Love’s Perfect Delays



JANUARY 15, 2006


Last Friday as I was working on this morning’s message, my thoughts were interrupted by Ray, the man who takes care of our church’s bookkeeping. The conversation reminded me of the reality of one of the points I stressed in my New Year’s message. Every circumstance, both the good and the bad that our loving Father has planned for us to experience this year will be unique.

Ray would not disagree with that statement. Last Sunday his father who had been living in a nursing home died. A few days later on Wednesday, Ray’s wife’s father who was recovering at home from triple bypass surgery suddenly developed an infection and was rushed back to the hospital where he died shortly thereafter.

In my New Year’s message I said that I was looking forward to whatever portion of the new year He has ordained for me to live with optimism and all sorts of hope. I went on to say that there are some Christians who don’t have such a positive attitude. There are many Christians younger than I am who are so tired of living in this sin infested world that their most fervent desire is that the Lord would rapture them out of it.

Others whose quality of life leaves so much to be desired would much rather go home to be with the Lord instead of continuing living in their present circumstances. Suffering, whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual has a way of sapping and draining the energy out of us. So much so, that there may be times when we may even find ourselves wishing we were dead. We become so worn out and tired that we don’t know how we can possibly continue.

Last year at this time there were millions of men, women and children in Southeast Asia who found themselves forced to deal with the aftermath of the Great Tsunami. Although I don’t know any of those Tsunami victims, the Lord has brought folks into my live who are still reeling from effects of what I would refer to as being a “giant tribulation wave.” This thing either clobbered them last year or in a previous one.

Some of you know the kind of figurative wave I’m speaking about. It may come in the form of someone you love who is caught up in the horrors of booze or drugs. You find yourself forced to experience the seemingly never ending wide-awake nightmares that accompanies the person’s enslavement and unwillingness to do anything about it.

Other folks know what it feels like to be forced to live with severe chronic pain for a year or more with no end in sight. Although the sufferer may be surrounded by loved ones who would do anything they possibly could to help alleviate the pain they soon discover they are powerless to do so.

I seriously doubt if any of you folks have not seen at least one of those huge tribulation waves headed right at you and all the while knowing there was nothing you could do about it. Try as you might you couldn’t get out of its way. All you could do was hope and pray, if you are even able to pray, is that your loving Father will be merciful and not let it impact you in such a way which will be more than you are able to handle.

It could come in the form of a humiliating slap in the face confirming a student’s suspicion that the special kid they love so much is dumping him or her for someone better able to meet their perceived needs. Other Christians can vividly recall how their worse fear became a reality when their doctor informs them the radiology and pathology reports came back positive.

These are the kind of heartbreaking events that we sometimes are able to see coming our way. When they finally reach us they have a way of picking us up like a giant wave and then slamming us down at the feet of our Savior. And we cry out to Jesus, the only One who has the power to help us.

Sometimes He answers us immediately such as when He saved Peter from drowning on that night the terrified apostle went for what turned out to be a very brief stroll on top of the stormy sea.

But then there are other times when all we seem to get from Him is silence. In fact, we may have felt like a helpless cork bobbing in the water, tossed every which way, just struggling to survive and to keep our head above water, when along comes another one of those giant tribulation waves in the form of dashed hopes and shattered dreams. We find ourselves caught up to the crest of that wave and then once again slammed down at the feet of our Savior.

Before we can even catch our breath and get the water out of our mouth and nose and compose our thoughts enough to pray, along comes another one followed in rapid succession by another and another and still another. It’s times like these when we can identify with the man I mentioned in my last two sermons, the man who believes we are puppets of a fiendish god who delights in inflicting pain and misery upon them while he spares his favorites ones.

It’s especially painful for the person experiencing seemingly never ending physical, emotional or spiritual suffering, when everyone else around the sufferer has been spared such torment. There may even be times when, to the sufferer, those nearby people feel as though they are schools of jelly fish stinging them as they’re thrashing about in the water. How awful it is to overhear someone wonder out loud what you did to deserve such a thing or that perhaps you would be better off dead.

To make the suffering worse the poor miserable afflicted person’s earnest prayers seem to be falling on deaf ears. The person prays and prays and prays and their loved ones and friends pray as well and all everyone seems to get is silence.

In a recent message I mentioned a family that saw one of those giant tribulation waves quickly approaching them. Try as they might, there was nothing they could do about it. This one had the unmistakable name of someone they loved dearly written all over it. They took it to the Lord in prayer, knowing that He was the only One who could flatten that giant wave if He wanted to.

John 11:1-57 (AMP)
1 NOW A certain man named Lazarus was ill. He was of Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived.
2 This Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was [now] sick.
3 So the sisters sent to Him, saying, Lord, he whom You love [so well] is sick.
4 When Jesus received the message, He said, This sickness is not to end in death; but [on the contrary] it is to honor God and to promote His glory, that the Son of God may be glorified through (by) it.

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]
6 Therefore [even] when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was.
7 Then after that interval He said to His disciples, Let us go back again to Judea.
8 The disciples said to Him, Rabbi, the Jews only recently were intending and trying to stone You, and are You [thinking of] going back there again?
9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees [by] the light of this world.
10 But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him [the light is lacking to him].

11 He said these things, and then added, Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep.
12 The disciples answered, Lord, if he is sleeping, he will recover.
13 However, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He referred to falling into a refreshing and natural sleep.
14 So then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead,
15 And for your sake I am glad that I was not there; it will help you to believe (to trust and rely on Me). However, let us go to him.

16 Then Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, Let us go too, that we may die [be killed] along with Him.
17 So when Jesus arrived, He found that he [Lazarus] had already been in the tomb four days.
18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away,
19 And a considerable number of the Jews had gone out to see Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.
21 Martha then said to Jesus, Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
22 And even now I know that whatever You ask from God, He will grant it to You.
23 Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again.
24 Martha replied, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said to her, I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live;

26 And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] die at all. Do you believe this?
27 She said to Him, Yes, Lord, I have believed [I do believe] that You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), the Son of God, [even He] Who was to come into the world. [It is for Your coming that the world has waited.]
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, privately whispering to her, The Teacher is close at hand and is asking for you.
29 When she heard this, she sprang up quickly and went to Him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the same spot where Martha had met Him.
31 When the Jews who were sitting with her in the house and consoling her saw how hastily Mary had arisen and gone out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to pour out her grief there.
32 When Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she dropped down at His feet, saying to Him, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

33 When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who came with her [also] sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed.]
34 And He said, Where have you laid him? They said to Him, Lord, come and see.
35 Jesus wept.

36 The Jews said, See how [tenderly] He loved him!
37 But some of them said, Could not He Who opened a blind man’s eyes have prevented this man from dying?
38 Now Jesus, again sighing repeatedly and deeply disquieted, approached the tomb. It was a cave (a hole in the rock), and a boulder lay against [the entrance to close] it.
39 Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days!

40 Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
42 Yes, I know You always hear and listen to Me, but I have said this on account of and for the benefit of the people standing around, so that they may believe that You did send Me [that You have made Me Your Messenger].

43 When He had said this, He shouted with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out!
44 And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a [burial] napkin bound around his face. Jesus said to them, Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.
45 Upon seeing what Jesus had done, many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Him. [They trusted in Him and adhered to Him and relied on Him.]

What a beautiful inspirational heart warming climax this account is to all the suffering the Lord had planned for these two sisters and their brother to endure. Before the foundation of His world God had planned for those three people to pass through, not stay in it, but to pass through the “Valley of The Shadow of Death.” They were each destined to experience these events at a precise moment in human history exactly as had been planned by their loving Father.

As we read about those events unfolding there should not be a shred of doubt that each of those very painful sorrows worked out exactly as their Father had planned. His Son was glorified through them and every single one of His follower’s tears became a divine instrument through which He bestowed a magnificent blessing upon Martha and Mary and Lazarus.

Sure God planned for each of these special children to pass through the dark shadow of The Valley of Death and endure those painful circumstances. They were privileged to learn that death was just a shadow. A mere shadow which cannot harm anyone who believes and trusts in and adheres to the teachings of the One who told Martha:

John 11:25-26 (ESV)
25.”I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

The Lord has planned that the intensity of happiness and joy His followers will ever be capable of experiencing will be in direct proportion to His followers struggle to trust Him throughout whatever painful ordeal He has planned for them to experience.

Think about this for a moment and let it all sink in. In your wildest imagination can you visualize Martha, Mary or Lazarus complaining to the Lord and demanding to know why He subjected them to such torment at the moment they were reunited as a family in the little village of Bethany? Can you imagine those folks demanding Jesus to tell them why He didn’t give them the desire of their heart and answer their passionate prayers a moment sooner?

Do any of you folks think it’s possible that these three children of His who are in eternity right now are second guessing the methods the One who is infinite in wisdom and perfect in love used to bestow upon each of them such a special blessing?

Furthermore, as we just seen, we don’t have to die and go to heaven before we can learn some of the reasons why there is even such a thing as “Love’s Perfect Delays” or to enjoy much comfort, encouragement and hope in the here and now . Before He takes us home something wonderful is apt to happen exactly as He has planned. Lord willing, next week….

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