In John 11, we read about when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and in verse 39 we read:
"Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."
Almost a week before this event the sisters Martha and Mary had sent for Jesus because Lazarus was sick. They wanted Jesus to come to heal him. And in John 11:6 we read:
“Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days”.
Jesus waited for two days before he headed off for Bethany. It was two days of waiting for Martha and Mary, a waiting with hope that Jesus would come, and despair over the situation with Lazarus and his disease. One moment expectation and hope and the next moment despair. Then Lazarus dies. Hope was gone, Jesus never came! And when He finally came it was too late.
Martha and Mary waited so long that they had even buried Lazarus. "But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days" were Martha’s response to Jesus saying that they should remove the stone. Martha doubts Jesus in that moment. Could He really do anything about the situation as it looks? That is why she also hesitates to follow His commandment to remove the stone. At times we also think Jesus is too late and doubt and hesitate to remove the stone that is hindering us. The stone of unbelief.
If I search myself there are many opportunities when I have not been obedient to God’s word or His challenges. But, we must not be afraid to go and to do what God calls us to do.
In many churches we pray for revival in our land and in the world. And I believe that in the Christianity of today we lack the obedience. Obedience to the God’s Word and His will and that is also a mayor reason why we have not experienced the revival.
The Bible tells us to fear God, and to fear God, it means to take Him serous. God does not work alone. Everything God does, He does it together with us. It is the act of obedience that is the act of faith, not what mind-processes we might have – like Martha who hesitated to remove the stone with the explanation that he already stinks.
We read in Prov. 3:5:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”.
God has given us the mind for us to use it. And we will use it to fully trust in the Lord and not in ourselves.
Jesus said: “Take away the stone.” And when the stone was removed from the opening of the grave the miracle happened. Then He cried out with a loud voice: Lazarus, come out! There is a necessity of an act of faith for miracle to happen. If they hadn’t removed the stone, Jesus wouldn’t have cried out for Lazarus to come out of the grave.
In John 11:45 we read that many of the Jews who had come out to Mary and seen what Jesus did believed in Him. Revival sprung out among those who had been present when Lazarus was risen from the dead. Removing the stone - an act of faith – opens the way for salvation. It was not only Lazarus that got his life back. Many of the Jews who had seen it all believed. So the Jews also got their lives back, eternal life through salvation.
In John 4 we read about a man in royal service who had a son who was sick in Capernaum. He looked up Jesus and in John 4:50 we read:
“Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”
Later on in verse 53 we read:
“Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed”.
The man believed in Jesus and did as He had told him to do, and they came to salvation. Revival came to that family.
It is important to obey the Word of God and His spoken words. Many Christians today lack this obedience which God needs for a close collaboration between God and man. I believe that disobedience is a mayor reason why it is so sluggish for revival in our nation.
Our society changes, for good and bad. Different trends and lifestyles become popular in humanity and also Christians become affected by it in different ways, whether we like it or not, so we need to be extra careful of what we receive into our hearts. People today buy and sell stocks, play lottery and live in partnership. The list is long, but how much of this would the church have accepted 50 years ago? Society changes, but God is the same today as He was 50 years ago. Even if people changes lifestyle, play lottery or live in partnership. Even if people try to interpret the Bible so that it fits their lifestyles better, maybe partnership or homosexuality, God has still not changed His opinion in these issues and He never will.
We are being faced with important standpoints in our faith life against the society we are living in. Whether we like it or not, Christians become influenced by the trends of society, at least through the exhaustion method.
Some time ago I saw an interview with priests and pastors in our municipality, I think it was nine of them. More than half were pro homosexuality lifestyle and the rest were slightly unconcerned. But no one was against homosexual lifestyle. Was the statistic like these 20-30 years ago? I don’t think so. Christians become influenced by the trends of society, if we are not watchful.
Sometimes we face what looks like insurmountable obstacles, like the stone in front of the grave outside Bethany. As long as Martha hesitates to remove the stone, that long she also hinders the miracle from happening.
There are situations in our lives, where it depends on out will to obey the Word of God, for Jesus to do what He has promised. It is easy for us humans to procrastinate signs and wonders to the future. It is easier to believe for signs and wonders in other countries and continents than in our closest areas. We find it easier to believe for signs and wonders in the future than now, immediately.
We need to remove the stones of unbelief in our lives to be able to see the will of God and His promises being fulfilled here and now, more than we do. God will, if we will. Gad wants to cooperate with us, but we need to be willing to do our part of the bargain. We need to do what we can do. God will only do what we can not do.
We need to remove the stones from the graves so Jesus can cry out to the dead. Then we will lose them from the bondages.
God cooperates with us, if we are willing to obey and be keen on listening to His will.
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