“That was a God thing.” Have you ever had those moments where things line up perfectly and it seems that God was orchestrating every little detail? I love those. The timing was just right. The dollar amount was perfect. The right pace at the right time. There is no way you could describe it as chance. It was a God thing. We love hearing and sharing those stories. One song is titled, “It’s a God thing.” The lyrics include a story of doctors who admitted to parents, “We don’t know how much more we can do.” Yet, she survived, lived and grew up. It’s a God thing. A book titled It’s a God Thing is a collection of stories about miracles big and small that happened in people’s lives. Those are God things. Here’s the truth, God has undeniable power and works directly in his creation to do great things.
But what about those moments when everything goes wrong? When you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. When finances weren’t enough. When you felt suffocated, overburdened or like a failure. Are those God things? When you miss the buss, when you hit every red light, when you are stuck behind the slow driver, when every parking spot is full and every cart is taken, when you get the flat tire, when you don’t get the job, when you pray for healing and it doesn’t happen? Are those God things? Short Answer: Yes. Allow me to explain.
Some things in this world are definitely not “God things.” They are sin as the creator of the world has defined it: sinful behavior, sinful lifestyles, hate, murder, and violence to name a few. These are not God things. We understand good and evil, sin and virtue. With that, we like to categorize events and celebrate those that make us feel good or give us success and fear hardship and struggle. Some of you have anxiety and overwhelming stress over difficulties in life. I am here to help you recognize that those too can be God things. When we recognize that, not only does the stress and anxiety begin to melt away, but we also find great purpose.
Luke wrote a history of how the Christian church developed. We love to hear about events like Pentecost, which we will celebrate next week, where 3000 people were converted in a single day. That was a God thing. But we forget about the struggle and hardship that the missionaries endured in the years to come. Luke includes all the high and low points. Paul took off with Silas to encourage the churches he planted and to explore new territory. It was there that they picked up a young man named Timothy who Paul would mentor as a missionary. Paul, with mission experience under his belt and a good support team, set out with a plan to spread Jesus.
Luke recounts, 6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia; they had been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. Objection: “Wait! Luke are you recording this correctly. I think you messed up. It should have read, that the missionary team didn’t do enough research or their plans weren’t thorough enough. They ran into some enemy of the church that shunned them from the area.” But that’s not Luke’s retelling of the events. Luke says that the Holy Spirit forbade Paul, Silas, and Timothy from speaking the word in Asia. Another objection: “But there are important cities there. There are people who need to hear the gospel of the love from God through Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t God take Paul’s ambitions and plans into consideration?” Instead, God purposefully frustrated Paul’s good intentions.
Perhaps the next place will go better. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Now the Spirit of Jesus is jumping into the mix. He didn’t allow them to go into Bithynia. “God, don’t you realize that the Council of Nicaea, one of the most influential church gatherings in the development of the Christian Church would happen 300 years later in Bithynia? Don’t you think it would be wise that the Apostle Paul start the groundwork there?”
Here’s what some of your greatest stress and anxiety come from, a false expectation of God and his plan. What happens when we try to impose our ideas and plans onto God? When God doesn’t work you plan you can get angry, depressed, and frustrated. When you feel that your plans are being ruined, perhaps you have some expectations of God that he is not willing to fulfill. That’s when we want to play God and work our own plans. The last time someone attempted that, Satan, he was cast down into hell. Trust me, it doesn’t work to play that game. God isn’t going to make everything nice for you. I have seen and heard of far too many people who are depressed and full of anxiety over uncontrollable events. People even walk away from the Christian faith all together because God didn’t meet the expectation and provide a “God thing,” in their life when they felt in greatest need. Not everything will work out the way you want it. And that is ok. Everything that is not sin is a God thing because he is working for a bigger purpose. His purpose is to save people, you and others.
The greatest “God thing” looked like the biggest failure. It was Jesus’ sacrifice for you and me. Jesus being betrayed by a close friend; a God thing. All the rest of his good friends abandoned him in his greatest struggle; a God thing. Jesus very own people, the Israelites, lied and cheated in order to murder him; a God thing. The pagan people, the Romans, executed Jesus, the Lord of Life, by means of a cross, the execution method with the most pain and shame ever recorded in all history. That was a God thing. It appeared by all those who witnessed it that God was defeated, that his plans failed, and that everything was going wrong. But the truth is that the greatest good was happening for you. God was saving you.
When you feel God is doing his worst, he may be doing his best. When you think everything is out of control, it may be out of your control but not out of his control. When you think that everything is going wrong, it may be the greatest right. God loves to mask his handiwork in suffering, in the shadow of the cross. Let go and let God, you will begin to experience less stress and anxiety over what you categorize as a catastrophe.
God may also open your eyes to great purpose. Luke doesn’t record what prevented Paul, Silas, and Timothy from doing the work they wanted to do, but he does continue. 8 Passing by Mysia they went down to Troas. What good could happen there? 9 During the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. God closed doors in order to direct Paul and his missionary team to a new place, where God wanted them to work. They went immediately. They were not pulverized by the previous defeat. They were not paralyzed by the stress of rejection. If they were weeks deep in mission work, they may not have been able to go immediately. God was not trying to hurt his children but to open their eyes to other opportunities.
What would that do to your anxiety and stress if you knew that even the failures and frustrations were part of God’s good plan? This is what God may be doing for you. Open your eyes and look around to what God could be doing. You don’t need to speculate the purpose because his purpose is always the same. God’s work and purpose is to get you and others to heaven. What greater purpose could there be?
What higher purpose for you is there than to connect others to the Savior? That is helping eternally. Helping people with earthly problems is good. Helping them eternally is amazing. Jesus encouraged his followers once with one of his stories to “Make friends on earth so they can welcome you in heaven.” (Luke 16:9). How awesome is that?
Next time you feel frustrated about failures or difficulties and when you are envious of other’s success stories, remember that apparent failure could be a God thing too. You may not ever see the good that happens. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s a God thing. Sin is not a God thing. Everything else works according to God’s plan to save people. Great and small, miracles and natural: it’s all a God thing.