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Surprised by God

Surprised by God

Yesterday I led a day long conference on using the Vision Frame as a planning tool for the Tottenham Church of God in London. I spoke in their service today and did a second session in the afternoon about Turning vision into reality. In the message I asked the question, Do you like surprises? Of course, the answer is, it depends on the kind of surprise. If someone gives you a gift you value unexpectedly, if someone you love comes to see you, if someone compliments your work or you get an unexpected raise--yes, you like those surprises. But if things don't go as you hoped or you are disappointed by a sudden turn of events--no, you don't like that surprise.

John the Baptist had both kind of surprises. He got to baptize the Messiah, the very Son of God. He heard the voice of God say, This is my beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased! He witnessed the Trinity all in action at the same time because he also saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove. That is pretty big time for a man who told Jesus he wasn't worthy to baptize him. 

But he also had a disappointing surprise. After preaching that when the Messiah came he would put his ax to the root of the tree, he would come with his winnowing fork in his hand and he would come with judgment and fire. He was probably quite sure that the Messiah would begin his ministry by ushering in the Golden Age of Israel and put the Romans in their place. Imagine his surprise when Herod captured John and threw him in prison because he objected to Herod's adultery. This wasn't how it was supposed to play out! 

So in Matthew 11 John, the very one who'd baptized Jesus, sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he really was the Messiah. It is interesting, isn't it, how when bad things happen that we don't expect how quickly doubt seems to set it. Why is it that we doubt God instead of questioning our assumptions. 

Jesus didn't condemn John to his disciples. He simply quoted scripture from Isaiah. I'm sure that he knew John knew the same scripture. The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf are hearing and the dead are being raised to life. In a sense he said to John, all the answers you need are the in the scriptures you already know. You already know the answer you simply need to return to God's word and it will come clear to you. 

Then Jesus added, And blessed is the one who isn't offended by me. Another way to say that is, I'm God and if I choose to work in a different way than you expected don't doubt me or be offended my me. After saying that He went on to compliment John. 

I think this story applies to everyone of us at some point in time. Which of us hasn't been surprised because Jesus didn't choose our way. Our way usually has us at the center of the story. Jesus way usually points to God and gives his the glory. He is a specialist in the come-back story. He is a God of redemption. Think about it, for the blind to see, first someone has to be blind. For the lame to walk someone has to be lame and so forth about everything he said. 

This means that when you have difficulty in your life you are a candidate for a miracle. God is honored when we are weak but we succeed because He is strong. It also means that He might use our best for a time but then have a different plan for another season. In John's case after John sent his disciples to Jesus, Herod had John beheaded. John had told his disciples, "I must decrease and He must increase." But evidently John didn't think he would end up in prison judging by the question he asked of Jesus.

Today if you doubt God loves you or has your best in mind I want you to doubt your doubts; don't doubt the word or character of God. He may allow things that you don't expect or that hurt you but ultimately He goal is to use you to glorify the Father. You don't get to pick the way He chooses to use you. But you can pick whether you will stubbornly hold on to your offense or give it up for the greater good. One day there will be a home in heaven with Jesus when everything you give up temporarily here will be restored. You might want your life to be prolonged but it will end someday and on that day you can't take anything with you. Why not surrender it all right now?

I've taken to praying a prayer that goes like this, God, you can use me in strength or in weakness, in very public ways or hidden ways, to do great things or small things my prayer is that You get the glory. I need to regularly check my assumptions and completely surrender to God's best will. Things might not go the way I prefer them to but working with God instead of working with Him is the only way to go. 

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