Monday, March 19, 2012

What's Luck Got to Do with It?

I (Cathy) had the honor of speaking at the Spring Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) Rally in Ramstein on Saturday. This was a regional rally so there were ladies from Ramstein AFB, Daenner, Baumholder, Heidelberg, Weisbaden, and Spangdahlem.

Since the rally was on St. Patrick's Day, I was asked to speak on "luck". At first I wasn't sure about the topic, but the more I meditated on the idea, I got excited about it. I was given two sessions and so I spoke on two different aspects about luck.

According to Webster, the definition of luck is “a force that brings good fortune or adversity”. As I was preparing for my teaching, I wasn’t surprised to learn that there is no reference to luck in the Bible. But, I did learn that there are actually 26 references to casting lots to make adecision. Many of us know the messianic prophecy that is fulfilled when the guards “cast lots” to see who would get Jesus’ clothes. How about the reference in Acts where after prayer, the disciples have Judas’ replacement narrowed downto two fellows and the cast lots to make the final decision between Joseph andMatthias – the luck of the dice chose Matthias.

Proverbs 16:33 states "We may throw the dice but the LORD determines how they fall." Here in lies the truth….the Lord determines how the dice fall,every decision is from the Lord. We spent our time looking at two things: (1) there is no such thing as luck, God is in control and He is sovereign and (2) what do we do with this idea of being“lucky”, blessed, fortunate.

We began examining the idea of God's sovereignty. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines sovereignty as“Gods absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure.” If someone is sovereign, he is in control, the buck stop with him. God claims to be the king, not just of this planet, but of the entire universe. He is outside of time, He is infinite, He had no beginning, He has no end. He is the ruler over everything – you & me included.

Isaiah 46:9-10 states that “I am God and there is no counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Daniel proclaims “God does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stop him or say to him “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35 Job reminds us in 23:13-15 – but he is unchangeable and who can turn him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me?” Finally, Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” The Bible reveals throughout many passages that our God is sovereign and in control.

I don’t know about you, I find this to be great news! And here is why…I lack in many areas that God does not, and this is why His sovereignty is good news even when it doesn’t make sense to me. I find great comfort in understanding that life circumstances are not just coincidences, fate or luck. It is because God is in control and He is sovereign.

I can trust God’s sovereignty, because He is all knowing, all powerful, holy, just and loving. We may not understand things, but we can trust Him. When we have a loved one that has been diagnosed with a disease, we can rely on the truth that God is in control. When we think of our most difficult issues with our kids, we can rely on the truth that God is in control. When the economy – national or personal – in on a slide, God is in control. What about things that are going well in our life. We tend to focus on the trials more than the joys, but the truth is that nothing will enter your life – good or bad – that God does not either decree or allow. As Romans 8:28 states, my paraphrase, nothing will ever enter your life, that God cannot work out for your good. He is sovereign.

I understand this is a difficult idea to get our arms around. God who is in total control, is all-knowing, all-wise, infinite in His love. He is not surprised by what you & I are walking through in this moment of time. I don’t know what you may be walking through right now, good or bad, but , God isn’t surprised by your circumstances.

In the afternoon, we discussed what does it mean to be "lucky". I shared a story about an interchange between two friends of mine to help illustrate this point. In May 2004, Lou & I facilitated a short-term mission trip with 14 folks from our home church in Colorado to Mozambique. We joined about 10 folks from a South African church and went to a village called Manica. The missionary that we supported lived in Manica full-time, his name is Schalk. While we were there we met Mr. Short, one of Schalk’s best friend. We entered into a dialog between these two men that dealt with this idea of luck. Mr. Short considered another mutual friend "lucky" because he had an opportunity to receive an education and found a job in England. This allowed him to leave poverty. He got "lucky" in Mr. Short's opinion. It wasn't due to the fact that he had worked hard and studied hard. He just got the break.

We'll I got thinking about this idea. I'm a white woman, born into a middle class family, in the USA. I have an education, good health, a nice home, running water, heat, food. Am I lucky? Taking this into the discussion from the morning, I must admit I don't know how to reconcile the fact that our sovereign God chose me to be born in the United States and that the same God chose Mr. Short to be born in a war-torn, poverty stricken village in Mozambique.

I decided that I am blessed because I have the joy of walking with Christ and I am approved by God by no merit of my own. I contend that God created us for two reasons (1) enjoy a relationship with him and (2) to extend his glory to the ends of the earth. Simple enough. Enjoy his grace, extend his glory. As you study the Bible, see if you see these themes woven through God’s word: people enjoying His grace and people extending His glory. In the book Radical, by David Platt, he states “God is seen pouring out his grace and his people for the sake of his glory among all people, in every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history.”

Do you think that God no longer pours out his grace to us for the sake of his glory? I don’t. So how does this work. I believe we experience his outpouring of grace the moment we are reconciled with him through our relationship with Jesus. But shouldn’t His grace motivate us to participate in His purpose?

So, can I challenge you to wrap your arms around the idea that God might have a motive in blessing us? Platt states again “God creates, blesses and saves each of us for a radically global purpose.” This challenge is what is our part in this purpose? For Mr. Short, as a Christ follower, He has the opportunity radically change his village based on how God has gifted him and "blessed him". Just like I have the same opporutnity, to radically impact my world for the glory of Christ. But, because of our different status, different locations, different giftings -- God will call us differently.

As I have wrestled with the fact that my friend Mr. Short was born where he was born – through the sovereignty of God and I was born where I was born – through the sovereignty of God. I’m meditating on this idea of what do I do now? What is the responsibility that I have with my materially blessings that Mr. Short does not have because of his lack of materially blessings? How is God calling me to radically impact the world to bring glory to God? And what am I doing about that?

Maybe you are in a place where you a weak (physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally), maybe you are feeling helpless or engulfed in worry, remember God knows what you are going through, He will use this time to give you grace, to prod you to trust Him more and to learn that He is all sufficient. Maybe, you are just realized that God has ordained each of your days, they are unfolding in the way that He designed and planned. He has allowed you to go through hard times and trials, joys and laughter, so that He can make something beautiful out of every situation! God knows everything about you! Despite the good and the bad, we can take comfort that we are still blessed by God.

No matter what is going on in your life, God is in control and we can partner with Him to impact the world for His glory. I know we are all in different places and stages of life… I challenge you to walk away thinking about this truth. "God is in control and I’m blessed, what am I doing with my blessings?" I’m not necessarily just talking about materially blessings, but that might be what God is calling you to do - give monetarily. I’m talking about taking inventory of your life, and if you are a Christ follower, ask yourself this question how am I impacting my co-workers, my children, my husband, my hairdresser, my “whatever” to bring glory to Christ.

This isn’t about guilting you into something, this is about our heart attitude. Our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known: in our families, in our work place, in all nations. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. God has prepared you for good works, before the beginning of time. He was sovereign and had a plan for You to partner with Him in bringing glory to Him. Isn’t that exciting?

For me, as I have had the opportunity to see how some of the world lives and that I am truly “lucky”. God has provided for me in ways that are truly humbling and I have a responsibility to impact the world in a way to bring glory to God through those provisions. As I have seen human beings who have been less lucky or fortunate or blessed than me, I have realized it is easy to give and serve when I remember how I am in partnership with God. Whether that is giving more money away to help those that are in poverty, to take cookies to my ailing neighbor, to love my husband well, to leave a legacy of Christian values to my children.

Sometimes I partner with God through contribution, money. Sometimes I do this through service. Sometimes I do this through prayer. For me, this is the good news….that God is his sovereignty, in his wisdom, in his love has created me to enjoy a relationship with Him and to partner with Him to extend his glory to the ends of the earth. Will you join me? Ask yourself the question: What’s next for me now?

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