All for the good

Here’s a story I just read about one way God worked all things for the good:

In the devotional book Voices of the Faithful, a missionary couple in South America tells of a local pastor in Uberaba who bought a van to transport people to church.  To help make payments on the van, he removed the backseats and did delivery work through the week.  But the van needed four new tires, and the pastor had no way of paying for them.

One night the van was stolen from the church property.  Some of the church members tried to console their pastor by saying that perhaps it wasn’t God’s will for him to have the van.  But he knew he needed the vehicle for God’s work, so he trusted the Lord to work it all for the good.

A few days later, police officers from a nearby town called on him, saying the van had been located and the thief caught.  Arriving at the police station, the pastor was surprised to find his vehicle sporting a new set of tires, new backseats, and a radio!  He claimed the van, but told the police that the tires, seats, and radio were not his.  They must have been installed by the thief.

“Well, I guess that is the thief’s loss and your gain,” replied the police officer.  The pastor now has a good van, fully equipped and freshly shod.

(from Robert J. Morgan, The Promise, pp. 95-6)

Red Sea Rule 8

Jumping ahead in the book I referred to yesterday, Rule #8 is “Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.”

God will deliver His children from every evil work, from every peril and problem, from tribulation, even from death itself.  But there are no cookie cutters in heaven.  God doesn’t have standardized, same-size-fits-all solutions to our various problems.  He treats every situation as singular and special, and He designs a unique, tailor-made deliverance to every trial and trouble.

He goes on to write about how God can indeed deliver in miraculous ways and does, but other times, in His providence, He works in mysterious ways that we cannot always understand.

When God does not deliver overtly (through a miracle) or covertly (through providence), He will deliver mysteriously, with a deeper level of intervention than we can discern; in the end it will be better for us, though for a time we may be perplexed.

When Vance Havner, the wry North Carolina evangelist, lost his wife to disease, he was disconsolate.  But out of the experience he later wrote:

When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith–that all things work together for good in His eternal purpose.  No longer will we cry “My God, why?”  Instead, “alas” will become “Alleluia,” all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise.

“What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” (Jn 13.7)

The Red Sea Rules

I just finished a book I wanted to recommend to you all: The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan.  It’s a short book (just over 100 pages) based on Exodus 14–when God leads the Israelites to the Red Sea and they are chased by Pharaoh’s army.  Pastor Morgan draws out 10 “rules” based on this episode in the life of God’s chosen people.  He illustrates each rule with real-life stories.  And, lest you wonder if this is an easy, fix-it-quick book, in his preface he writes: “These aren’t ten quick-and-easy steps to instant solutions, In my case, it took quite a while to work through the anguish and achieve a positive result.”

The subtitle of the book is: The Same God who Led You In Will Lead You Out. Rule #1 is “Realise that God means for you to be where you are.”  An excerpt from that chapter:

Some circumstances are beyond our control, and something as simple as the ringing of a phone, a card in the mail, or a knock on the door can push us off the wire.  We fall into a world of worry.  Someone defined worry as a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind, cutting a channel into which all other thoughts flow.

The preacher John R. Rice said, “Worry is putting question marks where God has put periods.”

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen called worry “a form of atheism, for it betrays a lack of faith and trust in God.”

But for some of us, worry seems as inherent as breathing.

Sound familiar?  Morgan ends this section with this:

In the story of the Red Sea, the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud and fire as carefully as possible, thrilled with their new freedom, full of excitement about the future.  Yet as they followed Him, God deliberately led them into a cul-de-sac between hostile hills, to the edge of a sea too deep to be forded and too wide to be crossed.

The unmistakable implication of Exodus 14:1-2 is that the Lord took responsibility for leading them into peril.  He gave them specific, step-by-step instructions, leading them down a route to apparent ruin: Turn and camp.  Camp there. There, before the entrapping sea.  Yes, right there in that impossible place.

The Lord occasionally does the same with us, testing our faith, leading us into hardship, teaching us wisdom, showing us His ways.  Our first reaction may be a surge of panic and a sense of alarm, but we must learn to consult the Scriptures for guidance.

So, take a deep breath and recall this deeper secret of the Christian life: when you are in a difficult place, realize that the Lord either placed you there or allowed you to be there, for reasons perhaps known for now only to Himself.

The same God who led you in will lead you out.