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.

Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 4)

He is risen! On this beautiful Resurrection Sunday morning, there is eternal hope for every believer in Christ Jesus. Although they are fun, the easter egg hunts, baskets, pretty Spring dresses, and bunnies cannot compare to the joy that rises in the heart of those who have placed their trust in Christ. In this final post of our great resurrection hope, we will look at the crushing of the enemy and the final victory that we are assured. Our hope is not a wishful thinking but an assured confidence.

In Part 1, we learned that Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection, and in Part 2, we saw that Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity, and in Part 3, we saw that Christ’s Resurrection Gives Hope for the Future. Let us look at Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 15:24-26 as we consider the fourth reason this day is one of such great hope.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

(1 Corinthians 15:24–26, ESV)

Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Defeat of Every Enemy of Christ (vv. 24-26)

When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, he set into motion the assured and final victory over every enemy of God. This includes Satan and the demons and every human being that have rebelled against God. (v. 24)

Jesus Christ will destroy every rule, and every authority and power that will not submit to him. Not a single enemy of God will remain. His reign will last until every enemy is conquered and put under his feet (v. 25)

The final enemy shall be death (v. 26). Until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death was the undefeated champion of every fight fought. Nobody faces death and walks away. Some might escape for a few more days or even years, but death always wins. But in Jesus Christ, death has met its match. Jesus Christ is stronger than death.

The great enemy of mankind that began in the Garden will finally be stopped. All the dead who have trusted in Christ will have been raised from the dead and transformed into glorified bodies, just like Jesus has been. There will be no more death at all.

The death of death will have come because of the death of Christ. All things will be made right.

This is the hope we have in Christ. This is what the resurrection means to Christians. It directly affects each of of us.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains.… Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot block a man’s pathway for even a moment. The shadow of a dog can’t bite; the shadow of a sword can’t kill.” Christ Himself took the full force of death’s destroying power by dying and paying for our sin, then rising from the grave. Trusting Jesus may not remove death’s shadow, but remember, shadows can’t hurt us.”[1]

The resurrection reminds us of this truth. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We have nothing to fear, even death itself. We shall be raised from the dead, because Christ lives!

And all the enemies of God shall be dealt with as well.

That leads me to ask a question of you this morning. Do you have this hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? That would depend upon whether you have placed your faith and trust in him.

Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the resurrection of his followers. But it does something else. It points to the fact that he always keeps his promises. Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead. And he promised that he would come back. Not just to raise his disciples from the dead, but also to judge the unrighteous.

So, this Easter, what have you placed your hope in? Is it in the salvation in Jesus Christ or is it in yourself? Only salvation in Christ offers the great hope that we have this morning. Everything else is like a hollow chocolate bunny.


Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 3)

In the events of Passion week, today is a silent day of mourning. The disciples went home with the horrible reality that Jesus was dead and his body was in a tomb. Now what? But the resurrection gives us hope! In Part 1, we learned that Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection, and in Part 2, we saw that Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity. But the Apostle Paul gives at least two more reasons for us to draw hope, even on this day of grief as we await Resurrection morning. The third reason is…

Christ’s Resurrection Gives Hope for the Future (v. 23)

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:23, ESV)

Right now, we all see the effects of sin all around us. We feel it in our bodies. Sickness, disease and death are constant reminders of our fallenness.

Sin has a corrosive effect in society that has plunged us into spiritual darkness that it seems we will never recover from. Crime, war, famine, hatred, and all sorts of human suffering is never far away. We see it in our news feeds every day. We can’t ever seem to get a day of relief from the bad news.

We are desperate for some good news. The resurrection of Christ is the best news. It tells us not only that Jesus is alive, but that he is coming back to judge the world and he will raise us up from the dead and glorify our bodies to never die again.

Verses 50-57 describe this even in the future that we as Christians look forward to when we will be made imperishable and immortal. These verses say:

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:50–57, ESV)

In 2015 the UC Berkeley Alumni magazine California ran an article about cryonics. Not sure what that is? Let me quote a small portion and you’ll understand,

Before launching the first cryonaut, they had sandwiches and coffee. It was a Thursday afternoon in January 1967, in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale. The ad hoc medical team—a physician, a chemist, and Bob Nelson, a voluble TV repairman and president of the newly minted Cryonics Society of California—huddled around the dead man’s bedside. In front of them lay the body of James Bedford, who earned his master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1928. A retired psychology professor and vocational guidance expert, the 73-year-old had died of liver cancer an hour earlier. All of them, living and dead, were about to make history.

The team went to work. Adapting techniques from the field of cryogenics, which studies materials at low temperatures, they injected medical-grade antifreeze into his neck, diluting his blood. To minimize damage to his brain, they kept oxygen pumping through his system with a machine called an iron heart. Then they slipped the professor into a coffin-shaped capsule filled with dry ice. (Later, the capsule would be placed in a cylinder cooled by liquid nitrogen for permanent storage at -196°C.)

Four hours later the task was completed: They had frozen the first man.

At a triumphal news conference a few days later, Nelson, the TV repairman, explained the purpose of the professor’s “cryopreservation.” Bedford, he told the assembled reporters, “will be kept frozen indefinitely until such time as medical science may be able to cure cancer, any freezing damage that may have occurred, and perhaps old age as well.”[1]

Here we are, over 50 years later, and that Berkeley professor’s body still awaits the cure for cancer, and the science to be able to bring him back to life and heal him of his cancer. If it had been done before, then maybe there would be more hope in cryonics. But this has never been done before. Not even once. Not even close. We don’t have that sort of hope as Christians.

The hope we have is assured. It isn’t a shot in the dark. It’s not a gamble or a pipe-dream. Church, Jesus Christ is alive today! Jesus Christ went through death for us, and he rose again before us. He will come again and we shall be raised from the dead just as he was!

Christ’s Resurrection Gives Hope for the Future to those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord. But what about those who do not believe in Christ and do not follow him? What about death itself?


Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 2)

On this Good Friday, we have a wonderful opportunity to meditate not only upon the death of Christ, but upon the hope of his resurrection. Yesterday I posted the first of Four Assurances that Jesus’ Resurrection Gives Those Who are Followers of Jesus Christ: Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection. You can read that post here:

Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, ESV)

In these next two verses, Paul reviews for the church what they already knew, but needed to connect to the resurrection of Jesus. Paul addressed the reality that all people die, and that is why there is a need for resurrection.

Paul lays down two parallel ideas—first, that death came to all of humanity through a single man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden, when he disobeyed God.

Then, secondly, resurrection of the dead has come to humanity through another single person, Jesus Christ, who on the cross obeyed God by dying in the sinner’s place.

Verse 21 gives a profound truth that the world we live in simply cannot grasp as it should. We find that people in general think that they are good people, maybe a little flawed, but good at heart. Nothing serious. Of course, there are a few bad apples that mess things up for the world. But most people are good.

But in the Garden, there was one law given by God. Don’t eat the fruit. That was it. One law. And Adam and Eve broke it. One law. And what was the penalty? Death. A broken relationship with God and death.

Now look at verse 22. It gives more detail regarding verse 21. It uses names here. “As in Adam all die.” Paul is assuming we all know this. Why did my grandparents die, even though they were super sweet people? Because Adam sinned, and all his children sin and the penalty of sin is death.

So, what does that say about my sweet grandparents? They were sinners. And no matter how good you think you are, you will show that you are a sinner in God’s eyes because all sinners die. Death isn’t natural. God didn’t make men to die. He made them to be immortal. Sin brought death. All sinners die.

We all associate with the first man, Adam, who represents us as the human race. He is our head, or leader.

But the second part is true as well. Verse 22 says, “so also in Christ shall all be made alive!”

Here, Christ is described as being a representative just like Adam is. Adam represents the human race. Jesus represents his followers, those who forsake everything and follow Christ. Those who place their every hope and trust in him. Those who are truly children of God and have attached themselves to Christ. Is that you? If it is, then this speaks to you!

Paul is speaking here of the reversal of the curse of sin and death that was brought upon the human race by Adam’s disobedience.

In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, ESV) 

And in 1Corinthians 1:18, Paul wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Those who don’t trust in Jesus Christ for salvation see the death of Christ as foolish, and we as Christians are foolish too. But these are the ones that are perishing in their sins. 

Have you ever gotten yourself in a jam that you simply couldn’t fix? That’s what the human race did when Adam disobeyed God and sinned. It reminds me of when we have gone fishing when my girls were much younger. Sometimes they would get their fishing line all tangled up and the reel looked like a bird’s nest of fishing line. Sometimes they tried to fix it, but soon realized it was too tangled, so they’d give it to me or my wife. Sometimes it was so bad all we could do was cut the line and start over.

Some people approach their tangled up sin-filled lives like that. They pridefully say its not that bad, and they try too “fix” it themselves. Sometimes they take it to others who claim to be experts for help. But these “experts” have a mess in their own sin. Some take their sin-filled lives to Jesus Christ. He alone can fix it. 

On the outside it looks like we are all the same. We are all heading toward death—both Christian and unbeliever. But there is a difference. The Christians identifies himself with Christ, and in doing so he joins Christ in the resurrection that will come one day.

But the unbeliever is still identified with Adam. In Adam all die. We are all in Adam and so we all feel the effects of the curse of death. But in Christ those who identify with Christ in faith shall be made alive because Christ’s Resurrection Reverses the Curse of Humanity.

Our Great Resurrection Hope (part 1)

Today is “April Fool’s Day” which I think might be just an American sort of thing. I don’t know. It’s not even actually a holiday here, but is an unofficial day for playing pranks on one another. Some Christians have connected “April Fool’s Day” with atheism, a reflection of Psalm 14:1; and 53:1 that says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” It is interesting that April Fool’s Day comes a day before Good Friday, the day which Christ was crucified. For millions of Christians, the crucifixion and empty tomb are reminders of our great hope beyond this life and this world But what about the atheist and the one who does not believe in Jesus Christ? Where is the world supposed to find hope?

A little over a month before he died, the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre declared that he so strongly resisted feelings of despair that he would say to himself, “I know I shall die in hope.” Then in profound sadness, he would add, “But hope needs a foundation.”[1]

Where do you find your hope? The Apostle Paul has written to the church where some have lost hope because they had been wrongly taught that there is no resurrection; that a person dies and is no more. Some people believe that today.

Look with me to 1 Corinthians 15:19. It says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19, ESV) 

As followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe that Jesus Christ is our great resurrection hope. If Jesus has not risen from the dead, we might as well all just wait to die. There is nothing left but despair and our feeble attempts to make our time left on this earth as pleasant as possible.

But Christ has risen. There is more to hope for than all this world can offer! On this Maundy Thursday leading to Resurrection Sunday, I’d like to share Four Assurances that Jesus’ Resurrection Gives Those Who are Followers of Jesus Christ. Here is the first one:

Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection (v. 20)

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV)

The evidence is overwhelming which shows that Christ rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:3-8). In these verses we read that Jesus was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses, and some of them were still alive when the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian Church, about 20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Along with this, Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies and Jesus himself told his disciples several times that he would rise from the dead after his death upon a cross.

And in verse 20, Paul is telling the church that Christ has not only risen from the dead, but that he is the first-fruits of those who have “fallen asleep,” a euphemism for Christian’s who have died already.

What is a “first-fruit” and why does this guarantee the Christian hope?

In the Old Testament laws, the Jewish people were commanded by God that at the end of their farming seasons, as they were getting ready to reap their harvests, the people of God were commanded to bring an offering to God called the “first-fruit.”

This offering was from every type of blessing they had received, and it included grain, produce, oil, wine, bread and dough, even the first born of animals.  Now, what I want you to understand is that these “first-fruit” offerings were just that—they were the first of the fruit of the land, given as an offering of thanksgiving to the One who had given them everything. It was also an offering given in faith that he would bring in the rest of the harvest that had not been completely ripened or been brought into the harvest. This offering was the way in which the Lord told his people that they were promised that there was more of the same to come.

The Apostle Paul used this imagery to describe Jesus’ resurrection as the first-fruit, the promise that there is more to come! Jesus, the Son of Man, died and rose again, the first of many who will one day rise again just as he did.

In Romans 11:16 Paul used this idea of first-fruits as well. He wrote, “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16, ESV) 

Paul is saying that when a Jewish person offered up a lump of dough, the larger batch that it was taken from was made holy because of the connection between the two. Think about that for a second!

What Paul is saying in 1Corinthians 15:20 is that our status as Christians is changed by what happens to the first-fruit of Christ’s resurrection. Whatever he undergoes, we will also undergo. 

As one commentary says, “…in the specific case of the resurrection their resurrection is not merely parallel or similar to Christ’s but is preauthorized, promised, guaranteed, and initiated by it.[2]

I once was at a bridal shower, and it reminded me of the engagement ring that our friend gave to his fiancé. I don’t know how much that young man spent on the ring, but it represents a promise of good things to come. 

The engagement ring is a promise not only that the groom will come for his bride, but that as he has spent much in providing the ring, he has much more to give. The ring represents love, and promise, and that more is to follow. It is not all, it is only a foretaste.

The first-fruits are like that. But it is a promise from God, who never breaks his promises, ever.

Christ’s Resurrection Guarantees the Christian’s Resurrection! We aren’t just hoping against hope. Christ’s resurrection is the first stage of a resurrection that will include the raising up and glorifying of all of Christ’s followers!


[2] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 762.