Both platform speakers at New Horizon 2014 really talked about the Sovereignty of God – Vaughan Roberts from the book of Daniel and Malcolm Duncan from the Sermon on the Mount. It was a week packed full of great teaching – sobering teaching, challenging teaching about suffering and persecution and the sovereignty of God.
On the Thursday night, Malcolm got up to speak and announced his passage for the night (Matthew chapter 7, I think it was), then quickly changed his mind and said we were going to look at the story of Lazarus instead.
After he read the Scriptures, he shared part of his own story. His earliest memory is of tapping on glass – the glass of the inside of an oven door. His father called him ‘Stupid No. 4’ all his life and it was only when Malcolm turned 30 that his dad called him by his Christian name. All of his life, he longed for his dad to become a Christian and he had a recurring dream that he was giving his dad communion and having the pleasure of hearing him call him his ‘brother’. So you can imagine how devastated he was to receive the news that his dad had suddenly died.
Malcolm screamed at God – ‘Why, God?’ – over and over and over again. He was in total anguish. And he had to take his dad’s funeral. He almost stopped at the point where he was to commit his dad’s body to the ground ‘in sure and certain hope’ – and it was only his unsaved brother whispering in his ear that he could do this that made him go on.
That set the scene for the story of Lazarus. Just as Malcolm had wondered where God was, so Mary and Martha wondered where Jesus was – and why He hadn’t come. Malcolm expounded the passage with so much pastoral sensitivity, sharing insights like these:
Sickness and suffering are never indications that God doesn’t love us.
Silence does not indicate His absence. He has promised to never leave us.
We struggle with death because we were made to live.
Mary and Martha brought their pain to Him – because they couldn’t bring their praise. And that was alright with Jesus. He understood. He entered into their suffering. He saw the disruption of death. He was greatly disturbed in spirit. He gives us permission to break our hearts. It’s OK to bring Him our pain when we can’t bring Him our praise.
The end of the story was not the tomb. Death was a tunnel through which God brought Lazarus – through to light.
Why did He let him die? To prove that He had the power to bring him back from death.
God doesn’t cause our sufferings but He is glorified in our responses to it.
Malcolm invited us to stand to our feet to show that we were offering our pain as worship if in our grief we could not praise God but still wanted to trust Him. He then sang a song of blessing over us. Tears flowed.
In the Prayer Tent afterwards, we ran out of chairs as people came for prayer.
You can get a summary of Malcolm’s talk here:
What a blessing!