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"Things Happen for a Reason"

Flat Tire

by Dennis Pollock

Among non-Christians we often hear the phrase “things happen for a reason.” It is an interesting bit of philosophy to hear coming from the lips of those who have never found a place for Jesus in their lives. It would seem that even the unsaved like to think that there is a kindly universal providence at work in the world and causing good things to happen to every one of us. To adapt an entirely secular worldview is unpalatable for most men and women. Thus, although they are not about to embrace the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, they at least hope that there is some form of kindly force running the universe, making life meaningful, giving their lives purpose, and coordinating all events to make everyone happy and secure.

In some ways the statement: “Things happen for a reason,” is the secular equivalent of Romans 8:28, where the apostle Paul writes, “And God is able to make all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” But of course Paul includes the qualifier “to those who love God.” By including those few words, he seems to imply that lovers of God are the only ones who have any business expecting this to be the case.

So what about the non-Christians? What is God’s attitude toward them, and can they rightfully say that everything in their lives happens for a reason? First, if they assume that there is a kindly, loving Creator running the universe, they are 100 percent correct. The Bible tells us that God is good, He is kind, and that He does indeed control even the slightest, smallest, most insignificant events on our planet. Jesus declares that not even a sparrow can fall to the earth and die apart from the Father’s will. God knows the exact number of hairs on our heads, and that includes non-Christian heads as well as Christian heads. And Jesus tells us that God is kind to the evil and the good; He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

So it is not only the Christians who can say that they are blessed; to some degree every sinner is blessed in countless ways. His every breath is a blessing from God. The food he eats, the clothes he wears, his job, his family, his health, and every other good thing in this world he experiences is truly a gift from God. In the parable about the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man, while suffering in the afterlife, is told: “Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things…” God is not averse to blessing blasphemers, liars, and sexually immoral people in this life, but the afterlife… that’s a different matter altogether!

Joe Sinner

Let us consider a typical American non-Christian. We’ll call him “Joe Sinner.” Joe is married, has three children, and works as a computer technician. He is well-liked in his suburban community. He plays golf every Saturday, keeps his lawn immaculate, and has a great smile. His Christian wife tries to get him to go to church with her on Sundays, but Joe has little interest. He likes to say that you don’t need to be in church in order to worship God – he worships God “in his own way.” When challenged about putting his faith in Jesus, he will reply that he does believe in Jesus. Yet somehow that belief has never changed his life, and although he gives lip service to God and Christ, in truth he finds Christianity boring, and just can’t understand why his wife is so fanatical about “all this religious stuff.”

By nearly anyone’s standard’s Joe is not an “evil man.” He is not a serial killer, he not a child abuser, he is faithful to his wife, he works hard at his job, he loves his kids, and drops money in the Salvation Army buckets every Christmas. Isn’t that good enough? When he dies, must Joe perish in an everlasting destruction where the consuming worm never dies and the fire is never quenched? And is he correct, when after some unexpected bit of good “luck,” he announces with all sincerity that “things happen for a reason?”

There are two dimensions of the nature of God we must consider as we attempt to discern God’s attitude toward Joe and other non-Christians. First is the love of God. The Bible tells us that “God is love.” Jesus declares that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” So it would not be wrong to say that God loves Joe. But it would be most foolish to infer that Joe is in a good position in his present state. In truth Joe, or any other man or woman living without Christ in their lives, is in a terribly tenuous and precarious position. We must not mistake the kindness of God with acceptance by God. “God is kind to the unthankful and the evil” (Luke 6:35) – in this life. But if people remain unthankful and evil throughout all their lives, He will deal most severely with them in the next life.

When it comes to Joe and all the other unconverted Joe’s and Jane’s in this world, God’s desire and purpose for them is exceedingly narrow – He wants them in His family; He wants them transformed through Christ; He wants them saved. This is not mere conjecture. It is the plain teaching of the Scriptures:

  1. …God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
  2. The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Cosmic Conductor of Circumstances

Orchestra Conductor

Because our Creator wants all to be saved, He must be taking steps toward that end. He must be doing things, working through circumstances, arranging various events in the lives of people, creating “coincidences,” orchestrating relationships, administering doses of pain and pleasure, of blessings and tragedy in an effort to get our attention and turn our eyes off of our selfish, little me-first pursuits, and focused upon Him. Jesus tells us that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. Since the Father desires all to be saved, surely there must be a divine pulling, a quiet, subtle drawing that is going on in the hearts of sinners, as the Father uses His various influences to attract them to Jesus.

So when a non-Christian brings out that secular mantra: “things happen for a reason,” he is correct, but probably not in the way that he assumes. God does order the lives and circumstances of every person on this planet, from the homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta to the CEO of a major American corporation. But God is not primarily interested in promoting their happiness and making all their selfish, ego-centered dreams comes to pass. He is hugely interested in getting their attention and turning their thoughts toward the things that relate to Himself. And because we are all unique, it requires a unique and totally individual formula of divine dealings to reach us. For some it may require devastating tragedy and loss. For others it may be career failure. Some may begin to look heavenwards in response to a great blessing in their life.

Unlikely Instruments

God is amazingly creative when it comes to drawing men and women to His Son. The famous actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was watching a Christian television program with some other actors. They weren’t interested in hearing about Jesus, but some of the characters on the program were so outlandish, the actors loved to watch and laugh at them. But one day an evangelist on the program seemed to totally draw Efrem into his message, and the actor gave his life to Jesus. That particular evangelist was so flamboyant and over-the-top that even many Christians were turned off by him, but somehow he reached Efrem. In the coming years it was revealed that this evangelist’s moral life was awful, and he lost his ministry. When Zimbalist was asked whether it was embarrassing, knowing that the man who first attracted him to Jesus was such an obvious hypocrite, he replied, “No, I thank God for him.” In Efrem’s life we can safely say that the evangelist, flawed and messed up as he was, appearing on that TV program that day “happened for a reason.”

There is another side to this question that we must consider. The truth is that not all sinners do get saved; in fact, most do not. Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). This seems strange. If God wants all sinners to be saved, then why doesn’t He simply draw all men to Jesus and save everyone in one giant stroke? If it is not God’s will that any should perish, why do so many perish? Why doesn’t God just do something about that?

All He Wisely Can

The only possible answer to this dilemma is that God is doing all He wisely can toward this end. He is wooing mankind to Himself with as strong an influence, with as powerful a hand as is wise and proper in His eyes. God’s love is tempered by His wisdom; God’s compassion is counterbalanced by His perfection. Of course He could transform us all into mindless, robotic creatures, and force us all to say the sinner’s prayer in unison all over the world. Or He could make our lives so catastrophic and our situations so hopeless that we would gladly turn to Him. But God has never been satisfied with such forced obedience. He wants our wills involved. And therein lies the rub.

He will woo, He will draw, He will speak in quiet ways. But He will go “thus far and no further.” And if we are deaf to his warnings and oblivious to His blessings, He will allow us to go on in our vain, shallow, selfish lives until, like the rich man in Jesus’ parable, we die and end up in that place of torment. And when we cry out for a mere drop of water to cool our thirst in that place of terrible heat, He will remind us, as He did with the rich man, “Remember that in your lifetime, you received your good things.”

Not All That Glitters…

GlitterThere is one other factor that sinners should consider before glibly declaring that “things happen for a reason.” God is not the only influence in this world that brings about situations and “makes things happen.” The Bible assures us that there is another force, certainly not as powerful as God, but nevertheless quite influential, that can make things happen. I am speaking of the devil and his many henchmen, the demons. Not every opportunity is God’s opportunity, not every relationship is one God wants us to pursue, not every urge is to be trusted, not every thought that runs across our minds should be unthinkingly accepted.

Life for all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, will be filled with thoughts, ideas, desires, and potential relationships which must be denied and rejected. If we just assume that “things happen for a reason,” and that every opportunity that crosses our paths is God’s golden opportunity for us, and that we must follow it wholeheartedly without evaluation, without prayer, without seeking any guidance, and without exercising judgment and discernment, we set ourselves up for huge and continual failures in this life. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).

So to our unsaved friends who take comfort in believing that things happen for a reason: Yes, they do, but not so much in the way you think. The Heavenly Father is indeed orchestrating the events of your life, but not to fulfill your dreams of success, happiness, and pleasure. He is after something far greater than that. He is sending you His unique recipe of successes and failures, of laughter and tears, of frustrations and fulfillment, that you might look above the smallness of this temporary life on earth, and accept His invitation to become His child. Turn in your petty dreams for His divine ones, replace your selfish ambitions for His calling. Embrace the real reason for the events of your life, and receive the gift of eternal life. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.


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