Posts Tagged ‘family’

Do you, like me, have family members who do not believe in Jesus? If so, we are in good company. So did Jesus. And I think this is meant to give us hope.

According to the Apostle John, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). That’s incredible. Those who had lived with Jesus for 30 years really did not know him. Not one of Jesus’ brothers is mentioned as a disciple during his pre-crucifixion ministry. But after his resurrection and ascension, there they are in the upper room worshiping him as God (Acts 1:14).

Why didn’t they believe? And what made them change?

The Bible doesn’t answer the first question. But I’ll bet it was difficult to have Jesus for a brother.

First, Jesus would have been without peer in intellect and wisdom. He was astounding temple rabbis by age 12 (Luke 2:4247). A sinful, fallen, gifted sibling can be a hard act to follow. Imagine a perfect, gifted sibling.

Second, Jesus’ consistent and extraordinary moral character must have made him odd and unnerving to be around. His siblings would have grown increasingly self-conscious around him, aware of their own sinful, self-obsessed motives and behavior, while noting that Jesus didn’t seem to exhibit any himself. For sinners, that could be hard to live with.

Third, Jesus was deeply and uniquely loved by Mary and Joseph. How could they not have treated him differently? They knew he was the Lord. Imagine their extraordinary trust in and deference to Jesus as he grew older. No doubt the siblings would have perceived a dimension to the relationship between the oldest child and their parents that was different from what they experienced.

And when swapping family stories it would have been hard to match a star appearing at your brother’s birth.

Jesus out-classed his siblings in every category. How could anyone with an active sin nature not resent being eclipsed by such a phenom-brother? Familiarity breeds contempt when pride rules the heart.

More pain than we know must have been behind Jesus’ words, “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57).

So as we assess the role our weak, stumbling witness plays in our family members’ unbelief, let’s remember Jesus — not even a perfect witness guarantees that loved ones will see and embrace the gospel. We must humble ourselves and repent when we sin. But let’s remember that the god of this world and indwelling sin is what blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The story of Jesus’ brothers can actually give us hope for our loved ones. At the time his brothers claimed that Jesus was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21), it must have appeared very unlikely that they would ever become his disciples. But eventually they did! And not only followers, but leaders and martyrs in the early church.

The God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shone in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of their brother, Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6).

So take heart! Don’t give up praying for unbelieving family members. Don’t take their resistance as the final word. They may yet believe, and be used significantly in the kingdom!

And while they resist, or if they have died apparently unbelieving, we can trust them to the Judge of all the earth who will be perfectly just (Genesis 18:25). Jesus does not promise that every parent, sibling, or child of a Christian will believe, but does painfully promise that some families will divide over him (Matthew 10:34-39). We can trust him when it happens.

It is moving to hear James refer to his brother as “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Can you imagine what this phrase meant for James? The Lord of glory had once slept beside him, ate at his dinner table, played with his friends, spoke to him like a brother, endured his unbelief, paid the debt of his sin, and then brought him to faith.

It may have taken 20-30 years of faithful, prayerful witness by the Son of God, but the miracle occurred: his brothers believed. May the Lord of glory grant the same grace to our beloved unbelievers.

~ John Bloom

*Authors note: The following is the sermon I preached at my father-in-law’s funeral.

We are here today to honor and remember the life of Fran Dahlberg.  It may seem strange to speak about worship, especially since, to some; our prayers for Fran did not prevent his death. In particular, we find our attention drawn to the many good things about Fran, which only makes the matter of his death more painful to us. How is it that we should worship God in times of tragedy? The answer, I believe, can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Job.

We know from the first chapter of the Book of Job that he was a righteous man, a man who was blameless and who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). We know also that he was a man blessed by God, he was rich in the goods of this world (1:3), and he was blessed with a family of ten children (1:2).

We know, as Job did not, that God had chosen to use Job as an example of a faithful man. Satan, however, protested that anyone would worship God when God prospered him for doing so. “Let his life turn sour, and then see what becomes of Job’s piety,” Satan challenged. This scene in heaven is the backdrop for all the tragedy that is to follow.

I do not want to focus on Satan’s folly, however, but on Job’s righteousness in a time of family tragedy. The biblical story of Job tells us that wave upon wave of announcements of tragedy quickly were thrust upon this godly man. One messenger reported that all of Job’s oxen and donkeys had been stolen, and the servants were killed (1:14-15). Then another came to convey the news that lightening had destroyed all of his sheep, and those who tended them (1:16). Then another came to report that a band of raiders had stolen his camels and killed the servants who cared for them (1:17). The most devastating report came last. A wind had struck and collapsed the home of his eldest son, where he and all the other children were gathered, and all perished (1:18-19).

Satan was certain that Job’s faith would collapse, like the roof of the house of his eldest son, crushing his devotion to God. In addition, there was good reason, in Satan’s mind, for such anticipation. After all, Job was a righteous man. Why should God allow tragedy to strike not only his possessions, but also his loved ones? Even beyond this, we have been told that it was Job’s habitual practice to intercede for his children, asking God’s special care on them. The tragic death of his family was surely contrary to Job’s righteousness, contrary to his prayers, and contrary to his faith–or so Satan reasoned.

Some of Job’s responses were predictable. He tore his clothes and shaved his head–all signs of mourning and grief. But what he did after this is the key to our comfort in the face of grief–Job fell to the ground and worshipped God (v. 20), and these are his words:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

In these words, we find the reason why Job could worship God, even in the greatest tragedy he had ever known–the loss of his loved ones.

As I point out the reasons for Job’s worship, I want to be clear in saying that Job’s grief was not inconsistent with his faith in God. Job worshipped God with a torn robe and with a shaved head and a tear-stained face–all genuine tokens of his grief. However, in his grief, he did not lose sight of God. Indeed, it was in his grief that God become ever more real. I do not want you to think that grief is inappropriate this afternoon, for it is altogether right. However, in our grief, we will only find consolation, as we are able to worship God in the face of tragedy. There are two truths revealed in these words of Job, which were the basis for his worship.

First, Job was confident of the greatness of God.

He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (v. 21). Job understood that God was in control of His creation. Whether it is the cruel and heartlessness of a raiding army, or the forces of nature, it was, in the final analysis, God who had given him his riches and his family, and it was God who took them away. Whatever had happened, Job knew that God had allowed it, and that He was still in control.

This same is true of Fran’s death. God gave him a full life and a wonderful family, and God, in His own time, took him in death. Just as Job recognized this when he prayed for the protection of his family, so the Dahlberg family, relatives, and others recognized it when they prayed for Fran. Just as Job remained confident, though his prayers seemed unanswered, we too must be confident of the Sovereign hand of God in the sudden death of this man whom we have loved.

Second, Job was confident of the goodness of God.

God is good, all the time. It is good to know that we can worship a God Who is all-powerful, Who controls every aspect of our lives. Nevertheless, it is even better to know that God, Who is great, is also a God Who is compassionate, merciful, and good. Because of the greatness and goodness found in God, there is every reason to worship Him. Verse 31 says that Job did not sin, nor did he blame God, as though God had done something wrong.

While Job did not understand the purposes that God was working out in this tragedy, He did trust in the Person Who was in control. Thus, he could worship, even in his grief.

In the Biblical letter from the Apostle James chapter 5:10-11 declares, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast (or patiently endured). You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

What we know that Job did not know.

Knowing the greatness and the goodness of God was the sufficient basis for the faith of Job, which revealed more in his worship at the time of tragedy than at any other occasion. These two truths, the greatness of God and His goodness, should be sufficient for our worship, but there is even more for us, for we have been given additional revelation, which was not made known to Job at his time of sorrow. I will briefly mention these.

The Word of God shows us how and why God was great and good to Job. Job not only glorified God by revealing his faith, but Job grew in his faith as he was tested. In addition, the last chapter tells us that when Job’s faith was strengthened, God prospered him twice as much in the end, as at the beginning (Job 42:10-17).

The greatest revelation, however, is that of the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels. Here we discover that the believer not only can have victory in death, but also through Jesus Christ, have victory over death.

During His life and ministry, the Lord Jesus raised the dead. In John chapter 11, we have recorded the raising of Lazarus. There, our Lord assured Mary and Martha that He was the resurrection and the life, and that those who place their trust in Him would never die.

The Gospel accounts tell us that Jesus staked His authority and the truth of His message on His resurrection from the grave. Matthew 12:38-40 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The Gospels continued to describe Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial, followed by His resurrection on the third day.

In the Apostolic letters of the New Testament, we are told that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for the forgiveness of sins, and for our ultimate victory over death, for our Lord will come to receive unto Himself, those who have trusted in Him.

I submit to you now, that in the face of the sudden death of Fran Dahlberg there is more than enough reason to worship God. You will only be able to do that when you, like Job, have placed your trust in God Who is both great and good, and Who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in your place, Who paid the penalty for your sin, and to rise again, for your salvation.

Now, today, if you never have, is the time to repent of your sin, place your faith, and trust in the great and good God, through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian, but have slid back into sin, now, today, is the time to restore your fellowship with God with repentance and a renewed faith in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.