God’s Efficiency

God's plans are bestDuring my college years, students often ran short of cash. Credit cards were not as ubiquitous, Apple Pay had not been invented yet (Apple either, for that matter), and students in general did not have as much discretionary funds as they seem to today.

One situation stood out to me. The details are fuzzy after a few decades, but it seemed like a student needed laundry money. She hadn’t asked for help, but someone became aware and passed the need along. The information traveled through a handful of people before someone was found who had a little extra cash to give to the cause.

But what I remember most from the experience was wondering why God didn’t somehow make the need known to the one person who could help instead of having so many involved. Humanly speaking, it seemed like that would be more efficient. All I could conclude at the time was that those who knew the situation were also in on the blessing.

That may have been the first time I realized that God’s idea of efficiency is not the same as ours. You’ve probably heard the phrase “God is never late, but He is seldom early.” I’ve known many people waiting on funds for camp or mission trips or other needs who could testify to that, with the remaining money coming in at seemingly the last minute.

Another area where God’s way of doing things puzzles me involves time and interruptions. I get frustrated when I try to plan my schedule efficiently in order accomplish what I think He wants me to do, and then an interruption, delay, or snafu occurs. Didn’t He know those things were going to happen? Couldn’t He have directed my planning so as to avoid them? Sure. Then why didn’t He? I don’t know all the reasons, but perhaps one is to teach me the longsuffering I pray for. You can’t learn longsuffering with suffering long. You can’t learn patience without being put in a situation where patience is required.

Perhaps some delays are for our safety. Maybe not getting on the road on time despite all our best efforts kept us from an accident. An interesting, often overlooked passage occurs in Exodus 13, where the Israelites have just left Egypt. Verse 17 says, “ When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.'” So He took them the long way around—to the Red Sea. He knew the nearer way would have been too much for them. But that means He also knew that they should have been able to trust Him for what they would face when caught between Pharaoh’s army and the sea.

Probably another reason He allows interruptions is to remind us that people are more important than our tasks and plans.

Then there are other times we marvel at the series of seeming coincidences that can only point to God’s sovereign rule. When Rosalind Goforth narrowly escaped the Boxer rebellion in China, she hadn’t had time to pack clothes. Dear ladies nearby offered to sew for the family. They got everyone outfitted but the baby by the time the Goforths boarded their ship. Rosalind was exhausted and just could not sew another stitch. Then she got word that a package had been delivered for her: someone had sent her the clothes of her baby son who had passed away. None of these women knew the need, but God arranged their help and gifts at just the perfect time.

We rejoice in situations like that because we see how it ll worked out so marvelously. But we need to trust that God is also working things out when we can’t see it, or when it’s not happening like we thought it would.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21.

 We’ve heard Romans 8:28 so much that we’ve become numb to it. But we need to remind ourselves it is not a cliche: it’s a blessed truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things.

Even delays, disappointments, detours?

All things.

The gospels show Jesus being interrupted frequently. Yet He never lashed out at the interrupter. He was busy, but never frantic. He didn’t do everything that could have been done—there were still sick, blind, lame, needy people in Israel. But He could say, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

You’ve heard the phrase “God moves in mysterious ways.” Did you know that line came from a hymn by William Cowper? It goes like this:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

God’s idea of efficiency may be different from ours, but His efficiency for what He wants to accomplish in our hearts and lives is perfectly and lovingly planned and carried out.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Purposeful Faith,
InstaEncouragament, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee,
Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)

Learning from the Savior’s learned obedience

One of the verses in my Daily Light reading for this morning was Hebrews 5:8: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” The context for all the rest of the verses in today’s reading had to do with affliction, but that phrase about Jesus learning obedience arrested me, not for the first time. He had always obeyed the Father perfectly, but in Gethsemane  was the first time, as far as we know, that He prayed “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). So perhaps learning obedience had to do with obeying the Father’s will despite His own will? (There is more helpful commentary on this verse at the bottom of this page.)

One way in which this encourages me is to observe how the sinless Son of God obeyed and endured. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Our will and His will. It’s not necessarily wrong to struggle with God’s will. For us, more often that not, it usually is a problem of faith or obedience. People throughout Scripture have been called to do things that at first they didn’t want to do: Moses, Ananias, others.There are many times when God’s call to someone included encouragement that He would be with them and help them: Joshua, Jeremiah, Paul to name a few. These days people say you’ll know something is God’s will when you “have a peace” about it, but sometimes God’s will causes fear, trepidation, reluctance. Jesus asked, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me,” and then submitted His will to the Father’s: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” We can follow His example when we shrink from something He has called us to do. He was sinless, but we can pray and seek His Word to deal with any sinful issues we might have in regard to submitting to Him.

2. Remember our purpose. In John 12: 27, Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” The plan of redemption had been decided upon from the foundation of the world. I’m sure many of the people mentioned above had to go back to their calling and remind themselves of God’s purposes and promises when they were later in the thick of things.

3. Seek His glory. After saying, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour, Jesus said, “Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28). When we look at ourselves, our safety, our pain, our fears, our comfort, we shrink back: when we seek His glory we can find the purpose and strength we need.

4. Resist temptation with God’s Word. Satan tried to derail Jesus from His purpose, but Jesus resisted with God’s Word. We need to read and know His Word that we might do the same. Though He never sinned, we do fail, and thankfully God promises grace to forgive and help us. But he also wants us to be filled with His Word and grace and enabled to resist temptation thereby for His glory.

5. Remember the coming joy. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:2). I wonder what all was encompassed in that joy: perhaps having finished His course, pleasing His Father, being reunited with His Father and back home in heaven where all is right and no sin or sorrow dwells, providing the way for us to go there, too. And that leads us to…

6. Look beyond the momentary to the eternal. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Are there any other ways in which Jesus’ obedience encourages your own?

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16