Last week my wife and I made plans to see the new Star Wars movie. We got the baby sitter lined up (which is not always an easy task with a 2 1/2 year old and a 12 week old), and we planned out the night. My wife got everything ready for the sitter and I bought the tickets while I was at work. Everything was heading towards a great evening together, when all of a sudden my wife started feeling sick. We ended up having to cancel our date night and get our tickets refunded. I thought about going without my wife and leaving her at home sick with our kids…just kidding (that would be a terrible husband). We have rescheduled the date night for next Monday. My point in bringing all of this up, is that most people that I mention this to will say that this is “dumb luck”, or it was “bad luck” that my wife got sick.
IN reality it was something far different. What I want to talk to you about today is: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS LUCK…or The FORCE. Now, I know that this example of the movie is rather trite. I’m sure that you could give me countless stories and examples of “bad luck.” They may range from the trivial, like my Star Wars example, to the far more significant, like financial issues, sickness in the family, automobile trouble, ect…
So what is “Luck?” Luck is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary: “a force that brings good fortune or adversity,” or “favoring chance.” That brings me to something else as well. There is no mystical force that guides your destiny. I love the original star wars movies. Good triumphs over evil, space battles, sword fights, what’s not to love. These movies have become a huge part of our culture and it is amazing how some people’s thinking has been shaped by this fiction. There is no light and dark side of the force fighting it out for supremacy or balance like the Yin and Yang. There is only one being, God Himself, that works all things to His will and to accomplish His goals. Han Solo says it best in the original Star Wars movie, “… no mystical energy field controls my destiny.”
What I propose to you today is that these things that happen to us are not random events. ALL CIRCUMSTANCES FALL WITHIN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Evangelical Theology states,
“Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God. This divine, sovereign, and benevolent control of all things by God is the underlying premise of everything that is taught in the Scriptures.”
Look at Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 with me.
Consider the work of God,
For who is able to straighen what He has made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.
The key to this section of scripture is Solomon’s admonition to cultivate and ask God for wisdom so that you may understand life and live godly in this world. Living wisely is understanding that everything that happens in this life, happens with the Providence of God. Thomas Boston (1676-1732), a Puritan minister, called the “difficult” things in life that happen to us “crooked providences.” He took this saying from Ecclesiastes 7:13.
In his book, The Crook in the Lot, he gives seven reasons that the believer goes through difficult circumstances.
1. To Prove Whether You Are A True Believer or a Hypocrite
There is nothing quite like a trial in this life to show who is truly a child of God. In this purpose, the person going through difficult times shows in his afflictions whom he loves and again and again demonstrates His faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you a true and sincere servant of God? Or a mercenary one, merely following Christ just when your circumstances are to your liking? This thought is shown in the trial of Job in the Old Testament. Look at Job 1:9-11:
“Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
God used the wilderness journeys of the nation of Israel for the same purpose. They had been delivered from Egypt physically, constantly provided for by God Himself, and allowed the privilege of God being in their midst (the Tabernacle). Yet, they refused to believe and obey the One True God and they all died in the wilderness save Caleb and Joshua who were found faithful. Their unbelief turned an 11 day journey into a 40 year test to see if they would be faithful to God before they could enter into the promised land. Psalm 95:10 says,
“For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.”
God used circumstances in my own life to show me that all my confessions of love for Christ were but rubbish. I had grown up in a Believing home and in church, yet my faith was in myself and not in God. God in His providence ordered events so that when I went to college those events challenged my pride and showed me the pretensions of my own wicked heart. God uses circumstances in our lives to reveal to us the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and the genuineness of our faith. How easy it is to say that we are Christians when we have no trouble in this life. A true believer will persevere to the end of his life faithful to the Lord no matter what circumstances God chooses for him. When troubled times come you can emerge out the other side giving God glory and having a greater trust in Him.
2. To Stir You to Obedience
God uses your circumstances to stir you to obedience and wean you from this world. Thomas Boston uses the example of the prodigal son. The whole parable of the prodigal son can be found in Luke 15:11-32. Luke 15:17-20 shows what Boston is speaking about here.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.”
God has used the circumstances in the young man’s life to bring him to an end of himself. He has reached the “rock bottom” and the only way to improve his condition is to humble himself and return to his father.
God uses the circumstances at length to convince you that you cannot find rest in anything that this world has to offer. No matter what we put our trust in apart from God, we will find an uneasiness that will not abate until we return in obedience to Christ. The believer’s rest is found in Christ alone (Hebrews 4:1-11). Nothing else will satisfy, and you will find no hope of rest with the vanities of this world. God uses the circumstances in your life to your ultimate good, Christ-likeness. His desire is for you to love Him more than you love the things of this world (1 John 2:15) and He will use difficult circumstances to wean you from the things of this world.
Before I went to seminary my wife and I were doing well financially. I had a good paying job and my wife did as well. It is funny to thing about know how we used to say that we didn’t have any money. God used our time in seminary to show us how little we could live off of and what was truly important.
3. To Convict You of Sin
Thomas Boston states,
“As when one walking heedlessly is suddenly taken ill of a lameness: his going halting the rest of his way convinces him of having made a wrong step; and every new painful step brings it afresh to his mind. What the sinner would otherwise be apt to overlook, forget, or think light of, is by this means recalled to mind, set before him as an evil and bitter thing, and kept in remembrance, that his heart may every now and then bleed for it afresh.”
God gives a person difficult circumstances to convince him of the wrong choice he has made, or course he has taken. How often has God used a difficult circumstance in our own lives to remind us of some past sin. How many times to you think Jacob remembered his own deceit in regards to father Isaac and his brother Esau? Surely many times over as he worked to pay for his bride Rachel for 14 years after being deceived by his father in law Laban (Genesis 29:21-29).
If you are a Christian, God will use difficult circumstances to convict you of your sin. What you would otherwise take lightly, or overlook, or merely explain away, He shows you exactly what it is: an affront to a Holy God. Difficult circumstances are not brought upon us by chance, or bad luck. They come to us through the design and providence of Almighty God. As you feel the weight and conviction for your sin, remember that there is propitiation for your sin in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
4. To Correct or Discipline You
Jeremiah 2:19: “Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you.” Though the act of sin was a passing action, and may not have lasted long, the consequences for the sin may pain the person for a long time. Think of the circumstances of King David. His sin with Bathsheba and killing of Uriah had lasting consequences for himself and his family. Psalm 99:8 says in regard to God’s discipline,
“O LORD our God, You answered them;
You were a forgiving God to them,
And yet an avenger of their evil deeds.”
And Hebrews 10:3 “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The key to these difficult circumstances is how we respond to them. Hebrews 12:5, says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” You must not become discouraged if you are undergoing difficulty. You must first ask yourself if this is the discipline of the Lord in response to some sin in my life. Just as a loving earthly father cares for his children by disciplining them, so too the Father disciplines His children. As a father, I can tell you that my goal in disciplining my son is to teach him obedience and help guard him from harm. I love my son and have his best interests at heart. How much more does our loving Heavenly Father have our best interests at heart. When our circumstances are difficult, it is not the result of bad luck or some cosmic force. It is our loving Father.
Hebrews 12:7-11 says this:
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
5. To Prevent You From Committing Sin
Many a circumstance has come along in our lives that has helped us to avoid a particular area of struggle within our own hearts. Like a fence put up to keep out wild animals, so God puts up barriers to the restrain the impulses of our flesh. A particular temptation of this world may appear especially enticing, until God uses our circumstances to peel back the shine on the temptation so that we may see it as it truly is. Much sin is prevented by God using providential circumstances in our lives. Boston says, “Everyone knows what is most pleasant to him; but God alone knows what is most profitable.” God uses circumstances to protect His children from themselves, their own pride and lusts. When you look at the difficult circumstances that you are in, remember that the alternative may be far worse.
6. To Reveal Latent Sin Deep With Your Heart
There are some sins which lie on the surface of the heart that you can easily know. These are the things that you are in constant battle against in your daily Christian life. Other sins are hidden deep within the recesses of your heart and must be worked on to get them to rise to the surface. Just as a fire causes some things on the bottom of the pot to rise to the surface, so also do difficult times in one’s life reveal the sin hidden deep down. These things do not happen by accident. There is no “accident” when it comes to the life of the believer.
7. To Awaken You From Laziness So That You Exercise Yourself in Grace
Through the remaining corruption of the flesh, a believer is liable to fits of spiritual laziness and inactivity. Through the circumstances that God brings about in a person life the believer is challenged to exercise the spiritual disciplines and shake off the rust that has accumulated through inactivity. The Providence of God works greatly to stagger the believer till he has no choice but to go to God in prayer and seek counsel from the word of God. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says,
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
Boston says difficult circumstances “gives rise to acts of faith, hope, love, self-denial, resignation, and other graces; to many heavenly breathings, partings, and groaning, which otherwise would not be brought forth.”
God often works in ways that we cannot fully understand, and won’t this side of heaven. We can rack our brains, with reason and logic, to try to understand why this happened and for what purpose, yet ultimately it comes down to bowing the knee to our Sovereign Lord and accepting our circumstances in faith. Do you trust your God to do what is in your best interest by the means He deems necessary?
There is no mystical force that is controlling your destiny. This isn’t Star Wars, and your last name is not Skywalker. Remember, difficult circumstances are not the result of bad luck either. I pray that Thomas Boston’s words have been helpful to you today. God is in control of all things, working them to His goals and according to His will.
What is the advantage of knowing and understanding God’s providence in all things? The Heidelberg Catechism says this, “That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which hereafter may befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father…”