Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Where are we going?
When I was a kid we were in the car a lot. Gas was 40 cents a gallon and so there wasn’t much thought given to jumping in the car to go across town or across the county. In fact, gas was so inexpensive I remember riding all over town with mom going from one store to the next so that she could use coupons and get the most from the sales the various stores were having. At that time, you could actually get a week’s groceries from three or even four different markets and save enough money to more than justify the expense in gasoline. Those days are long gone. There were many afternoons, Sundays usually (hence the stereotype Sunday drivers) when the whole family would pile in just to take a ride. Some of my favorite memories were of dad letting us each take turns at intersections deciding which direction to go next, just to see if we could get ‘too’ lost for him to find our way back home…we had so much fun and yet dad always knew how to get home. At the time I am thinking about we lived in Columbia, South Carolina while dad was in Bible College, so there were the annual car trips back home to Western New York State at Christmas time and during summer breaks as well. As I said we were in the car a lot. One of the things I recall happening often was after we were all aboard my brother Gary or I would ask mom, “Where are we going?” to which she many times offered, “Crazy, want to come along?” This response always resulted in her laughing or at least smirking at us while we pleaded her to tell us where we were really going. She always knew, but she didn’t always tell us. Neither her nor dad were ever taking us anyplace that was bad for us, though a few times we may have ended up at a doctor’s or dentist’s office and didn’t like where we ended up. The truth is however; they never took us someplace that wasn’t for our good or blessing in the long run.
Sometimes I ask God, “Where are we going?” What about you? He never gives me the tongue-in-cheek answer mom used to, but He doesn’t always tell me right away either. Sometimes it isn’t to a place I would choose on my own to go. Sometimes I don’t like the ride, but ultimately it is always for my good and eventual blessing.
Proverbs 16:9 in the New Living Translation says We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Those Sunday drives in the country as a kid seem to me to illustrate this scripture fairly well. My brother and I and sometimes I think mom may have even been on ‘our team’…made plans and did our best to make choices at the various intersections that would keep dad from being able to find a way to get us back home. Silly I know, but that was the game. The thing was he was always able to get us back where we belonged. Dad could always under any circumstances get us back where he intended us to be…home. I know this to be true because I am here now sharing this with you and not lost in the countryside of central South Carolina somewhere. Our plans were to get so far off track that dad couldn’t get us back on track, then it seemed we would be in charge of the situation. The fact of the matter is God allows us free will, we get to choose, just like dad gave us the ability to choose the direction at each new intersection. Just like dad, God knows where we need to end up, and is able to get us back on track in spite of our choices. Sometimes on those rides, dad would wait for us to tire of making our own choices and we would ‘choose’ to ask him to take us back home. Sometimes he would utilize forks in the road that weren’t ‘real intersections’ to maneuver our choices so that we would believe our choices had brought us back to where we had begun. Sometimes he would wait until we fell asleep and simply take us where we needed to be while we were no longer paying attention to the available choices. I think God utilizes all of these and other strategies at His disposal to determine our steps.
I know we all like to think our free will is supreme. It is not. It is true God doesn’t make us do or not do anything. He lets us decide. That does not however in any way remove His ability to sway our decisions. Thank God that He does intervene. Proverbs 14:12 says, There is a way which seems right to a person, But its end is the way of death. On our own, all of us are trying to be in charge just like my brother and I were on those Sunday drives all those years ago. We made those directional decisions to exert our authority over the car and our father. If he had never impacted the final decisions, we might in fact still be somewhere on an obscure backroad out of gas and unable to do anything about it. You might say, “Come on pastor Ken that couldn’t happen.” I would say it didn’t happen because ultimately dad was in control of more than our choices and could maneuver us to where we needed to be. I thank dad now for his intervention because where I am is far better than the side of the road somewhere out of gas.
Ultimately we do get to choose if we will make all of our own decisions or if we will accept the decisions God has already made to make a way to get us safely back home. Aren’t you glad though that God is in control of so many things outside of our control that He can use to point us to the truth of the decisions He has made for our good and ultimate blessing? Consider the story of Jonah and the whale. God did not stop Jonah from boarding a ship setting sail in the opposite direction of Nineveh. That was Jonah’s decision and God let him choose it for himself. What God did control was the storm, the whale, and which beach the whale would spit him out on. Jonah chose the boat, and to let the people on board know he was the problem when the storm came upon them. God affected the outcome that no one else would have predicted, but that allowed His will to come to pass.
We may not always enjoy the ride, but we can sit back and relax in the knowledge that God will only take us places for our good and blessing though some of them may be uncomfortable and difficult in the moment. We do make our choices, but praise God He can still order our steps.
So now, resisting His choices no longer but instead utilizing your free will to be in line with his will…go be awesome!