In recent posts, I think I have established that J.I. Packer believes God is our Guide. Chapter Twenty of Knowing God makes a strong case “to know” God is to recognize one of His characteristics is He is our guide in life.
That’s good because most of us need guidance. Some of us are willing to admit it, but some won’t. Packer refers to those self-directed individuals as people who drive their cars into a bog. They don’t listen to God’s guidance. Maybe they feel they don’t need it. Anyway, they have missed the road. To take this further, sometimes Christians not only miss the road, they stand by and watch their cars sink in the bog and vanish. Packer writes “the damage would be done and that would be that.”
We are just supposed to suffer the consequences and move on in life? “The damage would be done and that would be that” sounds just like the reaction one might have over spilled milk. It is spilled and I can’t put it back in the glass. I now must just go get a roll of towels, clean it up and forget it.
Sometimes life does not work like that. When we “get off the road” so to speak, we can really commit grievous errors. Some actions are terribly hard to fix. Some actions cause extreme regret. Some actions result in sinful feelings…the list goes on and on. My point is, we don’t just say “oh well” and move on.
That is where we begin to realize that not only is God our Guide, but He is also our Sovereign and He has the ability to extend His grace to us. Packer writes “Thank God…our God is a God who not merely restores, but takes up our mistakes and follies into His plan for us and brings good out of them” . Maybe that is the meaning of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God can take a man-caused disaster and make all things right again.
Sadly, we have to admit that it is probably human nature to not take God’s advice but someone insisting on doing “it” their way is not the end of the world. God knows that this pattern of behavior is part of man’s makeup and He has known it from the very beginning. Some would argue that “original sin” came from Adam and Eve “doing it their way” in the Garden, ignoring God’s admonition that they must not partake of the fruit on that tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve listened to Satan and ate the apple anyway.
Packer says “Guidance, like all God’s acts of blessing under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us His way, that we may tread it; He wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we make, we shall come safely home.” To extend his opening metaphor further, the car is pulled from the bog, it is made right and we will eventually drive it back home.
Straying off the path, slipping off the road [however you want to refer to us making errors] is going to occur and we need to know that God’s everlasting arms are beneath us. He promises to catch us, rescue us and restore us.
Here is the “bottom line.”
God is not going to let us ruin our souls.
But before we go too far, let’s not get egocentric. He is not doing this for our security. He is doing it for His glory.
People like to see “comeback stories.” Imagine the powerful message that it sends when nonbelievers see a Christian fail. It is such a colossal failure that it seems impossible to recover. No normal person could ever come back from such dire circumstances. Yet they do. Not only does God intervene to help them, but He restores them. In the long-view of their life, we see that this was part of His plan all along.
It is the story of Job, the story of Joseph, the story of King David, the story of Paul’s life, and the story of Peter’s denial of Christ.
It is the story of anyone who is used by God to accomplish what could not ordinarily be accomplished by just human effort.
Driving the car into the bog is not a life-ending error; it may be part of God’s plan.
It is what happens when we get out of the bog that matters. We carry on with life. We drive it back home and when someone asks how all this came about, we humbly respond…
“It was God…