This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25-26, NIV).”
This message is so near and dear to my hear that it I preached about it Sunday. You can find the recording here .
A Church Filled with Love
My heart was heavy as I began to prepare for worship on Sunday morning. With each passing moment, it felt as if something was lost. I thought to myself, “Now is when we would beginning our first worship service… Now is when I would be getting in the car to go to the second church… Now is when I would rush in the door, greet everyone, and beg for snacks from the Sunday School class.” I missed the sense of community.
As I began the words of the opening prayer, a feeling of comfort filled my soul. I remembered that the church was not empty. The church is never empty—not really. The Holy Spirit, our Advocate and our Helper, is always with us. Although the pews might look empty, I know that they are filled with memories of the loved ones who have gone home to be with God. This week, they were filled with my thoughts of all of you as well.
The Story of Lazarus
The Gospel reading for this week is the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-45). It is a very popular story, and I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before; however, I invite you to reexamine it closely with me. The relationship that Jesus shares with the siblings Martha, Mary, and Lazarus is particularly beautiful. It fills my heart with hope, and I hope that it encourages you as well.
After Jesus is told that Lazarus is sick, he waits for two days before returning to Judea (John 11:6). When Jesus finally arrives, he finds that Lazarus has been dead for four days (11:17). Moved by her grief, Mary kneels at his feet and laments, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
Mary’s words break my heart. In the darkest hours of the night, as a pandemic sweeps the globe, I will admit that my prayers sound a lot like her cry of despair. “Where are you, Jesus? Where are you, God? How long, O Lord, must we wait?”
I find comfort in the words of the Psalmist. When I cannot think of the words to pray, I pray the Psalms. “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord… Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications… I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope (Psalm 130:1-5.”
A lot of people are asking, “Where is God right now?” An answer to this very real question of theodicy can be found right here in the story of Lazarus. John 11:35 is the shortest verse in most English translations of the Bible. It is only two words, but such is the beauty of the English language that these two words contain a depth of holy meaning: Jesus wept.
When we cry, Jesus cries with us. When we hurt, Jesus knows our pain. When we mourn, Christ walks alongside us in our suffering. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, our God is with us.
As the current pandemic continues to develop, you might be feeling a lot of things right now. These feeling might include fear, anger, and sorrow. Whatever you’re feeling, please know that Christ is waiting with open arms to embrace you and offer you comfort. “How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (Matthew 23:34).”
Before Christ raises Lazarus from the dead, he tells Martha. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25-26).” Lazarus will face death again. His earthly life will end, but Christ offers all of us immortal life. As Christians, we do not need to be afraid to die. If we have faith, we will live forever with Christ as co-heirs to God’s eternal Kingdom (Romans 8:27).
Five Minutes at Five: A Call to Prayer
We all wait in anticipation for that glorious day when Christ will come again, but until then, I would like to invite you pray with me. Although we cannot physically gather, I encourage you to lift your hearts with me every day in prayer for five minutes at five in the afternoon. The church is not a building, it is a people. Let us be a people united in prayer. I hope you will be comforted by the knowledge that by stopping to pray each day at 5PM, you will be uniting your prayers with many other believers, including the people in the two churches I serve.
Please also pray for everyone impacted by the current pandemic, people who live alone, people in hospitals and nursing homes, doctors and medical professionals, and those who have lost a loved one. I like to keep both church directories near the spot where I pray and pray for each person by name. All creation cries out, for we are all in need of a Savior (Romans 8:22).
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!
Leslie @ Words of Hope