Sunday, July 31, 2016
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
What do these things have in common- being promoted to a senior executive position, losing a child, going to college, cheering at soccer game, moving to a new town, adopting siblings, conquering cancer, surviving abuse, getting a puppy, filing for bankruptcy, going on vacation, or buying a new car?
All these things could constitute times of change and as a result they can also be times of extreme stress but if we love God- all things can work together for good. Some of these things seem "good" right off the bat- a promotion, adopting kids, cheering at a game, going on vacation. Other things clearly fall into the "bad" column like abuse, bankruptcy, and losing a child. Yet this verse says, “All things”. How could this be?
What if every circumstance in your life, every opportunity and even every heart break was allowed or even ordained by God to bring you closer to him and give you a way to connect with others so that they could come to know and love him? The “good” isn’t our happiness, our comfort, our health or our success; the “good” is a life changing knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, there were many times that God used challenging situations to draw people to him. He promoted Daniel to be a leader and later allowed Daniel to be thrown in a lion’s den so that others would know that the Lord was the true God. He sent plagues on Egypt so that the Hebrews and the Egyptians would believe that He was the LORD God. He allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery and then elevated him to second in command to bless the people that had betrayed him. He caused a foreign general named Naaman to get leprosy and allowed a little Hebrew girl to be sold as a slave into Naaman’s house so that she would tell him about the one true God. He allowed a man named Lazarus to get so sick that he died, so that all the people around his town would know that Jesus has power over life and death. A woman suffered unstoppable bleeding for many years so that God’s power could be displayed in her life. Paul and Silas were thrown in prison so that an entire family would be saved. A night of fishing with no fish caught opened the eyes of some hardened fisherman to God’s power in every part of their lives. A business woman was able to host a church in her house to share the good news of Jesus because she had abundant financial resources.
I’ve seen multiple examples in my life and my friends lives where God used a particular circumstance to share amazing good news of Jesus Christ and his love with others. Not too long ago I wrote about my friend Lindy who has experienced God’s hand and provision after a kidney transplant. Lindy has had the opportunity to share God’s grace and love with others while waiting at infusion centers. She is able to minister to people in scary health situations because she is there. God puts us in physical situations and through challenging times so that we can share the hope we have in Christ.
As I was flying back from my friend’s wedding, I got into a conversation with the man sitting next to me. It turns out he was on the final leg of a 36 hour flight from Mumbai. I had been writing much of the trip and when I finally took a break, he asked me if I was a writer. I explained about my obsession with Hezekiah that resulted in two books and Hezekiah’s downfall due to pride. He explained to me the Hindu concept of the Six Passions-Pride, Lust, Anger, Greed, Jealousy, and Temptation. We talked about the patterns of sin and suffering that we see all around us. He understood that the six passions lead to bad consequences. A guru had explained to him that the good and bad things we do in life are counted in an account that accumulates interest. We can have positive compound growth or negative interest. I was able to share with him that Jesus He pays all our debts so that we can experience abundant life. We don’t have to suffer the consequences of sin. Jesus breaks us free from the cycle of death once and for all. As we were talking, his face lit up and he exclaimed, “That is amazing.” He had gone to Convent school and was friends with a priest but had never connected that Jesus was the way to break free. God allowed both of us to be on that plane and in those seats for a divinely appointed conversation.
When I was 18, my 15 year old sister tragically died in an accident. In the midst of devastating heart break, as my parents were planning her service they asked the pastor issue an invitation for anyone who wanted to know Christ to come forward in the church and ask Jesus into their lives. Over 30 people came to know Christ at her funeral including my grandmother, who my mother had prayed for for years.
I recently read this quote in Calm My Anxious Heart and it struck me. "When I had children, I remember thinking, 'Are children now my purpose?' I realized that my children were my platform, not my purpose." This sentence has caused me to look at all my blessings, challenges and opportunities in a new way. I realized they are a platform to share God's love and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said his purpose in Luke 4:43, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose...” We are called to be like Christ and to make disciples of all men. Where we live, where we work, where our kids go to school, who we talk to at the grocery store and our passions and interests are platforms for sharing the good news of Jesus.
Where has God placed you that you can share His love? What have you gone through that provides a bridge to the Grace of God for others? What resources and gifts do you have that provide a connection to bring others to Christ?