Pillar 3: True Ministry Flows from Our Walk With God
Passage: John 11
Seven Pillars for Ministry
Pillar 3 – God’s Platform for Ministry – True Ministry Flows from our Walk with God
Dr. Wayne Barber
Text: John 11
Turn with me to John 11. That’s where we are going to be camping out today. We’re going to be talking about the platform of ministry. What is that platform? That ministry is received from God, not achieved for God. Can I just ask you a question, if you’re like me, how many of you grew up the exact opposite? We’ve been achieving for a long time, haven’t we? Isn’t it awesome, we don’t have to achieve. God takes that burden off of us. We simply receive. We join Him in what He’s doing in this world.
Well, we’ve been studying the seven pillars that make up our philosophy of ministry. I’m so encouraged by so many of you. Matter of fact, I got a little note the other day that said, “the deprogramming is going great.” And that’s exactly what we are doing, we are being deprogrammed. Because if you will look in scripture, it’s not about what we can do for God, it’s about what He can do through us. Galatians 2:20, “It’s not me who lives but” what? “Christ who lives” where? “in me” It’s all about Him, it’s not about us.
Each week we’ve been adding one more piece to this puzzle. Now, I want to emphasize, don’t try to figure it all out based on one message. Each message builds on the one previous.
For instance, we looked at Pillar number one, which was the Pattern of Ministry. Now when you have a pattern, everything is cut according to that pattern. That’s why we started there. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, we discovered the gift, the ministry and the effect all originate from God. They don’t originate from men who sit around a table on a committee. They are born in the heart of God, they come from Him. Now, ministry doesn’t come from man’s ability, doesn’t come from his creativity, it doesn’t come from his intelligence. That’s not where ministry is born. But true ministry flows out of a believer’s walk with God. That’s why our emphasis is on being, so that the doing can take care of itself. It springs forth; true ministry springs forth out of our availability to God. Pillar number one shows, as I said, the pattern, and everything comes from that.
Pillar number two shows that what God initiates—the gift, the ministry, and the effect—God anoints with His divine enablement. We move from the source of true ministry to the force of true ministry. God initiates it; God anoints it. We looked at Isaiah, how God initiated the ministry of his being a prophet in Israel at that time. Now, granted none of us will ever, probably before the Lord comes, be taken into the throne room of heaven; unless we die and get to see Jesus first. None of us will be taken like Isaiah was. That was not the point of the message. It’s not where God took him, it’s what God did to him when he got there. That was the point of the message. What did God do? He revealed His holiness, and in that revelation, Isaiah saw the sinfulness of his own flesh. I want to make sure that we understand this. True ministry comes out of the one who understands the holiness of God; and therefore, understands the sinfulness of his flesh, which will be religious if given a chance. We must understand that.
God broke Isaiah of ever thinking that he could do anything apart from God’s empowering him in his life. It was there in that throne room, when he saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up. He heard the chorus of the angels. It was there that Isaiah made the statement, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” How could he be a prophet with unclean lips? So the angel went over to the altar and took a coal and touched it to his mouth. In the cleansing of that moment, God opened his lips so that he could be the prophet He wanted him to be, and could speak the things that God wanted him to speak. God cleansed him.
But you say, “I’m not Isaiah. I haven’t been in the throne room of heaven. How is God going to reveal to me His holiness and the sinfulness of my flesh?” Oh, listen, we so often overlook this; we overlook that God, today, doesn’t have to take us into the throne room. He takes us into His word and in His word His spirit reveals to us what we need to see. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason, we also constantly thank God that when you receive the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of man, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” The word of God performs a work in us. And God uses it to reveal to us what He had to take Isaiah into Heaven to show him. He shows us right in His word. Through preaching, the teaching and the studying of the word of God, God can clearly reveal to any heart that’s open to hear the sinfulness of our flesh and the holiness of God. We don’t have to be taken into Heaven to see this.
At a conference, when Dr. Stephen Olford, our dearly beloved man, who has gone on to be with the Lord, was preaching, the anointing of the Lord was so on him, the passage was so real and so alive that a man in the midst of it, a preacher, stood up and cried out, “Oh, dear God, there is sin in my life.” Dr. Olford stopped his message and said, “Oh, my dear brother, bow down and pray ‘Oh, God, bend me, bend me.’” I’m telling you, a touch of glory; we didn’t have to go into Heaven. Heaven came into that place. He saw exactly what Isaiah saw. When you preach these passages out of the Old Testament it doesn’t mean that we have to have their exact experience. God does the same thing, if we will just avail ourselves to Him and to get into His word.
Dr. Jerry Vines preached a message once called “The Ascended Christ.” I’ll tell you what, when I heard it the first time, and every time I’ve heard it since, I wore the tape completely out. I’ve had to pull off the road at times to just weep before God, as he talked about Jesus going back into heaven when he ascended off the Mount of Olives and when He saw His Father for the first time. It was the most awesome message I’ve ever heard.
I didn’t have to be Isaiah and go into Heaven. God took me there by listening to His word being faithfully preached. That’s how God does it. He doesn’t have to give us Isaiah’s experience, or Paul’s experience, or John’s experience. Oh, no, when man realizes the holiness of God and he understands the sinfulness of his own flesh, at that moment he approaches ministry in a totally different way. He doesn’t want to touch it unless God is a part of it. He understands whatever his hands touch is going to be impure. It’s got to be the hands of God. It’s got to be a Spirit of God doing through him.
It like they said about the Titanic, when it was built. It will never sink. And a man said, “Yes, it will. It was built by the hands of man, it can sink.” That’s exactly what happened. What man does, it burns one day at the judgment seat of Christ.
Men who understand this do not approach ministry lightly. He understands he is about to enter that which God is up to. The reflection of who’s doing it is God, and not himself. Until a man has seen himself in the light of who God is, there is no humility in that person’s life; no matter if he’s a Christian, no matter how religious or how spiritual he is. To an unbroken man, life is all about himself or herself. Ministry is something he can and will endeavor for God. That’s his arrogance. That’s why in Romans 12:3 Paul says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Then he begins to show how God’s orchestrated ministry in the church. Sadly, most of what we see in Christianity today is nothing more than man’s pride. It is man, in his element, doing for God out of his own ability.
Well, today, we are going to look at Pillar number three. Now that we’ve seen Isaiah and what God had to in his life and how he can do that in our life, we’ve seen where ministry comes from. Today we’re going to talk about the Platform of Ministry. The platform is that true ministry is not achieved for God, it is received from God. It is joining Him. You say, “Where is that in scripture? I just wish you’d be a little bit more clear.”
I’m so glad you said that. Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul says, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus. I testify solemnly of the grace of God.” He said again in 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since we have this ministry” and then he says when he received it, “as we received mercy” —in other words, at the moment he was saved, is the moment that ministry began in his life—“we do not lose heart.”
And then writing to the Colossians, he said in Colossians 4:17, “Say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfill it.” There’s so many passages, as I was studying this I was thinking, “Where in the word am I going to camp out?” Every one of them has a text behind it and this could be a series right in itself, just in this one pillar we’re looking at.
But there was something as I was praying I want you to see about joining God in what He’s doing. I want us to understand why this truth is so difficult for the human brain to comprehend. I want us to see why. We’re going to see ourselves today. We’re going to see ourselves in a story in John 11. We’re going to see ourselves in Mary and Martha. We’re going to see ourselves in the disciples. Why it is that we fail so often to join Him in what He’s doing. Why is it we would rather do what we think we can do and ask Him to bless it? I think we’ll understand ourselves better, hopefully, after today. Why is it such a foreign language to preach this message? Why is it that people hear it and say, “Why haven’t I heard this before?”
Well, let’s look into the story. I think these characters will help us all to understand the difficulty. I’m telling you this message is not something that is just taught, it’s caught. Until the Holy Spirit reveals it to the heart it’s not comprehended in a good way.
There are four things I want you to see from the characters in John 11. First of all, here’s the first thing that is a reason why it is so difficult for us: We haven’t yet learned the difference between the obvious and the actual. You say, “What are talking about?” Well, hang on.
John 11:1-3: “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him saying, ‘Lord, behold he whom you love is sick.’”
None of the characters in this story, not one of them, could have realized that the event that was going to take place with Lazarus was going to be the event that was going to pull the trigger on Jesus being crucified. None of them could have understood that. Matter of fact, chapters 10, 11 and 12 of John depict the events that lead to the Upper Room discourse, but ultimately to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ had the big picture all the time. Everything He does in chapter 11 is working out of a bigger picture, the actual. He’s not going to be caught up in the tyranny of the obvious. He’s not going to do that. He has the big picture. Mary and Martha have the little picture. They see what they think is obvious. They don’t understand there is a much bigger picture involved.
Well, Mary and Martha knew that Lazarus was sick to death. Isn’t that obvious? So they immediately sent a message to the Lord Jesus to tell Him about it. Now, Mary and Martha were sisters of Lazarus.
John takes great pains in making sure that we understand this family. In verse 1 he says, “Mary and her sister, Martha.” Verse 2 says, “It was Mary whose brother was sick.” So you see a little family here, Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. John even identifies Mary as the one who anointed Christ’s feet with oil. That doesn’t even pop up until the 12thchapter of John.
So here is a little family who has a real problem. In their minds it is the actual situation. They want Jesus to know about it. More than that, they want Jesus to do something about it, now. So they send a message to Jesus. Now, obviously, somebody had to go and tell Him. Whether it was written or spoken, I don’t know. But they sent a message to Him. The message said, “Lord, he, whom you love, is sick.” The word love there is an interesting word. The word is phileo, and it means to cherish somebody. In other words, “he whom you cherish, Lord, your dear friend is sick.”
Now at first glance there is nothing wrong with the message. I mean, my goodness, they just want Him to be aware of it. But after reading the whole passage through, if you read the whole chapter, there is definitely something they were saying, without saying it, by sending Him this message. Not one time did they ask Him to come. But, buddy, they were saying that big time. You say, “You’re reading that into scripture.”Now , wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re saying to me, ‘Maybe they are like the centurion, who had a servant that was paralyzed and he came to Jesus. He said to Jesus, ‘You don’t have to go there, just speak the word and it will happen.’ And certainly it took place. That’s what they were doing. That’s why they didn’t ask Him to come. They just wanted Him to speak or do something from where He was, and that would cause Lazarus to be well, to be saved from death.”
Well, that sounds logical, and I really wish I could believe it. But when He gets there He runs into Martha. Listen to what Martha says to Him in verse 21 of chapter 11, “Martha, then said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” In verse 31, Mary says the very same thing. Ah, no, Mary and Martha wanted Jesus there. When the message was delivered they fully expected Him, because that’s His cherished friend, to come immediately and to heal Lazarus. “Lord, if you don’t come Lazarus will die.”
To them that was the obvious; they really thought that was the problem, and they were so very wrong. This is where we miss it. When God is in charge of something, He does things His way, not our way. They had assessed the situation; they had come to the conclusion that Jesus needed to be there right when they wanted Him.
But Jesus knew exactly what was going on. In fact, I think John 11:4 is a message He sends back to them—It doesn’t say that; I cannot prove it. But he says, “When Jesus heard this He said,” and, by the way, “heard this”’ I guess that tells us it was spoken. “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”
Now, can you imagine, let’s just think for a second. Maybe it was a message he sends back: Somebody had to come and tell Him. He responds, and they go back and say, “Oh, don’t worry about it, Jesus said this sickness is not going to end in death.” They forgot all about the last part “it’s for the Son of God to be glorified.” We never hear that when we are caught in the trauma of the moment. We’re only interested in what’s going on as far as what we think God ought to do in our life.
Lazarus’ being sick was a situation that would be used to glorify Christ. It would fulfill His purpose on this earth. Jesus knew how this specific situation fit into a bigger plan, but Mary and Martha were emotionally attached at a moment. What they thought was the obvious, was not the actual, of what was going on.
The reason we fail so often in joining Him in what He’s doing is that we’re always looking at the obvious. We never seem to back away and say “What’s the bigger picture of what God is doing in this circumstance? Why is this being allowed for us to go through in our life?” What was going on with Lazarus was far bigger than what appeared to be the obvious to Mary and to Martha. Our problem is the same that they had. We do the same thing. We ought to all see ourselves in this from time to time. Matter of fact, daily I’m reminded of this truth. Because what you expect God to do isn’t on our timetable.
Years ago, we were trying to raise some money to build an auditorium. A man in the church felt led to give us an 80-acre farm, the house, swimming pool, everything that went with it. It was paid for, but he just gave us the deed. Well, that was great, except now we had the problem of selling an 80-acre farm. He didn’t sell it and give us the money, he gave us the farm, so we had to sell it and get the money.
Ten months, at least, went by trying to sell that farm. So we didn’t know what to do. We prayed, and we did everything that we could do. We just did everything that we could do.
One night we had a meeting of our leadership, the Deacons, the Pastor and everybody was there. As we got together in that leadership meeting, a man brought up an issue that wasn’t on the agenda. “Now come on, folks, get with the agenda. You got something, bring it next time. Don’t bring it this time.” But, he was an influential man, and he got his way, and so he started speaking, “We’ve got a man in our church that needs a van, and we have a van we don’t use that much. Why don’t we give him our van?”
I never will forget the response of one of the guys there, “Hey, listen, let’s talk about that next time. We’ve got a problem, and our problem is we’re trying to sell a farm, and we’re trying to decide how we do this. Do we lower the price? What do we do?” Boy, he was just adamant that we need to deal with it. So finally, we all consented and said, “Okay.” We went around the room, and you could see a lot of confusion. “Okay, let’s get on our knees and pray.” Everybody got on their knees and we prayed; talked about it a little longer. And suddenly the wisdom began to come.
And that’s the way God works, by the way; it doesn’t come in with the men, it comes up among the men when they are praying. And the wisdom begins to come to the surface, “Give the man the van.” We were totally unanimous with it. We did, called him that night. Didn’t come to any conclusion on how to sell the farm.
The next morning he came and picked up the van at 10:00 a.m. At 1:00 p.m. the farm sold.
You see, we fail to connect the dots. “Wait a minute, that’s not on our agenda. Come on, we’re dealing with this over here.” God sees the big picture. And here we are praying for something over here, which we think is the obvious; and the actual is right back over here. And we miss it. This is why it is such a foreign language to us, when you start connecting with Him and what He’s doing. His ways are not our ways; He doesn’t do things the way we do them. When ministry is pure and flows out of His heart, it takes a whole different dimension in the way it’s treated and the way it’s experienced. So we must learn the difference between the obvious and the actual.
But the second thing, God’s delays are not always denials. It’s an interesting thing that Jesus does in the next two verses. It’s incredible. Verse 5, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place He was.” I’m so glad verse 5 came before verse 6, aren’t you? The word “love” in verse 5 is agapao, and it means to do what is best for somebody no matter how much pain or cost may come in doing it. Jesus knew they were going to be upset with Him. Jesus understood that, but He was doing what was best for them. He was doing what was not just best for them, but best for all men.
Jesus was loving them in what he did next. Verse 6 was a result of His loving them in verse 5. When we join Jesus in what He’s doing, we must realize it’s not going to happen according to our time clock. Why? Because we don’t have the big picture. He has the big picture, and it’s not just going to be for us. It’s going to be for the benefit of everyone. God will move when He is ready. He’s slow, in our calculation, but He’s never late. Have you discovered that yet? He’s right on time, but His timing and ours is rarely ever the same. He has the greater plan. Therefore, His delays are not necessarily denials. He’s waiting for all the pieces to fit before he brings them together.
What did He do in loving Martha and Mary? Verse 6, “So when He heard he was sick He ran immediately to be with them because he loved them”? No, “He then stay two days longer in the place where He was.” I just know something about Martha from reading about her in scripture. I’m sure the anxiety level is very high at this point, maybe almost to the point of an antidepressant. I mean she is upset, “Jesus now did you hear me when I pray, do you love him? Certainly you love him.” One day, two days, three days, “Where is He? I thought He cared, He didn’t answer my prayer when I thought He was going to answer my prayer.”
This is usually, in church circles, where we form a committee, and we take matters into our own hands. “God doesn’t care, so we’ll just do the best we can till He shows up.” We are slaves—now listen to me, the human mind, and this is why the ministry, the true ministry is such a foreign language—the human mind is a slave to the tyranny of the urgent. “It has to be done now.” How do you know that? “Because I figured it out, and I’m right.” “God wanted my opinion, and I gave it to Him.” That’s in Hesitations 4:13. We don’t understand God’s delays. Just like Israel, we’ve seen His works and we pray accordingly. But we don’t know His ways.
And that’s why this message is such a foreign language to us. No wonder ministry is something that we do for God; we don’t know the difference from the obvious and the actual. We certainly haven’t learned that God’s delays do not necessarily mean denials. God is not just going to do it for me. He’s going to do it for the benefit of everyone. He doesn’t work just for one, He works for all. What He does is in His time. He fits it in His schedule. When you join Him, you have to learn these things. It won’t work the way you think it’s supposed to work.
Thirdly, we operate out of fear and not out of faith. This is our problem. Most of us operate out of fear and not out of faith. We’re afraid to get out of our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is so nice and secure. We don’t like to step outside of that.
I personally think the disciples are the real comic book illustrations in this story. I just get hope, I get encouragement when I read about the disciples. I don't think they could get a job in the 21st century. I mean, these are characters. They have made up their mind that they are not going to Judea with Jesus. Bethany—and by the way, there are two Bethany’s. They were in Bethany, but the Bethany beyond the Jordan. The Bethany where Lazarus was is two miles from Jerusalem, and that’s in Judea.
You say, “What’s the big deal about Judea? We’ve gotten off Mary and Martha, we’ll leave them alone for a minute. We’ll concern ourselves with the disciples. They had just recently been in Judea. There was trouble, trouble. In John 10:22 and following, Jesus was with His disciples in Jerusalem, which is in Judea. The Pharisees wanted Him to admit that He was the Christ, because they wanted to slay Him. In verse 30, Jesus said to them, “I and the Father are one.” And, boy, when He said that, they just fumed, smoke came out of their ears. They got rocks and tried to stone Him to death. He eluded them. He spoke to them again. They tried to seize Him and He got away from them.
Now they came over to the Bethany on the other side of the Jordan. While they were there, the disciples have been figuring, “two plus two equal four. We go back there, we go back to Judea, we go back to Jerusalem, they are going to get Him, and they are going to kill Him. If they kill Him, they are going to kill us. We’re not going there, No way, Jose!” They figured it out, they are staying where it is comfortable. They are not about to join Him in His wanting to go back to Judea.
Well, follow this comical story with me. Be honest, and see if you don’t see yourself somewhere in how they react. Remember fear is unbelief. Let me say that again: Fear is unbelief. Understand that. Verse 7, “Then after this, He said to the disciples, let us go to Judea again.” Now watch, here are His wonderful disciples who say, “I love you, Lord.” Peter said, “I’ll die for You, Lord.” Right!
Verse 8, “The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are’” notice the next word “are we going” No, it doesn’t say that, “are you going back again?” Oh, man, knuckleheads. “Are you going back? Well, great, we’ll pray for you. We’re not going, no way! We’re not going back there.” See they didn’t even understand who He was. When you begin to understand who He is and when He speaks, you step out. When Peter was on the boat and Jesus said, “Come,” he didn’t step out on the water, he stepped out on the word because by that time, he’d begun to understand who Jesus was. They continued to struggle with this.
Verse 9, “Jesus answered, are there twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night he stumbles. Light is not in him.” Unbelief is fear, and fear is darkness. You say, “Ah, but I don’t want to step outside my comfort zone. I know God has spoken to my heart, but I’m not about to do that because I’m comfortable where I am. Leave me alone. I’m going to do ministry my way.” That is nothing more than darkness, and it is the essence of what fear breeds in our life. Only when we obey Christ are we walking where we can see. Otherwise, we are floundering around in the darkness. Most churches fall into that trap. They are afraid to take that step. God says, “Step into the water of my will,” and they say “No, because it is going to cost me.” “No, because I’m afraid of this or afraid of that.” “I’m staying here. Now let’s get a committee and we’ll do it our way, till Jesus comes back.” And they stumble around in the darkness.
Years ago, when my son was little, growing up he was always worried for me because I’d go to Romania. For 13 years I went to Romania. Three of those years were under Ceausescu, under communism. We’d go in under cover; if you can imagine me under cover. We also had a Tennessee orange van, we were real inconspicuous. My son would say to me when I’d leave, “Daddy, Daddy, don’t go; don’t go.” I’d say, “Why, Son?” He’d have tears in his eyes and he’d say, “They are going to capture you and they are going to put you in prison and they’ll kill you, Daddy.” And I would say, “Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen, I really do appreciate that. I hope you haven’t got a word that I messed somewhere along this way.”
I would go over there and come back and sit him down in the den and we’d talk about my experiences. I was able to show him under the horrible deal of communism and what was going on in Romania at that time. I said, “Son, I was safer over there, more in the light over there, than I would have been in my den thinking that I was safe back at home.’ And I would take him right to the scripture over and over again. Folks, you aren’t safe, you aren’t even secure, and you don’t even know where you’re going, unless you’ve said yes to Jesus and been willing to take the next step that He’s given you in your life. Even when it mean a step outside of the comfort zone.
Well, Jesus is beginning to read what’s going on. In Verse 11, “And after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I go so that I may awaken him out of sleep.’” That’ll come back a little later, I’ll bring that back up. The interesting thing here, the disciples weren’t planning on going to Judea. When he said he was “asleep” they loved it. “Oh, this is wonderful; he’s not actually sick. Jesus got a word from the Father, he’s just asleep. We don’t have to go! We don’t have to go! We don’t have to go!” I’m telling you, “thick, thick.” You know the Lord Jesus used the word “sleep” The word is always used when it is meaning death according to the body, never to the spirit. When the body gets tired, it lays down. What does it do after it’s slept awhile? It gets up. That’s what’s going to happen to our body, we put it in the ground, it’s going to get up one day. And Jesus gave a beautiful picture of that. But they didn’t understand; they thought He meant that he was just asleep.
Verse 12, “The disciples then said to Him, ‘Lord, if he’s fallen asleep, he’ll recover.’” Isn’t that awesome, I’m so glad. Oh, boy.
Verse 13, Jesus said, “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought he was speaking of literal sleep.”
So in verse 14, “Jesus then said to them plainly Lazarus is dead.” Do you understand?
Verse 15, look what he says. And it’s so important because he’s pointing something out. And it needs to be pointed out in our life. When God speaks—and he speaks through His word and through His leadership and in others ways in your life—when God speaks we step out. You never, ever question. If you do, then you are right back in darkness again. He said, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there.”
Now, why would he say that for the disciples? Why? “So that you may believe. But let’s go to him.” What? Disciples who said they would die for Him: “That you may believe.” That is the problem, unbelief is fear and fear is darkness. He’s pointing something out here; they didn’t understand you join Him, even if it to go back to where it is dangerous over in Judea. You join Him and you’re only safe when you’re walking with Him. Jesus nailed their unbelief. “You’re my disciples, and you don’t even believe me? You’re looking out for yourselves. You’re full of fear, you don’t want to get out of your comfort zone. You just don’t trust me.” Well, have you been there? Boy, I’ve been there, many times.
Then Thomas throws in his two cents worth. This is the one that really gets you, the anger. “Therefore, Thomas who was also called Didymus [the twin] said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.’” Lots of people say look at his loyalty. Yeah, I see that, but do you see the other side of that? Whoever said anything about anybody dying? But he’s already figured it out, hasn’t he? Good old Thomas. Boy, I’ve been in many a business meeting that I’ve had people stand up on the business meeting floor. “Well, it seems to be unanimous, except for me, and we’re going to try to borrow this money or whatever we’re going to do. I’ll tell you what, I’ll just go ahead and concede. I’ll be with you, although we’re all going to go bankrupt together, we’ll at least be unanimous.” Thanks, a lot. Lots of people are that way. They have already figured out the worst is going to happen. You see, this is unbelief. Why would they think the worst was going to happen? Man, they are with Jesus, the one who spoke creation into existence. And they are questioning?
Well, it is ignorance. He had a little bit of loyalty, pat him on the back for that. At least he’s willing to die with Him. It came out of a lack of trust of who He was. They still didn’t grasp who they are dealing with. I wonder if we do today. We can’t see the actual for the obvious. We’re always thinking “this is the obvious, isn’t it?” We haven’t learned that God’s delays are not necessarily denials. And we operate out of fear, instead of walking by faith, protecting our comfort zone.
Well, so far, no wonder we do ministry our own way because so far who needs Jesus anyway. He’s going to do so different, we can’t seem to accept it.
Finally, we fail to realize that, in joining with Him, we get to see what only He can do. Only when we join with Him and we begin to accept the fact that His timing is not our timing. We begin to step outside of our comfort zone and take the steps He tells us to take, only then do we get to see what only He can do. Remember back in verse 11? I said I would bring it back. “He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has asleep.’” But then He says, “But I go so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” Now, here’s what He’s saying: ‘You’re going to go with me; I’m going to show you what belief is all about. I’m the only one in this group that knows what’s going on and secondly can do what needs to be done. I know the need that Lazarus has. I understand the prayer of Mary and Martha, but I want you to go, because you are going to watch me do what only I can do. Jesus waited two days because He wanted a resurrection. Mary and Martha wanted a healing, that’s all they wanted, but Jesus backed off and said, “No, I want a resurrection.”
Which one would you rather have? Which one are you clinging to in your life? Four days had elapsed when Jesus finally got there. Verse 17, “So when Jesus came, he found that he had already been dead in a tomb for four days.” Now Jesus knew that from day one. He said he was “asleep.” He already knew that Lazarus was dead. In four days. One day, I guess for the runner to get back. Two days when He stayed where He was and one day to travel there, I guess. I’m not sure how that works itself out. But he’s been in the tomb four days when Jesus gets there.
Now the four days were significant, because in Jewish thought the spirit left the body after the third day. In other words, you can understand the urgency of their prayer, that was in their superstition. So they were saying, “Lord, you better get here quick, because the Spirit is going to leave the body on the third day.” He wasn’t just sick, he was dead. And Jesus knew that. This is going to be the miracle of all miracles, to bring somebody back from the dead. On the fourth day, when the spirit has supposedly left the body, basically when He gets there. We’ve already read verses 21 and 22. When He gets there, Martha says, “Well, Lord, if you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died.” In other words, you can’t do anything now, and you can’t do anything here. It’s too late. You didn’t do it the way we told you to do it; therefore, now you can’t do anything.” Mary said the same exact thing. Even when he was right there in front of them, the unbelief is so clear in who He is and what He could do. The situation was just too bad, Lazarus was dead. Well, way to go, Martha, Mary.
But when Jesus stood before the tomb—and I’m making this short—He says “Take me to where he’s buried.” And He went to the tomb. He told them to roll the stone away. Martha even said, “Anything you ask of God, He’ll do it.” Excuse, me Martha, do you understand who you are talking to? Well, she kind of had a little bit of hope there. But when He gets to the tomb, verse 39, “Jesus said, ‘Move the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is going to be a stench, a stink, for he has been dead four days.’” Oh, Martha just sit down and be quiet. Lots of folks like that in the Kingdom, aren’t there? Verse 43, “Jesus stepped forward and said, ‘Roll that stone away.’ And they rolled it away. He said, ‘Lazarus come forth.’” One of the contemporary singers has a song about this and he depicts it as: Here is Lazarus in heaven telling everybody what’s going on in his life, and all of sudden, he’s talking to them and he says, “Excuse me, do what? Uh, do what? Excuse me, guys, I got to go.” And his spirit returns to his body. He comes forth. Now they had him wrapped in grave clothes. So I guess he had to walk like this. “And Jesus said, ‘Unwrap him and set the boy free.’” Unwrap his mouth, so he can witness; unwrap his hands so he can work; unwrap his feet so he can walk. Here’s a believer being set free. It’s always redemptive when Jesus is involved.
Well, God’s plan, God’s delays, God’s will is always redemptive so that unbelievers can come to know Christ or believers can finally get set free and get back up under grace and be the believers that God wants them to be. Ministry is received, not achieved. It is joining Him. That means a lot as we’ve just seen. Walking with Him, allowing Him to direct our path. It’s allowing the interruptions of life to become opportunities for Him to do through us, what we cannot do. So we begin to realize that the obvious is rarely the actual. That God’s delays are not necessarily denials. That we ought to walk by faith and not by fear. And that we get to join Him to watch what He can do. We just stepped up on the platform of ministry; it’s now received, it’s no longer achieved.