The more experience I have as a child of God the more I come to the conclusion that there are few accidents in the world. I am not saying that God gives us that first parking spot at Wal-Mart, unless of course you get out of the car and have an encounter with someone that advances the kingdom. I do think that God has a plan for our lives (as he did with Jeremiah in 29:11) and that God is actively involved in carrying out that plan on a day-by-day basis.
When God started the church in the book of Acts it totally depended on God’s working to take place. Let’s have a look at a couple of events in Acts where God left little to chance.
Jesus appears to the disciples (Acts 1) – Jesus increases their faith and gives them instructions to ready them for the harvest that would take place in the following chapter.
Matthias Chosen (Acts 1) – While Peter’s exegesis wouldn’t make a good grade on a term paper today he clearly understood some things that we would have missed from the Old Testament. In 1:26 they cast lots, which was a process that allowed God to determine the outcome, and the lot fell to Matthias.
Pentecost (Acts 2) – A story that starts with some men in a room waiting ends with over 3000 Jews becoming Christians.
Prayer for boldness (Acts 4) – Upon their release from prison they are reminded that the authorities had crucified and persecuted Jesus but only because that was allowed by the plan and authority of God (4:27-28). Notice what follows in their prayer for boldness, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (4:30-31). Notice they attribute their power to heal by the power and provision of God. If God did not intercede with his power they would not be able to heal.
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) – Here the power of God is clearly displayed through his punishment of those who would seek to abuse the church and lie to God. Notice how the story concludes, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (5:11).
Apostles released from prison (Acts 5) – The high priest and Sadducees have the apostles thrown in jail. This is something that had escaped my attention. I normally think of Peter, Paul, and Silas in prison but in Acts 5 it appears that many or even all of the apostles are in prison. Notice how God intercedes – “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts…and tell the people the full message of this new life.” (5:20). The apostles couldn’t be kept in prison because God was actively working to advance his kingdom.
Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7) – It is harder to see where God’s hand is actively involved in this speech. But we are reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 21:12-19 where he promises to provide them words and wisdom to defend themselves in the midst of persecution,
12“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17All men will hate you because of me. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By standing firm you will gain life.
Jesus’ words held true – by standing firm Stephen gained life (Acts 7:54-60).
Philip & the Ethiopian (Acts 8 ) – God prepares Philip for an encounter with the Ethiopian by sending an angel to tell him which road to take but the angel doesn’t tell him why. It is important to remember that God doesn’t alway give us the why of everything but expects us to trust him and to walk by faith. God prepared this Ethiopian for the encounter by the scroll he was reading from while riding in his chariot. He was reading about the suffering servant in Isa 53. This sparks a conversation that results in the Ethiopian’s conversion. Do you ever wonder if we will meet him in heaven and say, ”
Saul & Ananias (Acts 9) – Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus. Jesus calls out to Ananias to use him to find and restore Saul physically and spiritually.
Peter & Cornelius (Acts 10) – We have the story of the sheet being let down from heaven and Peter commanded to kill and eat unclean animals. Peter is told not to call anything impure that God has made clean. Now realizing that the dietary laws of the law were no longer in effect Peter’s mind is being readied by God to accept Cornelius. Just prior to this vision an angel appears to Cornelius and sends him to find Peter. Once again, God is lining up the pieces to establish the church and accomplish his plans. This story comes to a climax with these Gentile believers receiving the Holy Spirit, again the providence of God at work, and Peter baptizing them. If God wasn’t at work none of these things would have lined up.
We are also a part of God’s church and his kingdom. God has not stopped working through the Holy Spirit. God has not lost interest in his church. God is still protective of his church. There is not a force in the world powerful enough to stop it. I love knowing that I am a part of something that is important to God and that God is actively involved in. God may not be interested that we get the best parking spot or that we had hotdogs for lunch. God is concerned for his church and he is concerned for us and it is reassuring to know that the same God who did all of these mighty things is still at work today.