We all have areas of our lives that need restoration. We've got to allow God to strip down all the years of grime and cheap paint piled on top of each other. He needs to get down to the bare original, so He can begin to fill the cracks, sand the rough edges, and make our hearts beautiful again. He’s already looked beneath the layers and has determined that we're all worth doing over.
Is there a landmark location for your family, a place where you have shared many special memories? What made it special for you?
Have someone read John 11:25.
Death is a word we don’t like to talk about, but we experience many deaths throughout life. Not just physical deaths but sometimes the death of a relationship, death of a marriage, death of a family, death of a dream.
Gene told us about his upbringing and about his family’s lakeside cabin in Minnesota. That cabin and lake held precious moments for the Appel family. When Gene was 14, his father suffered a heart attack, and it was at that cabin where Gene got the news his father had died.
Have someone read John 11:1-4.
Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in a little town called Bethany, which is essentially a suburb of Jerusalem. They had developed a close friendship with Jesus who would often stay with them when He traveled their way. And then this terrible thing happened to Lazarus, changing their family’s future forever.
Currently, some of us are celebrating great things in life, but some of us are facing tough situations. Sooner or later, we all get some bad news. Maybe it’s the news that someone you love has cancer. Maybe your bad news is that your job is going away; the boyfriend or girlfriend you love is breaking it off; or your dream marriage turned into a nightmare. Sometimes in those moments of pain and anxiety, it can feel like there is no hope in sight.
When is a time that you received that type of life-changing news?
Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not end in death. He added that all this had happened for God’s glory, and that God’s Son would receive glory from it. In other words, this was going to be an opportunity for people to witness something that would cause them to praise God and further grasp the fact that Jesus had been sent by God.
Have someone read John 11:5-21.
Three of the people in this story were dealing with broken dreams in differing ways.
Thomas, who earned the reputation “Doubting Thomas,” repeatedly struggled with doubt. Though he had been following Jesus for quite a while, he expressed his doubts by his sarcastic “Let us go so we may die with him” comment. Was he doubting the wisdom of Jesus’s decision to return to a place where their lives would likely be in great danger? Maybe he was wondering if he really wanted to keep going along with all of this, wondering if Jesus knew what he was doing, if he was for real.
When is a time that you’ve struggled with doubt?
MercyMe, the band featured in the movie I Can Only Imagine, has a song called “Even If.” Written by lead singer Bart Millard, the song originated around the struggle with diabetes that his teenage son has endured since he was two years old. The song ends with the chorus:
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Some of us may find our dreams broken by discouragement. Mary was experiencing this, big time. She was so discouraged that when Jesus finally arrived, instead of going with her sister to meet him, Mary just stayed home.
Discouragement breeds thoughts like:
I might as well give up.
I’m always going to feel alone.
I’m always going to be depressed.
I’m always going to be stuck in this dead-end job.
I’m never going to have the marriage or family I dreamed I would have.
I’m never going to get out of this bad situation.
When is a time that you feel like God didn’t intervene in spite of your cries for help? When is a time that He did?
Martha’s dreams were shattered by Jesus’s delay in coming to them. It was an “if only” event; if only Jesus had arrived before Lazarus had died, her brother would still be alive. She did not know that Jesus’s delay was deliberate in order for the intended miracle to take place.
Is there an “if only” in your life now, a place where you’re waiting on God to show up?
Have someone read John 11:23-27.
None of these three people knew that things were about to get better, much better than they could imagine. Even though Martha was disappointed that Jesus had not arrived sooner, she said to him (verse 22), “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” She believed that nothing is too big for God.
Some of us need an “even now” moment today. Even now, in the midst of our broken dreams, God can bring us peace that passes understanding; heal our hearts, bring harmony, forgiveness, and restoration to our families. He can soften our callous hearts, ease our fears, give us courage, and draw us closer to Him. He can bring us strength and endurance, give us wisdom, hope, and new dreams to enjoy. No matter what we face, no matter the outcome, God is with us and we can trust in Him.
Jesus uttered some of the most significant words that have ever been spoken in the history of the world: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25, 26 (NLT)
Have someone read John 11: 28-44.
Picture the scene of Lazarus emerging from the tomb. If you have ever been given a second chance or a reprieve, you have a tiny glimpse of what Lazarus must have felt like walking out of that tomb. Imagine how Martha and Mary felt! Can you picture the celebration?
The same voice that called Lazarus out of the grave is calling out to mankind today. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Him will live, even after dying.
Who do you know who needs the second chance that Jesus offers? What can you do to help them understand that Jesus loves then and wants to give them hope and healing?
Break into small groups and pray for people who are waiting to see God work or where they need healing. Pray that even now God’s power can come into these lives and situations and broken dreams, that He will bring restoration to situations that look hopeless . . . just as He did for Mary and Martha and Lazarus and has done for countless others. And just as He did when Jesus rose victoriously from the grave.