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Time and Chance Happeneth To All

1-15-18

Two good friends this week recounted some tough circumstances in their lives. Who among us does not have rough patches? The answer is None.

The difference between us, at these times, is how we react. My two friends each said that things are in God’s hands; that the Lord has a purpose. I pray that most people who say such things really have deep-seated trust and faith, as my friends do. But who among us does not occasionally fall back on such sayings as… sayings?

God forbid that we are not serious about discerning – and seeking – God’s will in hard times. And good times, too, no less!

I believe we have free will, and we all might believe that actions have consequences. Yet God orders our steps. A contradiction? Not at all. When we seek His will, God often answers in ways that are mysterious to us… and very often contrary to the shopping-list of demands that our prayers must sometimes look like to Him.

It is an essential element of faith, I think, that even if we let ourselves be virtual leaves on the stream of life, sometimes, God moves us, slows us, speeds us, and directs us – in spite of ourselves, sometimes, according to His will. If we love God, have faith, and accept the calling to His purposes.

Have you ever looked back on your life and realized how radically different things would be – family, profession, homes – if this, or that, had not happened?

I think of my dear daughter Emily, who lives in Northern Ireland now. When she was barely 10, missionaries visited our little church and told of their work in Central American villages. She was mightily affected, full of emotion, and dedicated her life, young Christian as she was, to work in the missions field, and serving Christ. Before, during, and after her college years, she joined missions trips to Mexico and Russia and Northern Ireland.

She had a heart for the hate-filled streets of Derry (scenes of the bloody “troubles” between Catholics and Protestants through the years) and returned there, for a longer stay. During that posting she made friends, fell in love with a guy from the local church, Norman. They married and attended Bible College together in Dublin, and have served in Ireland and Northern Ireland. And have “been fruitful and multiplied,” making this Papa proud of two grandchildren.

Ah! What if we, 25 years ago in Pennsylvania, had joined another church, or gone away the Sunday those missionaries visited? Would Emily have received that vision, found that passion? What if she had attended a different college here… or not made friends, when we lived in California, with our friend Paula who preceded her in that Northern Ireland missions program?

What if? What if?

Perhaps, when we think of these life-threads as we all can. God would have us wind up in the same places, but by different routes! More likely, it seems to me, we could be in different places doing different things. (I hate to think, as a father, that I would not have the children with whom God did bless me!)

This is not an essay, or ramblings, about the randomness of life: just the opposite!

As Christians we must rejoice in the fact that we are God’s; it is He who has made us and not we ourselves. We do not float through our allotted time willy-nilly, trying to remember to pray that we luck out in places we find ourselves. Rather we should earnestly pray to see God’s hand in our lives’ events… we must bathe every decision in prayer to seek His will (God promises never to leaves such prayers unanswered)… we must be patient to hear His voice and His leading… and we must pray for spiritual discernment to guard against crowding out His answers with our desires.

A current meme among Christians these days is, “It’s a God thing.” That phrase is used to explain “good” things, dismiss “bad” things, and is mantra for many occurrences in between. Some things ARE God things, yes. But a lot of things are also Satan-things; us-things; even dumb-things. We must learn to anticipate beforehand and discern afterwards.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 says that “Time and chance happeneth to all.” Let us not be fooled that God was explaining the randomness of life. Rather that we, His children, all have the same challenges; that we all are in the same boat. Or are the same leaves in the same stream of His care.

BUT. Just as important. God’s streams God’s streams have twists and turns and little spots where the water swirls unexpectedly. My way of saying that we need to be conscious of more than where we are taken, and what affects us. Just as often – in face, frequently – YOU might be the person, that random friend, a “missionary” telling a tale, even a stranger leaving an impression on someone. A daughter, a neighbor, a stranger, and perhaps the littlest word or action can wind up changing that person’s life.

Such things, indeed, happeneth to all.

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Please, please, listen to this moving song about this very subject. By Ray Boltz.

Click: Thank You For Giving To the Lord

Category: Faith, Life, Service

Tagged: , ,

2 Responses

  1. Susan Hammond says:

    Thank you, Rick. Well, now you and that song have caused me to weep. But, this is a good thing. We all need to be reminded again and again of the eternal value of being faithful to the Lord – of being diligent to seek His will, and to earnestly listen for His voice – and then acting on it in the way in which He gives us opportunity and direction.

    The recent violent deaths of my nephew and his wife have now filled me with the “what ifs?” as well. What if I had been more diligent in prayer for them (I recently learned that they were having marriage problems)? What if I had reached out to my nephew to urge him to seek the Lord for the answers to his troubled marriage, and to tell him that I would be praying for him and his wife? What if I had had more regular communication with him all along, so that he could receive that kind of word from me? What if? What if? This grievous event has caused me to reflect more deeply, both on my responsibility to pray, and my responsibility to “look beyond my own needs to the needs of others.”

    I am not aggressive by nature, and I am very hesitant to get in other people’s business – BUT, there are more and more things all around me that cry out for SOMETHING to be said (for example: four professing Christians I know have moved in with their girlfriend/boyfriend). What if they knew the Scriptures better, would they still have made this decision? What if they knew the Lord better?

    As you aptly reminded us, Rick, everything needs to be brought before the Lord to seek His will. If I hear of something, learn of something that grieves God’s heart, then yes, something needs to be said – said in prayer – earnest, regular prayer, to hear God’s instruction/direction for that thing. This is one aspect, I believe, of “giving to the Lord” in ministry. But, I cannot just say I will pray, and then address it with the Lord when I remember it. Instead, it is a commitment to take on a burden that burdens Him, and take time on my knees to do battle against the forces of evil. Starting there, taking whatever the thing is to the feet of Jesus, I know that He will provide further direction. Oh, the good in people’s lives that can result! I want to be wise; I want to be faithful; and I want to be bold in that wisdom and faithfulness so that I can be useful to Him, with fewer and fewer moments of hearing the anguishing “what ifs?” in my head. Thank you, again, Rick, for a timely word of encouragement, and things to think about, pray about.
    Oh, Lord Jesus, help me, help all of us who love You, to be faithful to give generously to You!

  2. God bless you! What a powerful, powerful response. I was reminded of when my father died, and my other daughter cried, “Oh, I wish I had the chance to witness to him!” Well… sweet innocence. And I believe he WAS right with the Lord. BUT it brought it to me that we all HAVE the chance, but we don’t always TAKE the opportunity. These chances might come only once…

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About The Author

... Rick Marschall is the author of 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia magazine called him "perhaps America's foremost authority on popular culture") to history and criticism; country music; television history; biography; and children's books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals and magazine articles; he was co-author of "The Secret Revealed" with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. Read More