I had the opportunity to spend some time with my brother, George. I’ve known George for a couple of months now and we go to Third Avenue Baptist Church together. Last night was the first night that we got to hang out with just the two of us. We spent a good while on the porch, discussing the stories of the Lord’s grace in our lives. George, a former meth-addict, was converted in a “surfer-dude” church by the powerful gospel. His journey took him through charismatic chaos, the military, a brief stint under TD Jakes and, later, to Capitol Hill Baptist Church under Pastor Mark Dever. It was encouraging in the Lord to hear of His grace in George’s life. He’s now married and he and his wife are expecting their first child.
Our stories should testify to the sovereign grace of God. Specifically, last night made me ponder afresh on some of the circumstances surrounding my conversion. In this series we have gone into the depths of God’s sweet governing of all things. This short post is aimed to help us grasp again the sweetness of this doctrine. Experience does not contribute to the truthfulness of a doctrine. Even if we did not find it true in our lives, the truth remains. However, our lives should be interpreted by the theology of the Bible, in a way that we see everyday events through the lens of a sovereign God. Allow me to point out some strange providences in my life, even over my sinful choices, that led to God saving me.
The Basic Story
I grew up in a nominal Methodist home. There was nothing particularly “Christian” about our home other than we had to go to church most of the time. I prayed a prayer at age 9 so that I wouldn’t go to hell, but I was no more a Christian than a rock is a tree. I continued in my rebellion into college. My “gods” were myself, a girl and stuff. My rebellion turned more obvious as I was completing my first year of college. I drank, I cussed, but it was all good; after all, I was a Christian. I arrived back home to work at the Christian day camp that I had given a false profession of faith and then worked the summer before (yes, as a nonbeliever). Two new friends talked me into skipping our nightly training to play basketball. On the way home, I heard the gospel (indirectly) and God saved me. I saw my sin for what it was and ran to the provision of the cross: to superior satisfaction in Christ.
Now that is how I was saved in a nutshell. The point of this is not necessarily so you will know how I got saved. Instead, I want to point out some factors in this story that show how God delivered me to that place, in that truck with those two guys, all by His sovereign purpose to save me that He decided before the foundation of the world.
The Mystery of Providence
God had used several things to draw me into that truck. First, our employer and place of employment. I was allowed to go to camp there as a five year-old, something that is not usually permitted. I loved it so much that went back and eventually worked there. What if I had never made that false profession of faith? Would they have remembered that “spiritual moment” and given me the job? Second, there was a girl that brought me there. My heart aches at the remembrance of this deep idolatry. How could my heart be so consumed with something that is by nature not a god? Anyway, things were beginning to look up. She was coming around (I think). Might I have stayed in Fayetteville and not come back for the summer if things were not looking like we would be together? Providence saved me from a lot of mistakes in this area but led me through me trying to make them. Third, I was lazy. The guys gave me a chance to get out of work. No way I would skip out like that today. But I hated anything that had to do with working! The flip side of that, the fourth thing, was a love for basketball. I also worshipped sports. But God saw fit to allow me to like basketball and want to play it with others. So I left and played basketball. Had I grown up playing soccer, would I have gotten in that truck? What about the guys in the truck? What if they weren’t Christians? What if my friend has not been struggling with sexual sin? What if the other guy didn’t know what to say to him? What if I had been texting that girl and not listening?
But God, in His mercy, saved me. He turned me from all that idolatry towards superior joy in Christ. Hallelujah, what a Savior, indeed.
Providence in the Everyday
We must remember that God was thoroughly displeased with all the sins involved in the above story. His wrath stood over against me, hating me and my sin. I chose to do all of those sins and those who contributed are guilty as well. But in His mysterious way, God orchestrated my life in such a way that, at the right time, I heard the gospel and was saved.
Could this happen if God had not ordained it? Maybe. But it is not likely. Very, very unlikely really. Instead the Word seems to illuminate the world. I meant everything I did for evil. God meant it for my everlasting good and His inexhaustible glory. Soli deo gloria.