“So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:3-6).
“When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
Given the tendency on the part of many who profess to be Christians to be laid-back and complacent where the realities of the Spirit of God are concerned, the subject of spiritual urgency is indeed an important one. While we all on some level recognize that God and His will must come first in our life, few actually live such a life. There is always the danger that either we lag behind the Lord or we try to ‘run ahead of Him’. In both instances, we will find ourselves loosing out on the opportunities the Lord sets before us to do His will and to further His plan and purpose in our lives.
Let us consider an event in the life of Abraham; the account of Abraham’s encounter with the three ‘strangers’ who were going in the direction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the book of Genesis we read: “And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, ‘My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes.’ And Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Genesis 18:1-8).
If we were in Abraham’s place, what would have been our response to seeing these three strangers? Especially, knowing that they were heading in the direction of a very wicked place? Maybe we would have waved ‘hello’, maybe we would have ignored them altogether. We would likely have drawn conclusions by means of the eyes of our souls and decided these were not the sort of people we wanted to be involved with.
And yet, notice the response of Abraham. Keep in mind that Abraham was not a young man. In fact, by this time he was a very old man of ninety-nine years of age. Abraham got up and ran to meet them. He promised them little, but delivered much. During the time the meal was being prepared, Abraham did not know who these men were. All he had to respond to was the insistence in his spirit. Abraham recognized the leading of the Holy Spirit that day. If he had not responded to that leading, he would have missed out on a glorious opportunity. It was on that same occasion that after the Holy Spirit revealed the identity of the three strangers (two were angels and one was the Lord Himself), the Lord then confirmed the coming of the son of promise.
Notice the sense of urgency Abraham displayed in running to meet the three, then in preparing and serving the feast. What about us? Do we remain in communion with the Lord throughout the day so that we may not loose out on any opportunity He may put before us to serve Him? Are we alert in spirit as Abraham was, or are we lazy and complacent where God’s opportunities are concerned? Is our attitude one that assumes there will always be another opportunity coming, and so if we miss one, so what? May God forgive us for such dereliction of duty!
A common characteristic of all the saints down through the ages was that they were always alert in spirit. They were able to recognize God’s opportunities and were willing -- as Abraham was -- to reach out to Him. How often do we wait for the Lord to come to us? Do always expect that the Lord will drop His will right into our lap?
Consider Jesus of Nazareth, and in particular His sensitivity to the Father’s will and the timing of that that will in His life. Could not have Jesus begun His earthly ministry before the age of thirty? After all, Jesus knew well before then why He had come to live as man. Why the wait? Why thirty? Why not twenty-one or twenty-five? Jesus certainly had a sense of urgency in doing the Father’s will, but only in the Father’s time.
A good example of this is when Jesus was called and told how Lazarus had taken ill. In the gospel according to St. John we read:
“Now a certain man was ill, Laz'arus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Laz'arus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go into Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’ Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, ‘Our friend Laz'arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep’” (John 11:1-11).
From a human point of view, this passage contains some significant contradictions. We are told that when word reached Jesus that Lazarus was sick, the message was not merely that he was sick, but that ‘he whom you love is ill’. We are then told “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was”. Strange? Jesus loved everyone, but there was a special bond between Jesus and Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And yet, rather than going to him at once, Jesus waited two days longer in the place where He was? Where was the urgency? If we were to hear that someone we cared for was very sick, would our first response be to wait two more days?
Why this response on the part of Jesus? Why the wait? The answer is given to us in this same passage. Consider the response of Jesus to the disciples warning that the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Jesus declared: ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world’. There is in fact twenty-four hours in a day, not twelve. However, Jesus was speaking here not of man’s time but of the Father’s time. ? Each of our lives contain various spiritual hours and spiritual days. What is it that the Lord is requiring of us each spiritual hour of each spiritual day? We must pray for grace to be sensitive to such leadings, and to be ‘on –time’ with the Lord.
Consider another example of Jesus’ spiritual timing. In the gospel of St. Luke we read: “When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Pay special attention the words here – Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. How descriptive are these words. When the hour came in the life of the Son of Man to go to Jerusalem, He did so in no uncertain terms. And what was awaiting Him there? Honors and glory? Love and respect on the part of others? No! But rather humiliation, torture, intense physical, mental and emotional suffering, and death by means of being nailed to a cross and left to die the death of a criminal. And yet, when the Father’s time came, Jesus set His face to meet all this.
May we pray for grace this day, grace to be able to recognize, understand and appreciate the spiritual hours in lives. May we come to know the Lord’s will and carry out that will with an urgency and determination not to loose the opportunities the Lord is extending to us in this present time.