Light from the Darkness
April 2, 2017
Light from the Darkness
I’ll begin with a story by Steve Klein, from The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, Rogersville, Alabama, April 1, 2007
W. Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St. Peter's Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny shop, where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man's banker said, "You've done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?"
"Well," replied the man, "I'd be janitor of St. Peter's Church in Neville Square.”
Many times in life the things that appear at first to be misfortune wind up bringing us success or blessings in our lives.
This is illustrated many times in the Bible:
If Joseph had never been sold into slavery, falsely accused and then imprisoned, would he ever have been elevated to a position in Egypt that allowed him to preserve his family?
Where would Zaccheus have been if he were taller?
Would the blind man in John 9 ever have become a believer in Jesus if he had not been "born blind"?
What if the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment to be healed had not suffered a "flow of blood" for 12 years? Would her faith have been as strong?
Would the centurion in Matthew have come to Jesus if his son were not paralyzed and dreadfully tormented?
When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was in Roman prison. But he was able to see the good that had come from his circumstances." But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ" (Philippians 1:12-13).
If we will but take the time to look at our lives, we'll often find what Paul found. Misfortune and adversity have resulted in positive outcomes. "Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" (Psalms 37:5).
In our reading today, Jesus is told that his dear friend, Lazarus is very sick. Yet, He does not fly to his side to heal him or even go to comfort Martha and Mary, whom He also loved. He waits two days before going to His friends. Why?
Jesus tells us: “This illness isn’t fatal. It’s for the glory of God so that God’s son can be glorified through it.”
Jesus does not go to Lazarus immediately because if he did, He would be able to heal His good friend before He died. Healing Lazarus while He was still alive was not in Jesus’ plans. He said Himself after telling His disciples that Lazarus was already dead, “For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so you can believe.” Jesus had to wait until Lazarus was indisputably dead and actually decaying to perform the sort of miracle that would produce the outcome necessary to truly glorify God. This is not to say that God let Lazarus die to glorify Himself, but rather, God saw an opportunity to use circumstances to achieve the greatest good. So, Jesus finally goes to Jerusalem, where He knew He would be in danger, to perform His final miracle to benefit His beloved friend and more who would believe. When He reaches the home of Martha and Mary, they each tell Him that if He had been there, their brother would not have died. The women have faith in Him but don’t truly understand His power. Jesus goes to the tomb and calls, “Lazarus, come out!” Upon hearing His voice, Lazarus is raised from his death and comes to life, free to go. Because of this many who saw believed. What began as the tragic loss of a friend, a brother, a loved one, ended as a miraculous event that brought many the blessing of faith in Jesus Christ.
It was this miracle that caused the Pharisees to begin their plans to have Jesus killed. It was this miracle that marked the beginning of the end of Jesus’ mission on Earth. It was this miracle that set into motion the events that would end in Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection that would secure for each one of us eternal life with Him if only we believe. It was Lazarus’ death that ultimately led to Jesus Christ being glorified on the cross.
Sometimes, we find ourselves asking, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” As a very wise lady once told me, the answer is, “Why not?” Sometimes, those “bad” things end up providing blessings that we never would have foreseen and great things come of them. When my husband died, I knew that God works all things for good. I kept telling myself that, but I just could not see how anything good could ever come from such a devastating loss. Martha and Mary, I’m sure, were having trouble seeing the blessings that would come from their brother’s death. But, like the death of Lazarus provided Jesus with a means to display the power of God and become the savior of the world, the death of my husband has brought me the blessing of greater faith than I ever imagined was possible. It has brought be the blessing of being able to help children every day and the opportunity to study and preach the word of the Lord each week. These are blessings that I never foresaw. They would never have been bestowed upon me if my husband were still alive. Christ brought me out of the shadow of the valley of death into the light of His love. This is how Christ blesses those who will hear him call to them, those He loves.
He will bring us from darkness to light, from death in this world of sin to eternal life in him. No matter what we face in life, God will be there with us. Only He can turn our tragedies into victories.
This is a prayer by John Wesley. Let’s Pray:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.