What do you do when life doesn't make sense?
You're with me here? I mean, you pray, you ask God for help, you trust Him, you're being the man or the woman as far as you know that you're really supposed to be. Instead of things getting better, they get worse and then they get impossible. I mean, if God cares about you, how could you be experiencing what you're getting right now? If that's your question, stick around.
That's today. Thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. I'm Dave Drewy and Chip's our Bible teacher for this international discipleship ministry focused on helping Christians live like Christians. While we're in the middle of Chip's series, Jesus offers hope. In this program, he tackles one of the toughest questions every person is faced with answering. What do you do when life doesn't make sense? This is such a relatable topic, so let me encourage you, after today's message, share it with someone in your life.
You can easily do that through the Chip Ingram app or by downloading and sharing the free MP3s at livingonthedge.org. Well, now here's Chip with today's talk from John chapter 11. We're in a series called Jesus Offers Hope, and there's a teaching handout.
If you want to pull that out, I'll be following it rather closely. And I'm just going to go out on the limb and suggest that we all have problems in life. And if you don't have some big ones now, if you live a little longer, they'll come, right? You all have adversity. Sometimes it's because you make just an honest mistake and it causes some problems. And sometimes because people do some things to you that you're totally out of the control of it and it hurts you and wounds you.
And sometimes it's health issues and it just brings pain. And sometimes it's financial. And sometimes just, you know, observation and personal experience, you just blatantly sin.
You know what's right to do, or you know what you ought to do, and you don't do it. And there's consequences. And it produces pain and struggles and woundedness. But there's other times when, as far as you know, you're walking as closely with God as you know how. You want to love him, you want to serve him.
There's nothing between you and him that you're aware of. And something bad comes into your life, something difficult comes into your life, and you do exactly what the Bible talks about. You do exactly what Jesus says. Coming to me, all you that labor and have you laden, ask, seek, knock. And so you ask, and you seek, and you knock, and maybe even fast, and you get some wise counsel, and then nothing. God's silent.
In fact, he goes beyond silent, he feels distant. And down deep in your soul, it goes something like this, God, now wait a second. I'm seeking you, walking with you, responding in every way I know how, and what about all that kind of stuff where you're supposed to help me?
I'm not getting anything. And then down deep, you feel something like, I don't think God cares about me. I mean, he may care about other people, but I don't think he really cares about me.
And if he does, then why would he be silent and distant and at least not seem to care? If you find yourself there or someone that you love in that window, there's hope for you today. We're going to talk about Jesus offering hope when life doesn't make sense. On the front of your teaching handout, I posed this question, and it's what I want to address in our time together. Why would God let our most difficult problems go from bad to impossible if he really loved us? You ever have that happen? I mean, it's bad, and you ask God for help, and it's not like it just stays bad.
It goes from bad to impossible. Now, in your teaching handout, I've done a little something different. I've been kind of encouraging you all to bring your Bible or your mobile device and kind of dig in personally. And so if you get a pen out, I'm going to ask you to underline a few words, circle a few words, because what I want you to do is learn how to study the scriptures for yourself. John chapter 11, Jesus is going to ask and answer this question that we posed.
If God really loves me and you ask for help, how can he let something go from bad to worse? A problem is brought to Jesus in verses one through three of John 11. Now, a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sister sent word to Jesus, Lord, the one you love is sick. So here's what we know.
Someone has a very serious illness. Second, what we know is these aren't people that are out of God's will. These aren't people that are casual. These are people that Jesus, from the rest of the New Testament, he hangs out with them. They're the most devoted followers.
He cares deeply about them. And so, hey, Jesus, you've hung out at our house. We know you. We love you.
We've worshiped you. We have a problem. So they bring it to Jesus. Our brother's sick, the one that you love. Jesus in four through six responds to the problem. When Jesus heard this, he said, this sickness will not end in death. No. It is for God's glory, so that God's son may be glorified.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. You might just put parentheses in your notes there. It's just a parenthetical comment. So he makes a pronouncement.
This sickness has a purpose. The purpose is that God's reputation, who he is, and God's son, Jesus, will be glorified or be made known. And then because of how he's going to operate, he wants to remind his listeners and us, Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. And then circle that next word, so. Or in some of your translations, it'll say, yet there's a contrast.
So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Now, I don't know about you, but when I get on the phone and I've got a critical situation and I call a close friend and I say, you know what you said, if I ever, ever really, really need you, you pick up the phone and I'll be there for you. And I call them and I say, hey, I really, really need you. And the response is great. I'm not coming. I don't know about you, I don't know about you, but that does not communicate a lot of love coming this direction. I mean, Martha and Mary are scratching their head going, we sent word, you love him. And Jesus says, for reasons we don't understand, no response. A little bit later, after a couple days with his disciples, he announces a plan to solve the problem in verses seven through 16. Then he said to his disciples, let us go back to Judea. So we're going to go on a trip together, Jesus and all the disciples. But rabbi, they said, a short while ago, the Jews tried to stone you. And yet you're going to go back there.
In other words, Jesus, wait, wait, wait a second. We like following you. You're feeding the poor. A lot of great things are happening.
You're an amazing teacher. The last time we were there, they tried to kill you. Translation, you know, like we're your closest followers. They want to kill you. Kind of do the math, Jesus.
They want to kill us too. Let's not go back there. And so the response to Jesus solving the problem is fear. And then Jesus does what he often does.
He says sort of this obscure statement that you say, wow, I wonder what in the world he means. And so in response to their fear, Jesus answered, are there not 12 hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.
I'm sure they just felt like, well, that solves it for me. After he said this, he went on to tell them, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I'm going there to wake him up. His disciples replied, Lord, if he sleeps, he'll get better.
Translation, we don't have to go, right? He'll just wake up on his own. Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, Lazarus is dead, and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. Would you underline that sentence? Lazarus is dead.
I don't know about you, but that sounds like a bad thing. But he says, I am glad for your sake, disciples, that I was not there. And then here's a little purpose clause, so that you may believe. And if you'll circle the two little words, may believe. And as we walk through this passage, every time the word believe, or faith comes up, I want you to circle it, because later today, you can go back through and say, I think there must be something pretty important about believe. So he's glad he's not there.
Lazarus has died. Something's gonna happen, so they can believe. He goes on to say, but let us go to him.
And then sort of just like, you know, every group has different personalities. Then Thomas, called Didymus, said to the rest of the disciples, let us also go that we may die with him. You know, sort of the bravado. Now we know from Thomas's history a little bit later, he does not have a lot of faith. Often when difficult things come into our life, and Jesus calls us to follow him, the two responses are fear, I'm afraid to follow, or sort of unfounded bravado. Okay, I'm a victim, if God calls me to do it, I'm better than other people, let's just go die.
Neither of those are genuine. You might jot in your notes in the corner, John chapter eight, verse 12. Jesus had told them, I am the light of the world. He who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will walk in the light of life. That little statement about, you know, if you're walking in the daylight, naturally speaking, you know, you can see stuff, you won't fall. But if you're walking at night, you stumble over stuff. What he was trying to tell him is, gentlemen, life is filled with difficulty and pain and adversity and problems, and it's a fallen world.
I'm going to go back in the thick of it to address this issue. When you are following me, you're in the light. Regardless of the externals, regardless of the darkness, regardless of the circumstances, when you are following me, I blaze a trail, I am the light. And if you follow me, regardless of what you're going through, you won't stumble, you won't be in darkness. Now, Jesus decides to give Martha and Mary these two of his closest followers, two of his most devoted followers. As you read later in the New Testament, you find that Martha does the meal and Mary sits at his feet. I mean, these are some of the people that are absolutely the most devoted and committed followers. And I want to remind you of that because what he's going to do in their life and what he is doing in some of your lives right now is only what he does in some people that he has a lot of trust in. Because they live during a time where they don't live during a time where life doesn't make sense. If Jesus really loves me, he would have come. And guess what?
He didn't come. And their brother died. And they are sad. And they are mourning. And they're questioning God's love. And they're questioning whether they can trust him in the future. And so now after this delayed response that we learned wasn't an accident, it wasn't because he was busy, he chose not to respond and fix their problem.
And now he's going to come because his strategy is to give them something better than just fixing their life. Verse 17, on his arrival Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him.
But Mary stayed at home. Now this is the first encounter that Martha has and it's very direct with Jesus. Lord, Martha said to Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
What's he really saying? I thought you loved me. You said ask, seek and knock. I sat through a lot of those, you know, the Sermon on the Mount, I was there. I've heard your messages. I asked, I sought, I knocked. If you would have come, he'd been alive.
We had a big problem. I thought you cared, you didn't show up. You ever feel like saying that to God? See what I like is she's honest.
Now she's also shrewd because she realizes she's seen him do some amazing things so she's going to voice her disappointment, but then she's going to couch it in, you know, I know you might have another really good plan B. So look at verse 20, but I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. Jesus said to her, your brother will rise again.
And Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day. Look, Lord, I got the theology down. I understand it. I agree with it. And then something happens here.
I want you, if you can imagine watching the most powerful cinema on an IMAX screen and the camera zooms in HD on Jesus' face and his eyes meet Mary's eyes. And she has basically said, you let me down. I don't know if you care. You're the problem fixer.
Why didn't you fix my problem? And Jesus looks into her eyes with love and compassion. And he says, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
You have to circle a few beliefs in your text, don't you? See, so often what we want is God to be our kind of self-help genie to make our life work out. God, you know, my house is in trouble. Can you turn it around? God, my marriage is in trouble. Could you turn it around? God, my mate, my friend, my son, my daughter has cancer.
Can you turn it around? God, fix my problem. I want to be faithful.
I love you. Fix my world. Fix my problem. Make it work out right. Heal the people that are sick.
Give me a new job. And sometimes God waits. I had a I had a situation about six or seven years ago that wasn't just like a month or two, but it was a journey of a few years. And I had made a really big decision, at least on our part, to leave where I was comfortable and move to Atlanta and join an organization that I had thought a lot of and had a great experience. But just shortly after I left, the bottom fell out of the market. Remember the whole, you know, dot com bust. And as a result of that, the organization that I teamed up with, their major donors, all the money disappeared.
And six or seven months into it, living on edge went, it was healthy and had enough funds. And I remember when our chief operating officer at the time called me and said, we have three days less of cash and we have to close the doors. And on the way there, I could give you a long litany of things like the car that was shipped there was in a wreck and my wife had oral surgery and it didn't work and got infected.
She was in pain, so he had another oral surgery and it didn't work and it was infected. And so I got a wife that's crying herself to sleep. I've left all my kids, all my family, what looked good.
And for six or seven months, all, you know what, everything is down and to the left. And I remember being in my basement and I wasn't crying out to God like, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. I was just crying. And I remember that God, what's the deal? I mean, as far as I know, there's not sin in my life. I left a comfortable situation.
I'm trusting you by faith. This was, I didn't want to do this. I agree. And I mean, I started listing all the reasons of, and every single thing that could happen relationally, financially, health-wise. I mean, it was like so downhill and so low.
And I remember just, I mean, palms up, just okay. And I did, in my heart of hearts, I felt like I have only one of two conclusions to make. Either I cannot hear God's voice anymore.
And this is the biggest mistake I've ever made. And I took a wrong turn and I'm not sure God really cares and loves me and he's trustworthy. Or this is the will of God. And there's something in this window of time that in his love and wisdom and goodness and kindness, he's going to do in me.
And there's something to learn and something he'll reveal to me about himself that right now, intellectually and emotionally, I do not get, but I'm going to hang on to the end of the rope of hope and say, your promise that you gave me to do this, and I'm not letting go, but I'll tell you what, I could sure use some help. And it was during that time I was reading through John 11. And I'd never seen this passage like this before. And I read John 11 one day and I read it the next day. Then I read it the next day. Then I read it the next day. And I read a little something else.
Then I read it the next day. And I can't tell you how long I just lived in John 11. And what I realized, eventually I wrote in my journal, rather than solving the problem in the life of Mary and Martha, he revealed to them, the author of life. No one in the New Testament apart from James and John at the transfiguration ever gets as direct, clear revelation.
I mean, the Pharisees hear this and even John the Baptist is told, well, here's some Old Testament passages and report what's happening. And he has to figure it out. But he looks at this woman and he says, you don't think I love you. Let me tell you, I am life. All the things you would hope that would happen by the answers to your prayers and your circumstances coming out. I am life and resurrection. And I love you, Martha. And I am for you.
And I will supply in me and me alone plus nothing. Do you believe this? And notice her response. There was something about his eyes and his words. Yes, Lord, she told him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, who is coming to the world. And after she said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside.
The teacher is here, she said, and he's asking for you. He's coming to them. That passage in James, this is the picture, draw near to God in the midst of your pain and you don't know what to do and you struggle. Draw near to God, he'll draw near to you. But he doesn't go to Mary.
The teacher's asking for you. So Mary gets up. When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and she went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place, he's waiting. He's waiting for her to come.
He's still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, Lord, if you'd been here, my brother would not have died. What's her response?
This is the second time. Hey, I thought you loved me. I thought you cared. If you would have showed up, you could have fixed my life. And then notice Jesus response to her hurt and to her pain. When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
Here's what I want to remind you. It may be hard. You may not understand it. It may be difficult, but I'll tell you one thing I learned when I was crying in my basement, Jesus was crying with me and he had not abandoned me. And he loves you and he's for you. And he may not turn the switch and fix the problem, remove the cancer, give you your house back, cause your marriage to come back all together, all at once.
Find the person you're looking for as a single person, give you the job that you're always looking for. But in the midst of what you can't understand, if like Martha and Mary, you'll come and then be honest and tell him, you know what? This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And shoot it really straight and then sit and listen. He says, I'll meet you here. I do love you. Your pain elicits the heart of God. Then notice his response.
Where have you laid him? He asked. Come and see Lord, they replied. And then you had this short, powerful Jesus wept. God's purposes are bigger than fixing my problems and your problems and getting your life to work out and my life to work out when and how we want. It's way bigger, but he cares deeply.
Chip will join us here in studio with his application in just a minute. You've been listening to the first part of his message, When Life Doesn't Make Sense from his series, Jesus Offers Hope. It's been said that hope is the oxygen of the soul. The fact is we all put our faith in someone or something, but what happens when our dreams are dashed or someone lets us down or life just falls apart?
Where do we turn when our situations shake us to the core? In this series, Chip points us to the only true source of our hope by using familiar New Testament parables. Chip illustrates how we can experience and safeguard God's indescribable hope in our lives.
If you're feeling hopeless, don't miss a part of this series. For more information about Jesus Offers Hope, go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or call us at 888-333-6003. That's 888-333-6003 or LivingOnTheEdge.org.
App listeners, tap Special Offers. Chip, you talked very candidly in today's message about our struggle to understand the difficult and oftentimes painful seasons of life, but you encouraged us to lean into God even more when our circumstances don't make sense. You know, one really effective way people have those intimate moments with God is through journaling.
Would you take just a minute to talk about how you've used that method in your life? Dave, it's interesting that you would say that because I think this is something we need to clear up about journaling or not journaling. My wife uses her journal completely different than me. She's not a verbal processor. Her verbal processing is primarily she prays for very long periods of time. She can concentrate. She pours out her heart. I always know when she's had a good prayer time because there'll be this pile of Kleenexes where she's been crying. And so her journal is primarily writing down specific prayer requests. It's very brief and it's very focused.
Mine is there's lots of words. This is what I'm thinking. This is what I'm feeling. Here's five concerns that have come to my mind that I'm distracted by and I write each of those down and turn it to a prayer list. My point is this. Journals are a tool. It doesn't make you spiritual to write in a journal. They need to be a unique tool to help you connect with God. So it's used in a way by way of our personality and what God is doing in our life.
But what I do know, whether you write a little or a lot, whether it's more of just a prayer journal or whether it's a life journal, is there's something to be said for using a tool that is tracking your journey with Christ. Left to ourselves, we will get very negative. We'll be like the Israelites and we'll forget all of God's miracles. And when we face hard things, we'll feel alone and not trust God. And over and over and over, Old Testament, what do they do? They go back to those memorial stones. God parted the Red Sea. God gave them manna.
The water came from the rock. And I believe that that is really the role of a journal. It's just whether it's a little or a lot, it's marking some things down so that in your darkest times you can come back and you can say, you know something, the God who was faithful during that time is with me now. And so if even for those who've never kept a journal, I would encourage you give it a try.
And don't feel like you have to write every single day, but begin a rhythm or a track record. Maybe it's two or three times a week or you do it when you're compelled or it becomes your prayer journal. But we're just encouraging people. We want you to be connected to God and you just can't say a little prayer and read a little something fast and expect to have a deep, powerful, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. Our heart's desire is to help you to be connected deeply with the living God. And we believe this journal could be one small part of that journey for you.
Thanks, Chip. We do have a great resource designed to help you develop the practice of journaling It's a beautiful, compact notebook. Now this tool is full of meaningful scripture verses, popular lyrics to hymns, and insightful quotes from influential Christian leaders.
There's also plenty of space for your notes and personal journaling. Our hope is that this resource will help you spend more intentional time with God in prayer. And if you like this journal, get a few more to pass on to friends.
They're a perfect gift for any occasion. To order your prayer journal, just visit livingontheedge.org or call us at 888-333-6003. That's 888-333-6003 or livingontheedge.org.
App listeners, tap special offers. I want to take a minute before we close and talk to some of you that really connected with this message. And unfortunately, the reason you connected is you're really hurting. I mean, you are really, really struggling. And it might be your family blew up. It could be that, you know, your job is no more, your future looks bleak, or one of your kids is in rehab. I mean, there's just times when life gets so hard and it feels so dark and you feel so lost. And maybe today you feel like Mary and Martha and the question you're saying, hey, God, why didn't you show up?
I mean, if you would have shown up in this situation, this wouldn't have happened. In fact, for many, maybe it's even the loss of a loved one. And you're saying, God, where are you? Well, I don't have any simplistic answers, but I would remind you, He's not moved and He's with you. And even when you can't feel Him and even when it doesn't make sense right now, I mean, Mary and Martha, I think we're thinking, I mean, we ask Him to help. And the text says He loved them deeply and yet He waited two days. So I'm not going to try and give you some little formula, but what I want you to know is if God isn't making sense, it's not because He doesn't love you, but I want you to know He's orchestrating and working and He will use this very, very challenging time.
It may be to have you lean in deeper than ever before. He may be orchestrating something that you'll look back on a year or five or 10 and recognize then, but for now, just cry and just cry out and just say, I really need you. Now's the time to say, Lord, would you just be with me?
And here's His promise. He'll never leave you, never forsake you. Read the Psalms, call a good Christian friend, pray and cry together, and just let God meet you. Well, as we close, if you're walking through a difficult or painful season right now, we want you to know we care about you. If you'd like someone to pray with you, call us right now, 888-333-6003, or if you prefer, email us at chip at livingontheedge.org. That's chip at livingontheedge.org, or call 888-333-6003. Well, I'm glad you've been with us. And until next time, this is Dave Drewy saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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