Why does the Lord allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it? Part 3

“Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.’ ” John 11:9

We are learning from the seventh miraculous sign of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John (John 11:1-44) why the Lord may allow a situation to grow worse after we pray about it. So far we have learned the Lord does this to display more of His glory (John 11:1-4) and to declare His love toward us (John 11:5-6). Today we learn the Lord also delays His answers to our prayers to DEEPEN OUR SENSITIVITY TO HIS WILL (John 11:7-10).

John tells us, after waiting two days, Jesus wanted to return to Bethany of Judea where His life would be in danger. “The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?’ ” (John 11:8). The disciples are saying, “Are you serious, Lord?! You were just there and they attempted to kill you! It would be suicide to go back there now!”

While we can understand their concern for the Lord, the disciples apparently had not noticed that a lot of people were having difficulty seizing Jesus (cf. John 7:30-32, 44-46; 8:20; 10:39). The Son of God – not the angry religious leaders—was in control over His ministry timetable. In all honesty, the disciples were not as concerned about Jesus’ safety as they were their own.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are no different than the disciples when the Lord’s way is not our way. Especially when He asks us to do something risky. We try to rationalize and avoid what He is asking us to do. How many of us have had God ask us to do something risky and immediately we complain or try to convince ourselves that we cannot do it? “It is not logical or realistic!” we tell ourselves. But God asks us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10). Jesus told His disciples that “the day” – the time of His public ministry on earth – was the opportunity for action. While Jesus, “the light of this world,” was with them, they could walk and “not stumble” (John 11:9). Later, they would have the light of the Holy Spirit’s presence (John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15). But to function apart from Jesus is like walking around at night (John 11:10). Operating without His guidance and illumination will cause us to trip and fall on our face.

If you walk during the day while the sun is shining you won’t stumble because you can see the obstacles and avoid running into them. If you walk at night, you are more likely to stumble because you cannot see the obstacles. If you walk in the light of God’s will, you will not stumble. But if you walk in the darkness against God’s will, you will trip yourself up.

Jesus was saying He could safely return to Judea if He was walking in the light of His Father’s will. No harm would come to Him until the Father’s appointed hour. And if His disciples go with Him, who is the Light, they will not be in any danger either.

The Lord may delay His answers to our prayers to teach us to be more sensitive to His will. Jesus was teaching His fearful disciples a lesson about walking in the light of God’s will. When they follow Jesus, Who is the Light, they will be safe in the Father’s will and love. But to turn away from the Father’s will and love, invites all kinds of trouble. Likewise, when we walk in darkness and do things our way instead of God’s way, we get into all kinds of problems. But if we walk in the light of God’s Word and love, we will grow closer to Him and He will reveal His glory to us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for allowing situations to get worse after I pray about them to nudge me closer to You and Your love. When I feel out of control, I often try to be in control to give myself a sense of feeling safe. I seek to do things my way as if that gives me a greater sense of control. Yet this often leads to isolation and more pain. Lord, I want to learn to yield to Your control when I feel out of control because it is then that I am most safe. Thank You for helping me to recognize this so I can turn this area of my life over to You. Walking in the light of Your love dispels the darkness that can so easily overwhelm me when I feel out of control. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

How do I follow God’s Plan? Part 3

“You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” John 7:8

The third way to follow God’s plan is to ADJUST TO HIS TIMING AND WILL (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus understood the Scriptures. He knew that God had appointed the very time in which He would be crucified. Six months from now Jesus would make a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people will receive Him with shouts of Hosanna. But now is not God’s time for that to happen. It is the wrong feast. It is the Feast of Tabernacles not the Passover. So Jesus told His brothers, My time has not yet come… You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus was not only being sensitive to what God wants to do but WHEN He wants to do it as well. We use the phrase, “Timing is everything,” because by experience we have learned that to do the right thing at the wrong time does not work. 

A basketball player can throw the most beautiful pass down the court, but if it is not timed right for his teammate to receive it, it will either go out of bounds or be stolen by the other team. For Jesus, His obedience to the Father must be according to God’s timing – like a batter swinging the bat just as the ball crosses the plate. In my own life, some of my greatest regrets were the result of hasty decisions – because I got ahead of God. It is better to wait on the Lord’s timing than to get ahead of Him and experience disaster.

Jesus knew His Father’s will and did it. How do I discern God’s will today? Ask yourself these questions as you seek to discover God’s will before making any major decisions:

1. What does the Bible tell me to do?” If your choice of action violates God’s Word, you know God’s will in the situation: “Don’t do it!” For example, co-signing on a loan. “It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s debts.” Proverbs 17:18 [NLT]. It is unwise to become entangled in someone else’s financial problems. So if someone asks you to co-sign on a loan, don’t do it. If you already have, Proverbs 6:1-5 says to get out of it. So yes, only if your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word are you free to proceed. The matter then becomes a matter of fine tuning, being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will bring more information to your mind, especially relevant principles and examples from the Bible.

2. What can God show me as I pray? After you are convinced that your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word, you will want further guidance through prayer. For example, you are looking at a possible job change and you need some direction. After searching God’s Word, you have discovered that such a change would not violate God’s Word, but now on the basis of James 1:5 – you commit yourself to praying for God’s leading every morning for several days. At the outset, you prepare a sheet on which two columns are drawn, one for listing all the reasons to change jobs, and the other column to list reasons not to change jobs. Each evening you cross off a reason on one side or the other, as a result of what God told you during your prayer time that day. At the end of several days, you should see a definite trend developing, especially if you have continued to study God’s Word and Scriptural aids.

3. What can knowledgeable counselors or advisors tell me? Look at the following verses:

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

“Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.” Proverbs 20:18

“For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 24:6

According to these verses, seeking godly advice can bring wisdom, safety, and a better chance of success. Do you have an older Christian in your life to whom you can turn for biblical counsel? If not, ask the Lord to guide you to such a person.

4. What do these circumstances tell me about God’s purposes and timing? Ask yourself whether the existence of this situation tells you something about God’s plan for you. For example, is He showing you some doors are now open? Are other doors being closed?

5. Is my heart filled with peace about my decision? This is a very subjective question, which is why it is last. According to Colossians 3:15, “the peace of Christ” is an important element in our fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. If your decision is right, you will have great confidence that you are in God’s will. If you don’t have peace, it may not mean God is saying “no,” but to wait, slow down and let God make His will clear to you.

Prayer: My precious Lord, please make me sensitive to Your will and timing, especially in these days of chaos and uncertainty.Some of my deepest regrets in life were the result of hasty decisions. Even making the right decision at the wrong time has produced disastrous results. This is such an area of weakness for me. And it does not help to live in a world that is making many fear-based decisions that ignore Your counsel. Christians are being pressured to do the same. Lord, one of my greatest needs right now is to slow down and wait upon You. Living with delayed gratification is one of the marks of Christian maturity. It is also seldom modeled in our society. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for showing me what it means to be sensitive to the Father’s will and timing. You have recorded Your wisdom in the Bible and given me the Holy Spirit to enable me to understand and apply it to my life. Thank You for giving me everything I need to make godly decisions that reflect Your will and timing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.