Didn't I tell you that if you keep trusting, you will see the glory of God?
I think my favorite section of Scripture, my #1 (from a long list of favorites), is John 11. This morning, I added John 12 to it. I never realized they were concurrent - Mary's anointing of Jesus' feet with her dowry (a jar of very expensive perfume); then wiping it off with her hair following Lazarus' raising from the dead.
That makes sense, of course. You would throw a party, too, if your brother was raised from the dead. At the very least, host a dinner party. But I never saw it before. Just goes to show you how fresh and exciting Scripture is. Keep reading it!
What got me started in John 11 was the verse I quoted above (v. 40), which is one of the Scriptures from today's Jesus Calling. I've read that chapter a hundred times, but this verse jumped out at me because of a particular issue I've been praying over for my church.
I've been praying against unbelief. I've been asking the Lord to remove any unbelief from the room, so we could see His glory, His work, His miraculous power clearly. That we, as a congregation, wouldn't be party to any blocking of the Holy Spirit. Because that is what unbelief does - it blocks us from seeing God at work.
Lack of belief not only blocks our vision of God's Handiwork, Scripture makes it clear that when unbelief is too thick, it can also keep God from doing His work. Matthew 13:58 makes that clear. Jesus could/would only do so much in His hometown because they couldn't/wouldn't believe His miracles meant He was Messiah. Unbelief doesn't remove God's power - far from it. I can say, though, it removes His willingness to display His power. Unbelief displeases Him. It saddens Him. I would even go so far as to say it makes Him steaming mad.
Matthew Henry said this: "Unbelief is the great hinderance to Christ's favours." And Pulpit Commentary echoes that thought: "Our Lord was hindered, not by lack of power, but by lack of those moral conditions which would alone have made his miracles really tend to the spiritual advantage of the inhabitants of Nazareth."
Here, in John 11, Jesus reminds Martha of the power of trust in Him. This chapter is so rich and I especially love the radically different interactions with both sisters. Both ladies are mourning the loss of their beloved brother (who, in verse 5, Scripture says Jesus also loved). Yet, knowing the conditions of their hearts, He engages with them differently. He gives Martha a chance to display her great faith in Him (redeeming her earlier upbraiding in Luke 10). Then, when He sees Mary, we see Him break down. He met them both where they were and it is so touching. He is, in this chapter, fully man and fully God.
Jesus, the Lord, is not unmoved by darkness and death. He is right in the thick of it. Yet, He calls us to look beyond those present circumstances - really beyond the present, to eternity. Through interactions with both sisters, He makes the same point: Believe in Me and you will Receive from Me.
How many times in our lives, in our church families, do we pull back from full belief in God and His power?
I know I have been there. I have prayed BIG prayers, only to have them seemingly go unanswered. I understand now, those prayers were on hold until I could receive the answer. It isn't that I doubted His power, my heart just wasn't ready. The answer was blocked from view because my heart still held onto a natural view, versus stepping into a supernatural view.
Some of us flat out don't believe miracles are possible anymore. We can't even go there - it is too painful, too out of reach. It is certainly too ridiculous, miracles are beyond the pale. Those kinds of things happened in Jesus' time, in the Book of Acts, but not now....right?*
When you dare to believe, your heart opens wide in anticipation. You may know. You may believe. So, the question is: Do you want to receive?
It is a small shift, with enormous consequences. Martha put all her eggs, whatever remained following the death of her brother, in Christ's basket. She gave Him all she had and He delivered, above and beyond what she could imagine. She believed Jesus could have healed Lazarus from his sickness, while he was still alive. And it isn't that raising the dead was beyond the realm of possibility. Still, that stretches the limits of our senses, our knowledge. Dead people don't come back, better than before. Do they?
Clearly they did then, and they still do. I was a dead-woman-walking for 15 years and yet, Jesus called me out of the tomb of myself and I came. Raising a physically dead person is just as great a miracle as raising a spiritually dead person.
Our current church season of Advent is meant to make room in our hearts to receive.
I will continue to ask the Lord to clear my church, the very air of the room - of unbelief. I want Him to remove any barriers, misconceptions, preconceptions and biases. I want to see the Glory of God - on a regular basis. I don't just want the spiritual candy of miracles and wonders, although those results of faith are awesome.
More than that, I want the people in my community, as the great evangelist and miracle-worker Smith Wigglesworth once counseled a woman, to see Jesus and takes Jesus.
It really isn't any more complicated than that. When the Lord wants to give, we are to believe and we will receive. And He always wants to give. Therefore, we are to always want to receive: Him, His promises, His blessings and His works.
I hope you would pray for belief in your own church family. I hope you would pray that now, in the season of the Great Miracle of God coming to earth. I hope you would pray that for yourself. Let's look to see more of God and we will then see more of His workings in the world. Keep your eyes open. He is coming!
*Eric Metaxas' new book is called Miracles. It is an excellent dissertation on what miracles are, why they happen and he gives some great examples from his own circle of friends. I highly recommend it, for those who believe in miracles already - and for those who don't.