March 21, 2006
"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' he asked." (John 11: 33-34)
Lazarus was dead. Word had been sent to Jesus but He chose to delay in coming. The body was in the tomb. The stone was placed across it's entrance. It was done. No more hoping. No more possibility for a miracle. Over. Finished. It was over in Martha and Mary's minds. They had given up. They both said, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." But he did. So that was that. They buried their brother and stopped believing. It was over. Or was it?
Using this passage in a sermon, Bishop T. D. Jakes asked a question last week that has haunted me ever since. Paraphrasing Jesus' question, "Where have you laid him?", he said, "Show me the place where you stopped believing." I have been thinking about this for days and decided to do my musing over it with you. Maybe we can both find the answer.
We speak the right Christian-ese. We use the right words with the right message and we even convince ourselves that we are really dealing with our problems in faith. But are we really still believing? If we search our hearts honestly, did we give up a long time ago? Sometimes we blatantly, outright give up. We decide there is no hope and no use in believing any longer. Convicted and ashamed by our lack of enduring faith, I think we can enter into a more dangerous area which becomes quiet resignation. We stop talking about our problem. We may even stop praying about it. Our unbelief is masked with a false persona, a stoic face and the appearance to others that we are strong and patient in our belief that God will come through. But if we would take the time to search the deepest part of our hearts, we would find that we really just aren't believing anymore. Under that quiet resignation is just a tired heart that says, "It's just never going to happen for me and I might as well accept it."
Martha and Mary stopped believing when the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Naomi stopped believing when her husband and sons died and she was left alone and bitter with a foreign daughter-in-law. Sarah stopped believing when she looked in the mirror and saw a woman too old to ever have a child, let alone with that old, worn out husband, Abraham. Sometime during the thirty eight years the man laid at the pool of Bethesda, he stopped believing that he would ever be healed. Failed marriage after failed marriage made the Samaritan woman stop believing that there was any man that could love her and never hurt her. Even the thief on the cross, right at the hour of his death didn't believe that there was any hope. ["We are getting what our deeds deserve." Luke 23: 41]
"Show me the place where you stopped believing." When was it for you? Be honest. There's no one there but you and God. And He already knows. You don't have to admit it to anyone but Him. It may have already jumped out at you. It may be much deeper, hidden under layers of stoicism and resignation. Faith is not resignation. Faith is not passive. Faith is not just appearing to be strong under pressure. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) Sure means firmly established, with confident certainty. Certain is fixed, settled, indisputable. No passivity here. Faith is active and aggressive. "Faith sees more in a promise of God to help than in all other things to hinder." (John Bunyan) Faith is a knowing deep down in your spirit that it will eventually be okay.
You may have stopped believing in a doctor's office or in a divorce court. It may have been at a hospital bedside or at a funeral. Maybe in a jail cell, an unemployment line or a food pantry. Could be the place where there is always more month left than money. Wherever it was for you....start believing again. Lazarus was raised! Naomi and Ruth were blessed, redeemed and provided for by Boaz. Sarah and Abraham had Isaac, the child of the promise. The man at the pool was healed. The Samaritan woman found a man who gave her a testimony and she became an evangelist. The thief was with Jesus that day in Paradise. Your "that day" could be today! Psalm 77:14 says that God performs miracles. He did and He still does! This too will pass. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10: 23) I believe for you a new sunrise, a new day, filled with new hope and belief in God for your future. Jesus will work it out. For you and for me.