‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
One of the most oft-quoted movie lines on high school and college campuses comes from Napoleon Dynamite. The line closes the film, after Napoleon’s brother, Kip, gets married and rides off on horseback with his new bride. If you’re a closet Napoleon fan (or have a 14 year old in your home), you know it well:
I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing Napoleon Dynamite, but I do want to talk with you about “luck.” First, it’s important to know that the words luck and, for that matter, coincidence are not in God’s vocabulary. God’s hand is at work in every situation, coordinating every detail to accomplish His purposes for His glory and our good. No event is random. No moment is beyond His notice or beyond His control. Christian thinkers and writers have often called this the “providence” of God and, given its importance, let’s think through its implications for our lives.
At one extreme, the providence of God is challenged by post-modern thinkers who tell us that everything happens by chance. For them, life has no ultimate meaning and our only goal is to scrape together enough pleasure and possessions to create some semblance of purpose and enjoyment in life. With such an empty perspective on life, it’s no wonder that lives end up being a string of “sex-capades,” or the pursuit of new and strange pleasures. It answers the question why binge drinking on college campuses is at an all-time high.
At the other end of the spectrum is the distortion of God’s providence by assigning everything in life to “fate”—a fate that portrays us as victims of circumstances entirely outside of our control, leaving us to twist in the whims of a capricious being who manipulates our lives for his own amusement.
It’s time for us to get a biblical view about luck, randomness, fate, and the providence of a good and powerful God!
The God described in the Bible loves His creation passionately and has plans for His people that are supremely good. Not plans of calamity and despair, but plans that are good. If you believe in the providence of God, all of history is moving to a grand and glorious end—the crushing of Satan and evil and the emergence of the new heaven and earth, where all is good and righteous. Where life is full of joy, peace, comfort, and happiness in the presence of God—forever!
I’ll be the first to admit that trusting in God’s providence is hard to do when it comes to difficult circumstances over which I have no control. God’s work is often behind-the-scenes, hidden from our view. He doesn’t give a play-by-play on everything He is doing to coordinate the details of His providential plans. In fact, often His work is most clearly seen in the rearview mirror. But I’ve looked back enough times to see and trust that my life is not a product of good or bad luck, or of random coincidences. It is divinely shaped and guided by the providential hand of God toward a wonderful conclusion.
So today, let’s choose to align our perspective and even our vocabulary with God’s. No more “luck” and no more “coincidences”! It won’t make for memorable movie quotes, but it will make for an infinitely more meaningful and biblically lived life!
- Take a few minutes to look back over some of the events that have shaped your life. How can you, looking back now, see God’s divine hand at work?
- Now think about some of the questions you had in the midst of those events and circumstances. How was your faith challenged during those times?
- How does it encourage you, even if you are in a difficult season of life, to know that God has a plan and that it is for the ultimate good of His children?