Have you ever been confused by circumstances in your life? You’ve done everything right, but things turned out wrong or at least not the way you hoped they would. You’ve done your best, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe you have prayed about something and God answered with a “No” or “not yet.” Or maybe it just seems like life has thrown you a curve ball.
In our series “Managing your Mind” we’ve been talking about the importance of taking responsibility for the things you think about and learning God’s way of thinking about things. This especially true when life doesn’t make sense. And just because things don’t make sense to you, doesn’t mean they don’t make sense to God.
As Christ-followers we firmly belief that nothing in our lives is random or out of control. We believe that God has ordered our steps and manages our circumstances. We believe that God goes with us wherever we go and whatever we go through. We believe these things because the Bible says so over and over again. For Christ-followers, second most quoted scripture in the whole Bible is this,
We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.Romans 8:28 (NCV)
Circle “in everything” When God says “everything” He means every single thing. There is no aspect of a Christ-follower’s life that God ignores or is uninvolved in. Now many people believe this until something really bad happens And then they start to question God’s goodness, God’s power and His involvement in their lives. “If God is really all powerful and all good, why did this bad thing happen?” That is fundamentally the wrong question to ask. We know that God is all powerful and all good. So the right question you should ask ,“what is God doing?” In Part One of this message we said when things don’t make sense we should ask,
- Is God Causing you to develop an eternal perspective? We invest way too much time, effort and emotional energy in things that really don’t matter for eternity. And so when things don’t go the way you want, you are likely to experience disappointment and frustration.
- Is God Correcting You? God loves you just the way you are. And He loves you too much to let you stay that way. Like a good parent, God is actively involved in your life to correct you. And correction is rarely fun or enjoyable.
If you missed last weeks’ message, please take some time to listen to it online, but let’s move one on.
Is God Changing my plans
The third question you can ask when life doesn’t make sense, “is God changing my plans?”Not all of God’s corrective action is focused on your disobedience. Sometimes God just wants to reach into your world and change your plans. How many of you are planners? Well God is planner too. And one of things that causes confusion for planners is when your plan and God’s Plans come into conflict. The bible says,
This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours! For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than yours.Isaiah 55:8–9 (The Living Bible)
Circle “higher” God’s plans are always better than your plans. God’s plans are always more complete, Broader scope and always guaranteed to succeed.
In the early days of the church, we find Paul the Apostle on a missionary journey doing exactly what God had told him to do- preaching good news to the gentiles. Yet he unexpectedly ran into some road blocks. Let me read this account,
They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas.Acts 16:6–8 (The Message)
Circle “their plan” Paul and his buddies had plans. How many of you know that your plans and God’s plan just might be different? You see God had a plan for Asia. It just didn’t include Paul. Paul wasn’t guilty of any sin. He was just heading the wrong way. And God had a plan for Europe that did include Paul. So God forced change on Paul’s plans.
That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.Acts 16:9–10 (The Message)
Sometimes God changes our plans, not because they’re bad, but just because He has another plan- a plan that doesn’t necessarily just revolve around you.
Circle “All the pieces had come together” My daughter and Marc had plans to build on to their house. They selected a contractor and were just about to sign the contract. But a house came on the market in their neighborhood that exceeded their needs and was in their budget. So they figured they would take a shot at it. In a very tight seller’s market, and even though they weren’t the highest bidder, they ended up getting the house. But that isn’t the end of the story. They put their house up for sale and were expecting to also have a bidder’s war. And there were some bidders lined up, but at the last minute, the bidders all unexpectedly dropped out. Here is the cool part. The very next day another buyer showed up. Her circumstances were identical to Stephanie’s when she originally bought the house- A single mom with young kids recovering from a divorce. And the house is perfect for this family! She made a fair offer and Marc and Stephanie’s house is sold. I guess you could just call this coincidence, but the pieces fit together way to perfectly. Someone said. “It seemed as if God moved the other buyers out of the way so this woman could get the house.” I wonder if Marc and Stephanie didn’t move out so she could move in. Sometimes God’s plans don’t revolve around you or what you want. They just include you. And as a Christ-follower, one who has accepted Jesus as Lord of all creation as Lord of your life, you have to learn to accept that!
Is there anything that doesn’t make sense to you right now? Well maybe God has another plan. That plan may include you, but isn’t necessarily about you.
Is God developing my character?
Here is another question you might ask when life does make sense, especially when you are thinking about trouble and suffering.
Many people stumble in their spiritual journey because they don’t understand the role of trouble and suffering in their lives. God’s ultimate goal for your life on Earth is not your comfort. God is also not overly concerned that you are always happy or having a frustration-free experience. God’s ultimate goal for your life is to build your character. The Bible says,
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, …Romans 8:29( NLT)
Circle “to become like His Son” That is God’s goal for your life. God wants you to grow up. God wants you to become like Jesus. And sometimes in life, when things don’t make sense to you-It could be time to ask Is God developing your character. And God uses difficulties, frustrations, problems and pain to accomplish that goal. The Bible says
…We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence.Romans 5:3–4 (GW)
Circle “we know” This is a fundamental truth and a bedrock Christian belief. Suffering and trouble have an important and divine purpose for Christ-followers. Your Savior went to the Cross and suffered. His suffering had divine purpose. And so does yours.
Circle ”suffering creates” To create is to bring something new into existence. Something that wasn’t previously there. Notice the progression in this passage. Endurance, character, confidence. God is at work in your difficulties. He is developing spiritual qualities in you that weren’t there.
Let give you some examples.
In his later to a church in ancient Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote,
… I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.Philippians 4:12–13 (NLT)
Circle “Contentment” Content is being satisfied with what you have. Contentment is being confident that you are fully equipped to face any and every challenge in life. Contentment is all about peace in the uncertainty of the present and courage to face the uncertainty of the future.
Circle the phrase, “I have learned. Contentment is not natural for humans. By nature are are discontented. We are jealous. We are ambitious. We compare ourselves to others. Contentment is not natural but it can be learned. And Paul learned contentment by walking through the ups and downs of life with Jesus. And closely connected to contentment is dependence.
Our culture sets a very high value on independence. And most of us would like to believe that we are sufficient in ourselves to meet the challenges of life. We value personal strength, innovation and tenacity. And all of that works fine until it doesn’t. And we find ourselves needing help and strength we can’t find inside ourselves. It is usually at your breaking point that we finally discover how much we really we need God. Paul the Apostle was at his wits end and wrote this,
In fact, we still feel as if we’re under a death sentence. But we suffered so that we would stop trusting ourselves and learn to trust God, who brings the dead back to life.2 Corinthians 1:9 (GW)
Circle “we suffered so that “For the Christ-follower suffering always has a divine purpose. God uses them to doing something in you. God is turning you into the person He ultimately wants you to be. He is developing new qualities in your character. Circle “learn to Trust God.”This means to depend on Him, rely on him rather than simply depending or relying on yourself. And this is a lesson many people only learn when they absolutely have to.
There are other character qualities we develop in difficulties, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. God uses these to develop your character.
Consequences of wrong thinking
Someone might say, “I don’t want to learn these lessons. I don’t care about character. I don’t want to be dependent or contented.” I don’t even like those things. Someone else might say, “I don’t want God to change my plans.” I just want, what I want.” Well, let me tell you what is wrong with that kind of thinking. Remember we are talking about “how we think about things.”
You might not really be a Christ-follower
Not everyone who comes to church is a Christ-follower. Just because your parents are believers and you have a religion, doesn’t mean you’re born again. A Christ-follower is someone who actually follows Christ. Jesus said,
Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?Luke 6:46 (GW)
Circle “Lord” To say that Jesus is Lord means that He is the ruler- king of your life. You do and live the way he wants you to. And if you don’t live the way He wants you to, and constantly reject His authority in your life, you might not really belong to Him.
You are inviting more trouble and suffering
And if you are Christ-follower, but resist what God wants for you, you are inviting more trouble and suffering into your life. If God uses suffering to develop character and you don’t learn the lessons they teach, do you really think that God is just going to give up? NO! If you are a Christ-follower, God is likely to just send more trouble and suffering your way until you surrender to Him. The bible says,
… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6 (NIV84)
This is both the best news and the worst news in the Bible. God won’t give up on His children. He won’t give up on you because God isn’t a quitter. He’ll just keep after you to help you become the person He wants you to be until the end of the age.
You misunderstand God’s intentions
You may think that God is some kind of cosmic kill-joy who wants to ruin all your fun and make you miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said,
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.John 10:10 (NLT)
Circle “to give” God is a giver. Not a taker. The taker is the other guy, the devil. He is a thief. The devil wants to take from you and prevent you from enjoying the rich and satisfying life you have always wanted and God wants you to have. God wants to give you the life you really want to have.