Sometimes Jesus is Late
I remember how blown away I was as a new Christian that God actually answered prayers. Personally experiencing this concept was amazing to me. God was answering my prayers. He was actually listening to what I was saying, and then, doing stuff. This was mind-blowing! God, the creator of all things, was real and I could actually talk to Him. He would actually listen and respond to the thing I was asking about. WOW!
I remember praying for everything, big or small. Nothing was off limits. I had faith that God was listening and could do whatever I asked.
I prayed for parking spaces on overcrowded college campuses and would get front row spots. I prayed late one night for an opportunity to tell my friends about Jesus while driving home, knowing that they were all out partying as I prayed. Half way home I found a friend walking the streets, picked him up, and he wept in my car as I told him his sin was ruining his life. I prayed with some Christian friends for God to get ahold of a drunken person in another room of the house we were meeting in. Before we could finish our prayer, this person was pounding on the door telling us he wanted to get right with God. Then, we laid hands on him and asked God to sober him up so he would understand the things we were telling him. A moment later he threw up! God showed up when I prayed.
Over the years, however, I’ve also learned through experience and the Scriptures that God doesn’t always answer prayers so immediately. Nor does He always answer them in the way I want Him to. Sometimes we have to be patient in prayer. Sometimes He answers our prayer in ways that we were not conceiving of when we prayed.
There is a story in John chapter 11 where the sisters Mary and Martha also learned this. Their brother, Lazarus, was sick and so they sent for their friend Jesus to come and heal him. Instead of responding to their request, Jesus intentionally delayed to come, and allowed Lazarus to die. They were frustrated and heart broken. When Jesus finally showed up, they both complained to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus was late. He took too long. It didn’t make sense. They told him what was going on. Yet, He didn’t heal Lazarus in time.
As the story unfolds, Jesus ends up answering their request on His own timeline in a greater way than they had conceived of when they originally asked. Instead of healing Lazarus in the time frame they wanted, Jesus did far greater by raising Lazarus from the dead in his own timing, thus, bringing God far more glory.
In the midst of their prayer request it appeared that Jesus was not answering. The way things were unfolding were not making sense. If Jesus loved them, why didn’t He come? Why was Lazarus allowed to die? Yet, the whole time Jesus planned to answer their request in a bigger way than they had conceived of.
The way Jesus answered their request teaches us three things:
- God often wants to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20).
- God’s timing is perfect in spite of my ability to understand what’s taking Him so long.
- The circumstances do not always make sense in the midst of the ongoing prayer request. If it seems God is not answering your request on your time-table or exactly the way you anticipated, it may be that God is orchestrating something far greater than you can understand. Sometimes “big faith” means praying patiently and trusting that you may not perceive or understand how all the details will work out.
May God give us faith to wait on Him and trust Him in spite of what the circumstances look like.
Brian is a pastor, facility manager, husband, and father of three. His life's pursuit since becoming a believer is to simply be a genuine Christian in whatever context he finds himself. He has an M.A. in Bible Exposition from Talbot School of Theology (a seminary of Biola University). He loves a good burger, woodworking, and learning how to do his own home repairs.