Bible Verses: “So the sisters [Mary and Martha] sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:3-6)
Jesus was the only one in John 11 who knew how this story was going to end.
He had a plan from the beginning of what he wanted to do. He didn’t forget to set his alarm clock and accidentally allowed Lazarus to die. He didn’t get stuck in the morning rush hour commute on his way to the city of Bethany where Lazarus lived. It wasn’t as though Jesus didn’t care enough to save Lazarus but then raised him from the dead because he felt bad after seeing everyone crying.
Jesus had a plan, but the people had to stick around long enough to allow him to finish what he started in order to witness his faithfulness.
So often when we hear that God is faithful, we assume his faithfulness will translate into an easy and clean life. When we experience a job loss, a divorce, or some disappointment in life, we naturally assume God is not as loving as we hoped. But God never promised we wouldn’t die if we trust him. He just said that our stories would not end in death (John 11:4).
The business may have failed, but it doesn’t mean God isn’t faithful. The marriage may have been terminated, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. Perhaps we experience these “deaths” in our lives because God allows them so he can show his ability to redeem, which is what we need to know the most.
Life becomes so much simpler to see God’s love when situations are not seen as ultimate failures or successes until God receives praise through them. God may not have wanted foreclosure, the relational turmoil, the early death of a child, or the general disappointments of life on earth. But God always desires to glorify himself through what we think is “dead,” just as he desires to glorify himself through the lucrative business, healthy marriage, pleasures of parenting, and general joys of life.
God can only turn bad into good when we allow him to work long after we feel something or someone has died.
Before my wife and I had kids and we had time to spend some of our summer Saturday afternoons lounging in front of the TV, on occasion we would find ourselves watching the painter Bob Ross. Bob Ross was a painter from the 60’s and his show was filmed in the 80’s. The show was basically just him starting with a blank canvass and then he walks his viewers through creating a beautiful painting. His afro, quirky mannerisms, and bell-bottom pants draw you in like a moth to the fire. You’re not sure how it happens, but somehow you find yourself hooked on watching him paint and talk about making “happy little trees” and “joyful little mountains.”
Although Bob Ross certainly seems to have enjoyed the 60’s a little too much (if you know what I mean), the guy was an amazing painter. My favorite part of the show comes about three-quarters of the way in. The blank canvass is no longer blank. It holds a masterpiece of exquisite trees with sun rays glistening off shimmering lakes nestled in the foothills of grand mountains in the background. The painting seems perfect just the way it is.
Then it happens. Without fail, right when you think Bob Ross is going to tell you to tune in next week for another odd but entertaining experience of watching him paint, he gets out the thick brush, dabs it in some dark color, and generously adds it to the canvas, seemingly ruining the masterpiece that should have been.
My mouth drops, Bethany and I complain that he just ruined it, and I start getting nervous for him because the show is nearing its end. I’m always waiting for him to get flustered, breakdown in panic, and admit he just totally jacked-up his painting and will now have to start over next week. But it never happens that way.
He goes for the little brush and dabs together a mixture of whites, blues, and greens. He then adds this new mixture of color to the dark splotch I feel has ruined it all. He adds some sun rays and flowers and a few bushes. After about five minutes, the dark blob of paint is no longer a dark blob of paint but rather a colorful, twisting oak tree or a beautiful log cabin or whatever Bob Ross felt like making that week. What I thought was going to be a blemish is now the finishing touch. It completes the whole work of art. Without it, I can see the painting would have been average at best. Now it is truly a masterpiece.
But what would have happened if Bob Ross wasn’t allowed to finish what he started? What if he was painting, added the splotch, and then someone told him to take a hike because he just ruined the whole thing? What could have been a masterpiece is now an average painting that is ruined and tossed into the dumpster.
That’s what it’s like when we turn from God in the middle of him working to glorify himself in our lives. The master artist needs to be allowed to finish his work. What we feel is going to be a blemish, God wants to make as his finishing touch. Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not “end” in death. But then Lazarus dies, the splotch of dark paint is generously applied, and it seems the hope of a happy ending is lost. Maybe Jesus messed up? Maybe God really doesn’t love Lazarus? As the disciples wonder what is going on, Jesus says to them in John 11:15, “. . . for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe”
Jesus then raises Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus and the sisters love him like never before, and the display of God’s power causes many people to put their faith in Jesus (John 11:43). As Lazarus was coming out of the tomb in his grave clothes, I imagine Jesus turning around and looking at his speechless disciples. His eyes surely said it all, “Do you believe who I am yet?”