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Choice Not Chance

Pastor Steve Wellman – Matthew 10:29-31, Luke 13:1-4

From Articles Published in the Goldsboro News-Argus on Fridays

After leaving a restaurant, we noticed a crowd begin to gather under a tree near the end of the parking lot. When we investigated, we noticed a wind gust had blown a baby bird from its nest. People could see the nest from high above. Someone commented, “Those in the nest just received good luck, and this one on the ground received bad luck. That’s just how the wind blows.” As we walked away, it was curious to wonder how many standing in the circle believed that observation. Even if we don’t say it aloud, many carry the suspicion that success is due to the wind of good luck and failure is due to bad luck. Jesus has profound insight to offer toward this question. In Matthew 10, it’s as if the voice of Jesus echoes through the centuries when He proclaims, “Not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of the Father’s care (v. 29).” Some years ago, a popular author named Harold Kushner wrote a best-selling book, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.” Kushner insisted that although God is perfectly righteous, a sin-fallen world is like a roulette wheel. The earth spins around, and when our number falls, it might be the fortune of victory or the misfortune of defeat. Those unfortunate incidents don’t reflect unfavorably on God. It’s bad luck in a sin-fallen world.

Although authors such as Kushner have the highest intentions to provide ideas to help their readers, the notion of luck, either good or bad, is contrary to the teachings of Scripture and the proclamation of Jesus Himself. According to Jesus, God’s ultimate desire is for all to enjoy an enriching relationship. God’s ultimate desire still holds even after sin enters our universe. Once sin occurs, the fall produces consequences that are under God’s permissive will. While things happen contrary to God’s ultimate will, God permits it to preserve His perfect will. Through Jesus, all of us can emerge as more than conquerors in this world. Nothing can separate us from the love which is in Christ Jesus. Only through the self-giving of Jesus are we assured whatever misfortunes we experience in this life are eventually made new. Those who are in Christ are brought to completion in Him. Nothing is left to chance. Even when the sparrow falls to the ground, this is not an incident of blind luck. Jesus shows while God is not the direct cause of everything, God remains Master over everything. We must cling to this crucial distinction because if we lose this distinction, we waver to extremes. On the one side, we are puppets, and on the other side, we are marbles on a roulette wheel.

If we are puppets, it means God is in complete control and determines everything that happens. On the other side is the view life is a massive roulette wheel and things happen that are entirely out of God’s hands. Jesus shows neither side of the extreme is true. Our lives are not like pawns on a chess board, but we are also not marbles on a roulette wheel waiting for either fortune or misfortune to fall. In Luke 13, Jesus is questioned after a tower collapsed on people. Were these people like that sparrow blown from the nest? Were they in the wrong place and at the wrong time when their number was called? Jesus noted how those people were not recipients of bad luck. Whatever we experience in this world, God remains Master. The priority Jesus emphasizes is the importance of repentance and the crucial choice we make to receive the gift Jesus provides. Only in His name is salvation found. Whether we experience fortune or misfortune is secondary. This world is not our ultimate destiny. Jesus goes to prepare a place for us. His desire is for all of us to commune with Him forever. Life is dependent on choice, not chance. How Jesus provides a way for renewal is the answer to any misfortune in this world. Accepting His gift is the one choice upon which our entire life, future, and destiny depend.