was beyond the scorning and mocking and shame. It was beyond imprisonment, testing and afflictions and suffering and death and the cross. And if we are going to persevere to that joy we need to be following our Lord (capital “L”), who is also our Good Shepherd. We can trust that shepherd through anything. We can trust knowing we will hear his voice leading and guiding. We can trust the One who has gone this way before, knowing that our hard way produces good – for us and for others – and he will be with us all the way. And if we do that, the joy beyond will be here and now too. 

In this dark time, let us follow the Shepherd who is our LORD.  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4  

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

[P.S.] I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. Hebrews 13:20-21, 23 

i Rachel Chimits’ complete blog post here https://worldchallenge.org/blog/do-bad-things-happen-godly-people?ref=em1020 

Photo copyright 2009 by Derek Bair

Perfect Peace

Could God be saying that our hearts were formed, were created, to trust in Him?

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears (reverences, honors, holds in awe) the LORD … He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:1, 7-8 

This verse was in my daily reading yesterday and it really hit me. Because I have been living in fear of bad news for a while. One bad thing after another – what’s next? I had been crying out to God for a while, but not receiving an answer. This had even caused me to be in danger of doubting God’s promises and becoming bitter. So, I decided to look closer at these verses. And God, in his great mercy and unfailing love, answered me. 

Where it says “his heart is steadfast trusting,” the word translated “steadfast” is the Hebrew word kuwn. It means established, prepared, made ready, fashioned. According to the Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testamenti, ” [t]he root meaning is to bring something into being with the consequence that its existence is a certainty … bringing into existence, of a thing.” 

It is the same word that is used in Psalms and Proverbs here: 

Your hands made me and formed (kuwn) me; give me understanding to learn your commands. Psalm 119:73 

When He established (kuwn) the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep … Proverbs 8:27 (NASB) 

The word for the little cakes formed by the hands of women in Jeremiah 44:19 is derived from kuwn. Could God be saying that our hearts were formed, were created, to trust in Him? And that if we are not using our hearts as they were intended, not trusting, we are fearful – that we will have what David Wilkerson called “foreboding fears of the future”? And if we are trusting – as our hearts were made to do – we do not fear? 

Look at the next verse (Psalm 112:8): “His heart is secure, he will have no fear.” The word translated “secure” there is the Hebrew word camak. It means supported, upheld, sustained, borne up. It means someplace to lean or lay upon, rest upon, lean against. This is the word used here (which verse God sent me through two different sources yesterday!):   

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast (camak), because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 

One of the sources for this verse that I received in my email was a recording of a message preached by David Wilkerson in 2009. Right at the beginning he says that he wasn’t going to leave his seriously ill wife and come to church, but God told him to go and deliver this message because there were people who needed to hear it, there were people with “foreboding fears of the future.” That’s us.

Isn’t that amazing? Eleven years ago, God gave a message for me, for us, in this very fearful time. If you are like me right now, fearful and doubting and verging on bitterness, listen to the whole message. It is for you. Let God bring you back into his arms where you can rest upon His mighty heart. 

God Knows, David Wilkerson, 2009  https://worldchallenge.org/sermon/david-wilkerson/god-knows?ref=em1120  

Photo by Jack Bair, 2005

Trusting in Chariots

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Psalm 20:7-8 

This was an old friend of mine, Josephine’s favorite verse. She was in her nineties when I got to know her. Telling me stories of her life, she said that when things got really bad – and things did get very bad for her at times – she would go into her closet and pray that prayer. Then she would come out and face what she had to face in God’s strength. And God would answer. She trusted God through being kicked out of her home as a teenager, freezing in an unheated attic apartment, days of hunger and grueling hard work. Through her whole life, she had a thick prayer notebook. She often prayed that verse for the problems and people on her list. 

It was Josephine who taught me to pray. She would say, “Let’s pray! You start.” I would pause, composing a wonderful prayer in my mind. She would give me about two seconds and demand, “Well are you going to pray?” I learned early on to just jump in and start talking, hoping God would give me the words. And you know what? He did! And I learned to stop putting my faith in my ability to put together the correct prayer – putting faith in my chariots and horses, faith in my faith – and just trust and let his Spirit pray in me. 

The Hebrew translated “we trust in the name” in Psalm 20:7 actually says, “The name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority, character of the Lord we will recall, call to mind, mark so as to be recognized (i.e., remembered), recount, think on.” We mark to be recognized or remembered – like putting a bookmark in the page of a great book to go back and reread over and over again – we remember his character, who he is, and we trust.   

A.W. Tozer warned against having faith in faith, not in God. 

There are preachers who devote themselves completely to preaching faith. As a result, people have faith in faith. They largely forget that our confidence must not be in the power of faith but in the Person and work of the Savior, Jesus Christ … It is the character of God Himself, you see, that gives us this confidence. — Faith Beyond Reason 

Having faith in faith is a lot like being in love with being in love. We just like the idea of being in love. It is exciting and makes us feel good. But it might not have much to do at all with the actual person – their feelings, thoughts and desires. Having faith in our ability to have faith – or even having faith in the promises of God – is really just trusting in chariots if our faith is in how well we can dredge up “faith” and memorize and proclaim. Our faith must rest on the Faithful One, on the Promise Keeper. Its foundation must be on the name, reputation, fame, glory, honor, authority and character of our Lord. It is because we know him, who he is, that we can believe. 

This is important, because when things get really bad and it seems your prayers are not being answered, you will not be thrown for a loop, you will not be overwhelmed. You will come out of your prayer closet and stand firm on the Rock. Put your bookmark there, in the great I AM, Immanuel, God with us, Shepherd, Comforter, Redeemer, Savior, in his proven character, in his unfailing love and mercy.  

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Psalm 40:2

In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone. Psalm 33:21-22 (NLT) 

But we trust in the name. 

Here is a place to start getting to know the goodness of our Father https://biblereasons.com/who-god-is/

Image, Tattered Spine by Tim Samoff on flickr https://flic.kr/p/51oAP  

To Him Who is Able

Quite frequently the daily devotionals and blogs that I receive all have the same message. God is amazing and faithful! When that happens, I make sure to pay attention. That happened again this week and I thought, in this challenging time, that the message they convey might be of comfort to you too. 

You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5 (NASB) 

Sometimes, especially when we are facing intense challenges in life, it feels as if God is distant from us. We might even think He has deliberately withdrawn from us. Nothing could be farther from the truth … In fact, at all times, His hand is upon you. — Derek Prince Ministries 

When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8 

Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. — Oswald Chambers 

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17  

Translation: Trust in me, and you will discover the truth of my words. It’s not trust me because you already fully grasp the truth. No, it’s trust me and you will discover the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus offers the test of active trust. He is looking for people who will choose to belong to him even before they fully believe in him. How does one belong to Jesus? Start following him. — J.D. Walt 

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord. Hosea 6:3  

Not all at once, but by degrees shall we attain to holy knowledge, and our business is to persevere and learn by little and little. We need not despair, though our progress may be slow, for we shall yet know. The Lord, who has become our Teacher, will not give us up, however slow of understanding we may be; for it is not for His honor that any degree of human folly should baffle His skill. — Charles Spurgeon 

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 1:24-25 

Image by Jack Bair

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

The Smell

In the interval between the obedience and the seeing

“Take away the stone,” [Jesus] said. “But, LORD,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:39-40

Every time I read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead I think about the same thing. The smell. Martha warns Jesus that there will be a bad odor of death if they take away the stone. But, Jesus commands them to remove the stone anyway – I always imagine them moving the stone and backing quickly away, covering their faces. And then, as they are standing there trying not to breathe too much — Jesus prays for a while.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew 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.” John 11:41-42

So, there was this interval between their obedience in taking away the stone and actually seeing Lazarus walk out. They must have stood there gaging on the strong odor after four days in the heat as Jesus prayed. Did Jesus do this on purpose? Jesus says he prayed “for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you [the Father] sent me.” Did Jesus let them wait in the smell of death for their benefit?  I think so.

Remember when he told the disciples that Lazarus was dead he said, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” He wanted there to be absolutely no doubt as to it being a miracle, and that nobody but God could have done it. Like a man seeing who was blind from birth. Like an old woman giving birth to a son. Like Elijah pouring water on the sacrifice (1 Kings 18:30-33) until it filled the trench.

I grieve that many of us are there in the interval between obedience and answered prayer. And it smells like death and it looks like death and we are trying not to give in to despair. Then, all of a sudden I realize something gaspingly wonderful. What were they waiting for standing outside the tomb? What are we waiting for now? We are waiting for Jesus to pray. It says Jesus prayed. Jesus is always interceding on our behalf. He has not forgotten us, he has not given us up to hopelessness, death and despair. He is praying for us. That gives me hope for which I can joyfully wait.

Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me (in the past tense)” even before he called Lazarus out. Even in the midst of the hopeless smell of death, in the interval between the obedience and the seeing, Jesus thanked God for hearing and answering. Then he called the dead man out. They all must have breathed deeply about the same time as Lazarus did.

I have been there a lot, standing in the smell of death, waiting for God. Waiting for the tears to turn to joy. I am there now holding my breath. Like the world held its breath in the darkness before the Resurrection. And time stretches long when you are trying not to breathe. But I know that Jesus is praying for me, and in this dark time he is working life in me and in you. And I believe that God keeps his promises. I believe that God’s Word is true. I believe that Lazarus will walk out.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34

Father, I thank you that you have heard me. John 11:41

Image in the Public Domain, Detail from The Raising of Lazarus illumination on parchment, c. 1504