It was a December day in 1931, crisp and cool in New York City. Absent-mindedly, a man stepped off the curb to cross Fifth Avenue. Although preoccupied with his thoughts, he had checked for traffic first, and saw no cars coming. One step…and the next moment the car he had not seen plowed into him at 30 mph (48 kph). He was nearly killed; he suffered serious head and thigh injuries, and needed to spend a number of weeks in bed recuperating. His description of the accident was, “I do not understand why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry.” Thankfully, he recovered. He later said that by all rights he should have been killed but was spared for some reason. He had not seen the car bearing down on him because when he checked for traffic, he looked to the right, not the left. After all, he was a Brit. Had he been killed, England would never have heard the rousing, life-sustaining, galvanic voice that administered the verbal CPR it so sorely needed during WW 2; and the world would never have heard that bulldog-like voice growling “We shall never surrender”. That is because the man who tried to cross 5th Avenue, who checked the traffic coming from the right, who was almost killed, who was “spared for some reason”, was, of course, Winston Churchill.
Without a doubt Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was one of the greatest leaders Britain, if not the world, ever saw. When he rose to speak in Parliament, bored MPs on break rushed back to their seats because they had heard “Winnie’s up”. They knew that not only would there be a substantive speech, but that it likely would involve the evisceration of an opposing Member of Parliament who would be drawn and quartered by nothing more than Churchill’s cerebral logic, acerbic wit, and trenchant words. And there would be nothing subtle about it! Someone once wrote that “Churchill used metaphors like weapons of mass destruction.” The inevitable fate of his political foes was “death by metaphor”.
However, in the first election held after the war, Churchill was ousted from office. His well-meaning wife, Clementine, famously suggested that perhaps his election loss was “a blessing in disguise.” Snorted Churchill, “At the moment, it seems quite effectively disguised.”
A lot of things in life seem “quite effectively disguised”. Frequently, if not perennially, they seem disguised because we cannot see beyond today. But many times, those indecipherable events are not haphazard occurrences but are God’s doings, as He “works His sovereign will” and accomplishes His wise purposes. This is why Cowper chose the word “mysterious” when he described how God works and added that “blind unbelief” will not only err but will “scan His work in vain”.
However, it is not only sightless unbelievers who can err, but befuddled believers as well. There is only one Person Who can truthfully say He declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa 46:10). In Acts 15, in the midst of circumstances that had confused a number of believers, James incisively stated, “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
The scriptures supply us with numerous examples of believers who experienced their own personal Gordian knots of gnarled and perplexing problems.
- Had we been Jacob, would we have thought that Joseph’s “death” could possibly be “for good?”
- Had we been Joseph, would we have imagined that slavery, false accusations, and prison could work together for good?
- Had we been Amram and Jochebed, (likely convinced that the way for their people to be free was for Moses to take the throne and liberate them), could we have foreseen that his refusal to reign and his flight to Midian was the very best thing?
- Were we Gideon, watching his platoons being pared; or the widow Naomi, limping back to Bethlehem after burying her boys; or David, having his psalms wrenched from his heart as he ran from Saul; or Esther, fearfully planning her meals while Haman plotted her death – had we been any of these believers, would we have “scanned His work” and been certain that it was really God who was at work and not the enemy?
Today, a 1000 questions and concerns plague our minds: When we emerge from our hibernation caves and poke our heads up from our gopher holes, how will the landscape have changed? What will school be like for our children when all this is over? What about the safety of public transportation…School buses…shopping centres…crowded venues? What about the numerous shuttered businesses and the vast numbers of jobless people? What will Gospel work be like? How will we be able to safely conduct Sunday school work? For that matter, how will we be able to safely transport children? Will a vaccine be found that will calm the fears of the populace and return us to some semblance of normalcy, just as the effects of the long-ago 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic seemed absent from our world 3 months ago?
I will not accuse you of the same mistake I often make, so I will confess that I am the one who needs to remember this: When God allows what seems to be a terrible misfortune to happen, and the enemies of God – or even the enemy of God – use it as a weapon to further their or his nefarious plans, I need to remember that none of this catches God by surprise or requires He suddenly spring into action and adjust His plans to this new, unforeseen development. Nothing “catches” Omniscience by surprise or is suddenly sensed by Omnipresence. Like the story of the servant who despised his master and, in a fit of rage chopped down one of his trees to spite him – only to discover that, just that moment, the master had been making plans to have the tree chopped down (and therefore the hateful servant ended up accomplishing the master’s purpose) – God is able to turn His enemies’ weapons against themselves. He even knows ahead of time what, in their blind hatred of Him, they will try, and He moves them sovereignly to the right “tree”. All their efforts only accomplish what His hand and His counsel “determined before to be done” (Acts 4:28).
During the reign of the woman whom history would know as “Bloody Mary”, a preacher of the Gospel was captured and dragged to London to be burned at the stake. On the way, his captors treated him so roughly that they broke one of his legs. Because they knew he often preached on “all things working together for good”. they mockingly said, “All things, eh? How will a broken leg work for your good?” He answered, “I don’t know, but for my good I know it will work, and you shall see it so.” And it proved to be true; his broken leg slowed them down as they traveled and they arrived in London later than planned and just in time to hear that Mary was dead and Elizabeth was queen; the persecution of believers was over! He turned to the men who had carried him, as they had imagined, to his death, and said to them, “Now will you believe that all things work together for good?”
We are ignorant of what a day may bring forth. But our God is omniscient, all-prescient, all-knowing. We are powerless to stop the flood of evil. But our God is omnipotent, all-powerful, Almighty. We are finite and limited as to our helping or having an impact for good. But our God is all-present, He is omnipresent. I am sure we are worried – worried for our spouses, for our children, for our grandchildren, for the Lord’s people, for the Lord’s assemblies, for the Lord’s work, for our nation. But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We only have today and can trust God for tomorrow. It is a Sovereign God, not serendipitous events, that controls all things. We’ll all sleep much better if we remember that Omniscience knows, Omnipresence sees, Omnipotence can, and Love will, work “all things” after the counsel of HIS own will. He Who made “all things”, upholds “all things”, is over “all things”, and gives “all things” to His beloved people is invincibly, incomparably, infallibly able to make “all things” work together for good to them that love God” – for You!
He treasures up His bright designs and works His sov’reign will.
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.