Chances are…

First things first. I need to apologize to any of you who have come back to my blog recently only to find it the same as the last time you checked.  It hasn’t been for lack of desire, I can promise you that.  When I began this blog years ago I promised myself (and maybe even the readers) that I’d only write when there was something on my mind or in my heart that I felt was worthy of recording.  And to my knowledge I have stayed true to that promise.  It makes for an inconsistent blog, however.  And if you know anything about blogging, inconsistency is the death nail of a successful blog site.  Good thing I’m not terribly interested in a successful blog site.  If I were, I would have been doing a much better job thus far of living by the immutable principles of blogging.  But I digress.

Since I’ve written last the biggest event in my life has been a week-long trip to Costa Rica and back.  (I’m currently sitting in a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico recovering from that and more.)  We went down to Jaco with the intent of doing all we could to bless the people there and in hindsight I believe that we accomplished our mission.  Through a variety of activities and immersing ourselves in the culture, it was a week of powerful moments of seeing God clearly working and moving around us, pleased to use our group of 39 as conduit for His love and grace.  It was more than memorable to say the least.

Sometimes God lets you experience His perfect timing in a way that is undeniable.  One such situation arose while we were in Costa Rica last week.  One of our leaders, Jacque had spoken with a family in the local church we had partnered with and had found out that they were in dire need when it came to finances.  They (Dad, Mom, & 4 kids) were facing eviction and even often had shortages of food.  Despite their church’s desire to aid them and despite their faithfulness to the local body of believers in Jaco, they found themselves in a tight spot.

Jacque felt led to bring their story to the attention of our 29 high school students and in roughly a 12 hour time frame, those students gathered together $502 of their own money.  The next day was Sunday and Jacque took the money to the Pastor, not knowing specifics of the amount that was needed.  The pastor took the money with gratitude with the promise to use the money as best as they could for this family.  When the family returned home from church, there was a note on their door that said that unless they paid that month’s and the next month’s rent, they would have to move out.  How much was one month’s rent? $250. How many months were needed? 2.  What is $250 x 2? $500.  What had our students collected?  $502.  Why were there 2 extra dollars?  I have no idea.

What are the chances of that?  Skeptics might say, “Pretty good, actually. Coincidences like that happen all the time. Don’t read into it. Your God isn’t that great.”  To them I would respectfully reply, “Whatever.”

Over the course of that week in Costa Rica I saw several instances that might be chalked up to mere chance.  That got me thinking about something and if you can forgive the long introduction, I’ll talk about that something now.

Chance. Luck. Happenstance. Coincidence.  Do these things have any place in the kingdom a “sovereign” God oversees?  It turns out they do.  Except they’re not known by those words.

All throughout both testaments in the Bible, there are 70+ instances of the words “cast lots”.  While not much is known about what casting lots looked like (i.e. rocks, sticks, dice, etc.), it is clear that God used this method to reveal His will to His people.  Under Joshua’s leadership to divide lands, on the boat with Jonah and his shipmates, and even at the foot of Jesus’ cross; lots were cast to figure things out.  Today it would be the equivalent of flipping a coin.  So, instead of knowing God as “the God of second chances”, perhaps we should also call Him “the God of chances.”

So, how can the sovereignty of God and the “dumb luck” of casting lots be reconciled?  Doesn’t it seem that throwing dice to move closer to what God wants seems like a bit of conflict of interests?  Aren’t His followers supposed to be faith-filled and watchful for God to supply His light where details seem dim?  Or should we live by the sage advice found in the immortal words of Yogi Berra when he said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”?

I’d like to spotlight just one of the many instances when lots were cast to determine God’s will.  This is near the birth of the early Church in Acts chapter 1, verse 26.  Here’s the deal: Judas had hanged himself and needed to be replaced in order to round out the team of apostles (that’s the nutshell version).  Now if you take that verse alone, and forget the context you very well may think that casting lots is the method of choice for indecisive wimplings like those who had just been with Christ for 3+ years.  Not so. Let’s look 2 verses prior and we’ll suddenly see a better picture of the situation.  After nominating 2 men (Joseph and Matthias), they PRAYED: “Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.'”  Essentially they were saying, “God, you know our hearts.  Now let us know yours.”

Have you ever stood still waiting for God to show you which way to go?  Have you ever been paralyzed by fear because you view God’s will as a tightrope you have no idea how to traverse?  Have you ever NOT acted because you were more fearful of going the wrong way than hopeful you were going the right?

Here’s a simple equation to remember next time you face such a situation:

1. Pray. Ask God to reveal His will as you move forward.

2. By all means, move forward.

I know it sounds overly simplistic and you might even call it naive.  But the longer I live, the more convinced I have become that Jesus’ followers don’t need to know more of what to do as much as they need to do more of what they know.

May you and I live lives that are not afraid of trusting a God who is able to reveal Himself through a variety of methods, even the flip of a coin.  He’s either going to direct the lots (and does) or He’s going to bless the lives of those trusting enough to follow the outcome of the lots.