“Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be” — God’s will?

(From the Archives.)

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

A couple of years ago, the Sunday School class I attended was studying the Bible account of Jesus and the disciples, the boat and the storm.

Jesus and the disciples were in a boat headed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a bad storm came up. Jesus was taking a nap and the panic-stricken disciples woke him up, saying “Lord, save us, we perish.” (Matthew 8:25) Mark puts it like this: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Jesus got up, rebuked the storm stopping it in its tracks, and then rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. (They could have stopped the storm themselves, without waking him up.)

One of the class members said, “God was trying to kill Jesus with the storm. That’s why the storm arose in the first place, and then Jesus cancelled out God’s will by rebuking the storm.”

I asked her, “You don’t believe Jesus was God?” “Well, yes,” she said, “but everything that happens is God’s will, isn’t it?” She looked a little puzzled at my reaction when I strongly disagreed. The notion that everything bad and evil happening in the world is God’s will, his design, his doing — is calling evil, good, and good, evil.

God created man to have a will of his own, gave him authority to use it, and has never taken that authority back. God did not force Adam and Eve to disobey a direct command. He doesn’t force me, or you, or Hitler, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or a child rapist, or a terrorist, to commit evil.

It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) Yet some people do perish.

We are instructed to pray for leaders and government authorities, because it’s God’s will for “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:4) But not all people will be saved.

People have a free will of their own — some use it to make the wrong choice. The devil didn’t make them do it, and God didn’t make them do it.

If everything that happened was God’s will, why bother to pray? Just let whatever will be, be. But then certain other scriptures would have to be torn out of the Bible…

Like Ephesians 6:2, “Honor thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” That’s number Five of the Ten Commandments, quoted from Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.

Well, maybe the Ten Commandments don’t apply any more. Or maybe they don’t apply to everybody, or they don’t apply in any real sense. Just in a wishy-washy sense that only applies to some group dynamic — not to individuals at all, just the whole of mankind which will survive while individuals are slaughtered at God’s whim. Hogwash.

Many “if” statements are found throughout the Bible. If you do this, that will happen. It’s the eternal law of sowing and reaping. Long life is one of those “ifs.” Deuteronomy 6:2, “… that thy days may be prolonged.” Deuteronomy 11:9, “And that ye may prolong your days in the land…” If they obeyed God’s Word, that is. But they didn’t, and their days weren’t prolonged.

What about bad things happening to good people? If God isn’t behind everything, then is he powerless? NOT omnipotent after all? Couldn’t he do something to stop it, if it wasn’t his will? Yes, if God wanted to change himself, become an Indian-giver and a liar, he could. But he gave control of some things over to people.

We have an enemy, Satan, who hates God and us. He’s real; a real liar and a real murderer. He will kill us if he can, steal from us whatever he can take and destroy anything he can’t take. (John 10:10.) He is the accuser and the leader-astray, but he can’t make us do anything against our will. He can certainly suggest sin, demonstrate how to do it and promise to reward it, but in the end he will be destroyed. Those who side with him will be destroyed, too.

God told us to do certain specific things. He made promises and provisions to those who are in Christ. The global, spiritual warfare is real, the devastation is real, the pain is real, but God’s power is even more real. He loves to demonstrate that power through the lives of his people. If they will let him…

If prayer was useless and “que sera, sera” was true, why would we be told to pray so many times? If faith was powerless, why did Jesus urge the disciples to have God’s faith? If death and disaster was God’s will, why did God send the Holy Spirit and gifts of healing and miracles?

The choice to believe is ours, and I choose to believe God is good, his mercy endures forever, and his Word is true. Mark 11:23-24 is true. Mark 9:23 is true. Matthew 17:20 is true.

The problem isn’t in God or in his Word. The problem is in those who fall for “que sera, sera” and won’t pay the price to believe. Faith is ours for the taking, but it comes with a responsibility and a job description.

When somebody gets sick and dies, it’s easier to say it must have been God’s will and excuse unbelief, than to take responsibility for failure. The disciples failed, after all — they tried to cast out a demon from a sick child and failed. (Mark 9:14-29) Jesus came along, took care of the problem, then explained to the disciples what they needed to do differently. Prayer with fasting. Do you suppose they ignored Jesus after that and simply quit praying for the sick? I don’t think so.

Jerry Savelle came to Florence years ago for a series of meetings about healing. He recalled an incident when a man complained to him, “Brother Jerry, you prayed for brother so and so, and he died!” Jerry answered, “Everybody I pray for dies sooner or later.” That didn’t excuse him from praying for the next fellow, and it doesn’t excuse us either.

Different attacks, different weapons

PurseGunA .22 caliber revolver shared space in my purse with wallet and checkbook in the 1970’s. (In those days I didn’t need a permit to carry it.)

I’d been a crack shot with pistol, rifle and shotgun since my early teens, having been taught by my hunter grandfather Da and uncle Mike.

The lightweight .410 shotgun I used had originally belonged to my grandmother Mimi. Since she seldom fired it, as long as Da gave me proper instruction she was happy to relinquish it to her oldest grandchild, me.

(I must admit, however, I had cried after killing that first bird and refused to go hunting with Da again. See this post about granddaddy and me. https://scfamilymemories.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/spending-time-with-granddaddy/)

In the 70’s we lived way out in the middle of the county. It was thirteen miles from the nearest city limits, I worked ten miles further on than that, and having a gun in the car seemed like a good idea at first. After a while I got uncomfortable having it around with kids in the car, though, so I gave up carrying the pistol in my purse.

A hunting knife might have been a good alternative – I’d learned how to handle and throw one of those from Uncle Mike, too and my aim wasn’t bad. But the thought of getting cut, or cutting somebody else by accident, made me lightheaded. So, no hunting knife in my purse or car, either. I did carry a ladies Swiss Army knife for years, until the airlines banned them. I stashed it away in a dresser drawer.

Army, Navy or Air Force, my military heritage goes back to 1760, years before the Revolutionary War. Weapons for personal protection never made me nervous, as long as I was proficient and wise in their use, maintaining a good sense of legal and illegal, right and wrong. Good common sense, too.

Along the way I began to learn that Christians are targets for an all-too real enemy, a spiritual one. I began to learn about the Holy Spirit, the power of God, and the spiritual weapons available to believers. Some of those weapons are familiar: Prayer. Whole armor. Word of God. Blood of Christ.

But some others that you might not recognize as weapons, actually are. Worship. Forgiveness. Humility. Boldness. Patience. Peace. Authority. Discerning of Spirits. Gift of Faith. Miracles. Healing. Commands. The name of Jesus.

I learned that the enemy doesn’t always come at you overtly, with in-your-face attacks. Some of his attacks are subtle: Worry. Fear. Doubt. Self-pity. Pride. Temper tantrums. Boredom. Bad mood. Criticism. Gossip. Ridicule. Personality conflicts. Resentment. Offense.

Unpleasant or unseemly thoughts may seem to pop into your mind randomly. (Just remember this – “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.”)

And some accidents, actually aren’t. Like tripping over a child’s toy. Stumbling over broken concrete. Falling off a skateboard and breaking your arm. Losing your keys. Getting overdrawn at the bank because someone else’s check bounced. Missing critical appointments because of traffic jams. Becoming stressed out because another guy didn’t show up for work and you have to do their job and your own.

Some of those things aren’t attacks of the enemy, they’re just the way things are in a fallen world. But some of them are. They are designed to hinder you, steal your faith, stunt your growth, and wreck your testimony. They are aimed at keeping you from doing and being what you should. Sometimes they are designed to kill you.

  • On my way to work one morning, I was driving down a straight stretch of county road and about to pass a long driveway leading to a house way off the road. Down that lane another car was speeding towards me. Too late I realized that he wasn’t slowing down, that I couldn’t prevent us from colliding no matter whether I stomped on the brake or the accelerator. My heart was pounding as I braced myself and cried out, Jesus!

Instantly my car was a quarter mile further down the road! Glancing in the rear-view window, I saw the other car just turning onto the pavement behind me.

What had happened?

  • A woman attacked me in my office parking lot one day, shrieking and pounding on the back of my head for all she was worth. Why? Because I had called for a taxi instead of offering to drive her in my own car where she wanted to go. When I jerked around, what I saw in her face didn’t look human. I commanded her to Stop that! and Sit down! She backed up and sat down on the steps to the office building.

Someone called out, What’s going on, and I turned my head to answer them. In a flash she was back up, pounding on my head again. Once again I commanded her to Stop it! Once again she stopped, and this time took off running down the city street, high heels and all. When the taxi arrived I pointed the driver in her direction and he left to try to find her.

What had happened?

  • For several years I served on South Carolina’s State Board of Education, attending two-day meetings in the state capital once a month. Returning home on I-20 late one afternoon, I was traveling in heavy, fairly high-speed traffic when still many miles from home my car began to slow down on its own. I switched over to the slow lane as other drivers honked their horns at me. The car had plenty of fuel, the gas pedal wasn’t stuck, the engine light wasn’t on, and the heat gauge read normal. Trash in the fuel line? I was puzzled, to say the least.

Still slower and slower we went, until 35 miles per hour is the fastest the car would go. With a nervous eye on the traffic, I switched on the flashers and eased the car over into the emergency lane. Where was the nearest interchange, I wondered, and how long will it take me to get there? Will the car keep going till we get there?

Thankfully it was only a couple of miles and there was a service station there. Good, I thought, maybe somebody in there can help me. But while the clerks were all sympathetic, nobody was a mechanic. I phoned home and explained the situation. I would try to drive the car home using the emergency lane on the interstate the whole way.

Pleading the blood of Jesus, thanking the Lord for his protection and visualizing angels surrounding my car, that’s what I did. I sang praise and worship songs every slow mile of the way, arriving very late but safe and sound.

When my own mechanic took a look the next day, he just shook his head in amazement. This car shouldn’t have kept going, he said, it should have stopped dead in its tracks. The catalytic converter was completely clogged up. He traded the faulty part for a brand-new one, the car returned to its normal operating condition, and I gratefully paid his bill.

What had happened?

  • Although blind, my husband Tim Cox had graduated from Francis Marion University with a degree in business administration. He was president of our company and quite good at what he did, serving as salesman, P.R. rep and sometime trouble-shooter. But being blind did cause a problem when one friendly, plausible sales rep persuaded Tim to purchase at much-reduced rates a quantity of goods for our company. When I met the man and looked in his eyes, I immediately recognized a “wrong spirit.” But Tim didn’t. He thought the guy was fine and the deal would be beneficial to both parties, so he had our bookkeeper cut the check.

There were no goods forthcoming, however. The fellow was a con man. At first Tim thought we should just write off the financial loss, chalk it up to a hard lesson learned: discerning of spirits is absolutely necessary for a Christian running a business. But after we prayed about it, Tim began the lengthy process of filing a legal complaint, for the authorities to find and arrest the man, and for us to recover the money.

Eventually that did happen. That’s when we discovered the con man had defrauded many others in our area. Most were women, some of whom were embarrassed or humiliated to have been deceived and cheated like this. One had spent her savings to have a new roof put on her house; the workers never arrived.

Another was a widow who paid for the beautiful diamond ring her husband had ordered before his death (so the fellow told her). Of course, the ring never arrived either. Without Tim’s follow-through with the legal system, they would never have recovered their goods either.

If you’re a believer, you’re a target. You’re also an overcomer! That’s not automatic, though. It takes learning about the spiritual war we’re in, how to recognize the enemy’s devices, and how to make use of the efficient, unfailing weapons at our disposal.

Here are a few reminders:

  • Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44 NASB)
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
  • So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (II Cor. 2:11)
  • And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (II Cor. 11:14)
  • For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (II Cor. 10:4)
  • Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:17)
  • Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:11-13) … and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)
  • But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Heb. 5:14)
  • Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
  • Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
  • Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (I John 4:4 KJV)
  • And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Rev. 12:11)

It’s time for urgent worship

SoldiersFieryPraise and worship are not the same thing.

Praise is telling God how you feel about him and what he’s done for you, how wonderful he is and how grateful you are, all wrapped up in a song somebody else wrote.

Worship is deeper, more intimate, more personal. It’s like singing a love song to the object of your adoration.

Of course, you’re still using a song somebody else wrote. And when you’re through praising God and worshiping, you give money to the church, hear a sermon from the preacher, request prayer if you need it, then go home.

That’s what I thought for years, until I researched original language for myself.

The English word worship comes from the old root word “worth-ship.” How much someone is worth, in respect, honor, position, wealth.

The New Testament Greek word carries a similar idea, but is used of a servant’s attitude towards his master – not exclaiming how great he thinks his master is, but being in submission, reverent, waiting for the master’s instructions.

The servant doesn’t inform the master of his own plans for the day. He doesn’t have any plans of his own. He doesn’t do anything until his master tells him what to do.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well something about the future. He said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Just physically singing in a church service is not what he meant.

I still worship with songs other people wrote, but sometimes it’s not songs at all, it’s paragraphs, sentences or phrases, sometimes just feelings. Whatever it is, it’s not complete unless followed by listening for the Master’s instructions.

Recently the Holy Spirit said to me, It’s time for urgent worship.

What does that mean, I asked? What is it, and why is it time?

True worship begins with focused attention, he said. Not contaminated with distractions like other people singing. Not drowned out by the static of worry over what is going on in your life, your own thoughts.

True worship is hard, I had to acknowledge. I wasn’t very good at it. Trying to concentrate doesn’t wipe out all the distractions. My elbows hurt. My fingers seem stiff. Time for Tylenol?

I find my mind wandering, thinking about the people I love and their troubles. Concerned about the state of the world.

Worship too easily transitions over to praying for something. Praying is not bad in itself, but it’s not focusing on the worth-ship of God and listening to his voice, his instructions.

Without the critical element of true worship, I may not hear his instructions instantly or clearly enough to respond with confidence when he needs me to.

I was worried that I just can’t do it, no matter how hard I try. Then he reminded me of how I learned to play the piano, how I learned to type: practice.

Practice urgent worship. Focus on the Master and he will strip away all your unnecessary distractions. Don’t worry that you’re not perfect, just practice.

Okay, I said.

But why? I wasn’t sure if he would tell me, but he did.

Because a day is coming when he will speak a critical word. We must be able to recognize his voice and respond, perhaps in an instant.

Urgent worship will prepare his people to hear him clearly, when that day comes.

Originally published in 2010. That day may be sooner than we think.