By Diane Howard, Ph.D.
God’s ways not our ways. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” In fact, from our point of view our God’s ways are full of ironies and paradoxes. He says that in our weakness we find His strength. Paul says in II Corinthians 12:8-10, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong…”
We learn from the Bible that even when others are wrongly motivated against us, God works it for good. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph, who was wrongly and harshly treated says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
The scriptures tell us that God works all for good. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers…”
Jesus told His disciples that they did not realize at the time what God was doing. John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
This is still true for us today.
God said to His people that He had good plans for them. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “‘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. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you…’”
This is also still true for His people today.
We can rejoice in trials because we know that God is working His good will in us. James 1:3-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…”
An example of God’s ironies and paradoxes today is the fact that although church buildings are closed due to chronavirus quarantine guidelines, churches who are now videostreaming into all the world may be reaching more for Christ than they did before the quarantine.
For example, in a section of a recent Dennison Forum newsletter, entitled “Hope Has a Name”, the following is reported: Greg Laurie’s congregation, Harvest Christian Fellowship, had an online audience of around 8,000 per week before the pandemic. The first week after they were forced to worship exclusively online, their audience skyrocketed to 250,000. The following week, 350,000 tuned in. The week after, the audience grew to 634,000. Last Sunday, they had 1.3 million people watching their livestream. Even more significantly, his church over the last four weeks has seen more than 21,000 people indicate their desire to put their faith in Jesus for salvation.
Laurie is praying that God is using the pandemic to spark a spiritual awakening in our day. His article closes: “We will get through this crisis. We just don’t know how long it will take. But we know this: we are not alone. Hope has a name, and it’s Jesus Christ who loves each and every one of us and longs for a relationship with us. So, hold on to hope. Hold on to Him.” (Hopefully, once we are able to meet again in our churches, we will all also continue to reach more and more with videostreaming and other communication technologies).
Therefore, as it says in I Peter 1: 3-9, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”