A powerful message our pastor preached yesterday shifted my attention radically, from feeling crummily under the weather, to feeling loved. How many times have I read John 11 — hundreds? How did I miss the glisten in the intonation of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus: “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (v. 3). But preaching is God’s intended means of imparting the power of his Word to us. The Westminster Catechism teaches,
“The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.”
Lazarus became sick. Lazarus died. And Jesus loved him. We all become sick. We all will die. And Jesus loves those who are his. He brought Lazarus back to life. He will bring us all back to life. He already has, once. We were all born dead: breathing, but dead in our sin. Jesus loves those who are his, dead and alive, and becoming sick is no evidence whatever to the contrary. He loved him who was sick. And, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
Our pastor provided this quote from Spurgeon:
“The love of Jesus does not separate us from the common necessities and infirmities of human life. Men of God are still men. The covenant of grace in not a charter of exemption from consumption, or rheumatism, or asthma.”
The Scriptures are rife with examples of God’s love for his people whom he afflicts with illness, sorrow, and tragedy. I often meditate on Psalm 119:75: “In faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Completely absent, our pastor observed, is anything whatsoever to vindicate the health and wealth so-called Gospel.
Faith is understanding our own weakness and our need for God’s help. I need constantly to be reminded of this. Apparent delay in God’s response does not mean he is not working, nor does it mean he does not love us. Faith is submitting to God’s providence as it is presented.
And faith is not trying harder and harder to love God enough, because we never can; faith is knowing and receiving God’s love for us. Remembering this releases so much bondage and baggage; and rather than feeling oppressed by inevitable burdens of life, we may be uplifted, knowing that God, by whom we are loved, is working, for his glory and our good, always.