The Glory of God in a Season of Pain

“So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:20–27

The glory of God and the love of God are not in conflict with one another. Some theologians try to pit one against the other saying that the sovereignty of God (intimately tied to His glory) cannot override His love for humanity., and therefore the love of God willingly overrides His sovereignty so that God actually submits to the will of His creatures.

John 11 is an interesting test of this idea. In verses 4-6 it says, “But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”]

In these verses we have the glory of God shown in His sovereign decision to allow the life of Lazarus to be overcome by death, with the divine purpose of God being glorified through His resurrection of Lazarus. To some Christians and many unbelievers, this is unthinkable—even monstrous. But this is because the unregenerate mind and the immature Christian mind attribute all discomfort, pain, trial, and even death, as only evil and that the only good that comes is from the avoidance of these things.

But the pain and suffering that occurs in this world is only a small part of the much bigger picture. And not only this, but the pain and suffering as well as the joy unspeakable that are available to humanity either through grace or denial of the offer of salvation are infinite. The present world and its pains and joys are only a small sampling of a greater reality that all of humanity shall experience personally one day.

Jesus, looking beyond the suffering and eventual death of His friend Lazarus knows that a greater lesson needs to be grasped and through the truth He will bring glory to His Father.

So, instead of rushing to the scene to be at His friend’s side, Jesus stayed two days longer to assure His disciples that Lazarus was dead and buried by the time they reached Bethany.

This means that when we are tempted to cry out “Why?” In our trials, we must not push aside the glory of God and begin to question the love of God. The Lord’s mind is vast and His plans are more infinitely complex that we can know or imagine; therefore we must never doubt His love.

Mary and Martha were correct in placing all of their hope in Jesus’ power to heal their brother. The issue was simply timing. Jesus could have healed Lazarus while he was sick (Jn 11:21-27, 32); or immediately after he had died; or long after he died in the future Day of resurrection (v. 24).

The sisters had hoped that the healing would be before his death, but after he had died, they found some comfort in the future resurrection when he would be raised from the dead.

But Jesus gave them immediate resurrection while also pointing them to the reality of the greater day of resurrection that they would still need to look forward to and hope in. We too must cling to this very same hope even without our own personal experience with an immediate healing or resurrection. Jesus proved to Mary and Martha, and by extension to us as well, that He is able to raise the dead—because He raised Lazarus from the dead, and He rose from the grave by His own power.

So the next time you find yourself doubting God’s love or not understanding how such pain could bring God glory, remember Lazarus. You might never understand God’s reasoning, but you must know this—God desires to be glorified and His love for us is infinite. Both are true and both are never super versed by His perfect plans.

When the Old Life Looks Better: Burn the Ships

In 1519, Hernan Cortez left Cuba and landed on the eastern shores of what is now known as Mexico. After a rough voyage to their landing, the sailors became discouraged as they saw the conditions they would have to encounter. Not only hunger and thirst, but jungles, wild animals and the ‘bloodthirsty’ Aztecs. Knowing the murmuring that was spreading throughout the ranks and perceiving an attempt to flee back to Spain, Cortez had the ships burned. There was no returning. They now had no other option. They would conquer or they would die trying.

Genesis 23:1–4 (ESV): Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Abraham, filled with grief did not pack up and return home, but rather made the final commitment to the promises of God and bought a piece of land to bury his wife.

Burial was done in the native land. When Abraham bought this land he was renouncing his homeland in Mesopotamia and declaring that this Promised Land was where he and his ancestors intended to live and die according to the promises of God.

Not only was Sarah buried in this cave, but also Abraham (25:9), Isaac and Rebekah (49:29-31), and Jacob and Leah (50:13).

In our lives, as we struggle on in this Pilgrim’s journey, how many times have you been tempted to turn back? How about being tempted to forget all about living a holy life and begin to think seriously about your desire to chuck it all and dive headlong into sin? Maybe it’s a thought to throw away your marriage vows in defeat because divorce looms as such an easy escape?

Whatever it is that looks so tempting out there, as you look longingly back at your old life and you wish you could go back, don’t. Burn those ships. There is no going back. God has a plan that entails victory.

His plan brings great joy. Hard work, yes. Struggle? Yes. Trials? Yes. Dangers? Yes. But what have you ever received that was of real value with little effort? The treasures of heaven far surpass the greatest gold deposits in the world.

Christ’s Intense Love in the Storms of Life

Jesus Lover of My Soul— Charles Wesley (1740)

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;

Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.


Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.


Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?

Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;

Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,

Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.


Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.

Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;

False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.


Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;

Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;

Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it.

C. H. Spurgeon.jpg

“A very present help.” — Psalm 46:1

Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do. When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell him all thy grief? Has he not a sympathizing heart, and can he not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord. Art thou burdened with this day’s sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it. Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to him at once for cleansing. Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon him? Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear. Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast “a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth.” What! wilt thou not go to him, and ask him to give thee of his abundance, when he has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with him, and has made over all that he is and all that he has to be thine? There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for his people to make a show-thing of him, and not to use him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on his shoulders, the more precious will he be to us.

“Let us be simple with him, then,

Not backward, stiff, or cold,

As though our Bethlehem could be

What Sinai was of old.”

Morning and Evening, May 3, Evening

The Desperate Dependence of Prayer


A few weeks ago I watched a PBS documentary about the rebuilding of the skyscraper that is taking the place of the Twin Towers in New York. It was interesting and sobering as they replayed those video clips of the Towers as the planes crashed into each one and then how they buckled and came crashing down.


Graham was right. Things like the attacks of Pearl Harbor and September 11th remind us how weak and inadequate we truly are. They call us to turn to God and ask for mercy in dependence upon Him.

Psalm 86 reminds us of this need for the mercy of God. Without God’s merciful hand upon us, we are weak, poor, blind and naked. We need the Lord. The psalmist David knew this.

This blog post will begin looking at David’s appeal in order to begin seeing our own need and how we can find hope and mercy in the Lord God alone.

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:1-3 ESV)

David’s Appeal: Hear Me (v. 1)

A basic indispensable truth of Christian prayer is that our God will hear us and answer our prayers. If God cannot or will not hear us, or can hear but will not answer us, there is no reason to go on.

But the Lord addressed is Yahweh, the Great I AM, he is not like the false god Baal who would not respond to his prophets on Mount Carmel. He is not like the countless false gods of this world that remain silent as their worshipers seek their aid.

And David is confident that the Lord will answer him not only because the Lord is living and can hear his prayers, but because David has taken the posture of a true worshipper of the Lord God Almighty. How does he describe himself? As “poor and needy.”

Although it is not clear when in David’s life he wrote this song, from what we know about David’s life, he was not from a family that could be described as poor and needy. His father Jesse was a somewhat prosperous man, blessed by God with moderate wealth. And of course, when David became king of Israel, he was neither poor or needy in terms of riches and wealth.

I don’t think that David meant that he was poor and needy in those terms. David was, like all of us, poor and needy in terms of his inability, his helplessness and his utter need at this time. He was poor in strength, poor in capability—poor in the spiritual sense without God’s hand upon his life.

David knew that the riches man on this earth cannot compare to the poorest man on earth who has the Lord at his side. David needed the Lord’s ear. With the Lord listening to his prayers and with him answering his needs, David would surely cease to be either poor or needy.

This is because David understood who our God is. Just a quick run through of this psalm and we can see the categories that David attributes to the Lord.

  • He is good and forgiving, V. 5
  • He is a God who answers prayer, V. 7
  • He is a unique God who does mighty works, V. 8
  • He is God of all the nations, V. 9
  • He is great, does wondrous things, the One true God, V. 10
  • He is faithful in his covenant love, delivering his people, V. 13
  • He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in covenant faithfulness, V. 15
  • He is a helping and comforting God, V. 17

Of course, the rest of Scripture fills out this short list with so many more attributes of our Great and Mighty God.

Let me ask you this, does your understanding of God impact the way that you pray? It should. It should impact not only the content of your prayer, but also the boldness, the frequency, the size of the requests and the expectancy you should have of his response.

But what if your knowledge of the Lord is small or lacking? Try practicing this as you read the Bible. As you read, take some time to allow the Bible to first be God-centered before you look for how it can speak to you about your own life and situation.

What I mean by this is, if you are reading this psalm, Psalm 86, we could be tempted to first focus on David’s need to be heard. But if we rush to that and we have a lacking understanding of God, we will only be able to pray in a limited fashion. But if we look at the other things that David says in this psalm about what he knows about the Lord, we will be instructed and be able to expand our vision of who God is.

Or maybe we are reading the Gospels. We come to John 10, we need to ask ourselves, How is God reveled in Jesus the Good Shepherd? How is my understanding of God expanded when Jesus speaks about being One with the Father? etc.

When David said that he was poor and needy, he was recognizing that the Lord is the provider in every way. Whatever he needed, David knew that the Lord is our provider. And that knowledge impacted not just his prayer in verse 1, but it impacted his life, so that whenever he needed anything, he knew where to go to have that need met.

If we do not seek out the Lord in our need, we need to ask ourselves “why not?” Does this show a self-sufficient attitude? Perhaps a lack of faith or denial of the power of prayer? Maybe it is a subtle form of pride in our own strength? Whatever the case, we need to know that it is sin.

John Calvin wrote,

“To know God as the sovereign disposer of all good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or ask of Him, were so far from [helping] us, that it were just as if one told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground.”

Save Me (v. 2)

Here in this second verse David says something that might be initially objectionable if not understood correctly. He says, “Preserve my life or soul.” Thus far we are okay with this. He needs to be saved. Verse 14 tells us that insolent and ruthless men were after him and they hated him (v. 17) and wanted to take his life (v. 17).

But the reason he calls God to save him is what is distasteful. David says, “Preserve my soul, for I am godly (ESV) or holy.” At best, it sounds like boasting on his part.

The word, “godly” or “holy” is the Hebrew word hasid. It is where the hasidic Jews get their name from. It means “faithful, zealous, devoted.” Now, looking at it in that light helps, doesn’t it? David is not saying that he has arrived spiritually. He just finished saying that he was poor and needy. Of course he didn’t mean that.

He did mean to call attention to the fact that he was a devoted follower of the Lord and not a man who had scoffed at God until disaster made him call out in desperation. David is pointing to his consistent walk with the Lord.

It is not as if the Lord needed reminding, but it does show us that David has a strong bond—a covenant relationship with the Lord he is so dependent upon.

This can be seen in the next line of verse 2. David calls himself the Lord’s servant. David considered himself God’s slave. He wasn’t like those who promise God they will do whatever he wants from them if he will make a deal and save them. No, David has been serving the Lord as his slave his whole life and now he asks the Lord as the Great Master to save his humble servant who has been so faithful in his service all of his life.

The last line of verse 2 adds to David’s reflection on his relationship with the Lord. David reiterated that he trusts in the Lord and that David’s God is only and supremely the Lord.

David understood service. As a shepherd for his father in his youth, he served the family and the flock. He went out into the fields and led the sheep and goats to pastures and water. He lead them to the pen for protection. In doing this he also served the family.

When Jesse sent David out to his brothers to take them food, David did so. He served his family in menial tasks with the utmost obedience despite not gaining any glory or appreciation.

Later, David served his king-Saul. You will remember that David served Saul through some scary and troubling situations. But all the way through he refused to turn on his master, even after he had been chosen as Saul’s replacement. David even grieved on the day that Saul was killed.

So David knew what being a servant was all about. And even though his human masters were not always kind to him, David knew that the Lord was worthy to of all service and honor and glory.

When trials in life grew difficult and even life-threatening, David did not flee to another master that he thought might treat him better. No, David stuck close to the Lord God, fully dependent upon Him to save his life from any and all dangers.

The Apostles thought of themselves as slaves of Jesus Christ. They thought of themselves as lowly, unworthy, slaves who lived for the glory and honor of their Master Jesus Christ and not their own renown.

As John MacArthur wrote in his book Slave,

“When we call ourselves Christians, we proclaim to the world that everything about is, including our very self-identity, is found in Jesus Christ because we have denied ourselves in order to follow and obey Him. He is both our Savior and our Sovereign, and our lives center on pleasing Him. To claim the title is to say with Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).” (p.11)

David was a servant of the Most High God, and as his servant, he knew that he needed to appeal to the Lord for his help and salvation. Because without the Lord, there was no hope.

What about you? Are you a slave of Christ? Do you have any hope outside of Christ? Cast them all away. None can save. None can bring help or comfort. None can satisfy. Only Jesus can.