God Wants to Surprise You
God Wants to Surprise You
At the age of eighteen I set out to read the entire New Testament in order to disprove Christianity. As I read, I was surprised to find that I became convinced that it was true. The last thing that I wanted to do was to ‘become a Christian’. I thought that would ruin my life and make it boring by stopping me having any fun. Yet, knowing in my heart that it was true, I felt I had no option but to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.
The moment I did so– to use the words that C.S. Lewis chose to describe his own experience of encountering Jesus – I was ‘surprised by joy’. Ever since, Jesus has never ceased to surprise me.
God is the God of surprises. Jesus constantly surprised his followers and he wants to continue to surprise you.
Surprised by God’s helpPsalm 54:1-7
Even if the attacks are justified or partly justified, it is always surprising when we come under attack from people we do not know. David says, ‘strangers are attacking me’ (v.3a). I remember how surprised I was when I first started to read articles by people I had never met attacking Alpha, HTB and, sometimes, me personally. Surprise attacks can come from neighbours, work colleagues or other sources.
What I have found even more surprising is how God intervenes to help us: ‘Oh, look! God’s right here helping!’ (v.4a, MSG), ‘God is my helper and ally’ (v.4a, AMP); he sustains us (v.4b) and he brings deliverance from our troubles (v.7).
As I look back over my own experience, deliverance has not always been instantaneous; it has sometimes taken months or even years. Yet, I am challenged by David’s response. In the midst of the attacks, he says, ‘I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good’ (v.6).
The point of a ‘freewill offering’ was that there was no condition placed on the sacrifice. David did not say that he would only offer a sacrifice if God rescued him. Regardless of the outcome, he resolved to praise the Lord for his goodness.
If you are facing an attack right now put your trust in God, believe that he wants to help you and praise him in advance.
Lord, thank you that one day I will be able to look back and see that you have delivered me from all my troubles.
Surprised by JesusJohn 2:1-25
The ministry of Jesus was full of surprises. Jesus is constantly calling you to go deeper in your life with him. He wants to surprise you in new ways.
- Surprising abundance
Some might be surprised that not only were Jesus and his disciples invited to parties (like this wedding banquet), they actually accepted and went along. At that time, wedding feasts lasted about a week. They were times of great revelry and rejoicing – where people put on their best clothes, rejoiced, sang, danced, joked, laughed and had fun. Perhaps what is even more surprising is that rather than condemning those drinking wine, Jesus transformed over 120 gallons of bath water into the very best wine (v.10). Jesus does things abundantly. He wants to give you more and more life and joy.
Simply letting Jesus know what the problem was (‘They have no more wine’, v.3) and then following his instructions (‘do whatever he tells you’, v.5) led to this surprising miracle. Jesus not only answered the need, but he answered it beyond anything they could have expected or even imagined. The master of the banquet was surprised when he ‘tasted the water that had been turned into wine’ (v.9).
This is also true in our own lives; Jesus turns the water of life without him into the wine of life with him. I thought that following Jesus would mean a life that was ‘watered down’. In fact, it is the very opposite. Jesus constantly surprises us by how he enriches our lives. In particular, we see here how he enriches weddings and, indeed, marriages. He can turn the water of an ordinary marriage into the wine of an enriched one.
Jesus transforms drudgery and dreariness into fullness of joy.
Through this miracle Jesus ‘revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him’ (v.11). For many this must have been a very surprising revelation.
- Surprising passion
Jesus amazed everybody when he went into the temple courts and found people selling cattle, sheep and doves and others at tables exchanging money: ‘The loan sharks were also there in full strength’ (v.14, MSG).
He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area. He said, ‘Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall’ (v.16, MSG). His disciples remembered the words, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’ (v.17).
We are surrounded by commercialism and seductive images. Huge shopping centres are replacing churches. There is a danger of worshipping money and commerce.
There was a terrible temptation then, as there is now, for money-making to interfere with the worship of God. Of course, there is a practical side of worship, both in the temple and in churches today. However, when the object of our focus becomes money, we are in serious trouble. Jesus surprised people by how passionate he was about this.
- Surprising dwelling
Jesus redefines the temple. Jesus’ body is the true temple. Jesus says to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days’ (v.19). The true temple will be destroyed, but God will rebuild it again in three days, through the resurrection. They are surprised and cannot understand this – they ask Jesus how on earth he thinks he can rebuild this temple in a mere three days. But John adds, ‘the temple he had spoken of was his body’ (v.21).
The temple was important because it was the symbolic dwelling place of God. It was where God and humanity met. These surprising words of Jesus show us that he himself is the new temple. He is the dwelling place of God on earth.
Through Jesus, you are now called to be the home, the dwelling place of God. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
- Surprising wisdom
When people saw the miracles Jesus performed and what he was doing, many ‘believed in his name’ (John 2:23). ‘But,’ John tells us, ‘Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need human testimony about them, for he knew what was in people’ (vv.24–25).
It is surprising to read that Jesus did not immediately trust these people – especially when we read that love ‘always trusts’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). Jesus is realistic about human nature. We tend to look for the perfect spouse, perfect parents, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect leaders and the perfect church. But these don’t exist. All of us are flawed human beings.
Recognising this helps us to be more realistic and less disappointed – and more forgiving in our relationships.
We need the wisdom of Jesus in our dealings and in our relationships. We need to balance openness and loving trust with the wisdom and understanding of the human heart.
Lord, thank you for Jesus. Help me to fix my eyes on him today, so he can surprise me afresh with his wisdom, passion, love and abundance.
Surprised by humanenessJoshua 19:1-21:19
As Pippa and I have travelled around the world, we have often visited the local prisons. In some countries the justice system seems to be relatively humane. In other places the prison conditions and penalties imposed seem inhumane.
We are often surprised, even shocked, by parts of the Old Testament law. The Israelites would also have been surprised, though in a different way, because these laws were surprisingly humane by the standards of the time.
If a situation arose that seemed to be an accidental homicide, a person could be admitted to a city of refuge. Thereafter they could stay if, after the trial, the avenger failed to prove it was murder. The city had a duty to protect them until it was time for them to return (Joshua 20).
These laws preserved the sanctity of human life. Every human life is of infinite value to God. When a person’s life is taken, even if accidentally, it is a very serious matter. On the other hand, there is a humaneness about these laws that protects the person who has killed accidentally. This humaneness would probably have surprised people at the time.
As God’s people today, we should, of course, seek to ensure justice, just laws, deterring and reducing crime. But we should also be passionate about ensuring that our justice systems are humane.
Lord, help me in my own life, and also in society, to work towards just and humane laws. Thank you for your love, compassion and mercy.
I love weddings. When each of our children got married, there were so many preparations that went into organising the day. This passage reminds us that the only thing that really matters about a wedding is that Jesus is there… (and he cares even about practical things like the wine).
The interaction between Jesus and his mother is very touching. We see already Mary’s faith in her son.
Verse of the Day
‘God is my helper and ally;
the Lord is the one who sustains me’ (Psalm 54:4).
Surprised by Joy is the title of a semi-autobiographical book by C.S. Lewis which looks at his early life and his conversion to Christianity.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.