Have you ever looked like the picture shown here? Of course, this is a youthful picture of the late Lucille Ball, and yes, she looks very surprised.
I have surprised people at different times before. Have you? Like the time I stalled the car out on the highway while still living at home. The stalling wasn't out of the ordinary for that car. But what was astonishing to my dad was the fact that I put the car into neutral, got behind it, gave it a good push, and then watched it roll down the embankment. Then there was the time, the only occasion in my life, that I had a pair of Michigan vs. Ohio State football tickets. I surprised my brother by not inviting him but bringing along a new friend named Brenda.
Surprises come in all shapes and sizes. Some surprises are good and some not so good. What surprised you lately? Perhaps you experienced an unexpected difficulty like an out-of-orbit car repair bill. Maybe something fortuitous came your way like in the game of Monopoly, "bank error in your favor, collect $200."
In the biblical book of Acts, chapter 9, something out of this world happens and there is no question it surprises everyone. One minute, a guy named Saul was breathing murderous threats and dragging followers of Jesus into court so they would be tossed into prison and the key thrown away. His desire and attempt was to destroy the church. It was certainly a paralyzing time in the life of the early church. But then the next moment Saul is boldly and courageously speaking and encouraging all who would listen to follow Jesus. What gives?
Here is something that we learn: God surprises us. God can melt the most hardened of hearts like Saul's. And it is God's amazing work to change lives. As a pastor I am confronted with that thought more than most. I can't change someone but God is able to do what is impossible with man — change a heart.
In this case, the Lord utilized a supernatural intervention to surprise Saul and his contemporaries, and God did this by speaking in an audible voice. On that road to Damascus, God moved in a way not expected by anyone, and it was because of his grace and mercy and his power. It can be said God moved in surprising ways in the past, but I want you to know that God still moves and works in special ways today.
You may need God's special work right now. It could be that you are facing a financial crisis; it might be that underemployment over time has decimated your savings and retirement and there is little hope. Perhaps it is a major health issue that has you and it is breaking your resolve and strength, putting you in a desperate situation. Or perhaps relational suffering has you throwing your hands up as you and your family face the reality of a divorce. It might be something else, but whatever it is you feel, you know you are going down.
But let me ask you this, what if you bought into the possibility that God could surprise you? What if you decided by an act of your will to trust God's hand? Imagine what might be possible. A job landed that allowed you to be able to crank your savings back up. The doctor's words that you are cancer or disease free. Or even the incredible news that your relationship is on the mend, as God allowed a healing process. In my brief time on this earth I encountered surprises just like these. We never know what God is capable of doing. We do not know when God is going to show up big time and do something unexpected.
Sometimes we are not ready for God to surprise us, or to put it another way, we are not in the right state of mind. We have succumbed to negativity and this has sapped us of our hopeful trust in the Lord. Sometimes we lack belief, we just do not believe God is able, that God can do it — whatever it may be.
Consider what Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to the power that is at work with in us." I encourage you to turn to the one who is capable of doing things way beyond our thoughts and imagination. Let the surprises begin.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, with two locations meeting Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at Petoskey Middle School and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. More information is online at www.genesiswired.com or on Twitter @normbyers.