God Is Not Random
In one way or another, most of us think in terms of cause and effect. If we do A, then we should get B. Surprises are great when it is something good, but not too many people are fond of them when they’re not. We usually prefer knowing what we can expect. This also holds in the arena of ministry to others, but there always seems to be some unexpected circumstance or unexpected outcome. From a human perspective, it sometimes seems that everything is operating in a random manner. Yet, when we look at all God has created, we see nothing but order and perfection—at least until mankind gets involved.
I am currently scheduled to go to one of the jails here in Colorado every Friday and teach the Lessons for Life course. At this one jail for the last several weeks, I had been trying to teach the lesson on anger management, but for one reason or another, the class wouldn’t happen. The first time it was called off due to some internal issues within the jail. The next time snow and ice forced us to reschedule. The third time there were sixteen men who signed up for the class, but only three showed up. Smaller classes are never a deterrent because I’m happy to talk to even one person if that is all that attends. However, I generally find that when this sort of situation occurs, that since a group is so small, the men are more willing to open up. As a result, we will often times skip the lesson and spend the meeting talking about what’s gone on in their individual lives, including how they ended up in jail, what they believe God is trying to teach them, and what their plans are for when they are released.
This last week, we tried for anger management again, but we had eleven men show up, and eight of them were new. They didn’t know anything about me or the class they had signed up for. Typically, when there are so many new people, I like to tell them a little about myself, our ministry, and develop some rapport. This in turn often leads to questions and discussion. It also helps the men be more receptive to returning for lessons down the road. With eight new men in the class, this exercise would likely eat up our entire time, which meant we would have to postpone anger management yet again.
But as I was about to move away from the lesson, I had a stronger thought, Skip the rapport building, and dig right into anger management. And that’s what I did. I dove right into the lesson. A huge part of the theme is based on the following verses.
Ephesians 4:26 (NKJV)
26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.
Romans 12:19 (NLT)
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
This led to some great questions and lively discussion from everyone. Our time seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, the meeting was over. Although I sensed it had gone well, there was still a little question in the back of my mind as to why I felt so strongly that I should push forward with the lesson over the rapport building. I thought we could have been just as productive this week by getting to know each other, and then do anger management next time.
As the men began to file out of the room, one of them pulled me aside. His voice was shaking, and he was on the verge of tears as he said, “That lesson today was for me. I get out on Monday, and I had a plan for revenge. The result would have ruined their life and probably mine as well. Thank you for coming here today. I’m not going to take revenge. I’m going to turn it over to God.”
While driving home from the jail, I began to reflect upon how the timing worked out for this man, on this day, with this lesson. God is not random. Perhaps we should stop dreading uncertainties, surprises, and learn to just trust Him more. It just might be He knows what He’s doing.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.