I Said Something Wrong During This Week’s Youth Group Message
This past Wednesday night at our youth group meeting, we studied the story in John 11:1-46 where Lazarus dies and then Jesus raises him from the dead. It’s a powerful story – one of the most striking displays of Jesus’ miraculous power in the whole New Testament. But I said something during our study time that has been bugging me the last few days and I’d like to take a moment to straighten it out.
The message I gave had two takeaways from the story: (1) we need to trust Jesus even when things go wrong and we don’t understand what God is doing, and (2) Jesus is the only one who has power over death, and so we should trust him for eternal life.
In the story, both Mary and Martha are upset with Jesus that he did not come to heal their brother Lazarus of his illness. They both say to Jesus “if you had been here, our brother would not have died” (vs. 21 and 32). Essentially they are accusing Jesus of dropping the ball. This is something we are all guilty of doing; something bad happens and we look to God and say, “where were you?!” Yet Jesus intentionally did not come to heal Lazarus. He actually let him die on purpose. This insight comes from verse 6, which says
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
The word “so” here can also be translated “therefore”. In other words, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days rather than going to heal Lazarus because he knew he was deathly ill. Jesus’ reason for taking this strange course of action, he says, is because “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus purposefully does not heal Lazarus so that he would die, so that Jesus could then come and raise him from the dead. This plan was to bring glory to God and to Jesus. Evidently, God would receive more glory by bringing Lazarus back from death rather than healing him and preventing death in the first place.
Now, here is where I botched it at youth group. After explaining all of this, I was transitioning to point 2 which is that we will all die and therefore we should prepare for death ahead of time. If memory serves me correct, what I actually said was “as if this isn’t depressing enough, we need to remember that we are all going to die”. When I said “as if this isn’t depressing enough”, what I meant was that hard stuff still happens in life (like the death of people we love, demonstrated by Lazarus). However, what I seemed to be implying was that God is somehow failing us by letting those things happen. It sounded like I was saying it is “depressing” that God would allow hard stuff to happen rather than delivering us from it.
To be clear, I do not believe that is true. In the story, Jesus obviously thinks it is better for Lazarus to die than it is to heal him. The reason it is better is because it will bring more glory to God. What we should take away from this is that God allows hard stuff to happen to us because ultimately it will bring more glory to God than if he had prevented it from happening in the first place. Like Mary and Martha, we may not understand how that can be the case. But as we see in the end of the story of Lazarus, Jesus had a plan all along. In our own lives, we may face hard stuff that we hope God takes away, but ultimately we need to trust that Jesus has a plan that is better than ours even if we don’t understand it, and that plan will ultimately end in God being glorified. This is not “depressing” but rather encouraging, faith-building, and wonderful.
This is why I feel the need to correct what I said. Basically, I said that the way Jesus works is “depressing” when actually it is encouraging, faith-building, and wonderful. It is no small thing to misspeak when teaching the Word of God and representing Christ. What we say matters, especially as teachers (James 3:1), and we will be held accountable for every faulty word spoken. I hope to be an example of someone who takes this seriously. I want to show Jesus to be as wonderful as he actually is, and I want my students to know that this means being careful with words and even correcting them if necessary. I hope I have made it clear why I felt the need to clarify and correct what I said, and I hope that the truth as rightly taught is an encouragement to you in your time of trouble.