God in the Shadows

This February my husband celebrates his 20th anniversary as senior pastor of First BaptistPicture1 Church. We are delighted that God has allowed us to have such a long and fruitful ministry and we hope to continue to minister here for many more years to come.  It was quite a surprise to us how God orchestrated our move to the Central Coast.

We did not know much about Paso Robles back in 1995 except that it gets hot in the summer and there was no Starbucks Coffee here. A pastor friend of ours had candidated for the position of senior pastor at First Baptist Church but did not receive a call from the congregation. He suggested my husband candidate for the job. God had moved us out of our previous ministry and we were seeking His direction as to what was next.

We submitted my husband’s resume not thinking anything would come of it. We soon received a phone call from one of the deacons and we began the “candidating” process. It would be easy to look at the circumstances that brought us to Paso Robles and think “what wonderful coincidences.”  Our friend just happened to know this church…he just happened to not get the call, and he just happened to tell us about First Baptist.

However there are no coincidences in God’s plan for our lives.  God is constantly at work to bring about his perfect will in our lives and the lives of others. Nowhere can this be seen more acutely than in the story of Esther.

Esther is a young Jewish woman who finds herself in a beauty contest of sorts with other young woman at the King’s palace. The King has banished his queen and is looking for a replacement.  Esther is chosen out of a harem of 400 other young women and she becomes Queen of Persia, the largest and mightiest country in the world at the time.

The book of Esther goes on to describe how Esther, with the help of her older cousin Mordecai ,outwits the king’s right hand man Haman to save the Jewish people living in Persia from genocide. She is helped in this endeavor by a series of coincidences or happenstances.

  • Esther happens to be beautiful.
  •  Esther happens to be favored by the king.
  •  Mordecai happens to overhear a plot against the king’s life.
  • Haman happens to find out that Mordecai is a Jew.
  •  Haman happens to plot his revenge, roll dices to determine the date of the revenge, and it happens to pick a date in a year.
  • The king happens to have insomnia and reads from his chronicles at night.
  • The story the king happens to read is about Mordecai discovering the plot to kill the king.
  •  The king happens to decide to reward Mordecai at the very time that Haman is seeking revenge.

There are many more happenstances in the book of Esther. Even though the name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, the author lets us know that God was at work behind the scenes. This is called the providence of God and it is the major theme of the book of Esther. J. Vernon Mcgee said, “Providence means that the hand of God is in the glove of human events. “

In looking back at my own life I see many events that might be called happenstance but were in actuality the providence of God.  When I was in 2nd grade my father’s company transferred him from Southern California to Central California. We put our house on the market and prepared to move. Then suddenly the move was off. My dad did not transfer and we stayed in the same house, living in the same town. I remember being quite annoyed and embarrassed trying to explain to my classmates that fall why I did not move. A year later I attended a Vacation Bible School near my home where I met Jesus. Ten years later I attended a youth group near my home where I met my future husband.  How different life would have been had we moved. John Piper said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them” .

There are times in the Scriptures that we see God show up in big ways; like the parting of the Red Sea, and raising Lazarus from the dead. But often we see God in the shadows like a drunken king banishing his wife and then choosing a young Jewish girl to be queen of Persia who eventually saves her people.  I think He does this to remind us that he works in our life much the same way. I have had no “parting of the Red Sea” moments. But God has worked his providence in my life in ways too mysterious for me to comprehend.  I pray for clear eyes to see Him in the shadows and a pure heart to sing his praises.

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