Belief in Tough Moments

We want our beliefs to be what we say, or what we think, or what we do on a good Sunday morning when we’re all dressed up and in a fantastic mood.

What we believe is what comes out of us when our status quo has been challenged.

This text references John 11:1-45, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Setting the Stage

  • Jesus knew Lazarus was sick, but he didn’t go to see him. Jesus also knew he was dead before they got there. This wasn’t an impulse decision; Jesus was planning on raising him from the dead the whole time. (John 11:4,14)
  • The disciples, as usual, were a little confused. At first, they though Jesus meant Lazarus was actually sleeping, so Jesus had to explain that he meant he was dead. In addition, the Jewish leaders were very anxious to see Jesus killed. Bethany was close to Jerusalem and the disciples feared this would do them in. They were devoted to Jesus and decided it was better to stick with him and die. (John 11:8, 16)
  • Mary is heartbroken over her brother’s death. She didn’t even get up to meet him when he came to Bethany. Many people have come to commiserate with Mary and Martha and Mary chooses to stay with them. She didn’t leave to see Jesus until he specifically asked for her. This in contrast with her earlier behavior of a lavish love for the Lord that she wiped perfume of his feed with his hair. (John 11:2,20,29)
  • Martha went out to meet Jesus as soon as he came in. She epitomizes a follower of Christ who loves him and believes his teachings. (John 11:20-27)
  • The other mourners who have come to visit have come along to see as well. (John 11:31)

The Beliefs of the People

  • The disciples’ first reaction was one of self-protection. They were worried for Jesus, of course, but probably also themselves.
  • Martha was in a place of acceptance. She didn’t fight what had happened and she held deeply to what she understood about Jesus’ teachings.
  • Mary was upset with him and trying to find understanding. Her first reaction to Jesus was a belief in his power, but not in his sovereignty.

The Scene

Now we get to the tomb. I imagine this scene looks something like this: there’s a large group of people gathered at the tomb. Jesus stands closest to the tomb, with the exeption of those who will move the rock away from the entrance. Martha is next to him, but is anxious of what we’re about to see. Many scholars agree that this family had money, and Martha wouldn’t have normally had to deal with death close up. Mary would be close, trying to stay near to Jesus, who she loved, but not too near, as she was confused and hurt by his lack of healing for her brothers. Around them are scattered the disciples. They are concerned and worried, anxiously scanning the crowd to see if any face looks like it will be the one to turn them over to the officials.

In this scene filled with many characters, Jesus says, “Take away the stone!” Martha, the practical one, checks the intention of Jesus. She can’t understand the point of breaking into a tomb now. Jesus tells her that it’s for the glory of God. He then prays and says loudly, “Lazarus, come out!”

Imagine if this scene had frozen right in this moment. We know how this story ends and we know that Lazarus comes out of the tomb, but the people surrounding Jesus that day had no idea what would happen next. Perhaps the disciples wondered if this was another sign of craziness, like his willingness to walk into a city where he was at risk of getting arrested. Perhaps Martha thought he was mocking her and her belief that she had to wait until the day of the resurrection to see her brother again. Mary, wrapped in the sorrow of her mourning, would she have been able to bring up the smallest amount of hope in her heart? The crowds surrounding them, how many of them mocked and laughed at what seemed an absurd command?

Unfreezing the moment, we can now look at what came next. Lazarus had his hands and feet bound, so he probably had to shuffle or hop out of the tomb he was in. There was probably a delay between Jesus’s command and the appearance of the formerly dead man at the tomb entrance. What happened in the intervening time? I wonder if the shock of seeing him there was so great that no one dared move, prompting Jesus’ next comment to unbind him.

What Can We Learn

As we see each person’s approach to loss and hardship and miracles, we can gather some input into what we might potentially be doing to limit our belief in Jesus.

  • Minimizing risk (the disciples)
    • If the disciples had let their fear overtake them and not come with Jesus, they would have missed out entirely on a powerful miracle that Jesus worked. By minimizing your risk and staying in your comfort zone, what are you missing out on?
  • Not looking for answers in our current situation (Martha)
    • Martha completely accepted the situation she was in. In some ways, this was due to the faith that she did have. Sometimes, we have to look beyond a situation in life to see the potential glory and seek for the beautiful.
  • Letting our lack of answers affect our view of God (Mary)
    • Mary let her lack of understanding impact her relationship with/view of God. It was a difficult situation and no one could blame her for being upset. Instead of running to Jesus, however, she chose to stay with the people who were telling her what she wanted to hear. Do you let negative results and unanswered prayers taint your view of God?
  • Not going to the Lord, requiring him to come to us (Mary)
    • Mary sat at home until she was asked for. We are so blessed to be loved by an awesome Father who loves us and comes after us when we are stuck in our own hurts. What kind of relationship could we develop with the Lord if we run willingly to him instead of hiding out until he finds us?


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 11:1–44). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Surrender to God’s Righteousness

Dead to Sin

Are you living as one who has died or one who needs to die? We should be living as those who have died, since the work on the cross is completed. Are you striving to die to yourself? Then you are striving to do the work that Jesus already did.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. [1]

Trust that God Meant What He Said

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,[2]

When we take on the work of dying to our self, we are taking over the part of making ourselves righteous. When God said you are righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, He meant it. Your job is to believe it.

Self-righteousness come in to play when part of our heart can’t accept that God really truly made us righteous by Jesus alone. We think that we can improve our overall righteousness score by making up some of the difference. Another way it can creep in is when we think that perhaps God died for the good parts of us, but we get to keep all the good parts.

We don’t think these thoughts directly of course; that’s too much contradiction. These things come across far more subtly.

Does This Mean We Can Do Whatever We Want?

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. [3]

In Romans chapter 6, Paul addresses the question of giving in to sin after we’re saved. In chapter 5, Paul establishes the completeness of God’s grace and how it was brought through the blood of Jesus. In chapter 6, he opens by saying, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.[4]

Paul new that an understanding of grace doesn’t mean an excuse to indulge our selfishness. Our new selves should be wholly and completely devoted to walking in the way of Christ. We have been raised in the power of new life through Christ and are therefore free to submit ourselves and follow Him.


Submission to our new life is vital to continue walking in the way. We must choose how our hearts and minds focus on Him.

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” [5]

 What’s It Take Then?

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. [6]

  • Resist the devil – Actively oppose temptation and lies
  • Draw near to God – Practice being aware of Him and intentionally set time aside to be with Him
  • Cleanse your hands and your hearts – Repentance
  • Lament and mourn and weep , mourn, be dejected – Recognize the loss that happens from sin, the damage that happens from being separated from God
  • Humble yourself before God – Recognize your true status before Him

Stay in Love

It is so easy in walking with Christ to turn things into a check list or another self-improvement activity. It’s so easy to fall out of love with the relationship part of things. Just as in a marriage it’s important to take time to keep the love alive, we must also choose to focus on this as we walk with the Lord.

In the passage from James 4, it says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” God is yearning for us! These actions aren’t the actions of a self-righteous individual that is trying to be “better” and earn more brownie points with God. This is the actions of a loving person who realizes that behaviors other than this will keep their true love away.

God is yearning for us; are we yearning for Him?

Additional Resource


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Pe 2:24–25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 3:21–24). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 6:12–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ro 6:1–4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jas 4:4–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jas 4:7–10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Don’t Worry

We’re told not to worry and we know we’re supposed to praise instead. While praising is a wonderful general strategy for refocusing and reprioritizing our thoughts, are there any specific strategies for coping with valid concerns?

What He Did Say

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

– Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

Verse 25 talks about not taking no thought for the material things of living. The word and its context at the time didn’t mean that deciding what pieces of clothing to wear today was wrong.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought—“Be not solicitous.” The English word “thought,” when our version was made, expressed this idea of “solicitude,” “anxious concern… [1]

What He Didn’t Say

  • Pretend it’s going to be fine
  • Pretend you’re going to get what you want
  • Pretend there’s nothing wrong

How often when we tell ourselves not to worry, we are actually telling ourselves to delude ourselves about the current circumstances or the future resolution? We tell ourselves, “Don’t worry, it will all take care of itself.” Our mental salve for troubles and problems is to look for and hope for the resolution of the problem.

The problem getting removed or resolved will happen sometimes. Sometimes, however, it won’t. The point of this passage is not to guarantee perfectly smooth living; it’s to tell us how to work through troubles that haven’t gone away. The New Living Translation translates verse 25 with, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” It’s not about being trouble free; it’s about being filled up with power and knowledge of how to work through the troubles as they come.

Working through Worry

Sometimes a quick praise prayer can knock worried, anxious thoughts out of our head. Sometimes, the thoughts are more stubborn than that and they need to be intentionally removed.

  • Acknowledge the concern if it’s valid.
    • Jesus didn’t say that worry is made up or crazy. There are truly troubling things in life and truly difficult patches that we or our loved ones are walking through. It’s not about faking your way out of things or trying to pretend that nothing is wrong.
  • Don’t Let It Run with Your Mind
    • While worries can be legitimate, worries can also run away with us. Our minds can be very imaginative with where things can go and taking things to a new level of problems doesn’t help us and doesn’t help us to trust the Lord. Acknowledge that today’s troubles are enough for today and you’re going to lean on the Lord through it.
  • Realize that Worry Changes Nothing
    • Sometimes we can be so anxious to feel like we’re doing something that we latch on to worry as something we can “do”. Because we’re focused on the problem, talking about it, or finding solutions in our own mind, we feel like we’re helping somehow. We’re not. Worry doesn’t do anything and it doesn’t change anything. If anything, it makes it worse.
  • Worry Damages Your Faith
    • Worry isn’t just useless or a waste of time; it can acutally damage your faith and your ability to see God’s goodness and power. Deep down, the root of worry is that somehow, in some way, God isn’t going to keep one of His promises: maybe you don’t belive that He will provide, maybe you don’t believe He truly loves you and knows what you need. Whatever the block is, if you allow your focus to go to worry, you are tearing away and your foundation of belief in God.

The Antidote to Worry

While it’s great to work our way through worry and finally feel like it’s defeated, it’s not complete to stop there. The antidote to worry is service to the kingdom of God. The verse that says, “… seek first the kingdom of God” wasn’t accidentally dropped into this passage. Our worry blinds us to the needs of others and the call of God. Once we’ve acknowledge the source of our worry (our disbelief) and surrendered that to God, we must act out that belief and the change in us by serving others. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; sometimes it’s just stepping up and making dinner on a night when you’d rather just curl up with a pint of ice cream. Maybe though, depending on your circumstances, getting out and serving others who are struggling, through more tradition outlets like serving the homeless or mentoring kids can be a huge help in keeping our perspective and humility before the Lord.



[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 28). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.