‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
An oft-quoted movie line comes from Napoleon Dynamite. The line closes the film, after Napoleon’s brother, Kip, gets married and rides off on horseback with his new bride. If you’re a closet Napoleon fan (or have a 14 year old in your home), you know it well:
I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing Napoleon Dynamite, but I do want to talk with you about “luck.” First, it’s important to know that the words luck and, for that matter, coincidence are not in God’s vocabulary. God’s hand is at work in every situation, coordinating every detail to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our good. No event is random. No moment is beyond His notice or beyond His control. Christian thinkers and writers have often called this the “providence” of God and, given its importance, let’s think through its implications for our lives.
At one extreme, the providence of God is challenged by post-modern thinkers who tell us that everything happens by chance. For them, life has no ultimate meaning and our only goal is to scrape together enough pleasure and possessions to create some semblance of purpose and enjoyment in life. With such an empty perspective on life, it’s no wonder that lives end up being a string of “sex-capades,” or the pursuit of new and strange pleasures. It answers the question why binge drinking on college campuses is at an all-time high.
At the other end of the spectrum is the distortion of God’s providence by assigning everything in life to “fate”—a fate that portrays us as victims of circumstances entirely outside of our control, leaving us to twist in the whims of a capricious being who manipulates our lives for his own amusement.
It’s time for us to get a biblical view about luck, randomness, fate, and the providence of a good and powerful God!
The God described in the Bible loves His creation passionately and has plans for His people that are supremely good. Not plans of calamity and despair, but plans that are good. If you believe in the providence of God, all of history is moving to a grand and glorious end—the crushing of Satan and evil and the emergence of the new heaven and earth, where all is good and righteous. Where life is full of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness in the presence of God—forever!
I’ll be the first to admit that trusting in God’s providence is hard to do when it comes to difficult circumstances over which I have no control. God’s work is often behind-the-scenes, hidden from our view. He doesn’t give a play-by-play on everything He is doing to coordinate the details of His providential plans. In fact, often His work is most clearly seen in the rearview mirror. But I’ve looked back enough times to see and trust that my life is not a product of good or bad luck, or of random coincidences. It is divinely shaped and guided by the providential hand of God toward a wonderful conclusion.
So today, let’s choose to align our perspective and even our vocabulary with God’s. No more “luck” and no more “coincidences”! It won’t make for memorable movie quotes, but it will make for an infinitely more meaningful and biblically lived life!
A Present Preview
From: Our Daily Journey
I know of family members who open one small gift on the eve of their birthdays. This makes for a fun “preview” of the excitement of opening the rest of the gifts the next day.
Unwrapping one of the many gifts to come parallels one of the great mysteries about God’s kingdom. Even as Jesus announced the “Good News”—the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth (Mark 1:15)—He explained that the kingdom of God would not come all at once. He likened it to a tiny seed that would eventually become a great tree (Matthew 13:31-32). Today, we often describe this tension as “already, but not yet”.
Already. Jesus has defeated the curse of sin and death that opposes God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:20). New creation began in a powerful way the morning Jesus rose from the dead. All that God has promised began to come true, available to be experienced through Christ. But it has yet to arrive fully, to pervade all creation. That time will come in the future (Ephesians 1:10).
Not yet. In the meantime, Jesus told us, life will have its difficulties. On the eve of His crucifixion, He warned His followers, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” But He was careful to connect His warning to hope: “Take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jesus didn’t encourage His followers to “take heart” because life was going to get easier, but because the broken, disheartening aspects of life won’t have the last word. The good news of God’s kingdom holds the final say! Christ’s resurrection marked the turning point toward an end to all that is broken.
So take heart. Though it may not always look like it, little pieces of God’s kingdom are slowly falling into place.
On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” — Mark 4:35
Even when we go forth at Christ’s command, we need not expect to escape storms; for these disciples were going forth at Christ’s command, yet they encountered the fiercest storm and were in great danger of being overwhelmed, so that they cried out in their distress for Christ’s assistance.
Though Christ may delay His coming in our time of distress, it is only that our faith may be tried and strengthened, and that our prayers may be more intense, and that our desires for deliverance may be increased, so that when the deliverance does come we will appreciate it more fully.
Christ gave them a gentle rebuke, saying, “Where is your faith?” Why did you not shout victory in the very face of the storm, and say to the raging winds and rolling waves, “You can do no harm, for Christ, the mighty Savior is on board”?
It is much easier to trust when the sun is shining than when the storm is raging.
We never know how much real faith we have until it is put to the test in some fierce storm; and that is the reason why the Savior is on board.
If you are ever to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might, your strength will be born in some storm.
“With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.”
Christ said, “Let us go to the other side”—not to the middle of the lake to be drowned.