When God is Silent

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TEXT:  John 11:1-6

TOPIC: When God is Silent

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama

February 22, 2009

            There is something wonderfully strange about silence.  For we who live in a noisy world the sound of silence is a welcomed sound.  When we are tired and worn down, we welcome silence.  It is during the quietest and sometimes the darkest periods of the night that we often find our greatest rest and peace.

            But there are also times in most of our lives when silence is not welcomed or wanted.  Especially if that silence comes from God!

            The songwriter said it this way.  “The days are weary, the long nights dreary.  I know my Savior cares.”  For those who hurt deeply, the silence of God is deafening.  Does God really care about my situation?  Is He near?  Then why is He so silent?

            John 11 presents the seventh and the greatest sign-miracle of Jesus, the raising of a man named Lazarus from the dead.  And it is through this miracle and our Lord’s relationships with the persons involved, that we can come to better understand the silence of God. 

            Now write this down.  When God is silent, there is always a reason and always a right response.

(Read John 11:1-6)

1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.

John 11:1-6 (NKJV)


11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." 12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him."  John 11:11-15 (NKJV)

Times of sickness and/or death often amplify the silence of God.  Four times in the first four verses it is said, “Lazarus was sick.”  “Sick” is a word that refers to a sickness that leads to death.  Lazarus had a terminal illness. 

But verse 6 states the strange and peculiar response of the Lord.


Verses 11-14 indicate Jesus’ divine knowledge regarding Lazarus’ death. 

            Both during Lazarus’ sickness and his eventual death, the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus was fully aware of Lazarus’ condition, yet He chose to do nothing.  In other words, He remained silent. 

            Why did Jesus remain silent when Mary and Martha and especially Lazarus needed Him so much?

            First, notice the importance of the truth that it was not because Jesus did not care for or love Lazarus, Mary or Martha that He was silent, (see vs. 3-5).  3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

            John goes out of his way to tell us that Jesus loved Lazarus. 


I will never forget Dr. Oscar Thompson.  I knew him as Professor Thompson during my first year at Southwestern Seminary.  Dr. Thompson was my Church Evangelism instructor.  Dr. Thompson had incurable bone cancer. 

            Each day we would watch Dr. Thompson limp to class with the aid of a walnut cane.  There he would position himself at the front of the class, sometimes leaning upon his cane, sometimes resting on the corner of his desk.  From there he would teach us how very important human relationships are to doing effective evangelism.

            One particular morning, one of my classmates was very emotional as he related to Dr. Thompson his anger with God over Dr. Thompson’s sickness.  It was Oscar Thompson’s response that I will never forget.  He said something next that I have remembered through the years and used again and again during times of adversity.

            He shared with our seminary class this statement of wisdom.  “God never allows anything to come into our lives except by His permission.    And if He grants it His permission, then He will give us the grace to deal with it.” 

            Dr. Thompson knew the love of God.  Someone has said, when you can’t trust His hand, trust His heart.

            Second, we need to face the fact that unconfessed sin will always disrupt our relationship with God.  Psalm 66:18 says, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.  Isaiah 59:1-2 from the New Living Translation says, The Lord is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. 2 But there is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. 

            When God is silent, you should first of all examine your relationship with Him.  If there is known sin in your life, confess it immediately, repent, and seek His forgiveness.  Then recommit your life to His sovereign control. 

            If you’ve done this, and like Job of the Old Testament you still feel slighted by God, then listen to this.  This could be the greatest truth of all.

            The third reason God is often silent is simply the fact that sometimes He wants to reveal a wonderful new truth about Himself to us. 

            Henry Blackaby in his study book, “Experiencing God” shares of a time in his own life when God was silent.  He says he had prayed for many days and there seemed to be only total silence from God.  It seemed as if heaven were shut up.  And then, while reading through this passage, he found in verses 21 and 32 a new truth the Spirit helped him to understand.  He says it seemed as if Jesus had said to Mary and Martha,

            “You are exactly right.  If I had come, your brother would not have died.

            You know that I could have healed him, because you have seen me heal

            many, many times.  If I had come when you asked me to, I would have

            healed him.  But, you would have never known any more about me than you

            already know.  I knew you were ready for a greater revelation of me than you

            have ever known in your life.  I wanted you to come to know that I am the

            resurrection and the life.  My refusal and my silence was not rejection.  It was

            an opportunity for me to disclose to you more of Me than you have ever known.”

                Often the silence of God only means He is preparing to bring into your life a greater revelation of Himself than you have ever known before!

            If there is silence in your life from God, first, be certain all sin is confessed and to the best of your knowledge and sincerity, that you are walking with God.  Then, anticipate a new experience with God in which He is seeking to draw you into a closer and more intimate relationship with the Master than anything you have ever known.

There’s one last truth regarding the reason for God’s silence.  Divine delays never mean divine indifference.  Look at verse 6.  Jesus delayed His response to the request until He knew God could reveal His greatest manifestation of His power and glory.

In three instances, Jesus refused to move immediately when those near and dear to Him insisted that He take action.  (John 2, the wedding at Cana, at His mother’s request, and John 7:3, the Feast of Tabernacles, at the request of His brothers).  Every move Jesus makes is measured by God’s clock, not man’s.

Throughout this story, everything indicates the difference between divine and human perspective.  Jesus does not view our situation as we view it.  Jesus saw the whole situation as an opportunity for God’s glory to be revealed, while others saw only a sad situation. 

Jesus saw opportunity in Judea, while His disciples saw only danger there.  Verse 8 tells us Jesus saw Lazarus as only asleep, from His perspective, while others saw Lazarus as dead. 

Look at that statement that Jesus made in verse 14 and 15.  Jesus said, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad.”  Wait a minute.  Lazarus is dead and Jesus is rejoicing?  Jesus always sees our situations different than we do.  But be sure, He sees them.

Illustration:                              The Weaver, by Grant Tullar

            My life is but a weaving

                        Between my Lord and me,

            I cannot choose the colors

                        He worketh steadily.

            Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,

                        And I in foolish pride

            Forget He sees the upper

                        And I, the underside.

            Not till the loom is silent

                        And the shuttle cease to fly

            Shall God unroll the canvas

                        And explain the reason why.

            The dark threads are needful

                        In the Weaver’s skillful hand

            As the threads of gold and silver

                        In the pattern He has planned.

            T/S  When God is silent, there is always a reason.  But last of all, when God is silent, there is always a response.


Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.

You can respond to God’s silence in one of two ways.  Look at John 11:20. 

Here are some of the wrong ways to respond to God’s silence.

  1. You can respond in Confusion.
  2. You can respond in Anger.
  3. You can respond in Guilt.
  4. You can respond in Self-Condemnation.
  5. You can respond in Depression.  1 in 10 Americans.
  6. You can respond in Doubt.

Here are the right ways we should respond.

  1. You can respond in Faith, Hope, and Humility.

Such was Martha’s response.  She responded rather than reacted.  She came to Jesus calmly and trustingly.  (John 11:20-27)  As a result, Martha discovered a deeper understanding and a greater relationship with her Lord.  You can too!

      But let’s not forget Mary.  Do you see what she did in John 11:28-29?

      That’s what God wants you to do.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  Jesus is the truth that sets you free to hear from God again. 

      Remember, when God is silent, you can still rest assured, that He knows what you’re going through, and He also knows how your situation will end, for our good and for His glory.

Closing:  Invite all who may be struggling with trials and difficulties to come to the altar for prayer after a moment of invitation for the lost.




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