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When God "Doesn't Come Through"

God works to accomplish his purposes.

When I'm in trouble and I ask specifically for God to relieve me of that trouble, most of the time he doesn't. I wonder why that is. Is it because God loves one more than the other? Is it because someone has done something wrong in the procedure of prayer? Is it because he was sleeping? Is it because we don't serve him enough to deserve for him to answer our prayers at that particular time? Or is it a stupid question?

It may be a stupid question, but it's a real question.

Recently God "Didn't Come Through" for Me

Illustration: In my particular scenario just a few weeks ago, my mother was dying. I asked God for a special request. By her bedside I prayed 50 times. I counted. Fifty times I asked God to give me this request. I had studied in the Gospels the teaching of Jesus on prayer, that he admired when someone came knocking at the door continuously. This gave me the notion that if I knocked continuously, eventually God would arise from his seat, open the door, and fix my problem.

I asked God specifically in that intimate moment alone with my mother to give her one of two things. The first request was my desire. The second was a concession. The first request was that he give my mother 18 more years. I prayed 50 times, "God, give her 18 more years, or take her today," because she was so sick. (I asked for 18 more years for two particular reasons. Number one, my mother was 62, and 18 more years would make her 80. I thought that was a good round number. But more specifically, my oldest brother, Don, just had a baby girl. Her name is Michelle, and I thought it would be great if my mother could see Michelle graduate from high school.)

This request did not just come out of the air as it might sound. I received the request from a creative prayer by Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. Hezekiah is on his deathbed, and he asks God for a special request:

In those days, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him and said, "This is what the Lord says, 'Put your house in order because you are going to die. You will not recover.'" Hezekiah turned his face to the wall [And I can relate to that. He turned his face away from Isaiah because he didn't want Isaiah to see the tears that were mounting up in his eyes and the fear on his face.] and he prayed to the Lord, "Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. [Oh, I've been there.]

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the Word of the Lord came to him. "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the Lord the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add 15 years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.'"

God heard his prayer, saw his tears, and gave him 15 more years. Now, I asked for 18. But he didn't give me 18 more years, not even 18 months, not even 18 days, not even 18 hours. My mother passed away.

I have to ask myself, What's that all about? Does God not love me? Have I not served him like Hezekiah did? Did he not see my tears when I turned my face to the wall and wept bitterly? Why did God come through for Hezekiah and not for Randy Frazee?

There is another instance when God comes through. It is found in John 9, and it is the story I want to tell today. It is a familiar story. The story is of a blind man whom God came through for, a no-name servant of God. It is divided into four sections: the situation, the miracle, the response, and then the lesson that Jesus wants us to get.

The situation

Look at verses one and two as the story begins: "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?'"

Why did the disciples ask such a question? This teaching--that illness came as a direct result from sin--was propagated by the Jewish religious leaders of that day. Because this man was born blind, the notion was that he didn't have much opportunity to sin before he was born, although they did carry the idea that one could sin in the womb. This child, now a grown man, didn't have opportunity to sin, so it must have been the sin of his parents while he was in the womb that caused his blindness. So the disciples are merely asking that which they learned from living in a Jewish community around religious leaders.

It is true that disease, illness, and death are a direct result of sin. We do not die, we do not experience disease because of God; rather, we experience these things because we are in a sin-diseased world. It has brought decay and illness to us. God is not the cause of our sin. God, therefore, is not the cause of our death or our illnesses.

However, it is true that there are instances where our sin directly causes our illness, disease, and even death. There are examples of it in the Bible, and there are experiences today where, as a direct result of the lifestyle we have chosen, there are consequences that lead to physical ailments and death. But according to the Scriptures, most of the illnesses, most of the diseases, and most of the time our death is not a result of something we have done directly, nor because of a particular cause-and-effect relationship.

In verse 3 Jesus give the solution in this particular case. Jesus responds to the disciples:

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I'm in the world, I am the light of the world."

Jesus, knowing the content file of everyone's life, opens up in his mind this man's file and declares that this man's blindness is in fact not a result of his sin or his parents' sin. Rather, he says something unusual. It is not necessarily to be applied to everyone's situation, but it was applied to [the blind man's] files. He says this man's blindness occurred so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

Think about that. He was blind--not necessarily caused by God, but his blindness was going to be used in a way that would display the work of God. God ordained this man to be born blind to lead us to an understanding that being born blind, or any other thing like that, does not challenge the goodness of God. If we experience an ailment, illness, or defect of some sort, this does not challenge the goodness of God. This man has been blind all of his life so that Jesus would come to town on this particular day in history, not so that this man could be healed of his blindness but so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

The miracle

The central character in John 9 appears to be the blind man, but in reality the central character is Jesus. This is critical to the point of the story. The blind man is merely a beneficiary of the work and glory of Jesus, not the main event or character. The miracle takes place in verses 6—12:

Having said this, he spit on the ground and made some mud with the saliva and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he said to him. "Wash in the Pool of Siloam." (This word means ~sent~.) So the man went and washed and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I'm the man." "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see." "Where is the man?" they asked him. "I don't know," he said.

Now, that's a miracle. This guy can see.

The response

Now the reaction comes in verses 13—34, and it's here we learn that the blind man is not the main character. He is not the main character but rather Jesus is, because the story immediately shifts in its focus to the religious leaders who struggled with the miracle. They tried to find every angle they could to stump Jesus and get him into trouble.

Look at verse 18. This is a story filled with humor. [The religious leaders] are out looking for Jesus because they want to get him. They want to trap him. And you will notice in these verses there is no concern on the part of the religious, spiritual, godly shepherds for the blind man's situation. There is no point of celebration. There is no sense of "Isn't God good!" There's no saying to him, "What is it like to be able to see? We're so happy for you." Rather, they're just bent on getting Jesus. Look at verse 18:

The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man's parents. "Is this your son?" they asked. "Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that he can now see?"

"We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who has opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, "He is of age, ask him." A second time they summoned the man who had been born blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this man is a sinner." He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see."

Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"

[The guy's getting sick of telling the mud story.] He says, "I have told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? [Now he's starting to jab back at them. He may have been blind, but he's very witty.] Do you want to become his disciples, too?"

Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." The man answered, "Now that is just remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth. How dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

They lost. They knew it, but they were the big guys. And so they threw him out and they said, "You sinned in your mom's womb. How dare you lecture us who are righteous."

The lesson

Jesus comes along and responds to what has been said in the presence of the blind man. The blind man is healed, and he goes away, and doesn't know where Jesus is. He pursued Jesus and is in Jesus' presence. Imagine the situation. Jesus will give us the lesson. Verse 35:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you." Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

Some Pharisees who were with him heard this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?" Jesus said, "If you were blind you would not be guilty of sin; [That's interesting. He's turned it around] but now that you claim that you see, your guilt remains."

Back to the idea of God coming through or not coming through. This is a bad concept for us, a wrong perspective. It suggests there are times when God does not come through, but the Scripture tells us, and experience bears out that God always keeps his promises. The blind man is healed of his blindness not because God loves him more, not because God heard him pray--there is no mention of prayer whatsoever. The blind man is healed for a reason beyond his personal benefit. He is healed, the Scripture tells us, through the lips of Jesus to accomplish the purpose of God.

He was selected to be healed of his physical blindness so it might signal Jesus' ability and desire to heal our greater and more long-lasting problem of spiritual blindness. The real healing available to everyone who asks is healing from spiritual blindness. Healing from physical blindness is like putting a Band-Aid on a chainsaw wound. Our temporal problem is a physical problem, but our eternal problem is spiritual blindness. If spiritual blindness is remedied, it will automatically remedy physical blindness in due time. Jesus came to solve the bigger of the two problems we experience. When we receive his solution for the bigger problem, all of our physical problems in due time will be solved.

God may choose to heal you in this life in a physical way, but it doesn't mean he loves you more or less. God may choose not to extend your life or to heal your physical illness, but I'm here to tell you that a relationship with him will make the difference as you experience physical ailment.

Listen to what I'm going to say. You are dying. Right now as the clock ticks, you are dying, and nothing is going to change that. It's the way things are because sin has entered into our world and into our lives.

How many times does God have to heal us before we say he is good? Because if he heals us of our illness today, we are only going to get ill again and eventually die. How many times does he have to heal us of our physical ailments until we say he is good? The answer to the question is once. He only has to heal us once because there is only one healing that is essential and that is spiritual healing.

The reality is anybody who calls upon the name of Jesus for spiritual healing from spiritual blindness will in every single scenario, yours included, be healed. When you experience spiritual healing, you experience eternity. And when you experience eternity, that means every physical ailment is taken care of, and God will wipe away from you.

In the meantime you are going to experience--I've just come up with my first bout-- [of] serious sorrow; some of you have experienced it not once but twice, not twice but three times. You know that when you're in the valley of sorrow, which every single person--the righteous and the unrighteous, the saved and the unsaved--will go through, there is a critical difference between the experience of the person who knows God and the person who does not know God. You will see that in the midst of your deepest sorrow--which you may be living in right now; it may begin this afternoon; if not this afternoon, tomorrow; if not tomorrow, Tuesday--you will discover that when you're in that valley with God, his comfort and his contentment and his joy and his peace, his ability to hold you and cradle you, to be there with you, will make the essential difference.

How many times does God have to heal us? Just once. And anybody who asks to be healed will be healed. That's all that matters.

Randy Frazee has been senior pastor of Pantego Bible Church in Arlington, Texas, since 1990. He is author of the forthcoming book The Connecting Church (Zondervan, 2001). The church web site is www.pantego.org.

Randy Frazee

Preaching Today Tape # 209


A resource of Christianity Today International

Randy Frazee is senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and author of The Connecting Church.

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Sermon Outline:

Recently God "didn't come through" for me

The situation

The miracle

The response

The lesson