We Will Understand It!
Proverbs 20:24: "Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything
that happens along the way?" (Living Bible)
Isolated battles do not determine the ultimate outcome of the war.
When all England waited for the results of the Battle of Waterloo, word came,
flashed by signals across the English Channel: "Wellington defeated."
Then a thick fog set in.
Despair enveloped England.
Later, when the fog lifted, two more words were signaled.
The complete message read: "Wellington defeated the enemy."
There is an old Chinese parable that tells of an old man who lived with his son
in an abandoned fort.
One night the old man's only horse wandered away.
His neighbors came to tell him how sorry they were about his misfortune.
He replied, "How do you know this is ill fortune?"
A week later the horse returned bringing a whole herd of wild horses with it.
The neighbors helped capture the wild horses, congratulating the man
on his newly acquired good fortune.
The old man smiled, "How do you know this is good fortune?"
One day the man's son, riding one of the wild horses, was thrown off the horse,
and ended up with a crippled leg.
The neighbors appeared again to commiserate on his bad luck.
The old man asked, "How do you know that it is bad luck?"
The story ended when the young man was not able to go to war because of his injury.
Although sorrow and heartache are painful at the time, often turn out
to be a blessing somewhere down the road.
God knows the end from the beginning.
The Christian can trust God's divine providence.
Disappointments and other hurts are included in God's design
to help promote the believer's spiritual growth.
It may take a while to see how a particular tragedy fits into the pattern.
When Winston Churchill lost a British election in the 1940s,
his wife said that it was a blessing in disguise.
He replied, "If it's a blessing, it's well disguised."
Sometimes the disguise comes off soon.
In other cases, the disguise they take months or years to fall off.
And in many instances, we must wait till we reach heaven to ask the Lord to explain why.
"Trials dark on every hand,
and we cannot understand
all the ways of God would lead us
to that blessed promised land;
but he guides us with his eye,
and we'll follow till we die,
for we'll understand it better by and by.
Temptations, hidden snares
often take us unawares,
and our hearts are made to bleed
for a thoughtless word or deed;
and we wonder why the test
when we try to do our best,
but we'll understand it better by and by.
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we'll tell the story how we've overcome,
for we'll understand it better by and by. "
-- Charles Albert Tindley
Sometimes explanations come quickly.
The lone survivor of a shipwreck, finds himself alone on an uninhabited island.
He managed to build a shelter for the stored food and a few items collected around the island.
Everyday he scanned the horizon for a passing ship.
One day he spotted a boat, and he ran to the shore, and waved frantically.
But the boat moved steadily away until it became a spec on the horizon.
Losing hope that he would ever be rescued, he returned to his hut to find it in flames.
Now terribly disappointed, he set down in despair.
The next day a ship arrived to rescue him.
The captain explained, "We saw your smoke signal!"
Mary and Martha could not understand why Jesus didn't come immediately
to heal their brother, Lazarus.
When he did arrive, they lamented separately,
"Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. (John 11:21, 32)
But shortly they were to learn why Jesus had not intervened.
It was to show His power over death as He performed the mightiest miracle of His ministry
which was the raising of Lazarus after four days in the grave.
So the explanation of why Jesus failed to respond to their first call for help
came to Mary and Martha within a few days.
I read the story of a young sailor of World War II and his experience toward the end of that war.
He had just been through the Pacific conflict and had limited furlough time,
and was so happy when he was allotted a seat on a military C-46 out of Alameda Airport
headed for Chicago where his girlfriend lived.
Going to the airport he found his seat on the 21-seat plane,
and buckled his safety belt and relaxed.
The right propeller churned in the air, and then the left propeller started up.
The chocks were pulled from under the wheels.
The plane was about to taxi for the takeoff.
Suddenly outside was the stationmaster who was wildly waving his arms.
Behind him was a vice-admiral carrying two huge duffel bags.
The stationmaster hollered, "Hold that flight!"
The sailor's heart sank.
When the door opened, he heard three names called, and his name was one of them.
The three were told to get off the plane while the vice-admiral and his two bags
took the three seats.
Sitting dejectedly on the ground as the plane took off, the sailor looked up,
and said, "God, why did You let this happen to me? You know how much I want to get home?"
Happily, three hours later the sailor caught another plane for Chicago.
That evening as the plane descended toward the Kansas City airport for a brief stop,
huge searchlights flared all around.
The pilot shouted over his radio system for them to,
"Turn out those lights. We don't need them to land."
The tower responded," Identify yourself. Which flight are you?"
The pilot identified his plane.
The tower responded, "Where's the flight that left Alameda three hours before you?
It hasn't come in yet."
The flight never did come in.
Its wreckage was found in the Rockies some days later.
That sailor was a well-known radio announcer named, Bob Murfin, who had
the morning commuter-hour program over the Moody radio station in Chicago, WMBI.
There are many explanations of delayed blessings in God's word.
Remember, a young widow named Ruth who turned with sobs and tears from a fresh grave.
She was numb from sorrow.
She shuffled faltering toward home.
Her mother in law, Naomi, decided to return to her homeland of Israel.
Ruth went with her.
Little did Ruth realize that she would meet a prosperous and godly man
who would redeem her inheritance, marry her, and share his home and his life with her.
How could she know that she would be blessed with a child, who became an ancestress
of the promised Messiah, and received mention in Matthew's genealogy,
and have a book of the Bible named after her?
Hope had dissipated when her husband died.
But the providence of God revealed the reason why a few years later.
(Ruth and 1:3-19; 2:2-9; 4:1-17; Matthew 1:5)
As we turn to the New Testament, we see a great tragedy that hit the early church
in the stoning of its deacon, Stephen.
Yet that seeming disaster led to the conversion of the church's most zealous persecutor.
From that stoning flowed much of the rest of the Book of Acts.
There are chapters highlighting three missionary journeys of Paul, his arrest at Jerusalem,
his detention at Caesarea, and his voyage to Rome.
Someone might think of Stephen's non-vengeful martyrdom, and remarked,
"Had not Stephen prayed, Paul would not have preached."
It took several years before it became evident how God had overruled the wrath of man
in the stoning of Stephen by the great missionary endeavors of Paul,
who was somewhat responsible for that stoning. (Acts 6 -- 7; 9:1-31)
Then, remember John Bunyan.
John Bunyan was going to preach to a gathering in a farmhouse in a violation of an English law.
Approaching the meeting place after a days work as a mender of pots and pans,
this uneducated, simple saint was told that he would be arrested if he proceeded to preach.
He took a walk in the woods to think it over, and he decided to go ahead with the service.
He was arrested, and spent the next 12 years, except for an interval
of a few months in Bedford jail.
His hopes must have been low, but from that little cell he wrote the immortal allegory,
"Pilgrim's Progress", which is still unrivaled three centuries later.
Then looking at a more modern day explanation.
Years ago a tornado struck the prairies of Minnesota.
That tornado injured hundreds and almost demolished the town of Rochester.
A doctor and his sons worked for days, bandaging wounds and setting broken limbs.
Their heroic work did not go unnoticed.
Financial backing was offered for a large hospital provided that the doctor and his two sons
would take charge.
They agreed, and in 1889 a clinic opened which attracted wide attention.
People since have come from all walks of life for treatment at the Mayo Brothers Clinic.
Some years ago, five young American missionaries were killed by the Auca Indians
in the jungles of Ecuador.
But since then, this area has opened up to missionaries.
All the killers of the martyred missionaries have turned to the Christian faith
and hundreds have volunteered for missionary service.
Joni Eareckson had a diving accident in the summer of 1967.
That completely changed her life.
After months of treatment, she came to learn that she would be paralyzed.
She was devastated.
Her whole life would be radically different.
There would be no more sports cars, horse shows, and perhaps no more dates.
She found herself alone as a paralyzed body between two sheets.
Strapped to a canvas bed, facing down, she saw hot tears drip to the floor.
For months she was consumed with questions about God.
It took a long time for her to accept her condition.
But today, thousands have been blessed by Joni has a popular inspirational speaker
at banquets and conventions.
She has appeared on the "Today" show and in People magazine.
Her artwork is on many cards and stationery in stores nationwide.
She is married, drives a van, and is engaged in a ministry of helping the handicap.
Of course she had hoped for a different life than this.
But she came to see that God had other ways through which to provide her an abundant life.
Even when a partial answer comes in this life,
we may have to wait until eternity to get the full story.
In the movie about Joni Eareckson, we have her last words coming at the end of the movie.
She says, "I don't know why, but I know who has the answer. And I can't wait."
In his lifetime Job never did find a satisfactory reason for his sufferings.
When he came to see that God was completely sovereign, and able to do whatever He wished
and without explanation, then it was that he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes.
Remember the story of Job and the dialogue in which Satan slanders Job before God
by claiming he was pious because he was prosperous.
Job did not know that God permitted Satan to afflict him to show the devil
that Job would door by God even in adversity.
Job had no idea of God's purpose, and probably never knew that until he arrived in heaven.
When God seems not to hear our cry for help in times of affliction, our pain intensifies.
The Bible tells the people delivered from trouble.
Television programs contain testimonies of healings, yet our bodies are racked with pain,
and our loved ones linger with terminal illness.
When heaven is silent, we must remember that all events can be viewed from two angles.
One is from our viewpoint and the other is from God's.
When a Sunday school bus was hit by a train at a railroad crossing, killing two children.
The preacher sent a telegram to relatives living at a distance:
"God is two wise to make a mistake, and to kind to be cruel."
If we change the first letter of disappointment, we get His appointment,
which hints that the thwarting of my purpose maybe God's better plan for me,
even though it comes in the disguise that it will wear until eternity.
A mother's life was ebbing away with chronic severe pain.
Her son in over her, and said, "Mother, I came to understand why God should let you suffer so."
Calmly she whispered to stanzas of a hymn:
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
God's help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed;
Delay will make our pleasures pure,
Surprise will give it zest."
The living Bible translates Proverbs 20:24: "Since the Lord is directing our steps,
why try to understand everything that happens along the way?"
Maybe, we won't know the answer of some of our disasters and tragedies
until we reached our home in heaven.
In some cases an explanation may show up in a few weeks or in several years.
But in many other cases, we won't know the answer to we reach our home in heaven,
and let the Master Planner explain.
"We'll talk it over in the bye and bye
We'll talk it over, my Lord and I.
I'll ask the reasons - He'll tell me why,
When we talk it over in the bye and bye."
Tho' shadows deepen, and my heart bleeds,
I will not question the way He leads;
This side of Heaven we know in part,
I will not question a broken heart.
I'll trust His leading, He'll never fail,
Thro' darkest tunnels or misty vales.
Obey his bidding and faithful be,
Tho' only one step ahead I see.
I'll hide my heartache behind a smile
And wait for reasons 'til after while.
And tho' He try me, I know I'll find
That all my burdens are silver lined.
We'll talk it over in the bye and bye
We'll talk it over, my Lord and I.
I'll ask the reasons - He'll tell me why,
When we talk it over in the bye and bye."
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White