Although I am sometimes jaded by predictable plots, I enjoy watching movies (or TV series) where the main characters find themselves up against impossible odds, and somehow find a way to overcome them. When events – whether planned or unexpected – all fall together, we celebrate their victory.
After a few hundred results like this, though, we kind of get used to this story line. No matter how unlikely it seems for the protagonists to succeed, we want to believe that they will overcome. Maybe we want to know that we, too, can overcome the odds, and win the battles that we wage in our own lives.
In the real world, though, sometimes the most powerful force wins. We build elaborate buildings, but they rust and decay when left unattended; after all, the natural world is more powerful (or at least, more patient). We build reinforcements and levees, but a sufficiently high flood or wave of water can still breach them. We live with all kinds of electronics and technology, but a single lightning strike will burn them all out (and probably melt the plastic casings). History includes inspiring stories of scrappy forces that overcame larger foes, but usually the biggest army with the best weapons and the best strategists wins.
In a movie, or even in a sports match, rooting for the underdog may be fun. In most areas of life, though, it is best to understand which side will win. Investing in a company we know is doomed to fail (when we can support a successful one, instead), or putting our confidence in a frayed climbing rope (when we have plenty of good rope in reserve); well, these aren’t just bad ideas, they are downright foolish.
Have a look at this bit of wisdom from the book of Proverbs, in the Bible:
You can make many plans,
but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.
Proverbs 19:21 NLT
It doesn’t matter if we think that we’re really smart, really clever, or really tough: an all-powerful, all-knowing God has the ability to specify the outcome.
- We may be positive that our own way is better than the one that God offers to us.
- Perhaps we imagine ourselves to be “good enough” to qualify for spending eternity in the presence of a holy and perfect God.
- Maybe we don’t believe God when He describes the principles of right and wrong, and what eternity holds for us.
- Or, it could be that just don’t trust God that He loves us, and that His plan for us is better than what Satan offers us.
If we find ourselves in any of these categories, the point remains: if God is exactly Who He says He is, and if His message to us through the Bible (including the teachings of Jesus) is perfectly true, then none of our contrary plans and misguided opinions really matter. (And yes, I have had plenty of those ignorant plans and opinions, myself!)
The grace that God gives includes the ability to exercise free will, though. So, He often lets us make bad choices (even when He has given us better options), and then lets us experience the consequences. The proverb above doesn’t say that God prescribes all of our outcomes and destinies; instead, it is His purpose (without our counsel) that wins out in the end. When God sets out to draw people to Himself (but not compelling them to do so), He will succeed in saving those who accept His offer. When God gives us truth, no amount of smokescreens or counter-arguments can change its accuracy.
In the same way, it doesn’t matter if we want to accomplish something outside of God’s will. Even if we have gotten everything ready, prepared for contingencies, and established redundant solutions, if our plan conflicts with God’s, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. Now, of course God doesn’t destroy all plans of humankind right away, even if they contradict His instructions. However, history littered with examples of those who were sure that their plans would succeed (but learned otherwise). See Genesis 11:1-9 for just one example. Furthermore, God has all of time – and eternity – to achieve His goal (and He will). His timeline long outlasts the short walk on earth that is given to any of us mere mortals.
So, while we can still root for the athletes whose team team is in last place, betting against unbeatable odds isn’t how we should arrange our lives. Instead, seek out God’s purpose and His plan for your life, then update your goals to match. You may still overcome impossible-looking odds (from a human perspective), but that will happen because you are on the winning side.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.