Christian Life Sermon
Lord why does it have to be this way?
Simply Written Christian Life Sermons
Christian Life – In 2013, after having stepped-back a little from active labors within our assembly, it had become a very difficult year for us indeed and the only way I could have really described it would to say that it was ‘bitter-sweet’ Christian Life. Sweet in that we’d been overwhelmed by the fulfillment of God’s promise to give us children of our own and bitter, in that it was really difficult to be on the side-lines. Emily and David are absolutely great kids and I know I might sound a bit bias but they really are, both Sharon and I were thoroughly enjoying them and they both seemed really content and happy children, what more could you ask? On the other hand though, I’d have to say that this particular year had seen more battles in our Christian lives than we’d seen for a long time; we’d been heavily betrayed, lied to, attacked by individuals both within and without our family and, a few other situations which wouldn’t be appropriate to share so as you can imagine, a strange combination when great things were happening with our family and quite terrible things happening around us. So, I asked the Lord in prayer a question which I knew the answer to and I’m sure many other Christians have asked in the past, “why Lord, why do things in the Christian life have to be done this way?”. I knew the answer at the time but sometimes, you need to say it anyway – Lord why?
As ever with God and His Word, there’s always answers to help us understand our present circumstances and in our particular situation at that time, there was one great passage that we could apply to help us in our confusion. It comes from the Gospel of John Chapter 11 and it’s the account of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. For those of you who might not fully know the account; Jesus at the time was about a day’s walk from the home of his close friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary when word came to Him that Lazarus was sick but our Lord’s response, was to stay where He was for the next two days assuring His disciples that Lazarus would live again. Once the two days had passed, Jesus set off for a day’s journey making the total four days in all, to come to the aid of His friends. When He He’d come into the city Martha (Lazarus’s Sister) came to him and cried followed shortly after by the other Sister Mary, who cried even louder. Jesus then asked where they’d laid Lazarus and when He saw all the people mourning He cried, asking for the stone to be taken away from the front of the tomb. Even though Lazarus had been dead now for four days Jesus, with a loud shout, cried out “Lazarus come forth“, and Lazarus walked out of the tomb alive! Everyone saw the miracle including certain Jews from Jerusalem and from that point on, the Chief Priests and the Pharisees plotted as to how to take Him.
It’s quite an account and an amazing miracle that no one in the crowd could have denied but the account tells us so much more about the Son of God and the will of the Father for this particular set of circumstances. Beginning with the major one, giving a sinless Jesus a death sentence wasn’t as easy as one might think and the Chief Priests were in quite a muddle. On one hand if they continued to let Him go around performing these levels of miracles and claiming He was the King of the Jews, the Romans might have destroyed the Temple and their way of life but on the other hand; if they took Him out themselves, the people might have risen up against them, so they had some difficult decisions ahead. But God, holding Jesus back for two days, ensured that all the people would have been gathered together, including the Chief Priests, making sure that Jesus would receive His death warrant. You see Jesus wasn’t there to become King of Israel or to rise up against the Roman Invaders like everyone thought He might, He was there to die on a Cross for all Mankind as was God’s will for Him, so although Jesus could have come earlier and relieved the suffering of His friends, He had to obey his Father and carry out His will. Obeying His Father meant putting His friends through much suffering but Jesus had to obey, He had to go to the Cross to die. The amazing thing about this account, is that Jesus could have healed Lazarus from where He was two days away, He could have went against his Father’s will and went and raised him anyway but He didn’t, He chose to obey, knowing it would cause His friends great distress.
One of the more amazing parts though, is the kind of compassion Jesus displayed and remember, Jesus was the express image of God the Father in every way and like Jesus said, “if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father”. When Mary came to Jesus crying out “if you’d been here my brother would not have died” she cried out to Him in anger and disbelief and what was Jesus’s reaction? He wept. When He saw all of the others crying and mourning He again wept, Jesus was so grieved at their distress that He was overcome with compassion. Isn’t it amazing, think on it, Jesus never rebuked Mary harshly for reacting badly to Him, Jesus understood, Jesus knew it was from a place of grief and instead of walking in there like a ‘Knight in Shining Armour’, Jesus wept with the people. Why did He weep knowing that He could raise Lazarus from the dead with just a thought or a wave of His hand? Because He took no pleasure in the suffering of His friends and neither does the Father. This is the part I think we tend to overlook when we find ourselves in difficult places, in the places where we’ve been crying out to God saying ‘why lord why?’ Our mind so easily believes that God is cold and emotionless when we go through hard times but as the account of Lazarus shows, it grieves Him to His very Heart. Any of you readers who’ve been stretched beyond your limits by God will know that it’s tough, very tough and I remember it clearly when I was seriously ill. At points, the pain was unbearable and I was thinking ‘He doesn’t care, no He can’t care when He could wave His hand and take my pain away.’ But like Mary, Martha and the people present, God had a far higher purpose in mind than what could be seen with the natural eye and, with very good reason for his actions.
The people could only focus on their grief and the circumstances they were in but God had a far greater purpose in mind, God had to orchestrate a situation which would sign His own son’s death warrant because that act, would not only save the people there, but everyone who would believe on His name afterward. Jesus had to go to the Cross and this was one of those situations which made it happen but let’s remember; God took no pleasure in the people’s suffering, just like He doesn’t take any pleasure in our sufferings, it’s just that there’s no other way to accomplish His will and I’m sure if there was, God would use. It really is an amazing account and it goes a long way to explain why God does things the way He does things in the Christian Life as well as the passage showing us just how He feels about our sufferings. God doesn’t take any pleasure in us suffering but in it, He’s trying to build us and prepare us for things ahead, even if we don’t like it. When I was seriously ill I didn’t like it, I really didn’t like Christian Life but through it, God rid me of pride, of arrogance and taught me the things I needed to know to step forward in the Ministry and for that, I hope I’ll always be grateful. But looking back, I can see that God took no pleasure in my pain but He had to do it that way to make me who I am and fulfill the purposes He had for me in my Christian Life. Like Mary and Martha, I think many Christians find themselves in that position of wondering why God hasn’t turned up, why He seems to be so a far off when we need help but all the while be assured, it’s been for a purpose and that He’s coming soon. God knows just how much we can take and won’t push us beyond what we can actually handle, the process might be difficult but the results are well worth the wait!