How far will you let God go in using you for His glory? When Isaiah saw the Lord, he heard God ask, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah immediately responded, “Here am I! Send me!” This response was without knowing the mission, the words or the outcome, he was moved by the invitation that was given to him by God. Moses was given an invitation to join God in the freedom of Israel from Egypt. The task seemed too great and he himself seemed much too small. He argued with God, tried to get out of it but finally accepted. Moses did know the promised outcome, deliverance, but had no idea how long or costly the freedom of Israel was going to be. We are told that Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, despised the shame of the cross, choosing to set His attention on the outcome, on our salvation and His Father’s glory. He accepted His mission knowing exactly what it would cost choosing to believe that the will of His Father was greater than any price He would pay. Then there is Lazarus. Lazarus was not asked to fulfill a particular mission, but he was used much like these others. He was chosen to show forth the glory of God first by dying and then by being resurrected by the voice of Jesus. The encouragement that I hope to share with you today is that many of us will have a moment in life like Isaiah and Moses. It may not be as dramatic, there may be no burning bushes or visions of heaven, but we will experience the voice of God, calling us to join Him in His work, inviting us to be a part of His will and whispering to us His plan and purpose for the hours in which we are living. But I believe that all of us will have and are having Lazarus experiences, times in which we are being used by the perfect hands of God to bring Him glory. Times in which we may be fighting against or frightened by the present circumstances because of our lack of understanding but in a moment perfect peace allows us to know that we are not being forgotten we are being increased. Many times prayers that seem to be going unheard are not being neglected by God, He is simply preparing to do something even greater than we could have asked or imagined.
When Lazarus got sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. They sent this message because they had an expectation. They had followed Jesus long enough to know that there was no sickness or disease that He could not heal, they expected Him to heal their brother. Jesus did something that seemed odd to everyone around Him, He did not go to Lazarus. In fact, He made a declaration about the sickness, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The sickness had a purpose and it was not death, it was that Jesus would be glorified, that those that followed Him and those that did not would see more clearly who He was and the glory that He deserved. When God speaks into our situations we must stop looking at the circumstances and begin watching for the promised outcome. When Jesus said those words to His disciples, they did not watch for God’s glory, they simply expected the sickness to end. There are points in our situations in which we must trust God enough to watch God. We must believe Him, His Word, His love and His promises enough to take our attention off of the circumstance and put it on Him in the form of faith.
Finally, after several days, Jesus announces to His disciples, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” Is Jesus glad that Lazarus is dead? No, later in the passage we find Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ grave. He is not glad about the death of His friend but He is glad at the glory that is about to be revealed. He is glad about the change that is about to occur in the lives of His friends and He is glad at the salvation that is about to be poured out. When Jesus makes His way to Lazarus’ tomb He is met by first by Martha and then by Mary. They both greet Him the same way, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” They both trusted Jesus’ power to heal. They had experienced His healing in fact they had expected it. I am sure that when Lazarus got sick they had no expectation of his death, even if it was serious, they knew the answer to every sickness, they knew Jesus was able. Their faith in Him as a healer was strong but Jesus wanted them to have a greater faith. He wanted them to be sure of not only His power but of His identity. They could not simply enjoy His acts, they had to know His nature and His character. Jesus had an encounter with Martha in which He told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” I believe that Martha’s response is the purpose of this entire event. Her response is the reason that Lazarus was chosen to die, to be used in such a way. It was not merely to show that Jesus had power over death, it was to reveal who Jesus truly was. It was not about the miracle, it is never about the miracle, it was and is always about the hearts that are changed and the truth that is revealed through the miracles. Martha answers Jesus’ question with these words, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She echoes the confession of Peter, the confession that Jesus declared that the gates of hell would not prevail against, the confession in which the entire church would be built upon. Her brothers death brought her life, it brought Jesus glory and it brought truth to everyone listening and watching.
Have you ever grown through someone else’s difficulty? I have. When I was 11 years old my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis was bleak and his doctor told him to make sure his affairs were in order. While praying one night my Mom and Dad believed they received a word from God that said that he would be healed. In church one Sunday morning there was a word spoken that said he would go through difficulty but the outcome would be healing. My Dad convinced his doctor to do surgery and when they did they found they were wrong, he did have cancer but it was simply one tumor, not spread through his body as they diagnosed. Now, 26 years later, my Dad is still cancer free and living well. I learned then that God heals. I also learned that He fulfills His promises and that His love for us is enormous. In 1999 my Sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. For months I watched her fight and endure surgeries and treatments that left her weak in body but somehow strong in spirit. She called me one night and whispered into the phone, “Abie, why does He trust me this much? Why does God trust me enough to allow me to be used in this way?” Everywhere she went, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, doctors offices, she was a living example of the goodness of God and His glory was poured out. She endured and lives were changed, she trusted God and hearts melted. She passed away in October of that year, at perfect peace and ready to enter the eternal presence of God. I learned that God is good at all times. I learned that He loves His children and comforts, protects and delivers them, He is not a user, even when He uses us. I learned that life is truly a vapor but death is precious and rich.
Have you ever endured difficulty? If so, are you or will you let God be glorified through it? What if your difficulty has an eternal purpose? What if there is a Martha watching your life that is about to confess Jesus as Lord because of what you are enduring? What if God wants you to see more of Him, trust His heart and know His love in a more intimate way than ever before? What if this circumstance is not about the here and now but it has an eternal purpose and will win God eternal glory? Would it be worth it? Would we endure it?
When my Sister-in-law was sick we shared a passage from Romans 9 together, “Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ’Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have the power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” We do not choose how God uses our lives, but we have the opportunity to trust that He uses us. We are not the keepers of our destiny, but we have been given the freedom to have an intimate relationship of love with the One that does keep it. We are not those that are in control of our coming and going, but we have been offered the great privilege of becoming the sons and daughters of the One that orders every step and holds all of time in His hands. Many times we see being “used by God” as being something high and lofty, standing in a pulpit, singing on a platform, writing in books or witnessing on street corners. All of those things are good and God has chosen to use them all but the way He is truly glorified is through the lives that His children entrust to Him. God is glorified when we are “pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” He is glorified when we know and show everyone around us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. He is glorified when we are willing to believe and proclaim “He will rescue us . . But even if He does not . . . We will not serve your gods.” Lazarus was a man that God loved, that God trusted and that God used. It was his death that led his sister Martha to her confession of faith. It was his death that opened the doors for Jesus to reveal an even greater revelation of Himself and it was his death that allowed the Jews to see the tears of love, of friendship and care that their God wept over each one of them. Whatever you may be going through today, it is not because God is absent, it is because He is doing more. You are not being betrayed and God is not slow in coming, He is working out perfection in your life and through your faith. It is not your errors or weakness that have brought on difficulty, it is His trust, His love and the glory that will be seen that God has chosen to use you “for such a time as this.” In the midst of your trouble today, take Jesus’ promise and claim it to come to pass both in and through your life, “take heart, I have overcome the world.”