Back in May I wrote a blog post titled “Expecting the Unexpected” (click here for post). That particular post was on the topic of “serendipity”—making fortunate discoveries by accident. And that’s exactly what happened to me when I stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Houston, TX, on August 26th during my recent trip there (see my blog post, “Rock Steady” for details). This post is a different twist on the same idea, so let me start it off with a devotion I read this morning by Dr. Charles Swindoll:
Expect the Unexpected
Most folks I know like things to stay as they are. You’ve heard all the sayings that reveal our preferences for the familiar: Leave well enough alone. I don’t like surprises. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Stay with a sure thing.
We admire pioneers . . . so long as we can just read about them, not finance their journeys. We applaud explorers . . . but not if it means we have to load up and travel with them. Creative ideas are fine . . . but “don’t get carried away,” we warn. Plans that involve risks prompt worst-case scenarios from the lips of most who wait in the wings.
Don’t misunderstand. Just because the plan is creative is no guarantee that stuff won’t backfire. On the contrary, surprises and disappointments await anyone who ventures into the unknown.
But the fact is, the alternative is worse. Can anything be worse than boredom? Is there an existence less challenging and more draining than the predictable? I don’t think so.
More importantly, God doesn’t seem to think so either. As I read through the biblical accounts of His working in the lives of His people, the single thread that ties most of the stories together is the unexpected. Need some examples?
After aging Abraham finally got the son God had promised to him, after he cultivated a father-son bond closer than words could describe, after fixing his hopes on all that God had said He would do through that boy to whom Sarah gave birth, God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain.
Even though the prophet Hosea had lived righteously before his Lord and had been faithful to his wife, Gomer, she left their home and family and became a harlot in the streets of Israel. God’s instructions? Go find her and remarry her.
When it came time for God to send His Son to earth, He did not send Him to the palace of some mighty king. He was conceived in the womb of an unwed mother–a virgin!–who lived in the lowly village of Nazareth.
In choosing those who would represent Christ and establish His church, God picked some of the most unusual individuals imaginable: unschooled fishermen, a tax collector(!), a mystic, a doubter, and a former Pharisee who had persecuted Christians. He continues to pick some very unusual persons down through the ages. In fact, He seems to delight in such surprising choices to this very day.
So, let God be God. Expect the unexpected.
God likes surprises. Breaking molds is His specialty.
As I read it I was reminded of a passage from I Corinthians 1:26-31 (MSG): “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, ‘If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.’”
I think of the Apostle Paul, who was a former Pharisee (known as Saul of Tarsus) who persecuted Christians and then met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road and his life (and way of life) was forever changed. By using his own words his life after meeting his Savior was not easy. Read with me his own account in I Corinthians 11:23-33:
“I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
“And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.
“If I have to ‘brag’ about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus knows I’m not lying. Remember the time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted guards at the city gates to arrest me? I crawled through a window in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.”
As we can see, Paul’s life after meeting Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road was anything but easy, and after his last arrest–according to Christian tradition–Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero around the mid-60s AD (quote source here).
In our society of celebrity worship, the Apostle Paul would never have made it into that category. Indeed, the religious folks in his time (the Pharisees) tried to shut him up and kill him. Yet God used him powerfully in the most trying and difficult of circumstances to establish the church and write a good portion of the New Testament. But the only time he was ever close to achieving celebrity status was prior to meeting Jesus Christ when he was still a Pharisee and connected to the religious establishment at that time.
As Christians, that should give us pause for thought about how we live our own lives and what we seek after in this life. Of course, there was only one Apostle Paul, but he clearly shows us the way in his own life and in his letters to the early church how we should live this life in Christ. And it’s not seeking all of the “stuff” that our society glamorizes and worships . . .
. . . which brings me back to the Red Roof Inn where I met a man that I call “Red” (see my post “Rock Steady” for details). In a brief conversation with his adult daughter in the lobby of the hotel while he was at the check-in counter, she mentioned–among other things like the fact that he was single and couldn’t seem to find a woman who wanted to stick around–that he used to be a pastor. And shortly thereafter, I had a brief conversation with him and discovered that he was a “logger” from Louisiana, and I got the impression he almost felt apologetic about it as he quickly added, “but I make good money.” And I felt bad that he thought his occupation might not impress me.
As I looked into his eyes (the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a man), I told him what people think about his occupation doesn’t matter–and it certainly didn’t matter to me (I wish I would have added that people are not what they do for a living, but who they are at the very core of their being). And then I told him that I had been unemployed for the past three plus years and that I was now 60 which didn’t help matters. And then I wondered if he thought I was too old for him to be interested in. Sigh . . . .
Nobodies . . . a logger from Louisiana and a 60-year-old unemployed woman from Florida who met very briefly (by his vehicle, actually) in Houston at the Red Roof Inn. I don’t know if I’ll ever meet him again, but I’d like to . . . .
In an article by Dr. David Jeremiah on Christianity.com titled, “God Uses ‘Nobodies’,” he states, “God uses things which are foolish, things which are weak, things which are base, things which are despised.” He goes on to say, “God wants to take us down to the very depths of ourselves to teach us that if there is any power, it is the power that is in God, and not in us. God doesn’t need to make us into performers or superstars in order to use us. Instead, He’s looking for men and women who have hearts that say, ‘Lord, I’m a nobody. I’m nothing without You. Will You use me?’ When God finds such a heart, something extraordinary happens–that ‘nobody’ is promoted to the ranks of God’s nobility.”
So if you feel like a nobody, you’re in an excellent place to be used by God.
Expect the unexpected . . . .
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
YouTube Video: “What If” by Colbie Caillat (from the movie, “Letters to Juliet”–2011):