October 23, 2013

There is a saying in the NASCAR garage that is pretty good theology; “everything happens for a reason”.

Years ago I thought the mechanics and racers, who espoused that viewpoint, were just looking for a way to put a very bad day behind them, quickly; leaving it in the rear view mirror of dashed hopes and unrealized expectations, simply so they could move on to the next event, 7 short days away.

Racers just don’t have much time to grieve process or stew over a bad outcome. They have to move on; repair a car, build a car, whatever but a 37 race week schedule dictates that approach. But I am learning from life, from the Lord, that there is a lot of truth to that saying, biblically!

The men may simply being resigning themselves to a sense of fate, but I recognize its true in the sense that, theologically, God is Sovereign over all things and everything that happens in this life is still a part of His overall Kingdom rule. Take last week, for example.

My trip to the next NASCAR race began with frustration and continued with irritating inconveniences. I was supposed to fly into Birmingham Alabama, get a rental car and drive to Talladega in time for qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Qualifying, for a chaplain, is a great time of ministry as we have about two, uninterrupted, hours to talk with the guys out on the line and pray with the drivers as they prepare to run their qualifying lap; but…

Detours and delays, one after the other kept me from reaching my desired destination – “qualifying”!

The first was the pre- dawn freeway closure at the airport entrance that forced me into two detours, making me late for check in.

Next, I made it on my flight, but only because it was delayed.

That meant we were late getting in late to Birmingham, but that was the good news; The “other” news was they lost my luggage!

Well, I left the airport late but still had a chance to make qualifying if… all went well on the drive up there. In fact I used to time to pray and ask God to make things to go better from here; to “sovereignly” lead me, giving me favor and access to meet the need of every divine appointment He had for me. Then I proceeded as if my plan was His plan – to make NASCAR qualifying.

The drive went well BUT, the speedway changed their access rules for driving in to park – I would have to go to the NASCAR Credential Hauler and get a special parking pass. So I hustled to the Credential office but… NASCAR was fresh out of parking passes. I was going to have to park in public parking and walk in or wait for the shuttle.

I was doomed; however…

At the Credential Hauler was one of the team owners, someone I knew well, offered to take me inside in his golf cart after I parked. I thanked him and in we went. Then, once inside and at the driver’s paddock, He asked if I would join him for lunch? I agreed – knowing I’d miss qualifying but suspecting this was the very divine appointment I had prayed about; that every detour and delay had led me to!

And I was right – a 45 minute conversation ended up being the extraordinary ministry opportunity and a divinely orchestrated outcome, which all the aggravation of trying to reach “my” destination, led to! God used it for good, for His destination, for my work; His purposes.

Can you relate?

This is not the first time this has happened. God has often used delay and detours to force His people to observe His best work, His extraordinary outcomes.

We, people, like our routines and predetermined schedules. But God often has other plans. For example; do you remember the story of Jesus and the sickness of His friend Lazarus, referenced in John 11?

John 11 opens with the poignant news-alert that one of Jesus’ best friends is gravely ill. Jesus immediate response was to delay for two more days before attending to him. Jesus did however give his men a clue as to what was up … “this is for the glory of God that The Son of God may be glorified by it” (v4).

After the delay Jesus arrived to find his friend had died and was confronted by a perturbed and frustrated family who questioned His reasoning. His response was otherworldly…

“25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Afterward, he invited himself to the tomb and despite their resistance, insisted that the tomb opened…

39 “Take away the stone,” he said “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then he addressed his friend, Lazarus, and commanded him to “come forth”. And he did…

44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

And there you have it – God does the extraordinary, when we are willing to wait.

Waiting involves trusting, it involves patience, it involves reckoning God is sovereign with ways and means of which we are not familiar.

I am not, naturally, wired to wait. I hate delays of any kind and hate detours. I always have an agenda, a plan; a set schedule. But I am learning that after my best effort, after I pray for “God’s will to be done”, that a delay, a detour, might just be my chance to see God at work in an extraordinary way, as it was last week at Talladega.

Are you learning that lesson too?

By the way, the best delay may be the one where God is waiting on you. God sent his son to be the savior of the world. Jesus died and rose from the dead to present us with the chance to be forgiven our sins, reconciled with God, and guaranteed a place in heaven, after He resurrects us from the dead. But it won’t automatically happen, not without our “faith” commitment to Jesus.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31

Have you made that decision to trust Christ as your savior? What is your answer to the question he asked Lazarus’ sister Martha; “Do you believe this?”

God is waiting on you. But he will not wait forever. You have until the day you die. Are you ready to face God? Have you received Christ as your savior? Is God still waiting on you?

Jim C