[by Wayne Johnston] While standing on top of Castle Butte in the Badlands of southern Saskatchewan with a few friends, we noticed a small group of boulders in the middle of the next valley. We set off to explore them, and after a long walk, we were surprised to find a large group of massive odd-shaped boulders.
Our small group all seemed to feel the same – “these rocks sure didn’t look that big from the top of that 200-foot butte”. The closer you get, the bigger it is!
Sometimes it’s like that with God – the closer I get to Him, the bigger He is. Theologically I know God is spirit and that He is all powerful and all present. The problem is not with God, however, it’s our perception of Him.
Let’s look at a biblical example of our small perceptions of God. In John 11:1-44 we read about the raising of Lazarus. I love this passage because for Martha’s sake and ours today, God pushes Martha’s faith envelope of how big God is!
The chapter tells of Lazarus being sick, and his sisters sending word to Jesus. Jesus then stayed two more days where He was before setting out to see them, and by the time He arrived Lazarus had been dead for four days.
In verse 20, as soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up and went to Him. In verse 21, she chides Jesus by saying, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus’ response to her anger was, “Your brother will rise again.”
I believe Jesus was setting her (and us) up, not for a fall, but to get closer to God, and to see how big He really is. To Martha, Jesus was big enough to heal a sick brother, but not big enough to raise him from the grave after four days.
In verse 24, Martha does what we so often do – she waters down Jesus’ words to make them more sensible and acceptable to her. She says, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” In other words, I can believe for some sweet day in the distant future.
Again, Jesus pushes Martha’s envelope of how big God is by claiming, “I am the resurrection and the life . . . Do you believe this?” Martha’s response was, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God even He who comes into the world,” and then she went to call her sister.
We know how this story ends – Jesus fulfilled His words. Like Martha we need to let our needs and our problems drive us closer to God. The closer we get, the bigger He is!
Blind Bartimaeus gets closer
A great example in Scripture of someone who was not afraid of getting too close to God was blind Bartimaeus. This story is found in Luke 18:35-43. Bartimaeus was not interested in his need being met one sweet day in the distant future. Others told him not to push closer, not to rock their comfort level, not to upset things. But the more people tried to shut him up, the louder he got and the more he got into God’s face.
Verse 40 tells us, “and when Jesus commanded him to come near Him…” – now things get interesting. God again reveals that He is bigger than our religious ideas, our problems and needs. Like blind Bartimaeus, we have to focus on God alone, and look at all the stuff, the excuses that would hold us back. This blind beggar had his life redeemed because he got into God’s face and God was bigger than his need. Bartimaeus should be giving seminars in churches on how to be an effective intercessor – this man understood intercession!
One more important point about Bartimaeus is his name, because it sheds so much light on how much God changed his sad life. The Hebrew prefix “Bar” or “Ben” means “son”. Timaeus means “highly prized”. This blind beggar was known as the son of a highly prized one. What a nice handle to carry around for your whole life! – “You blind beggar, son of the highly prized one – what happened to you!”
Has anyone ever felt like that? – the runt of the litter, the one who didn’t live up to expectations – like one whose parents are famous or recognized or admired, but who is seen as a failure with no redeeming qualities.
But one day Jesus just happened to be near, but not near enough, and after crying out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” that got him close enough and everything changed.
David takes on Goliath
We can learn more by looking at a few events in the life of David. In I Samuel 16, Samuel the prophet is told by God to go and anoint Israel’s next king from among the sons of Jesse. Starting with the oldest, Jesse’s fine sons were presented to Samuel, and he was impressed with what he saw externally. But God said no to all seven of them.
When Samuel found out that the youngest (who was not important enough to invite) was not there, he sent for him. When son number 8 arrived (the number 8 in the Bible speaks of new beginnings), David, the “runt”, was chosen to be Israel’s next king.
David, like Bartimaeus, was not afraid to “yell really loud” and get into the face of God – to get close – because that was more important that what people thought. David was chosen and loved by God because he was a man with a heart for God. In Psalm 18:34 David writes, “He teaches my hands to make war.” David had a great reputation as a musician and worshipper of God, but he also was a great warrior. I wonder if these might be related!
David knew how to call on God and get into His face. David, the young “runt” learned how to deal with the lions and bears in his role as a shepherd by leaning on God. In I Samuel 17, he is willing to fight against a giant professional warrior because he already knew his God was bigger. Goliath, even at almost ten feet, was pretty small compared to God.
In verse 48, we read that when the Philistines drew near, that David ran toward them. That takes guts! That’s like standing in the middle of a big parade and yelling, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Goliath may have seemed bigger as David approached him, but David already knew God was bigger yet!
Some time ago, during a time when my problems seemed to be overwhelming me, God gave me a vision, in which He helped me push past my envelope to get closer to my big Father. I saw a picture of the base that God’s throne sits on. This base was so immense that I could not see past it. In human terms it seemed to be several large city blocks square and several floors high. It overwhelmed me, not to make me feel small, but to show me how big God was.
The real message remains the same – the closer we get to God, the bigger He is and the smaller my problems and worries become. Get close!