Charles Stanley - Looking Beyond Our Disappointments
When you experience disappointments in your life, how do you respond? Do you respond by suddenly, immediately blaming yourself? What did you do wrong? If I'd-a this, or if I'd-a that. Or do you look around to see somebody else you can blame? Something that somehow you could put the blame on someone else. Well, often times we face disappointments in our life and we don't know exactly how to respond, what to say, what to do, how to react to them because, often times, we can't quite identify what the real cause is, what the purpose is.
And so, sometimes we get stalled right where we are, and we get stalled right on dead center, and we can't reach our goals, we can't reach our desires. And, often times, instead of moving on in life, and progressing in life, and using each of those times of disappointment as times to learn, and to move on, and to use 'em as steppingstones in life, we just get stalled right there. And so, one of the two things will happen: We will either find ourselves stalled and derailed out of God's will in our life, or we'll find ourselves beginning to understand what God was up to, moving on in life, and learning from those disappointments and beginning to experience the joy of the Lord and progress in our life in areas that we never even experienced before. But the issue is: How do we respond to them?
Now, let me make it clear right up front. First of all, you can't disappoint God. So, we're not talking about disappointing God. We disappoint ourselves, we disappoint others, but you can't disappoint God for the simple reason, God knows everything, past, present, and future. So, He has no false expectations of what we can do, or we may not do, or can't accomplish, or may not accomplish. And since he knows all about us, and knows everything there is to know about our future, as well as our past, there are no disappointments with him. You have to have expectations to have disappointments. So, a disappointment, really, is an emotional response to our failure to achieve or to fulfill our desires, our hopes, our dreams, our goals. It's an emotional response that is a result of our failure to fulfill those desires, dreams, or goals we have set for our life. The question is, "How do you respond"?
So, I want you to turn if you will to the eleventh chapter of John, and this is a chapter that is known primarily for something far other than I want to talk about. But this chapter is full of truth about many different subjects. And the one I want to talk about here is simply this: Looking Beyond our Disappointments. Because, if you don't learn to look beyond 'em and find out what God is up to, they will stall you dead in your track. They will derail you. They will absolutely cause you to give up and surrender God-given goals in your life simply because you get disappointed.
So, beginning in verse one of this eleventh chapter of John, the Scripture says, "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, 'Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.' But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'This sickness is not unto the end of death, He says but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.' Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was".
Now, let's move over if you will to the seventeenth verse. So finally, of course we know He does come. And, "So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days". Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. "Martha, therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus," listen to this, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died". "Lord, if You'd been here, my brother would not have died". "'Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You". Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again". Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on that last day". Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection, and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this"? She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world".
Well, let me just give you a little idea of what's happening in this passage because this passage deals with disappointment. For example, here's what happened. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus loved dearly the Bible says, and they loved him. He's sick. And so, Mary and Martha send this messenger to Jesus. Probably took him a couple of days to get there maybe or somewhere thereabouts. And they found Jesus and told Him, Lazarus is sick. And what I want you to notice is the message that they sent. Here's what they didn't say. They didn't say, "Please tell Jesus, Lazarus is sick, come quickly". They didn't even say, "Tell Jesus Lazarus is sick, please speak a word of healing". They didn't say any of that. Here's what they said. They said, look at this, in verse three now. "So the sisters sent word to Him saying, 'Lord, behold.'" That means this is urgent. "He whom You love is sick".
Look at that. He whom You love is sick. They didn't say, "Please come, please heal him". They just, they were just sending a message, "The one You love is sick". Now why did they say that? Because they knew, listen to what the Scripture says. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. They knew that Jesus loved them, and so they didn't sense that they had to tell Him anything else but Jesus, the one You love is sick. They didn't say, "Lazarus who loves You," but, "the one You love is sick". Their expectation was as soon as He heard that He would either come and heal Lazarus by touching him, or raising him up, or whatever it might be. Or, at least He would speak a word to the messenger and say, You go tell them, their brother is healed. And when he walks in with that message, Lazarus would be healed. All they said was, "You just tell Him that he's sick".
Well, that's what happened. Four days later, Jesus shows up. Lazarus is dead, in the tomb. Stone rolled against the tomb. He shows up. And so, what happens is because there was such animosity toward Jesus, such hatred toward Him, in fact, even after Lazarus was raised from the grave, the Bible says the Pharisees and the Sadducees were plotting not only to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus too, because the fact that he was alive was living proof that this Jesus was not a usual man but a most unusual one who claimed to be the Messiah. And so, they hated Him. And so, when Jesus came upon the scene in Bethany, He waited outside the city, outside the town, because He didn't want to cause any, any turmoil. And so, when they sent a message, Martha goes out to meet Him. What's the first thing she says? "Lord, if You'd been here, my brother would not have died".
In other words, was there any disappointment in that? Absolutely there was. To try to cover that up would be false. Now here's the question. Was Martha disappointed in Jesus or was she disappointed in the fact that her brother had died and now he's gone. I don't think you and I could say that she was disappointed in the person of Jesus. She was certainly disappointed in what happened. But to say that she was disappointed in the Lord Jesus whom she believed to be the Messiah and the Son of God, no I don't believe she was. She was disappointed that Jesus for some reason did not come and allowed her brother to die. You and I would have been disappointed. Lord, I mean Martha could have said, "Lord, how many meals have I cooked You? How many meals have I served the disciples? I mean, my home's always been open. You've always been a guest. I've always been there for You when You needed me. And now, when we needed You, You didn't show up".
Now I don't think she said all that, but you know what? Being human, she thought it. She had to think it. I mean, this was not God. She was Mary and Martha, she was human. And you read that tenth chapter of Luke and the message we preached on some time ago. I mean, she came out and said, "Jesus, why don't You tell my sister Mary to come into the kitchen and help me"? I mean she was a normal, natural woman. And so, they were disappointed, He didn't show up. In fact, it was so bad the messenger didn't even come back and say, "Jesus said, 'I'm not coming.'" It was just a cold, empty delay. And so, they were disappointed. Now, so let's get it down there where it is. Reality, that's what reality's all about. We all get disappointed. So, the issue is, how do we respond? How do we respond to disappointments in life because, no matter who you are, you're going to experience them. And more than likely, you may experience one this coming week. You could experience one before you get home today. Disappointments are out there.
So, I want to give you several principles in this passage that, if you'll jot 'em down, I am absolutely sure and confident they will help you. They've been tested and tried by millions over the years, and I can tell you personally, every single one of them works. No matter what you're going through, they will work. And the first one is simply this. God has a purpose for allowing the disappointments of our life. He has a purpose for allowing the disappointments of our life. He's God, He could prevent 'em if He wanted to. He could change any circumstance of our life to prevent any kind of disappointment if He wanted to. And you and I can look around us and say, "Well, how could He have prevented that"? Because He's God. And so, He could prevent them if He chose. But He allows disappointments in our life for very specific reasons.
Now He could have spoken, or He could have arrived in time to save Lazarus from death, but He didn't. His higher purpose was not simply to heal His friend, but to raise him from the dead. Far more impressive, far more convincing, listen, far more powerful. And not only that, He would be able to do several things. First of all, He would teach His disciples something about faith. He says, I'm glad that I wasn't there so that you may believe. Let us go to him. Because He knew that the cross was very soon coming and that their faith was gonna be tested and tried in every way possible. He wanted riveted into their mind that when they nailed Him to the cross, and He was, His body was placed in a tomb, He was gonna be resurrected just like He promised. And that He had the power to raise from the dead even those who had been in the tomb, four days he'd been there.
So, what was His purpose? His purpose was to glorify God. His purpose was to be glorified Himself. His purpose also was to teach them to trust Him, to believe Him. And His, and certainly His purpose was to do something in the life of Mary and Martha and Lazarus they would never forget as long as they lived. They would live with this legacy that He died, and Jesus Christ the Son of God raised Him from the dead, living proof as long as they lived, this Christ is the Messiah. His purpose was higher. Now, whatever disappointment God allows you and me to go through, He doesn't just ignore it.
Now watch this. We are quick to claim this verse of Scripture, but often times we fail to apply it in the nitty-gritty of life. When we have difficult, hurtful, painful, disappointing experiences in our life, what about Romans 8:28 when he says that God is engineering our circumstances for our good. Well, does He engineer our circumstances for our good sometimes, most of the time, all the time? Because He is God, He does it all the time. Whatever disappointments we face in life, whatever He's allowed, He has allowed them for a purpose. Listen. For a purpose that He will turn for our good and often times to our surprising good if we will respond in the right fashion, and that's simply to trust Him.
There's a second principle I think here and certainly it was true in Mary and Martha's life. Second principle is this, and that is that God is more interested in our spiritual growth than relieving us from disappointments. He's far more interested in our spiritual growth than relieving us from disappointments. Now here's a good lesson I think about this whole issue of faith because Martha and Mary are getting ready to experience a monumental leap in their faith. Monumental leap in their faith. You say, "Well, didn't they already have faith? They listened to Jesus. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus; Martha had sat at the feet of Jesus, and they'd listen and they'd watch them, they heard and they fed Him, and He'd been there many times and sharing experiences about the Father and things they were going through. Wasn't she already a lady of faith"? Yes, she was.
Now listen very carefully. Are you listening? Say amen. That's pretty weak. Let's say it again. Amen? There is a difference between having fundamental faith, an active, vibrant, practical, working, life-changing, impacting faith. There's a difference. Now watch this. I say to you, "You believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God"? Yes. You believe He's the Messiah? Yes. You believe He was virgin-born? Yes. You believe in salvation by grace alone? Yes. Do you believe the new birth is the only way to heaven? Yes. Do you believe that God answers prayer? Yes. Do you believe that you're justified by faith in the death of Jesus at the cross? Yes. You believe Jesus Christ is coming again? Yes. You believe He's seated at the Father's right hand? Yes. Do you believe He's interceding for you? Yes. Do you believe you're gonna be resurrected? Yes. You're, you believe there's a heaven? Yes. You believe you're gonna spend eternity in heaven? Yes, yes, yes!
Well, you've got it down. Now, you get some big disappointment in your life. "Oh God, where are You? Lord, Lord, Lord. Lord, where are You? Help me Jesus"! You know what? It's one thing to have the fundamentals down. It's something else to live by faith. So, when somebody says, "Oh, I believe the Book from cover to cover". That's not the issue. That's the bottom line. The issue is, "Am I able to take the principles of Scripture and apply them to my daily life where I live, so when I hit one of these big, terrible, painful, horrible disappointments in life, it doesn't stall me, derail me, and get me out of God's will and keep me from becoming the person God wants me to be"? Here's what I want you to see. All of us, when we get in the depths of some situations and circumstances, here's what happens. The mind, this battle goes on in our minds. Faith versus reason. Reason said, "Four days, he smells, his body is deteriorating, and he's dead". Faith says, "Whatever You say, Jesus, is gonna be".
And there was a hesitation on her part to roll back the stone even though she'd just said, "I know even now that whatever You ask of God, God's gonna give You". Now, I'm saying all that to say this. This woman was human. Every single one of us is human. We will face situations and circumstances and disappointments in life where our faith is gonna be tested and tried. If it weren't tested and tried, we wouldn't grow. What is it that causes us to grow? Ease, comfort and pleasure? Absolutely not. What causes us to grow is difficulty, hardship, pain, disappointments, trials in life, those helpless times when we don't know what to do and how to handle anything but to trust in God. It was an awesome lesson of faith for her. And I believe that those times of disappointment in our life are God's opportunities to stretch our faith. It's one thing to say what we believe when everything is going our way.
Do I still believe it? Is my faith vibrant, and alive, and active, and practical, and listen, will it stand the test of fire and floods? If it won't stand the test of fire and floods, desertion, abandonment, the threat of death, and everything else, then that faith is weak. And so, what happens? He knew this was an awesome opportunity to do for Martha, someone whom He loved dearly, He could, the greatest thing He could give her is to absolutely explode her faith. And watch what happened. Then I want you to think about something else. And that is, that our disappointments do not, are not an indication that God doesn't love us. But how many times have I heard this? Well, now if God really loves us, why does He allow these painful, difficult circumstances? Why does He allow us to hurt the way it hurts if He loves us?
Disappointment has nothing to do with the love of God. There is no indication that God does not love us because He allows us to go through disappointments. We just said He's got a tremendous purpose in mind, an often times fantastic purpose in mind. Often times He's in the process of growing us up spiritually, has nothing to do with love. Now watch what the Scripture says. Scripture says, for example, when they sent this message, they sent the message, it said, "Behold, he whom You love is sick". So certainly, they knew that Jesus loved Lazarus and that He loved them. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, so they had this wonderful loving relationship, godly relationship with each other. And so, there was no question about that.
Now, what I want you to notice is this. Jesus' response to them was silence. That's hard. It's like you're praying in some great difficulty and your prayers are getting to the ceiling and they just bounce around and hitting the wall and coming back and you're thinking, "God, where are You"? Remember this. Whenever you feel that way, He's where He's always been. Right here. God doesn't move. Thank God He doesn't. He doesn't move. I may move, you may move, we may not be able to find Him in our own mind and heart where we think He ought to be, feeling what we ought to feel. He hasn't moved. His love has not changed. Disappointments do not mean that God doesn't love us. Sometimes those disappointments, in fact, if we will respond right, He will turn every single one of them into something fantastically good in our life. We will profit from the disappointments.
But if we get into this mode, "Well God, You, if You love me, You wouldn't let this happen. And yes, I am disappointed, and I'm hurt and, Lord, why don't You do this, and why don't You do that"? That's not the issue. Because think about this. If you love somebody, you always want what's best for them. If you love someone, you will always try to provide what is best for them. Does God love us? Yes. Does He always want what's best for us? Always! Not sometimes, not most of the time, always He wants what's best. Does He provide His best for us? Always. Do we always experience the best? No. Why? Because we're not willing to surrender to what His best is, because here's what I want you to remember, that God's choice of our best isn't always our choice.
We think we have needs that God knows we don't have. We don't think we have needs that God knows we do have. And so, often times in our disappointments, because we lose, or because there's loss, or because there's separation, or because something happens out there that absolutely places us in the position of being so disappointed, we cry out, "God, how could You love me and allow this"? And all the time, God is loving us. You know why I know that? Because it's His nature to love and He can't do anything else. Not toward His children. Toward His children He loves us no matter what's going on in our life.
Will He allow us to go through painful, difficult, trying, heart-searching, rending times? Yes. Does that mean for a brief moment He ceases to love us? No. Does that mean that somehow God's love is less than? No. Is His love for us waning? No. Is there something that we have done or something we've missed somewhere along the way that He couldn't possibly love us the same anymore? No. And yet there are a lot of people who believe that. That somewhere along the way you must have done something that God can't quite love you quite as much as He used to. Yes, He does.
Now here's the problem. When I'm hurting and there's pain, and the pain is so intense, sometimes it's difficult to feel His love and the pain at the same time. That's when you have to go not by feeling but by fact. The fact is, the truth is, God loves me just as much in my tears, in my hurt, in my crying, in my pain, in my sense of emptiness at the moment. He loves me just as much now as when everything is going my way. You can't go by feeling. And so, in our disappointments, has nothing to do with whether He loves us or not. Well, let's move onto something else. For example, faith that God is in control will enable us, listen, it will enable us to endure every single disappointment in life.
Now here is a major key. Faith that God is in control, if God is not in control of your life, you are a victim. You're a victim of circumstances. If He's not in control of your life, here's what life's like. If He's not in control of our lives, we're like people in a little one-man raft, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a storm. And you know what? We don't know what's gonna happen. If God is not in control of your life, you don't have any assurance of anything, absolutely nothing whatsoever. No assurance of anything if God's not in control. Very important that you and I remember this. When we face disappointments, one thing, listen, the bottom line, the foundational truth is, God is in control of your life if you've trusted Him as your personal Savior. I don't understand what He's up to. I don't know how long this disappointment's gonna last. I don't know what the end result is, but I know that my God is in control, He's going to turn it for my good no matter what.
Once you settle that issue, you will be able to look beyond any disappointment in life and know that God's up to something good. When you surrender your conviction that God is in control, you give up the basis of your absolute peace, and joy, and contentment, and faith in difficult times in life. And you're out there swimming on your own. And my friend, you'll be sorry. It just doesn't work that way. She knew, she said, "Even now, even now I know. No matter what I'm seeing, no matter what I hear, no matter what I see, even now I know that You're in control. Whatever You ask is gonna happen". Well, let's move on. Something else I want you to notice, and that's this. That peace will prevail in the midst of our disappointments when we learn to wait upon the Lord. Peace will prevail in the midst of our disappointments when we learn to wait upon the Lord.
You say, "Well, now how could you think that Martha and Mary had peace"? They had a sense of underlying peace because they knew Jesus. Listen, while they were disappointed in the fact that He didn't show up, and they didn't understand what was going on, deep down inside, when she said, "I know that whatever You ask, the Father will give it to You". There was this overwhelming sense of peace that amidst the... Does that mean no pain? No.
Listen, you can have pain and sorrow and hurt and disappointment and be grieved in your spirit, but underlying that there's this indescribable layer of peace that absolutely cannot be moved because of your simple faith and trust in God. "I don't' like it God, I'm hurting, I'm painful, I'm disappointed. Lord, You know what's going on. And yet in spite of all that, I know that You're in control, and I know that You only want what's best for me. And I know You're only gonna do what's best for me".