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By Stephen Green
First Published in Christian Voice November 2008
Gen 45:5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
On a recent trip to
, we took along a woman in a box to help us find where we were going. We tapped in our destination postcode and she immediately started giving us directions. We did have the inevitable blind alley, literally, when she took us down a lane only for us to find a line of bollards separating us from the venue. 'You have reached your destination', she announced in vainglorious triumph. The driver of an articulated lorry would have less than impressed.
Most of the time, it must be said, the woman in the box was very helpful, and she was totally unperturbed by us going wrong, even when it was deliberate. I must admit, I instinctively react against bossy women (come on, you women are crying out for the men to take up their leadership responsibilities!) so at one point, when she said 'carry straight on' in central
, I turned right just to be awkward. As it happens, I led her a merry dance down a succession of lanes.
Her reaction was instructive. A human navigator could have been forgiven for saying 'You should have carried straight on back there', or 'Now what are we supposed to do?' or 'We would be there by now if you had done as I said' or 'You never listen to a single thing I say!'
She said none of those things. She didn't get flustered. There were no recriminations, no if only's, no loss of temper. She simply recalculated the route. I couldn't lose her. She was a Sat Nav. But she just started from where we were, knew where we wanted to go, and she recalculated the route.
So I started thinking. This is how our Christian walk is supposed to be. After all, God starts with us just as we are. He didn't wait until Frank Brookes was dried out and reformed, He saved him there and then. He didn't set an entrance test for the Apostle Paul, he picked him up on the
road. He didn't take John Newton out of the slave trade first, He met and convicted him just as he was.
Of course, he does not want us to stay as we are. He has work for us to do, and we get closer to Him as we do it and in order to do it. We yearn for 'a closer walk with Thee' and He first justifies us, taking away that burden of sin, then sanctifies us, making us holy bit by bit. But He never says, 'If only you had done such and such or so and so, you could have been much more use to me.'
That's because He knows the end from the beginning, but it is also because God has no 'Plan B'. What you have is what he uses. Where you are is where He starts. Where He wants you to go defines the route. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the eternal reward, but on earth there are many places we want to be and things we want to achieve for Him.
So you don't say 'If only'. You don't worry about what's gone wrong. You don't waste time in recrimination. You focus on what you want to achieve. Then you recalcualte. Maybe the Lord was behind what went wrong. Maybe you weren't doing it right and He had to redirect your steps. Whatever the reason, the only way forward starts here. It's Sat-Nav Christianity. It's the only Christianity.
I am trying to think of somewhere in the Bible when someone says 'If only'. There are two in the same chapter. First Martha says 'Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,' (John 11:21) then her sister Mary says exactly the same thing: 'Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:32) before bursting into tears.
We encounter these two sisters in Luke 10, where Martha is complaining to Jesus about Mary. And that leads me to recall the amazing spiritual which leads with the words, 'O Mary don't you weep, Tell Martha not to moan.' It also has the line 'Every day there's a miracle in your life, You've just got to look for it.'
Just don't moan over what you can't change, because it's done. If Satan can keep you moaning about the past, he'll steal your future. And don't weep over spilt milk, because the Lord can use that situation to His glory. Recalculate. Look for a miracle.
In another example, when the Lord judges His servants, to the one who went and hid his talent, He says the man should have invested the money instead (Matt 25:27). But that is all to do with the final judgment and is intended as a warning to us believers to use the gifts we have been given to His glory. Christ is always teaching us to make the very best of what we have.
And I recall one other. In Acts 27, Paul tells the men they should have listened to him and not set sail, so that’s a ‘should have’, but he wastes no time on that line of argument, and instead moves straight to tell them what God is going to do with the situation as it is. He recalculates. So they land on
, the sick are healed, a church is founded, and the
is advanced. God uses all sorts of bad situations to His glory. He is always an infinity of steps ahead.
King David sinned in the matter of the census, but out of it, he found the site for the temple. Joseph was sold into slavery, but saved
because of it. The Lord Himself was dead and buried, but rose and ascended into glory.
Blessed are those who can miss a train and not worry, but look around to see what appointment the Lord has for them instead. It does not mean to take advantage and not to try to be on time or fulfill a task, but to know if it all goes wrong, perhaps the Lord was in it. All things work together for the good of them that love God. Recalculate. Start from where you are, seek Him for where you are going, walk in the Lord's way. It's the only way. It's Sat-Nav Christianity.