Chapter 1.
Dealing With Divine Delays

John 11:1-10

The miracles of Christ selected by the Apostle John begin and end with a family. One family is in Cana of Galilee and one is in Bethany of Judea. One miracle was at a wedding and another was at a funeral. They covered life's gladdest and saddest moments. At a wedding, Jesus turned water into wine and at a funeral, He triumphed over the tomb and took the sting out of death. Both miracles were impossible for people to perform. Yet, these miracles proved that Jesus was divine. He was Lord of creation and the creator of life.

This story in this chapter is like a deep well. There is so much here that we want to sip from the cool waters of truth. We want to sip slowly and carefully, drawing strength and refreshment from each bucket of blessing that we bring to the surface. As we drink from this well today, we will see God's purpose for sickness and death and that His timing is always right, no matter what occurs in our lives. The Lord knows all and He knows what He is doing! Let's find out how to deal with divine delays.

I. A SICK MAN—11:1, 2

Lazarus is sick. His name means "God is my Help" and we are going to see the Lord help him in a powerful way beyond the comprehension of everyone in this story. By the way, God is our helper too if we will let Him help us and wait for His help.

Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

There are two men in the Bible named Lazarus. Both of them were godly men; both had poor health; both of them were dying. One man was poor and the other was comfortable. One man died and the other was raised from the dead.

The Lazarus in this story lives in Bethany which was two miles east of Jerusalem. This town was very close to the opposition Jesus faced in the city of Jerusalem. In Bethany, Jesus found a welcome. He lodged here and was anointed by Mary with costly ointment, removing the ointment with her beautiful hair. Mary and Martha lived in Bethany with Lazarus. Their home was open to Jesus for His care and comfort. The Lord found rest in their home. That leads us to some good questions. Would Jesus find a welcome in your home and would He find rest? Would He feel comfortable in your home?

Bethany's size did not make it famous. It was the attitude this community had toward Jesus and His Word that caused it to make its mark. They welcomed the Lord and His Word. They remind us of the Berean Christians.

Acts 17:11—These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

What is your attitude toward God and His Word now? Do you receive and welcome it?

Acts 2:41—Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

On the other hand, do you reject His Word?

Isaiah 30:9—That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:

Hosea 4:6—My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

When we see Lazarus in this chapter, we find he is very sick. Being sick is no fun at all. When you are sick, you feel terrible. You feel like you are either missing out on things or wasting your life because you can't do what needs to be done. It is costly. We are going to see in this chapter that sickness can provide us with great blessings and insights. We can learn things when we are sick that we may not learn at any other time. Illness provides rare opportunities that do not surface in our life any other time.

II. THE SUMMONS FOR THE LORD—11:3

This verse is rich in practical insights. Let's take a look. The Bible says that Mary and Martha inform the Lord that Lazarus is "sick." The word "sick" means "deathly sick or sinking physically." It comes from the Greek word astheneo {as-then-eh'-o}. This same word is translated "impotent" in John 5:7. Thus, we see Lazarus is in pretty bad shape.

Jesus is in Bethabara which is a day's journey of about twenty miles away. Do they ask the Lord for anything? The answer is "No." They make no request of Him. They know the Lord will do what is right. Beloved, we need to believe this too and trust the Lord with our lives in the good times, but especially in the bad, dark, troublesome times. Sometimes we don't know what to ask the Lord for or how to pray. In those times, ask the Lord for His help and that His will be done in your life.

Romans 8:26-27—... Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Notice that these women seek out the Lord in a trial. We should do this too. Men like Moses and Hezekiah did the same thing. Take your burden to the Lord in prayer.

Exodus 15:25—And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

Isaiah 37:14—And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.

He was being threatened by his enemies.

James 5:13—Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

Notice something else in this verse. When they sought the Lord, they focused their attention on the Lord's virtues, not their own. They focused on His love. This word "love" is from the word phileo {fil-eh'-o} which is a love based upon a close relationship. In a moment, we will see that the word "love" in verse five is a different word. It is the word agapao {ag-ap-ah'-o}. This word carries the meaning of "deep appreciation." It is in the imperfect tense which shows the continuous action of love that the Lord had for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Beloved, when you pray, praise God for whom He is. Claim the promises of His Word. Pray His Word back to Him. For example, you could pray, "Lord, you said in Jeremiah 33:3, call unto me and I will answer thee and show you great and mighty things thou knowest not. I am claiming this promise." Many folks make the mistake of parading their own attributes when they pray, "I did that or I deserve this." What we need to do is appeal to God's power and ability.

There is another insight we want to address. No matter how close you are to the Lord, like Lazarus, you are not exempt from suffering, trials, or death.

Job 5:7—Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.

Hebrews 9:27—And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

III. THE SITUATION IS ASSESSED—11:4

When Jesus makes this statement, Lazarus is already dead as we will see in a moment. Lazarus dies, but it would not be the final outcome of this illness, even though it was part of the affliction. Trials may seem to destroy us, but in the end, they yield great blessings and strength.

Psalm 119:71—It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Jesus knew what was going to happen before things happened. He knew what He would do. In fact, the Bible says that the Lord knows our needs before we ask Him what we need.

Isaiah 65:24—And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

Jesus said, "This sickness is for the glory of God!" Our life is to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:31—Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

What does it mean "to glorify God?" To glorify God involves acknowledging Him as being who He truly is.....God. Because He is GOD, we are to be submissive to His will, His way, His work and give Him the credit for our successes and victories. The great composure Bach said, "All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul's refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hubbub." He headed his compositions: "J. J." "Jesus Juva" which means "Jesus help me." He ended them "S. D. G." "Soli Dei gratia" which means "To God alone the praise."

Beloved, when it comes to the issue of sickness and death, we see that they have been used by God for the good of others all throughout history. Sickness and death develop compassion and have been used to reach people for Christ because of the testimony of the person who suffered or died. We are blessed 2000 years later by the sickness and death of Lazarus and what God did for Him.

IV. THE SAVIOR'S DELAY—11:5-6

Delays are no fun at all, but how we deal with our obstacles and delays will determine if we are going to go through life defeated or victorious. Many well-known people in history faced delays and obstacles.

Got a handicap in your life? Do you have a circumstance that seems like a delay? Call on the Lord and wait for Him to work. No problem is too big for Him, or too small. He will make everything work together for good—if you trust Him. This section confirms that truth.

In this section, we read of a delay for Mary and Martha. Jesus delayed His departure for two days. He knows that Lazarus is already dead. He had been dead for four days when the Lord arrived in Bethany. Why did Jesus wait two days? We cannot say exactly for sure but there are a number of thoughts for us today that we will consider that may prove to be encouraging and helpful when we are dealing with delays in our lives.

1. Delay is difficult and stressful, but it exercises our faith because we have to learn to wait on God.

Psalm 69:3—I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

Beloved, don't give up on God.

2. God molds our will to His perfect will during our waiting periods. Waiting periods offer time to examine ourselves and search God's Word for direction.

3. Delays bring more glory to God. They tend to make the miracle more impressive. Lazarus is dead, in fact, he has been dead for four days, yet, that is nothing to the Lord who will overcome impossibilities. Delay also gives the miracle more authenticity and greater opportunity for people to believe in the Lord.

4. Delays show that Heaven's clock is different than ours. God is on a different time table than us. Understand, however, that His delays are not His denials. God does what He wants to do in His own time and own way. Why? He is GOD! The Bible provides a number of insights for us about God's timing.

A. God's Timing Provides DAILY BREAD

1) The Widow of Zarephath- This woman was scraping the bottom of the barrel of meal. She was preparing her final morsel of food when God sent Elijah to her home at her desperate hour to be a blessing to her and bring about miraculous provision of her needs. 1 Kings 17:9-16

2)The Shunnamite Woman- She is about to go bankrupt when God sent Elisha the prophet to her just in time. He was also used of God to bring about the miraculous provision of funds that she needed to live. 2 Kings 4:1-7

3) The Feeding of over 5000 people- It is the end of the day and the followers of Jesus are tired and hungry. There are so many people and there is just not enough food to meet all the needs of this multitude. God uses a little boy for the hour who is willing to give his lunch to Jesus, who in turn uses it to meet the need of that hour. Everyone is miraculously fed and twelve full baskets remained. God's timing was perfect again. Matthew 14:15-21

4) Hagar & Ishmael- Hagar and Ishmael have been dismissed from the camp of Abraham. As they travel across the desert, their provision of water is depleted. As they lay dying in the desert sand, Hagar cries out to God and the Lord provides a well of water for her. Genesis 21:17-19

B. God's Timing Provides DIRECTION

1) Israel at the Red Sea- Cornered by the Egyptian army and no place to turn, God opens the Red Sea at Israel's most dangerous and desperate moment. He gave direction when they needed it the most. Isaiah said in

Isaiah 43:19—Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

2)Abraham's Servant- This man was looking for a wife for Isaac. He asked God to lead him to the right woman for his master's son. When he comes to a well, Rebekah of Abraham's family just happens to be the woman who comes to the well. God had her in the right place, at the right time. He directed this servant to the right woman. Genesis 24:13-26

3) Namaan the Leper- When Namaan contracted leprosy, God used a captive, little maid to give him direction where he could find physical and also spiritual healing. 2 Kings 5:1-4

C. God's Timing Provides DESTRUCTION to the Wicked

1) King Saul- At the right time and right place, God used a soldier to be the instrument of judgment upon Saul. This soldier fired an arrow that found its mark through the joints of Saul's armor. 2 Chronicles 18:33,34

2) Haman- Haman's plot is exposed at the right time to bring hope for the Jews. Haman is punished by being hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai. Esther 7:9,10

D. God's Timing Provides DELIVERANCE When It is His Will

1) Elijah- Elijah was depressed and wanted to die. An angel touches him and feeds him, bringing him strength when he desperately needed it. 1 Kings 19:1-8

2) David- David was surrounded by Saul, who was moving in for the kill, when all of the sudden, Saul withdraws because of a Philistine attack in another area. God's timing was perfect. 1 Samuel 23:24-28

3) Peter- On the eve of his execution, Peter is delivered by an angel. Acts 12:6,7

4) Jonah- In spite of his disobedience, God had a fish prepared to deliver Jonah when he was thrown overboard into the sea. Jonah 1:17

5) The Three Hebrews- These men would not bow to an idol, even though their lives were on the line. When they were thrown into the fiery furnace, the Lord delivered them and miraculously spared their lives. Daniel 3:19-26

6) Daniel- Daniel continued to pray to the Lord in spite of the law that was passed forbidding it. When he was thrown into the lion's den, God miraculously spared his life by shutting the mouths of the lions. The Lord came through at the right time and right place. Daniel 6:22

7) Joseph- God used the suffering, slavery, and imprisonment of Joseph to put him into a position to interpret the dreams of a butler and baker, and several years later, the dreams of the Pharaoh. Joseph was promoted by Pharaoh and used to save Egypt, the surrounding nations, and his own family who came for food in a terrible time of famine. God had his man at the right place for the right time. Genesis 45:4,5

8) Abraham & Isaac- God told Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice and at the last moment told him to stop. He was testing Abraham. When Abraham passed the test, God provided a ram in the thicket for a sacrifice. Genesis 22:10-13

9) Israel at the Red Sea- The Egyptian army had the Jews cornered at the Red Sea. When it looked like they would close in for a massacre, God put on the brakes and protected His people by a pillar of fire and then He opened the Red Sea for their escape. When the Egyptians followed them, at the right moment God closed the sea upon the Egyptians. Exodus 14:19-30

10) Barak & His Army- When Barak and Deborah went to fight the Midianites, God disarmed the Midianite chariots at the crucial moment by heavy rains and an earthquake. This led to a victory for Israel. Judges 5:4,5

11) Baby Moses- Pharaoh was killing the baby boys of Egypt. The mother of Moses put him in an ark on the Nile River in order to save her baby. God directed the ark to the princess of Egypt, the daughter of the man who was killing the babies. She had compassion, not contempt for baby Moses and reared him as her own. Moses' mother ended up being a nurse for her son. God is awesome, isn't He? Exodus 2:5,6

12) Mordecai- On the eve of Mordecai's execution by Haman, the king had insomnia and happened to read in the exact place where Mordecai saved the his life. He is honored by the king and the plans and ideas for honoring Mordecai and their implementation ended up being done by Haman, the man trying to destroy him. God has a great sense of humor and His timing is perfect. Esther 6:1-11

13) The British Army at Dunkirk- In WW2, the British Expeditionary Force had been forced into a retreat that left them trapped on the shores of Dunkirk. The Nazi army would have annihilated this army if they had remained there. England's King George VI called for a national day of prayer as a very risky evacuation was begun on May 26th, and would last for ten days.

The weather during this time behaved oddly in answer to the prayers that were going up to the Lord. When the dikes were opened to hinder the advance of the German army, the winds blew in from the sea, aiding the opening of these dikes. Had the winds continued to blow in from the sea, however, they would have wrecked many of the tiny boats and small vessels that were rescuing the soldiers. The winds blew as needed, where they were needed, and when they were needed, to facilitate the rescue. When the winds were not needed, they did not blow.

Thousands of troops were rescued in this flotilla of little boats because the waters of the English Channel were like glass.... still as a pond. This was unusual for the end of May when they are normally very rough and stormy. Another added advantage to the rescue was the fog that rolled in at crucial, dangerous moments covering their escape from enemy eyes. God's timing in controlling the weather was perfect in delivering a nation that was looking to Him for help. God has His own plan and will and His people in the right place at the right time to carry out His will.

Psalm 37:23—The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord...

Jeremiah 10:23—O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Isaiah 30:21—And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.....

When Christ returns one day for us, He will come in His time.

James 5:7—Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

The Lord does what He wants to do in His own time. Diane Ball put it this way in her song:

In His time, In His time, He makes all things beautiful in His time.

Lord, please show me everyday, As You're teaching me Your way,

That You do just what You say, In Your time.

We have already seen.....

5. Jesus delayed because He loved them and had something special in store for them. He did not wait because He was unconcerned, too busy, or weak. In fact, the Lord did not have to return to Bethany. He could have raised Lazarus from where He was at just like He raised the nobleman's son (John 4:43-54). We need to look at our circumstances through the love of Christ and not base Christ's love on our circumstances. Our problems do not mean that the Lord does not love us. Realize, there may be great blessings on the horizon of our hurricane.

We have seen the sick man, the summons for the Lord, the situation is assessed, the Savior's delay, and now we will examine the shakiness of the disciples.

V. THE SHAKINESS OF THE DISCIPLES AND THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE LORD—11:7-10

Jesus tells His disciples, "Let's go to Judea." The disciples hear this and more or less say, "Judea? Lord, isn't that the place where the people wanted to stone you?" The reason they said this is because Jerusalem is in Judea. Thomas was so afraid that he believed he was going to die with the Lord on this trip (vs. 16).

Duty leads Jesus back to Judea which was a very difficult area. You may be in a difficult area now or the Lord may lead you into one. It may not make any sense at all to you. If He is leading, go ahead and do what He says. Beloved, it's wrong to proceed when God says, "Halt!" It's foolish to linger when God says, "Walk!" If you are negligent in doing your duty and taking advantage of your opportunities to serve Christ, the time will come when you will not be able to do your duty or fulfill your opportunities.

Ephesians 5:16—Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Colossians 4:5—Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Jell-O turned one hundred years old in 1997, and the story surrounding its inventor is truly ironic. In 1897, Pearl Wait wore several hats. He was a construction worker who dabbled in patent medicines and sold his ailment remedies door-to-door. In the midst of his tinkering, he hit on the idea of mixing fruit flavoring with granulated gelatin. His wife named it Jell-O and Mr. Wait had one more product to peddle.

Unfortunately, sales weren't as strong as he'd hoped, so in 1899, Pearl Wait sold his Jell-O rights to Orator Woodward for $450. Woodward knew the value of marketing so within just eight brief years, Wait's neighbor turned a $450 investment into a $1 million business. Today, not a single relative of Pearl Wait receives royalties from the 1.1 million boxes of Jell-O that are sold each DAY. Why? Because Wait just couldn't wait. Beloved, learn to wait on God, trust His timing and His delays. Waiting will yield blessing and impatience will rob you of them.

Alternate Translations in the kjv 1611 Marginal Notes