Hit you where you Live

Back when I was a youth pastor in Prescott, Arizona I had the privilege of co-leading a youth mission trip to skid-row in LA. There I met a man just out of prison. We had just finished conducting a service for some of the people in the community and I got to speak to the man afterward. He greatly appreciated the message we brought but he was regretting his life and lamenting that fact that he had wasted so much time. He was overwhelmed with sadness that he had not met Jesus until he was way past his mid-life and wasting away in prison.

I was overwhelmed and at a loss for what to say, but after we talked for a bit God brought this verse to my mind.

Acts 17:26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.

I pointed out this verse to the man and explained that God graciously draws us to himself in the situations we are in.  I went on to explain that the verse seems to indicate that not only is God not far from us but that God orchestrated our each and every completely different situations. He not only set out the boundaries of our lives but the locations we would live on the earth. He did this so that we would respond to him.

In other words God put us in the situations that we are in so that we would have the best possible opportunity to respond to his call.

Along with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty this shouldn’t be too hard to swallow. So I will just place these verses here.

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day

Ephesians 4:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

What this means is there really isn’t the situation of the poor tribesmen across the world who doesn’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel.  Or for that matter a man trapped in prison away from the possibility of meeting God. He may very well currently have that problem but this verse seems to imply that God is ultimately not far from him. This is not to introduce deterministic language into the mix but for us to recognize God’s hand even when we can’t see it.

I believe that I am in the best situation to respond in faith to God. I like the idea that perhaps if my situation was different I wouldn’t have responded to God’s call in my life. If I lived in The Hampton’s and had a cushy life perhaps I would have never have recognized my need for the Lord. Or if I was raised in a poor third world country perhaps I would have simply followed the culture and not been open to other ways of thinking. Or if perhaps I was born in England, I would have been too distracted by mine and my fellow countryman’s sweet accents to bother with Christ.

This is not to say people in those situations cannot find God as I previously stated, but for me I am in the best situation for me, so those others will not suit me better. I should not lament what could have been or be overcome with what is, but recognize I am a short prayer from reaching out to him where I am.

After our conversation the man was drawn to tears to learn that God may very well have been drawing him throughout his journey and not delaying him because of it.

God is not waiting for me on the other side of my problems, for me to get my act together, he is graciously drawing me to himself while I am in them. God is not waiting for us to arrive before he gets involved. God hits us where we live.

So when I look in the mirror I should say: “This is who I got to be, this is where I got to be, now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

I will leave with a quote from the J.R. Tolkien from the Lord of the Rings.
“I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened”. “So do all  who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.  There are other forces at work in this world Frodo besides the will of evil…”

thanks

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Good stuff- God is a God of Redemption, so i feel it is a combination of Him allowing us to make decisions, wrong or right, and working the results for His glory and to draw us to Himself- Do I think every situation we find ourselves in was orchestrated by God? No, i think we genuinely get ourselves in some situations by our choices, but I do know God remains present in those situations and continues to draw us- Like a Father who lets his kid fall, lets go of the bike and watches his kid ride into a bush— Did the Father will that? No. But He knows the kid will never learn to ride the bike if He doesn't have the opportunity to fail-

    I agree with you Gabe, these are just my thoughts and distinctions because I feel like the moment any determinist-sounding language is used, people can get caught up thinking in a box. 🙂

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  2. Absolutely I included that language because the Bible uses it. But you are right sometimes he allows us to do things that will ultimately cause us to grow, but he is always there. He is always drawing us to himself even in our mistakes. He even uses them.

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