Pause for thought
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I hear it time and time again.

I sometimes wonder if those saying it really believe what they’re saying is actually true or whether they’re whistling past the graveyard as a sign of bravado.

It usually crops up when some particularly evil thing happens unchecked or there is a horrible natural disaster or a personal tragedy that leaves us shaking our heads and asking why God did not step in and prevent it. It could be the election of government officials who blatantly oppose what everyone knows are wholesome christian principles. It is usually phrased as “God is still in control!”, except that the visible evidence seems to point to the contrary.

As a person of faith, my answer to these situations is always that none of this is a surprise to God. Although He has to be consistent with his nature having granted us free will, he is still working everything together for good for those who love Him — see Romans 8:28. So, yes, God is (ultimately) in control, but we do well to look for the ways in which He is working for our good in these situations.

It’s always been that way, starting in the Garden of Eden.

When the created beings with free will decided to choose a path outside God’s will, He put in place a contingency plan to ultimately reconcile the creation with creator. That plan involved an extreme act of love that involved sacrificing part of Himself in the person of Jesus so that you and I could be intimately involved in His glory without the taint of sin getting in the way.

I won’t explicitly quote John’s Gospel chapter three and verses sixteen and seventeen here since I’m pretty sure you know them by heart (if you don’t, look them up and learn them by heart!), but those verses succinctly summarize God’s working for the good of mankind.

And still we manage to mess it up!

Some of the saddest and yet most hopeful verses in the Gospels can be found at the beginning of John’s Gospel:

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John 1:10-13 NLT

“He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” These were the people who had been looking for and expecting a promised Messiah for literally hundreds of years. They could quote the prophecies verbatim from the literature and writings of their prophets, but they had decided what abilities and characteristics he should have, and despite all the evidence from their scriptures they decided that Jesus didn’t match their expectations!

How does God “win” in this scenario? Read on in John’s description, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”.

God is not surprised! The big surprise is that the word translated as “all” above does not mean “all Jews” but “all mankind”! (I leave it as an exercise to my readers who read Greek to check that it is so!)

God knows, and is saddened by, this rejection of his love and glory, but his purposes are more expansive than that.

In his earthly ministry, Jesus instructed his disciples on how to deal with obstinate, stubborn people who willfully reject the good news:

“But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” Mark 6:11 NLT

Basically Jesus is saying, “do your best, if they won’t listen, move on!”

A similar situation arose with Paul:

‘And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. But when they opposed and insulted him, Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, “Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” ‘ Acts 18:5-6 NLT

“From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.” — May I suggest that the only reason you are reading this and I am writing it is because Paul recognized the futility of preaching to those who would not listen and opted for the Holy Spirit’s expanded plan! He preached to the Gentiles and started a chain of belief passing down through centuries ending with me!

There’s an old saying that “man’s extremity is God’s opportunity”. God is not surprised by any of the predicaments in which we find ourselves. We do well to remind ourselves that indeed “God is still in control” and move forward in faith to where we can see His planning in action.

Satan will always try to use futility to discourage us, but God can and will use it to expand our vision of His Majesty and Glory!

Let’s always be looking for God’s love in action during adversity!

There’s utility in futility!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at

Friday March 1st, 2024
Friday February 16th, 2024