In Times Like These

Bible Book: John  11
Subject: Peace; Life; Strength; Salvation; America
[Editor's Note: This sermon by Dr. John Bryan was preached after the 911 attack in America, but it seems very fitting today. The attacks on police officers in America, terrorist attacks at home, and the deaths of many abroad, raise a question about the source of our peace "In Times Like These."]

In times like these we need God. Evidence of that is the fact that you have come, that you are here, that you have chosen not only to meet with the adversary, but you've chosen to meet with the advocate. You have chosen not only to meet at the face of terrorism, but you've chosen to meet with the face of the One who brings triumph. You've chosen today to celebrate, in the midst of our sadness, that God is on His throne and that there is nothing and no one who can take Him from that posture or position. In times like these we do need God.

I changed completely the direction of my preaching this morning because of this week's events. As I was making my way to bury my cousin in Atlanta, Georgia, I did what you did. I turned to the news on the radio. While I was making my way to the funeral home, I heard what I thought was an impossible report. People jumping from buildings, plane wreckage, gray smoke billowing through the streets of New York, the Twin Towers coming to the point of attack. Could this be? Reality proved that it was. I will not rehearse for us what we've seen and heard and will hear too many times again and again concerning the attack upon America.

But, what I will do is to place us firmly where we need to be today and it's not before a television set and it's not before a radio. It is before a holy God who opens the opportunity to speak to us today perhaps louder than any other voice we've heard in recent years.

I was drawn to a text that I would invite you to discover with me today, John, Chapter 11, the story of Lazarus, his encounter with Jesus and his two sisters who were grieving. I want you just to follow along with me and listen to this and draw what I believe will be powerful parallels between the kind of situation we discover ourselves in today and what we see God chose to do in that day and time.  "Now a man named Lazarus,"(verse 1) "he was sick, he was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus does now lay, sick was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord the one you love is sick.' When He heard this, Jesus said 'this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it.' Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus and yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two   more days." (Now verse 11) "After He had said this, He went on to tell them 'Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep, but I'm going there to wake him up.' His disciples replied, 'Lord if he sleeps, he'll get better.' Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then He told them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead' (vs. 17). On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem and many Jews had come to Martha and to Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother and when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home. 'Lord,' Martha said to Jesus, 'if you had been here my brother would not have died; but I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.' Jesus said to her, 'your brother will rise again." Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life and he who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes  in me, he will never die. Do you believe this?' 'Yes, Lord', she said to Him, 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who would come into the world (verse 32).' When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, 'Lord if you'd been here my brother would not have died' (vs. 35). Jesus wept (vs. 38). Jesus once more deeply moved came unto the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said. 'But Lord,' said Martha the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor for he's been there four days.' Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone and then Jesus looked up and He said, 'Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you sent me,' and when he said this Jesus called out in a loud voice, 'Lazarus,  come out.' The dead man came out. His hands and his feet were wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face and Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes, let him go.' Therefore (vs. 45) many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did put their faith in Him."

Friend, there is today a clarion call for help. There is, as we've seen from the text, a death setting. Maybe like never before, this generation has faced what they have never seen and never heard and experienced in any of their former life. But now we come close to the point where we need God. We need Him. Before e-mail, before telephones, before pagers, before television, before the satellite communication that we have...even before telegrams, there was the telegraph. It was driven by the invention of Sam Morse. He invented what is known as the Morse Code. The Morse Code gave certain sounds for every letter of the alphabet.

Those who were in war torn areas and in times of turmoil and trouble would send out what was called an "SOS". It was, according the Morse Code, dot, dot dot, dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot. It was a sound similar to this, it was (...---...); and whenever that was heard, people knew that those on the other side were calling for help. We're calling for help today as a nation! We're calling for help as individuals, as families, to try to get some kind of resolve. And Christ, who was there with Martha and Mary, stands with us today; and as He did with Lazarus, He wants to do with us again, raise us to new consciousness of faith.

I want you to follow with me in your outline today. See the SOS that is there? Note with me please the first demonstration of what we should do in times like these.

I. We Need God's Strength

It is first demonstrated by saying we need God's strength; we need God's strength. The choir has wonderfully reminded us in that song that we are strong in Christ alone. Friends, we need God's strength. There was a problem in the day and time of Jesus with his friend Lazarus, as there is a problem today. And I state it for you again as we discovered it and read it in verse number 3, the scripture simply said to us, "The one whom you love is sick."

A. The Problem (v. 3)

"The one you love is sick."

I love America, but it's sick. It has become sick because of sorrow. We send out an SOS, which at one time meant "save our ship", "save our soldiers." It comes now to the point of save our souls, save our self-sufficiency, Lord save our sorrows, save us from our shame, save us from our simplicity, save us from our sin-sickness. Save us Lord because we've got a problem; the one who you love is sick.

We're sick with sorrow. Our hearts are hurting. Lazarus's name was probably abbreviated from the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means "God assist...God assist." And you see, God wants to do the same thing for us today. He wants to assist us.

B. His Purpose (v. 4)

"It's for God's glory."

He wants to walk us through this time and move us from the problem to understand what I call secondly, his purpose. Do you see in verse 4 that I read just a moment ago? Jesus said to the sisters that, "this sickness will not end in death. It's for God's glory so that Jesus might be glorified." Can you imagine with me today that anything such as what we've been through this week could be for the glory of God? I can! In fact I must see it that way. Not that God caused it, but what God can do because of it, as He raises a nation again to a new consciousness and He raises people as individuals to new spiritual sensitivity like never before. The purpose is for God's glory.

C. The Procrastination (v.6)

But you know, I became confused when I read this text because I noted there that in verse number 6 there was a procrastination. It seemed like God had put everything on hold and the scripture reads this way - that Jesus stayed for two more days. Now the sisters said that "Our brother is sick, he needs you, and won’t you come?" But Jesus just froze there, but it wasn't out of fear. It was out of faith because He sees things differently than we do.

Some of us have been so confused about the waiting period, the bodies that are yet to be discovered underneath the rubble of concrete masses and twisted steel in New York and at the Pentagon, and the fuming of the fires that continue to burn. All of us are having a hard time just waiting. My niece, who lives and works in New York as a physician, walked four hours yesterday just to get to the center of ground zero, right where it happened, to offer and volunteer her help because she has this desire to do something. There's nothing wrong with just doing something, but sometimes it's time just to wait. The scripture says, "Be still and know that I am God." It's hard for us to be still as a nation, as individuals. But in our stillness there is a quiet, soothing, peace-filled voice that says, "I have never left you, I have never forsaken you." We need God's strength. Maybe it will come for you in waiting.

Maybe it will come to you because you will see and sense God's glory. Maybe it is because you have a problem and God has a solution and He's providing it for you today. We need the strength of God.

II. We Need God's Objectivity

But secondly, we need God's objectivity. As I eluded to before, when Jesus sees something He sees it altogether different from the way that we see it. I can't have objectivity right now. I'm in the middle of this crisis, and so are you. We're subjected to what we have never experienced before as a nation,   an attack upon us from a nation and perhaps just a collection of individuals who are errant in their ways and who decided in the cause of their god that they would bring about justice in their own hands.

A. The Burden (v. 14a)

"Lazarus is dead."

Objectivity, it was a burden then as it is a burden today. Note with me in verse 14 that Jesus made it plain and clear; He said, "Lazarus is dead." Could it be any plainer and clearer than what we've seen these days?

Inside of the Augusta Chronicle today we saw the listing of those who were the known dead; we saw their pictures. It was so realistic to me I could hardly look at it without weeping because I saw children and I saw parents and I saw grandparents and I saw people like you and like me who are in this auditorium today and I saw them as people, not just names.

Jesus wakes us up to the reality that death will come. He said, "It's no longer for you to wait for something different, but I have something that is far greater than what you're expecting. You asked for healing; I'm going to give you something even greater than that." There was a great burden upon them.

B. The Blame (v. 14b)

"If you had been here."

But you note with me also that the people, including the sisters began to blame. We're tempted to do that today. There's blame, because you remember with me in the scripture in verse 14, the latter portion, one of the sisters said, "If you'd been here, Jesus, this wouldn't have happened." Have you thought about that this week?

Have you thought, "Well now wait a minute, if God had truly been a partner with us and His hand was upon us as a nation, would He have allowed that jet to crash? Would He have not diverted it from the Pentagon? Would He not have allowed so many people to be underneath the rubble?" My friend, don't look that direction; God sees differently than we do.

We live in a world in which sin is no stranger. The prince of this world is not Christ at this point. The Prince of Peace will someday rule this world, but for now we are living in a world that will be continually subjected to all kinds of evil. We must be strong in the midst of it all. The blame ... I wonder, have you carried that as well? Do we blame bin Laden? Do we blame a nation for harboring him? Do we find that there will be joy in our vengeance and we find that there, and there alone, will there be restitution? If so, I'm saying to you, follow the pattern of Christ in this. See it objectively, as only He can.

B.  The Broadcast (v. 23)

"He will rise again."

You see, He gave what I call the broadcast, in verse number 23. He simply said, "You know this Lazarus who's dead, he will rise again." Can that be! Does God have the power to do that? Does this man named Jesus have the ability to do that? Oh yes he does! He broadcast that something different was going to come out, miraculous, out of the scene and the setting of their greatest grief in all of their life. And you remember with me that Mary and Martha were probably supported by Lazarus. He was the breadwinner. He was dead. They were not a working class of females. They were dependent upon his income, upon him for friendship, they were reliant upon him. And at this day and time          in the setting in Palestine, there were three days that were given and the Jews began to believe    that at that three day period the spirit was hovering above the body and it could potentially enter back into the body; but after three days there was no hope. The soul they thought was taken to a place called Sheol, the place of the dead and there it would reside.

He'll rise again... four days in the grave? He'll rise again? Three days have already come and gone. The spirit's already left the body; there's no way this can happen! How could it be? We need God's objectivity.

III. We Need God's Savior

Finally in our SOS cry, we need God's Savior.

A. The Statement (v. 25)

"I am the resurrection and the life."

Note with me the statement that Jesus made in verse number 25. Not only would He raise Lazarus, He said, "I am the resurrection and the life." Who better to give us a statement like this than the one who was about to face the very act of death and be raised from the dead Himself? "I'm the resurrection and the life." Jesus said in John 14, several chapters over, the 6th verse, "I am the way, the truth and the life." This word life seems to radiate from the life of our Savior and that's exactly what He wants for across our nation and for the people of God this morning who are waiting to hear, because we need God's Savior.

B. The Stench (v. 39)

"a bad odor"

But then there is a turning. There is what I call the stench, because you see the sister identifies it, "Lord," (vs. 39) Martha said, "…by this time if you roll the stone away, there's a bad odor for he's been in there for four days." Now in Palestine the burial customs were not like those in Egypt where the bodies were embalmed like they are today here in America. They were laden with spices to prevent the smell from being as dramatic as it would be over a period of time and then they wrapped the body in linen, around the spices. But the sister was sensitive enough to say, "You know there's a       stench in there; Lord don't rub it in, you know it's bad enough already to know that he's gone and now you're going to roll the stone away and now we're all going to be reminded of death's smell again."

And I can smell it all across America today. I can smell it every time I pick up the newspaper. I can smell it every time I look at a television report. I can smell it and I don't like the way it smells. But you want to know something? The perfect perfume of the Prince of Peace will overcome any stench of death that comes upon our world. God wants you to smell Him and not the smell of death because He said, "I am the resurrection and the life."

C. The Salvation (v. 45)

"They put their faith in Him."

It affected not only Martha and Mary when Lazarus came forth from the dead, it affected the unbelieving world. It affected the Jews who were coming and who watched the miracle. The actions that we take as a nation and the actions that we take as a church and the actions that we take as individual Christians, will affect the world that is looking at us. You'll note with me in verse number 45 the declaring statement that "they put their faith in Him." Where is your faith this morning?


I have several questions. The first is this: Where do you draw your strength today? Would you say with me, "I'm drawing my strength from the opportunity that we have in the nation to gather the military together, to make what is wrong right by our might. If it's in the military alone, it is less than the best. You say my might, my strength, is in the money that we give and collectively what we'll do in order to bring about relief efforts for the families who are hurting. If it's in money alone, it's not enough. You say my might is in the manipulation of my schedule so that I can go and do something. I can go somewhere. I can help somebody. And that's good; but it's not good enough. Our strength is not in manipulation, money or in the military alone. It must be in Jesus Christ the Messiah. Without Him we have no strength.

Are you blaming God for anything? The second question is this: Are you blaming God for anything? Could it be that you have held on to this six sense of retribution coming if we can just "get 'em and get 'em good." Have you blamed God? Have you blamed others or are you not self-focused into your own life saying what shall I do with what I know to be The Truth, His name is the Christ.

Do you need a Savior? The final and most important question is this: Do you need a Savior? Can you hear the voice of God in all of this tragedy and death? Won't you turn toward Him who can raise you from spiritual deadness to a life of purpose and peace?

God bless America; God bless us.