Saturday, October 23, 2021

Faith that Grows from Jesus’ Words

One thing I make very clear in our home church is that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[1] Because of this, it has been fascinating for me to look at how the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead shows the importance of the words of Christ in contrast to what people saw.[2] 

First question: what is God telling you in his word lately that contradicts what you see going on around you? 

I ask this because it should be a way of life for us to put our faith in what we are reading from God’s word, not in what we see happening around us. It is also quite common for God to speak to his people about things that sound different than what we see in our circumstances. For that reason, it is good practice to identify what God is saying in his word clearly enough that when situations seem to contradict it, we hold fast to what God has said. 

What stood out a few mornings ago, as Jesus was standing at Lazarus’s tomb, was the expression, When he had said these things…”[3] It was like the spotlight moved to this phrase and narrowed its focus so there was no doubt which actor was playing the lead. 

Second question: what stands out for you today as the “these things” God has been telling you that lead up to the next thing he is doing with you? 

In other words, are you watching for the connection between the “these things” God is teaching you in his word and what happens next? Do you see the next things as stepping-stones to what God has spoken (even when they seem to be a glaring contradiction) rather than stumbling stones to your faith? 

I know that the expression, “these things,” relates to the immediate things Jesus had said in telling the people to roll the stone away from the tomb. He reminded them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” and reiterated his purpose in setting the stage with a death instead of an illness, which was to bring people to believe the Father had sent him. 

However, this seemed to draw attention to the thread that was woven quite brightly through the whole tapestry of this scene, that the words Jesus spoke preceded the actions that he took. And, it draws our attention to that thread as it adds to the unfolding scene that appeared to contradict Jesus’ words. 

Third question: what thread of words has Jesus spoken into the death-scenes of your life that speaks of a hope that contradicts any hopeless circumstances you can see with your eyes? 

And, lastly, this took me back to the beginning of the account where the very first thing Jesus did in response to the news that Lazarus was ill was announce the theme of the whole play: “But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’”[4] 

This simply emphasized that God speaks before he acts, and our faith comes from hearing what he says, not from watching how a scene unfolds. It makes me look back over things God has already said that have already unfolded in ways that appeared contradictory to his words but ended up being right on the bull’s eye. 

Last question: What has God told you about the death-scene you may be facing that makes sense of every contradictory thing that has happened since he spoke those words to you? 

Okay, story time.

Just as I finished writing that last question, I had the idea to go back to the start of the situation that is matching the Lazarus account for me. What was the very first thing God said to me about that journey? 

What I discovered was like seeing Jesus giving me one of those loving smack-upside-the-head expressions of endearment to let me know I could have saved myself a lot of grief (kinda the point of the Lazarus experience) if I would have kept in mind what he said instead of reacting to what I have seen going on in our church. Yes, lots of necessary Beatitudinal lessons that God is working for good, but still, the point is taken. 

So, I looked up my prayer-journaling and sharing from the morning that an “illness” hit our church parallel to the Lazarus situation. Wow! 

What had God spoken to me to prepare me for what would happen? That the miracles Jesus performed as signs (like turning water into wine) were to so reveal his glory that we would believe in him when the signs of the times, so to speak, contradicted his words. The golden thread God has woven through everything since then (and I am sure through many other scenes of the tapestry where I wasn’t paying attention), was the way God “manifested” Jesus’ glory so Jesus could manifest the Father’s glory. NOTHING has changed that. 

Then I looked at my prayer-journaling and sharing from the day after the “illness” hit. The theme was, “The Battle is On!” Meaning, we were presented with an opportunity to join God in his work, and Satan did NOT want to see Jesus glorified in it. Time to put on the whole armor of God, take our stand, and be the church to one another. 

As I look back, I can see how I was hearing Jesus’ words of promise the way his disciples would have understood him to mean that Lazarus was not going to die. I actually felt excited about the opportunity we were presented at that time because it looked like Jesus would do something that I had already seen him do before. I had high hopes and led accordingly. 

And next thing I know I’m spending a week standing at a tomb grieving! Lazarus had died when I thought Jesus said he wouldn’t. Yes, lots of that smacked-upside-the-head lovin’ included in this lesson! 

The reminder from a few days ago that faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes from the words of Christ, had already ministered to me when I started writing my sharing about this. It expanded for me even more as my sharing developed. And then it blew me away by taking me back to what Jesus was speaking to me about that stands out just as contradictory to what I ended up “seeing” as Jesus’ first words to his disciples turned out to be in stark contrast to the unfolding scene of Lazarus’s death. 

I know that talking about death-like experiences in our lives can stir up negative emotions we don’t want to spend time thinking and feeling. I have actually had some people become quite irate with me for even suggesting that there are things from the past that should be explored for our freedom. 

However, my testimony is to encourage you to look at whatever you’re going through, or even just the ugly deterioration of our evil world we are all facing together, and ask yourself whether the things God has spoken to you about in his word in the past are building up your faith in the present. 

Can you relate to the scenario where Lazarus was ill, Jesus said the situation would not end in death, but he waited until Lazarus had died before he went to do anything? Can you see how people who believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus needed to get to know him as the one who raises people from the dead? 

After all, isn’t that the point of Jesus’ coming? Didn’t he come to give life? Didn’t he come to raise sinners from the dead spiritually with the promise that the gift of eternal life would mean we are one day raised from the dead physically as well?[5] 

In spite of what negative emotions may be stirred up by even speaking of death-like experiences in our lives, I challenge each of you to go back to the beginning of your story of such an event and see what God was speaking to you about before you entered that scene. 

For sympathy’s sake, I know the grieving of facing things like this honestly. I also know how the journey can be both painfully and wonderfully helpful for me. Today I am strongly reminded to keep in mind the Savior’s words, and I am quite sure that his words will lead us through even the “strong odor” of death that is a significant part of the scene. 

Epilogue: before I shared this with our church, I wanted to see who and what was shared by our group that morning before anyone knew what God was doing with me. I considered all our sharing to be like puzzle pieces God was putting on the table before any of us knew what other things God was saying or doing among us. In a sense, I wanted us to see what God was saying to our church before he showed us what he was doing. 

Let’s just say that the sharing from others was a perfect fit to the puzzle pieces God had given me. It actually sounded a lot like Jesus’ telling the people what to do about the resurrected Lazarus stumbling out of the tomb: “Unbind him, and let him go.” Perhaps you have a death-like experience that needs to hear these words as well. 

© 2021 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)


[1] Romans 10:17

[2] You can read the whole account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. You can find it here:

[3] John 11:43

[4] John 11:4

[5] When Jesus returns, any believers who are still alive at his coming will not be raised from the dead, but simply transfer from their earthly bodies to their glorified bodies. Yes, lots of exciting stuff to explore if you have never heard about these things yet!

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