When Jesus got to Bethany on the occasion of Lazarus’ death, as He stood at the graveside amidst grieving family and friends, He said to those nearby, “Take ye away the stone.” John tells us, “Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, ‘Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days'” (11:39, KJV). Judging from that response, one would think that Jesus was oblivious to the facts as they were. In verse 17 we were already told of Lazarus that “when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already,” yet in Martha we see the human tendency to call our respective situations as we see them. Usually that is far removed from how God sees them.
I am intrigued by Jesus’ response: “Said I not unto thee, that, ‘if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?'” (v.40). The words “said I not unto thee” springs forth from the pages because they tell us that while standing there in front of her brother’s grave, looking at the reality of what was, Martha forgot whatever it was that Jesus had told her previously. The facts had overwhelmed any promise He had given her, yet even as we look at her, we can see ourselves so clearly. We read the Word, the Holy Spirit quickens that Word in our hearts, yet in the face of our adversities how quickly we forget the promises of God. When Jesus comes on the scene, the facts give way to truth. For example, fact – I am broke, truth – My God shall supply all my needs (Phil. 4:19); fact – I’m worried, truth – as long as I trust in Him, His peace will stand watch over my heart and mind (Phil. 4:6,7). In other words, for every situation that confronts us, we have a Word from God for that situation.
Our challenge as believers is to understand and hold on to the word that God has given to us, especially words that speak to our specific situations. Jesus taught, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart” (Matt. 13:19). It is when we lose that Word, often through lack of understanding of it, that we find ourselves in distress, doubt, and defeat. Without the promises of God, we have no reason to see beyond the present state. But thank God, because we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), with the Word appropriated in our hearts, we can say like the Apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Equally important, we know that He keeps His promises. We are reminded that “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
What “dead” situation in your life are you looking at? What has God said to you concerning it? What are you going to believe?