“Lord,” I said. “I need a word from you!”
It was the evening before School of Prophesy and I felt I had nothing to bring to the group. In fact I had been feeling barren all week, so I wasn’t just asking Him for a word for School of Prophesy, it was for me as well. “John 11:22” came into my head, clear and specific. It was Martha talking to Jesus after Lazarus had been dead for four days. The verse God gave me was this:
“But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
Jesus says practically the same words to us in John 14: 13. We know them well: “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John will have heard what Martha said to Jesus: he recorded it. So her words won’t have been lost on him when he heard Jesus say to the disciples who were with him, and us of course, that He would give us whatever we ask in His name, just as the Father gave Him whatever he asked. Through the Son, Abba Father is open-handed to all his children, because “both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2:11) Whether it is Jesus, the firstborn, who is asking, or any of His brothers and sisters, the Father will give us all whatever we ask, because He is our heavenly Father who loves us, and because by giving to us because Jesus is our brother, He is demonstrating to the principalities and powers in heavenly places that His Son is the Messiah, and that “there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
No born again believer will deny the doctrinal truth of what I have written above. But straight away we hit a problem: our experience does not reflect the doctrine. We ask God for things, and He doesn’t give them. James addresses this when he writes: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) Yet when we are praying for someone else and God doesn’t seem to be paying attention, are we asking for ourselves? We know that we aren’t. So the issue is never resolved, and disappointment creeps in to weaken our faith. Yet Jesus promised to give us whatever we ask in His name, and we know that He doesn’t just speak the truth; He is the Truth. So how do we understand a truth that doesn’t always ring true?
When Jesus asked for the stone to be rolled away, Martha said: “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39) Whether we are looking at personal situations or at a global crisis, we can find ourselves in circumstances that stink. But I believe that the Lord is emphasing today that He is with us outside that tomb. Just as He promised Martha that her brother would rise again, He says to us that however hopelessly entombed and stinking our situation might be, He will bring resurrection life. He says to us, as He said to Martha: “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11: 40)
I don’t think that Jesus is just talking here about having faith for the specific circumstance – our “specific Lazarus.” I think a key to understanding this passage is in verses 25-27: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Her answer was to say: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” Once she had declared the truth of His identity, the Lord never asked her whether or not she believed that Lazarus would be raised. If our hearts are full of faith in who Jesus IS, we will have no problem believing what He can DO. He is the Resurrection and the Life, and He stands with us, actually alive in the very heart of our being, outside that tomb. He will give us whatever we ask, and the answer will come in resurrection life.
How then do we keep our faith in who He is strong, until we see Him bring the answer to our prayer? We felt the Holy Spirit reminded us of three things in School of Prophesy this morning. Elaine saw in her spirit something like a heavy line drawn underneath a bank of rain-filled clouds. The rain of blessing that was in the clouds and that should have been falling was being held back. We need to discern if there is opposition to us receiving the answer to our prayers, and pray until that opposition is broken. We have the authority to bind and loose, so we might need to bind the power of the opposition and loose what is held for us in heaven so that we can receive it on earth.
Eva shared that a strategy for her to stay strong in her faith is to ask the Lord to give His peace in the area where she is awaiting her answer. Isaiah 26:3 tells us “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” Our peace comes from our trust in Jesus, and we can trust Him because we know who He is. If we find our trust is wavering and our peace is broken we need to spend some time “staying our minds on Him,” dwelling on exactly who it is that lives within us, and say with Martha: “Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” In that place of peace patience is born. And it is “through faith with patience” that we inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12)
Finally, we were reminded of the importance of praise. We don’t have to look far in scripture to find an exhortation to praise God in all our circumstances, because He is always worthy of our praise. Again, when we praise Him, we remind ourselves of who it is who is standing with us outside that tomb. Hebrews 2: 12 quotes Psalm 22:22, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” When the Holy Spirit within us lifts our hearts in praise to God it is Jesus Himself praising the Father, and revealing Him to us. And not only does it do our own spirits good to praise the Lord, but the enemy hates it, as Psalm 149 vs 5-9 makes clear:
“Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations,
And punishments on the peoples;
To bind their kings with chains,
And their nobles with fetters of iron;
To execute on them the written judgment—
This honour have all His saints.”
So when the situation stinks, we need to focus on who Jesus is rather than what we want Him to do. We need to stay in His peace and praise the glory of His name, and if, as we do that, any demonic powers standing in our way haven’t already fled in the face of our resistance ( James 4:7), we need to do battle with them until they have.
I believe that the Lord wants us, His Church, to expand our vision of resurrection life so that we can live in it more fully. If we think about wheels and moving vehicles our imagination will be based on what we see on the road, what we work with, what’s on our drive or what we would like to see on our drive. But it will all be rooted in our experience. We catch a glimpse of God’s version of wheels and moving vehicles in Ezekiel 1 16-21. Here is just one detail: “As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them…” Because Jesus has gone to the Father, we will do greater works than He did, provided that we believe in Him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12) Jesus doesn’t elaborate on how much “greater” these works will be, but Andrew Baker catches a glimpse of it in the “Amazing Plane” vision that God gave him recently. It’s worth reading Andrew’s prophesy again and revisiting Ezekiel 1, and asking the Lord to expand our vision of what we can expect from Him.
I am not writing this out of my own imagination or knowledge. The same afternoon as our John 11:22 meeting, Muyiwa (one of our group if you aren’t at Wildwood Church) received a message from an aunt in Nigeria. It started: MATTHEW 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” God confirmed His word from thousands of miles away. Another one of our group, Linda, needed a riser recliner chair for her disabled father-in-law. Not an everyday requirement. We are clearing my late mother-in-law’s house on Wednesday, where there are two. God is speaking to us, and He wants us to walk in the truth of what He is saying. Nothing is impossible for our God. The wheels on His vehicle are awesome.
The answers to our prayers are being stored up, and when they come they will come in resurrection life. I believe the time is coming soon that the church is being preparing for now, when He will do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” We will “run against horses.” (Jer 12:5). Our enemies will “come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” (Deut 28:7). Our calling until that time is to ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to bring resurrection Life into those stinking situations that currently appear to be entombed in a cave, to thank Him for the answers that are on their way, and to wait in faith, peace, patience and praise until we see them arrive. Because we believe that Jesus, who lives in us by His Spirit and who stands with us outside the tomb, is “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” We need who He is to come into our thinking.