The following is the transcript from the July 17, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
We have begun a new series entitled, “Do You Really Believe That?” a series of messages to look at and discuss worldly ideas that have crept into the Christian way of thinking. Of course, these things that people believe don’t seem “odd”, in fact many of the things people believe seem perfectly reasonable and almost Biblical.
And that is particularly true of the statement we’re going to be looking at today. That statement is: “Everything happens for a reason.”
Have you ever heard someone say that? Have you ever said it? I think I may have too.
It sounds almost Biblical but it’s not. And we’ll get to that explanation in just a moment.
Now, when people say “everything happens for a reason” they mean well.
What they’re meaning to say is: God takes care of everything in a believer’s life. And since, God takes care of everything then nothing happens by chance. Thus, everything happens for a reason. Everything that happens in your life is ALL part of God’s plan.
Now, the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is relatively harmless until you run into someone who thinks it’s a good thing to say a funeral.
There’s a true story of a woman who was leaving a church service and fell down the flight of steps outside the church and broke her hip. She had hip surgery, but instead of healing, she got progressively worse and until - a few short days later – she died.
At the visitation, the preacher stood beside the bereaved husband. And many people came up to the man who’d lost his wife to offer their sympathies.
• Some tried to console the husband: "God must have had a plan for this, so accept it."
• Another said, “It was God’s will and we must live by it."
• Still another said, "Somehow God planned this to test your faith!!"
• And still another said, "There is a silver lining in every cloud. You will find God’s reason behind this eventually."
Do you know what each of those friends was saying? They were saying: “Everything happens for a reason.” That almost sounds pious, until you consider the flip side of their meaning: “Your wife died… because God had planned for her to die.”
Does that sound like a good thing to tell someone? Of course not!
And the preacher left that funeral home filled with anger and he raged against their "babbling" (as he put it) and he went to the study and rewrote the beginning of his funeral sermon.
The next day, he began his message with these words: "My God does not push old ladies down church steps!!! Some of you may have wanted to but God didn’t!”
Then he proceeded to explain that God cannot be blamed or accused for all the brokenness of this world.
“If God is the author of death, how, how can He be at the same time the author of life as shown thru the resurrection we celebrate each Sunday? Is God the God of the living, or the God of the dead? You cannot have it both ways.”
But now, the question is this: how did people arrive at this kind of thinking?
How could they possibly come to the kind of theology that would imply that God would push little old ladies down church steps?
When it comes to the “everything happens for a reason” mentality, the reasoning goes like this:
1. God has a plan for our lives. That’s true.
2. And God has made various promises to us… such as;
“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12And that’s true.
3. Therefore since God has made us that promise, and God has a plan for us, the only logical conclusion (they reason) is: God will protect us in all things. And therefore, anything that happens to us is part of His plan for our lives.
As Maxwell Smart would say, “Missed it by that much!”
So, let examine each of these propositions for a few moments.
First, God has a plan for your life.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that (once we become Christians),
“…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”God has things prepared for you and I to do. He has a plan for our lives, a purpose for us to accomplish.
And once we accept that… once we believe it… once we have faith that this is what God has in mind for us... then we’re capable of doing all kinds of things.
There was a recent study done by researchers at Stanford University who tested 900 participants. They found just “thinking” about God has a powerful impact on people’s willingness to
“seek out and take risks... because they view God as providing security against potential negative outcomes.”
In other words, even for people who weren't driven by faith but who were simply “THINKING about God” - there was a belief that God was THERE for them. And therefore (since He was "there") they felt more willing to take certain risks in life they wouldn't otherwise have considered.
Years ago I heard someone ask: What would you do if you believed you could not fail? That study from Stanford essentially was saying that – if you believe God approves of that dream then you’re more likely to take a shot at doing it. Because you BELIEVE God will have your back.
But in Scripture, God does you one better. In Scripture, God essentially says “Not only will believing I’ve got your back make you more confident, but if (what you plan to do) is in
My will, then…
I WILL have your back.
I WILL be there for you.
Our faith in God’s faithfulness makes us live our lives in an expectation of the fact that He has a plan for our lives… and it’s going to be something exciting. It’s kind of like children sitting around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. All those gifts lie under the tree and they can’t “see” what’s inside the gifts. But they just “know” it’s going to be something great!
In 2 Corinthians 5:7 God tells us – as Christians –
“We live by faith, not by sight.”So, when we do THIS right – when we live as those who believe God has a plan for our lives; when we live as those who believe that God has the power to put that plan into effect; and when we step out in faith and do things that just don’t make any sense, then we live our lives looking for something we can’t see.
Now the FACT that God has a plan for your life goes hand in glove with the FACT that
God has given you all kinds of promises. The Bible is filled with 1000s of promises that God has made. Man, talk about sermon fodder!
And one of the most famous and beloved promises are found in our text this morning:
“…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28God will work for the good of those who love Him. In HOW MANY things will God work for the good of those who love Him? In ALL things!
Almost sounds like “everything happens for a purpose” doesn't it?
But now, let’s ask a couple questions here. Is this verse saying that ALL things are good? No.
Is this verse saying that God “caused” all things to happen in your life?
No – that’s not what it says.
But what it IS saying is this:
It doesn't make any difference. It doesn't matter if what has happened in your life was caused by God or not. And it doesn't matter if what has happened in your life is a good thing. No matter what has happened in your life you serve a BIG God who has BIG plans for your life.
And no matter WHY something has happened in your life ALL things (good things/ bad things/things caused by God/ things not caused by God) ALL things will work together for good for you.
I will state categorically: Not everything in this world happens for a reason.
Sometimes the reason bad things happen to us are;
• people do stupid things
• others make bad decisions
• people around are sinners and they do sinful things
• we live in a fallen world
But God says – it doesn't matter why something happened. I can make all things work together for good in your life IF you love ME and are called according to My purpose.
It helps to realize that Romans 8:28 isn't just a one verse out in the middle of nowhere. It’s part of a whole chapter of things God wanted us to see and understand.
And the backdrop for the promise we just read is found in Romans 8:17-18:
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”What that is saying is this: as a Christian you’re going to suffer.
Or, as Jesus said – in this world you will have trouble.
And that suffering isn't always going to be part of God’s “plan” for our lives.
I mean, sometimes we’ll suffer because we've sinned and God needs to correct us. But other times our suffering will happen because we live in a fallen world; or because we live amongst sinful people that won’t like us.
Not everything that happens happens because it is God’s plan for our lives.
The “everything happens for a reason” mindset ends up blaming God for stuff He doesn't do.
God doesn't do stuff like;
• push little old ladies down stairs cases
• make it so we make bad choices in our lives
• cause bad people to do bad things
• make it so that everything happens for a reason
But when you and I;
• act in faith
• commit our lives to Him
• bathe what we do in prayer
• humble ourselves in His presence
Then God makes everything that DOES happen to have a reason
The point is this: We all mess up. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. We’re all broken people who do things we’d just as soon forget. Not everything we've done was done for a “reason”. But God can take that which we've done… and make it have a reason. He takes what we've messed up and makes it valuable.
But first we must give those things to Him. And the first thing we must give to Him… is ourselves.