Tony Evans - Praying Through A Crisis
A crisis is when you are overwhelmed by negative events or situations or circumstances, causing you to feel helpless or hopeless. It is where the events that are overwhelming you are beating at your wellbeing. Whether it's a health crisis, family crisis, monetary crisis, mental crisis, it's beating you down, and there isn't a solution clearly in sight. But where do you go when your life is in a crisis? In other words, none of the places you look to to resolve it can help you. That's our situation in John 11.
Now, let's set the stage. Lazarus is sick. And we know from the story he's sick unto death, because it would only be a few days later he would die. So, he's not just sick, he's seriously sick, and whatever medical help there was, was insufficient to resolve the problem of his medical crisis. So, what Martha and Mary did, the sisters of Lazarus, is they went to Jesus. They sent word to Jesus. You and I would call that today they prayed. They sent word to Jesus. "Jesus, our family member has a crisis. This is a life and death crisis, and we're crying to you to resolve the crisis".
Now, I want you to observe something. We're told in verse 3 some of their prayer request, "The one whom you love is sick". We're told in verse 5, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus". So, evidently, spiritual people get sick. They had a love relationship. Jesus loved them and they loved Jesus, yet he still got sick. So, don't ever let anybody tell you just 'cause you have trouble means God is far away, or you're not in fellowship with God. They're in fellowship with God, but he got sick. So, they prayed. They sent word to Jesus, "The one whom you love is sick, and it's serious". Jesus sends back a word. "This sickness," verse 4, "is not to end in death, but for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified". That's pregnant with theology. He says, "First of all, I've got good news for you. Bad as it is, this sickness is not unto death, but God wants to get something out of it".
So, let me give you and me, and us, theology in whatever the sickness is you're facing, the scenario or the crisis that you will face. God will allow things in our lives that are not preferential to us, but are glorifying to him. This sickness is not unto death, but it is for the glory of God. So, one of the questions you must ask and answer in prayer when you're in, when I'm in, when we're in a crisis is, you must answer the question, "God, what glory do you want from my crisis"? But I got a problem. My problem is verse 6. "When he heard he was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was". Come on, Jesus. I just told you my brother is sick, and you even know it's not unto death 'cause you told me he's not gonna die. And you're not gonna hurry up? Has God ever delayed on you when you're in a crisis?
You need it right now, and he hanging back for two more days. He's not moving like you need him to move, want him to move, feeling he should move, cry for him to move. He's not moving. He stays two days, but it gets worse. Where Jesus was and where Martha and Mary were, 2 miles apart. So, not only does he delay, he delays and he's close. Now, I can understand if you across town. And he essentially the Son of God, I probably won't even understand that, but at least in your humanity, if you're on the other side of town, you got to take a donkey, I got you. It's gonna take a minute to get... but you're down the street, Jesus. If you don't want to walk, get a ride, but you can get a horse, a donkey, a carriage, or get your 12 disciples to carry you. You're 2 miles away. You close, and you don't come, and you delay two days after I prayed. 'Cause they've already talked to Jesus. They've already put up their prayer request. The story gets more interesting.
After two days, Jesus tells his disciples, "Let's go to Judea. Let's go, guys". Then he says something else, a new term for Christians. Verse 11, he said to them, "Our friend," 'cause remember Lazarus is close to Jesus, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go so that I may awake him out of his sleep". Verse 13, "Now Jesus had spoken of his death". But he doesn't say he died, he said he's sleeping. This is a different terminology, this is new. The word "sleep" is only used of Christians in the Bible, so not used as general public, only used of Christians. So, Christians sleep. Whether God brings you back in this life or takes you to the next life, you're only transferring consciousness. You're not losing existence. And you're transferring that consciousness in the will of God. This is new terminology. But here's what messes me up.
Can I tell you what messes me up? One thing messed me up, two days. Come on, Jesus, hurry up. Second thing that messed me up is 2 miles. You close. But the next thing that messes me up in verse 15 is, "And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there". Come on now, how you going to be happy about it? There are two sisters, Martha and Mary. And both sisters have the same question, but they approach the question differently. Martha raises the question in verse 21, "Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died'". Verse 32, "Therefore when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw him, fell at his feet, saying, 'Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died'". Those are the exact same words, both sisters, which means, they have discussed Jesus.
Wait a minute, let me make sure I'm being relevant. Anybody here ever been felt God has let you down? "God, where were you, God"? To put it in another word, "Don't you care"? Be this close, stay two days longer, and be glad. Doesn't make sense. She lets her emotions appropriately, respectfully, but clearly be enunciated in her prayer 'cause she's talking to Jesus, just like you and I. She has him physically, we have him spiritually, but it's a conversation with Jesus in the midst of a crisis. But she does something else, and I don't want you to miss this. Remember, I'm trying to walk you through this passage theologically. Because after she expresses her disappointment, she goes on to say in verse 22, "Even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give to you".
Whoa, I don't want you to miss this. "Jesus," verse 21, "I'm hurting 'cause I needed you and you didn't come. But, however, in spite of my pain, I know my beliefs. And if you call on the Father now, as bad as this situation is, he will still honor your request". So, she marries, watch this, she marries her emotions with her theology. Jesus says to her, "Your brother will rise again". She says to Jesus, "Yeah, I know, I learned theology, went to eschatology class. On the last day, he gonna rise. I know, I know about that". Then Jesus hits her with another theology. Can I talk some theology here? 'Cause I want to ground you, I want to root you. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies". Doctrine is critical, but doctrine is always to lead to a person.
If all you get is doctrine, you may be heavy in the head with information, but light on the experience. You may know about the resurrection, but never experience one, 'cause he says the resurrection that's doctrinal is tied to a person. So, here's the point. The written Word must always lead you to the living Word. You need the doctrine to know what to believe. You need the person to make it experiential in your belief. "I'm the resurrection". He says at the end of verse 26, "Do you believe this"? This is going to be critical. This is going to be... this will change your life. Do you believe this? She says, "Yes, I believe. You are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world".
Now, it's Mary's turn. Mary now coming to Jesus; she's too disappointed. And let's tell the truth, sometimes you're so disappointed with Jesus, you don't want to talk to him. Can anybody raise your hand and tell me, you don't want to pray no more, okay? Okay, 'cause he's not moving, he came too late, should've been here yesterday. Okay, that kind of thing. So, she doesn't want to talk, so Jesus calls her. He says, "Mary, come on, come on, come talk to me now". He bids us come. She gets up quickly because he invited her, and then, she tells him, verse 32, "If you would have been here, my brother would not have died". Now, in verse 33, everybody's crying. We've got a weeping time because when you're in pain, you're going to cry if it hurts bad enough.
So, now Jesus raises the question, "Where have you laid him? Where is he buried"? So, they come to take Jesus to where he was buried, and he's stirred up, verse 38 says. He's deeply moved within. He's moved at the sin and the pain that the world offers that creates sickness in the first place. Without sin, there would be no sickness. Not personal sin necessarily, but atmospheric sin, the germs, the viruses, the bacterias that infiltrate our body, the toxins, all of that is the environmental repercussions of sin. And he was stirred up in the crisis that they were in and the reasons for it. And so, he says, stay with me here, verse 39, "Martha, remove the stone". Martha's response, Martha said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days". You remember that delay? By this time, he stinks.
Jesus said, "Move the stone". She says, "Let me give you a lesson in mortuary science". He been dead four days. Rigor mortis has set in, which means the cells have collapsed. When rigor mortis sets in and the cells collapse, it releases a green substance. When this green substance is released because rigor mortis has set in because the cells has collapsed, that produces a stench because of the decay. He says to her, "Did not I say to you"? He said, "Remove the stone". And what did he tell her? He said, "Did not I say to you if you believe, you would see the glory of God"? In other words, here it is, faith must always precede sight. Once you put sight in front of faith 'cause you were from Missouri, once you put sight in front of faith, you've negated faith. Faith is based on what you do not see.
If you got to see it first, you won't see it. No, and how would she demonstrate faith? Not by a feeling, but by removing the stone 'cause faith is not a feeling, it's an action. As you've heard me say many times, faith is acting like God is telling the truth. It is acting like it is so, even when it's not so, in order that it might be so, simply because God said so. So, you move in faith even when you don't feel it. Sometimes, you're going to feel faith-ish. Got faith all over you, you're just feeling it. Sometimes, you won't ever feel faith-ish, but you can know you're operating in faith 'cause you moving the stone. So, some of us have situations that have not changed 'cause we still having conversations and have not touched the stone, the thing that God told us to do that we refuse to do, which keeps the stone there, which means there's no faith no matter how much church you have. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me".
Ooh, ooh, ooh, that's theology there. You're praying through a crisis. You're talking to God, but here's what you want. You want Jesus talking to God for you. See, you got to talk to him first, but what you want is Jesus to ditto the request. Then, not until there was an act of faith, Jesus says to his Father, "I thank you that you have heard me". He didn't say, "I thank you that you hear me". "I thank you that you heard me," which means, we've already discussed this crisis that Lazarus is in. When they pray the first time at the beginning of chapter 11, you and I, Father, had a conversation. "Oh, Martha and Mary, they have a sick brother. They want us to do something. Daddy, Martha and Mary just came to me and they had a conversation. They want us to do something about their brother, Lazarus. So, let's talk about how we're gonna handle this". "Well, Son, you know what? We can actually use this crisis as an opportunity for me to have greater glory. So Son, Son, so here's what we're gonna do. As soon as they demonstrate faith, then we're gonna let this thing roll out. 'Cause they have".
Did you know when you first talked to God a year ago about that problem, he and the Son have already discussed that? They've already discussed that. But the Son is not praying for the implementation until faith has been demonstrated. Until faith has been demonstrated. So, now Jesus prays, "I thank you; you've heard me. I know that you always hear me. But because of the people standing around, I said it so that they might believe that you sent me". Ah, now we got a clue. Jesus holds off on answering the prayer because he wants to use the crisis to bring a lot of people to salvation. Oh, so now, there is a spiritual reason for a crisis delay in spite of a prayer being prayed because there's a bigger kingdom purpose at work than just the healing of Lazarus. If you're in a crisis and God is not moved, and you're operating by faith, all that means is, the delay is tied to a bigger point that God wants to accomplish for his glory, the amplification of the name of his Son and the advancement of his kingdom. So, you keep praying through a crisis. If you've not heard no, then you keep praying. So, Jesus prays. It's called intercession.
Hebrews 7:24 and 25, when Jesus intercedes as our counselor, he goes before us and he delivers us out of a stinky situation. 'Cause guess what he says? Verse 43, "Lazarus, come forth". So, Lazarus walks out of the tomb, kinda, kinda. Here's my final point. As he's exiting the tomb, the man who had died came forth bound hand and foot with wrappings. His face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him and let him go". Hmm, wait a minute. Lazarus has life, but what he doesn't have is freedom 'cause he's bound. His hands were bound, his feet was bound, he's wrapped like a mummy, you wrap a mummy. He's wrapped from head all the way to the toe. So, he has life, but no liberty. Everybody here this morning who's a Christian, that means you have life, but not everybody who's a Christian has liberty. You may be bound by an addiction, bound by an emotional struggle, bound by a health situation. Something may be holding you hostage even though you have life.
Now, watch this. Jesus gave him life, but Jesus did not directly give him liberty. He said he told them to unloose him and let him go. Let me explain something. Jesus Christ wants to give every sinful person eternal life. He offers life through his blood. But he sets folk free through his people. He still does it, but he does it through his people. That's why God wants every Christian to be an active part of a local church, so that you can be unwrapped if you're trapped, or so you can unwrap somebody else if you have been unwrapped yourself. God never meant for you to come once a week to hear somebody preach the Bible alone. He wants you part of a family so you can be in the unwrapping, untying, and deliverance business, so that you can be helping somebody else as somebody helps you. That's what the church is supposed to be. It's not a weekly event. It is a family relationship, where folk are being loosed and set free. I know there are many crises here, but I want you to pray through it even if it's gotten worse and not better, 'cause I want to let you know right now that God can turn things around for his own purpose.
I'm sure that you would agree with me with the statement "life hurts". Many times, circumstances in our lives bring tears to our eyes, hurt to our hearts, sadness to our emotions. In fact, sometimes you feel like God has missed it and he's made a mistake by allowing the travail, the trials, the circumstances, and the pain that life brings our way. But when life has thrown a curve ball at you, that's not the time to run from the Lord, that's the time to run to him. That's the time to ask him the questions without questioning him, but ask him, "Lord, why are you allowing me to hurt like this this long, this bad, and this deep"?
The good news is that Jesus, our great high priest, knows how to cry with us. He knows how to shed tears because he's felt the weaknesses, he's felt the lonelinesses, he's felt the hurt, the pain, the rejection, and the crucifixion that life brings our way. But he also knows how to join us in prayer to the Father. He is an intercessor. When we talk to the Father, he joins us, he partners with us to intercede alongside of us, to ask for help from heaven to the hurts of earth. I want you to know you don't hurt alone. You have a Savior who loves you, who cares for you, who cries with you, who walks with you, and who prays with you. When you remember that as tears roll down your eyes because life hurts, you just remember you're never hurting alone. Go to God in prayer with your pain, with your honesty. Just know you're not going to him alone.