God's Purposes vs Our Convenience

Pastor Kirk Knudsen   3/7/2014


Pastor Kirk Knudsen is the Senior Pastor as Bridge Community Church in Sauk Rapids, MN.

Last week, I was struck by an unusual scenario at the end of Acts (in the Bible).  Paul was on a ship with 275 other people in hurricane force winds for two weeks.  They had to throw everything overboard just to keep the ship afloat; the crew and passengers were beyond miserable.

Paul is suffering and dry heaving with the rest of them, but he knows God has a purpose through it all.  An angel tells Paul that God's will is for him to stand before Caesar, and if everyone obeys God via Paul, no one will die.  They find an island, hit a reef, abandon the crumbling ship, and everyone manages to make it safely to shore.  Leading up the ship ride Paul was falsely accused, threatened, and had to appeal to Caesar for his own protection.  Soon after Paul and his shipwrecked mates make it to the island of Malta's shore, they are breathing a collective sigh of relief when Paul is bitten by a viper. 

Clearly it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Paul.  However, through Paul's bad day God was showing the 275 people from the ship and the Maltans that he keeps his promises; he said no one would die, and instead of swelling up and dying, Paul is unscathed.  The accusations, threats, hurricane, shipwreck, and snake bite were awful and horribly inconvenient. God used all of it to reveal himself to people from Jerusalem to Rome (and a lot of places in between), eventually even to Caesar, the most powerful man in the world.  God's purposes always trump our convenience.  ALWAYS.  Life isn't always fair, easy, or comfortable, but God's purposes are accomplished even in the midst of our inconvenient circumstances, sometimes because of them.

As I ponder this, I realize that my sometimes inconvenient circumstances aren't anything new for God, and I am not exempt because I follow him. Christ-followers essentially volunteer for inconvenience; Jesus says it is carrying our cross. A cross is big, heavy, and awkward; people will stare at you, mock you, and hate you for it.  God wants us to enjoy life, but his purposes supersede our convenience and comfort.  I am a Type 1 diabetic; I don't recommend it.  It is ridiculously inconvenient in my life, but it has forced me to accept I am not in control, to make healthier lifestyle choices for me and my family, and to rely on God in many ways from finances to medical decisions.  God has been working his purposes in me through the diabetes' inconvenience. I have a friend who is fighting a cancerous brain tumor, which causes many other complications.  The sickness isn't fair, it isn't easy, and it has changed every single aspect of his life, work, and family dynamics.  I don't understand what God is doing or why, but I am confident in God's promise to work all of this together for good, because my friend loves God and has been called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).  I won't be surprised if this horrible sickness soon kills my friend.  Yet I know that God is accomplishing his purposes through his life and even through his cancer. 

I think God is revealing himself to this man's children and grandchildren, calling them to trust Jesus in faith, and opening doors for conversations about their sick father, grandfather, and friend's faith.  God is moving him and his wife to greater levels of dependence and trust upon the Holy Spirit.  God is using his cancer to push me to trust him completely, even though my prayers haven't thus far been answered as I hope.  God is using my friend's drastic and devastating inconvenience to accomplish kingdom purposes. I have a different friend who loves serving in church ministry.  He loves Jesus, is passionate about living and sharing the gospel, and deeply desires to be a part of advancing God's kingdom.  He was fired recently, without much explanation, without fairness, in the midst of some troubling leadership realities in the organization, despite being in a season of great personal and ministry fruitfulness.  He moved his family to the area and church just a year ago, recently purchased a house, and his family was finally settling in.  Now he is out of a job and isn't sure what's next.  Being out of work, uncertain about the future, having a new house (in a tough real estate market), and a ministry that was flourishing taken from him isn't at all convenient.  But God's purposes and will are bigger than his convenience.  He knows it, and trusts God, even though he doesn't like it much. 

I think God is using his situation to address some blind spots among the church's leadership, to spur men and women in the church to be more active in their faith and church leadership, and to grow this friend's faith, pushing him to rely on God and not on himself (2 Corinthians 1:9).  He would tell you God is challenging and moving him to grow in uncomfortable ways to be more like Jesus, and to yield more fully to the Spirit's control.  In his mind, all this inconvenience is mostly about what Jesus is aiming to mature and grow in him.  I am confident God is accomplishing his purposes through my friend's tough inconveniences, using them to accomplish kingdom purposes. Maybe you feel snake-bitten by God.  Your circumstances have been relentless and you have been or are suffering and just when you finally made it to shore alive, you were bitten by a poisonous snake.  Hang in there.  God might be using that snake to reveal himself more clearly and powerfully to people around you.  They may be doubting God, uncertain of his goodness, or resistant to his call, and God may be using your inconvenience to accomplish his purposes in and for them. 

After a night of fruitless fishing, it was obnoxiously inconvenient for Jesus' disciples to obey him and cast their nets out again, but they would have missed the greatest catch of their lives if convenience had been more important to them than obedience.  Cast your nets on the right side of the boat, even though it's inconvenient, and see what Jesus has in store.

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