“LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago” (Isaiah 25:1).
It is quite amazing and yet comforting and refreshing to think of how the LORD in His sovereign power, wisdom and grace, uses life experiences among other things to shape us as His children and thereby accomplish certain (specific) things in our lives for His own glory. Everything according to plan. There is no plan B with God! It’s all and always, plan A!
I find this amazing, because I never understand His ways even in retrospect, I am just amazed at His power, wisdom and grace. But comforting and refreshing because I know, not simply from God’s Word (although that would be enough) but also from my own life experiences and that of others, that indeed, the LORD God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and those who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). In other words, NOTHING happens in my life randomly! There are no loose molecules in God’s economy. To put it positively, EVERYTHING that happens in my life, is according to plan (the LORD’s plan)! There are truly no accidents when it comes to the LORD. How comforting, refreshing and reassuring this is.
This afternoon, I paused to think about the life experiences that the LORD God has used to shape my own life and make me the kind of man that I am today. I love and enjoy the moments, when in the LORD’s providence, I am able to stop and reflect on things that really matter in my life and in the eyes of the LORD – things that the LORD has used to shape me to be what I am today. Thinking about such things, helps me maintain a certain measure of sanity and focus which I wouldn’t have otherwise. Today, as I write this, I reflect on the fact that by the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am a Christian, a husband, a father, a pastor of a church, a leader of a Christian organization and so many other good things that the LORD has been pleased to work and is working in my life. I join the Apostle Paul in saying with deep gratitude, “…by the grace of God, I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
As I reflected this afternoon, three major things came to mind. These are the major things that the LORD in His good providence has been pleased to use in my life, outside of His Word. I want to share these briefly and draw out some lessons from them which I hope will be of some benefit to you as you read this. The three things I have in mind are: 1. People, 2. Places, and 3. Pain. Now, let me talk about each of these in turn.
1. People: Oh, how wonderful it was to stop and reflect on all the kinds of people whom the LORD has used to make me what I am today. My Mom and Dad of course come first on th list! Oh, how thankful I am to the LORD for my parents. For their love for Christ! Their wonderful example of godliness; their perseverance in the face of trials and tribulation; their encouragement; their compassion for the lost, the poor and the downcast; their kindness and especially their zeal for the glory of God! The list could go on and on! LORD, I thank you for giving me such wonderful and loving parents! But there have also been so many people whom the LORD has sent in my life over the years who have had a great impact on my life. There are too numerous to number but all have played their part as sharp instruments in the LORD’s hands to chisel away the rough edges and the rottenness in my life. Some of them the LORD has used to keep me on the straight and narrow. When I was tempted to go astray and wonder in my own ways foolishly against the LORD, He sent/brought someone into my life to keep me from ruining my life in sin and rebellion. I think of an older minister whom the LORD (through my Mom) used to place/confirm upon my heart His call to the gospel ministry. I was about 17 years old then. I remember vividly sitting across the table from this minister with the Bible between us. He read to me the story of how the LORD God called Samuel to be a prophet at a very young age (1 Samuel 3). He was to me at the moment, an Elijah-like figure in my life and I will always be grateful for my Mom who took me to this godly minister and for this minister’s willingness to speak God’s truth into my life with such gentleness, grace, tender love and care! Those of who may be wondering who I am talking about here, it is Rev. T.J. Chipeta, the founder of Home of Hope (now retired after serving as a gospel minister for so many years). He was also the officiating minister at my wedding! What a blessing He has been in my life. I could go on to talk about so many others, but I must stop here.
2. Places: This is another blessing that I have received from the gracious and providential hand of the LORD God. Here I am thinking of all the places where I have lived as I was growing up in Malawi as well as all the places that I have been to outside Malawi as I have traveled. Looking back each of the places where I have been up to this point, has served a special purpose in my life and has contributed in a significant way to the kind of person that I am today. I remember traveling outside of Malawi for the very first time as a freshman in college. I joined a team of juniors and seniors (may be some sophomores too) on a mission trip to Mozambique. I was the only freshman on the team but it was a great experience – one that I hope I never forget. What stands out the most as I remember that experience is the wonderful opportunity I had to share the gospel with people in a foreign country and culture (via an interpreter) and seeing them come to saving faith in the LORD Jesus Christ! Even though it’s been almost 15 years ago, I remember it so vividly as if it was yesterday! I remember that evening bubbling with so much joy in my heart as I shared my experience with friends at the dinner table that evening. I could hardly eat the food on my plate – I was on cloud nine – so elated and yet so humbled and filled with gratitude and awe that the LORD God could use someone as weak as I to draw His chosen ones to Himself. I rejoice in this with thanksgiving to Him who allowed me the opportunity to travel outside my home country for the first time to experience His saving power which was to change me in a new way and shape my life’s passion and direction! A seed for global ministry was planted in my heart then (even though I didn’t know it at the time) which has grown and continues to grow stronger and bigger every passing year! I praise Him for that. It is my heart’s ultimate desire to see His Name exalted among all the nations from the rising of the sun even to its setting (see Psalm 113:3; Malachi 1:11).
3. Pain: James 1:2-4 reads, “Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Experience as well as the Scriptures have taught me to embrace pain, trials and suffering in my life because I have seen (through the a “mirror dimly”), how the LORD not only rules but also overrules all the pain in the lives of His children. To Him be all the praise, glory and honor! Amen! Before I go any further let me humbly say that even though there have been moments of significant pain and loss in my life, I know that the LORD has spared me from so much more and so much worse which I deserve save His redeeming grace in Christ. For this, I am eternally thankful! But though the pain that I have experienced has been relatively small in comparison to that of others whom I know and less than what I deserve, it has been pain nevertheless and unpleasant. Hurts, disappointments, broken hopes and dreams, frustrating relationships, my continued and protracted struggle with particular sins in my life, constant awareness of my short-comings before the LORD, lack of essential needs like food and proper clothing in my earlier years, being ostracized by those I considered friends, etc. All these have had taken their toll on me but that has not been without the LORD’s guiding and sovereign hand and presence with me through and through. In all these painful experiences, I can say with the Psalmist, “This I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9b) and with the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b). He goes on to say,
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be laughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:32-39).
For this, I am very thankful! That He knows my frame and He remembers that I am dust (Psalm 103:14)
Some quick lessons from this (not in any particular order):
1. Watch and welcome the people whom the LORD brings into your life and pray for grace to learn the lessons He wants you to learn through them.
2. Be sensitive to the leading and promptings of the Holy Spirit in your heart regarding where He wants you to go and when. You will be surprised what freedom and blessings will follow you on the path of obedience.
3. Do not despise the day of small things where you are at the moment.
4. Do not ignore the people around you – they matter in the LORD’s plans and purposes for you.
5. Embrace the hard providences (painful experiences in your life) – they come from the sovereign and gracious hand of the LORD. As the poet William Cowper rightly said in his famous poem/hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, “Behind the frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” Trust in Him and do not fret. You may not understand what you are going through now. But the LORD God is the Best Interpreter of His own providences. In His time, He will make His purposes plane. Keep your head down, ask Him for sustaining grace and wisdom to learn the lessons He wants you to learn so that you may become the person that He wants you to be – namely like His Son, Jesus Christ!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).