A man and his only child lived alone on their farm. They were poor and had one horse that they used for multiple purposes. One day the horse ran off. The people stopped by and said they were so sorry for his bad situation. Bad situation/good situation who knows? A few days later the horse returned to the coral leading a whole herd of wild horses. The people stopped by and congratulated him on his good situation. Good situation/bad situation, who knows? The next day his son went out to break on of the horses and it threw him to the ground. He broke his arm. The people stopped by and said they were so sorry for his bad situation. Bad situation/good situation, who knows? Later that week, the army commander came through the village conscripting young men to go fight in a war. He looked at the man’s son, saw his broken arm, and walked away. The people stopped by and congratulated him on his good situation. Good situation/bad situation, who knows?
We are prone to form opinions about our circumstances without having sufficient information. We label things as bad or good before we even know how things will turn out. We make up our minds often on first observation, a quick glance then we sum up what we think by how things appear. We have no perspective of what God intends to do.
A little boy was playing in his backyard. A tall, wooden fence surrounded the yard. He heard sounds he had never heard before and ran to the fence and looked through a knothole. He saw an elephant walking by. He ran into the house and told his mom. She said go back and see what else you can see. He did and saw a lion in a cage. He ran back the house and told his mom. She said go back and see what else you can see. He did and saw a clown. He ran back to his mom and told her. She walked with him back the fence. Instead of looking through the knothole, she lifted him up and he saw the whole circus parade.
It’s amazing how perspective can affect our opinion.
Micah, one of the minor prophets, was telling Judah of their impending downfall. They would be taken captive soon, yet, all the while the people felt nothing like that could possibly happen. They doubted, some even denied God would ever let something like that happen to them. Micah said:
Micah 4:12 "But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, and they do not understand His purpose;
In other words, they had no perspective. Through the knothole, everything they saw was fine. They formed their opinion from what they saw and by what they saw, they had everything figured out. But God had other plans.
It’s easy to forget God has plans when we don’t see God in what’s going on.
John 11:20-28 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister,
John 11:34, 38-40 Jesus said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
When did He say this? There’s no record of Him having said it in this story. It must have been in a section of conversation that got left out. Perhaps after He said: he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Then said: if you believe this, you will see the glory of God.
Martha, if you believe God is involved in your life, you’ll see Him in this situation. If you don’t, you probably won’t. I’ll show you God at work through Me. I will display the power and presence of God. In what I do, you will see God at work.
What was that promise supposed to do? Give her hope – a feeling of expectation that something is going to happen. These weren’t empty promises. “Martha, God is at work, right now, in this moment. Though you don’t see it, I guarantee it is happening. If you will believe Me, you’ll see the power and presence of God. Martha, there’s your hope.”
What are the words of Way Maker? Even when I don't see it, You're working. Even when I don't feel it, You're working. You never stop. You never stop working.
That was the song Elisha was singing when he asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see what God was doing in their behalf and God showed him the angels surrounding them.
But Martha couldn’t see beyond her sadness. She had nothing to help her even imagine something good could come from this. What, now, could Jesus do? Throughout the illness she had hoped Jesus would get there in time to help. As long as Lazarus was alive, there was still a possibility everything would work out. Then Lazarus died and took that possibility with him into his tomb. But Jesus wasn’t done yet. Martha couldn’t see it because she only saw what had happened. Jesus hadn’t brought God’s plan out into the open yet.
It is easy to forget God has plans when we can’t see those plans.
Admittedly, the plans of God aren’t always the first things we look for in a crisis. Or even second or third. In fact, we may not look for them at all. But they’re there. Fulfilling the intentions of God in our lives.
Job’s first reaction to his trials – why? Years ago, the Lakers were in the playoffs. Magic Johnson blew out his knee. You could watch his expression and read his lips. He said: Why me? Why now?
Job’s second reaction – this is unjustified. I don’t deserve this. And the more he looked at his problems, the angrier he became.
He took offense at what God wasn’t doing, that he felt like God should be doing. He never considered what God actually was doing. God was working on a plan.
Jer 29:11-13 For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. [Unless things get too hard for Me. Unless the bad gets too much out of control. Unless I can’t figure out what go do.] Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
What’s God saying? It’s not the specifics of the plan that gives you hope. It’s knowing I have plans for you that gives you hope. We’re not just hoping for a favorable outcome. We hope for God’s best.
- I have plans for you.
- They are good plans.
- The result of my plans connects you with your future.
- Knowing I have good plans for you will give you something to hang onto while I work out all the details.
- Keep your eyes on Me in all that’s going on. I’m here and will let you see what you need to see when you need to see it.
Hope is anticipating what God is doing, not just that things will get better. Not how we’d like our bad situation to become good, not how we want things to work out, but knowing God’s best is coming.
Hope requires waiting. Jesus told His disciples: wait for what the Father has promised.
Rom 8:24-25 But hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In our impatience, we want to hurry up and get the project finished. Let’s get this over with so we can enjoy the outcome. That’s like going into travel mode. I remember when we’d drive from Las Vegas to here for vacation, I only wanted to get the trip over with, rarely did I enjoy the journey. But there are amazing things along the way.
James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
Joy is designed for the whole process, not just the end when the trials are over. To James, we don’t withhold our joy until everything is fine. Why? Because it’s the process of the trials that keep us actively believing God is at work. So, if the trial continues, we don’t give up, but, instead, we hang on, since He’s not finished yet. If He isn’t finished yet, we keep hoping.
Israel needed some serious reworking which they would not cooperate with. It was deep-seated and couldn’t be fixed overnight. They revolted against what they saw as God messing up their lives. They demanded He just leave them alone. We’re fine like we are. We can manage on our own.
God said through Isaiah: Isa 29:15-16 Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say, "Who sees us?" or "Who knows us?" You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?
He said the same thing to Jeremiah: Jer 18:2-6 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.
Paul saw it, too: Rom 9:20-21 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
We have to accept God’s right to process His best into our lives. The longer we resist, the more time we may have to spend on the potter’s wheel.
It is easy to forget God has plans when we aren’t sure we want those plans.
Knowing God has plans for us gives us the foundation of our hope. David looked at his life. He was overwhelmed by how things were going. Then wrote: Ps 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
Believe and you will see the glory of God. Remember what God’s glory brings? The power and presence of God. It’s the evidence God is here and involved in this moment. By believing that, we can anticipate the result of His plans. Hope is the assurance God is in the process of accomplishing His plans.
That’s why we can’t lean on our own understanding. Our understanding can be wrong. The picture through knothole can be confusing.
Habakkuk couldn’t imagine God would work His plans through using the Babylonians. He told God so. And even when God told him what He would accomplish as a result, Habakkuk said, “God, Your plans are wrong. This isn’t good.” But finally, he came the ultimate surrender:
Hab 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord GOD is my strength,
That’s not just an, “Oh well, whatever.” That’s a moment of deliberately placing his life into the hands of God and trusting Him for the outcome. It requires faith, that in spite of how things look, I will hope in my God.
I know we’ve all asked the questions: Where is God in Covid? Why did God allow our church to get flooded? How can God be in the decision for Doc to leave? How can there be something good come out of all this bad?
Those are the kind of questions that come from looking through the knothole. If we take a snapshot of a single moment, believing that snapshot tells the whole story, we will become discouraged and doubt God’s faithfulness. We have to seek out God’s perspective. We have to rise above the fence and see the bigger picture.
Or we will forget: the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Prov 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the bad.
We may not see it, but it’s there. Somehow in all of this, and in everything else going on in our lives, God has a purpose. Even in what now looks bad, God will bring about a good result. How can I say that? I’m standing in the middle of what was once a disaster. Looking at a group of people who are surviving Covid.
Isa 25:1 O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
God has plans for us. God has plans for you. So, how do we live?
- In unwavering joy, with constant, inexplainable peace that passes understanding.
- With gratitude and thankfulness, praising God in all things.
- Always choosing to hope, that though I can’t see His plans, I know He has plans for me.
- God’s simplest, yet most violated command is: trust Me.
- We will trust in our limited perception, incomplete information and tainted judgment before we trust Him.
- Trust requires surrendering our opinion to Him.
- It is demonstrated when we want what God wants.
- Which makes His plans the most important factor in what’s going one and the foundation of our hope.