The Giver

God uses both friend and foe to take care of His children.

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I once heard a preacher tell a story of a godly older lady that happened to live next door to an aggressive atheist. Every morning this lady would stand on her front porch, greeting the day with shouts of acclamation and praise. And, every morning the man next door would mock her, shouting over the row of bushes that divided their properties with statements like, “You are praising a God that isn’t there!” and “You crazy old bat, God does not exist, you’re talking to yourself!”. Even through the persecution, she continued her routine over the years, refusing to let man’s doubts shake her faith.  After one long and challenging season, filled with a loss of income, and some health issues, this dear lady found herself with no groceries. That particular morning she stood on her porch, praying aloud, “Father, you know I have no groceries and am hungry, yet I trust you, I believe in you, and I am asking that you provide”. As usual, her neighbor overheard her laments and considered this to be the perfect opportunity to prove her faith was folly, so he started scheming. That morning he went to the grocery store, purchased enough groceries to meet her needs for a solid month, placed them on her front porch, rang the bell, hid behind the bushes, and waited. When she opened her front door and saw the bags of groceries, she immediately went to praising God. Jumping from the bushes, her atheist neighbor shouted as he approached her porch, “You foolish woman, I bought those groceries, not God!”. When the older lady heard her neighbor, she took off running down the sidewalk, her praises seemingly fueled by her atheist neighbor’s confession. She was running around the neighborhood, praising God for His provisions even louder and more passionate than before! Her neighbor, infuriated by her seeming inability to understand his trick, stopped her and asked, “Do you not understand that it was ME who bought you those groceries?” to which she replied, “Why yes, I understand.” The neighbor was even more confused and asked, “Then why do you keep praising God when I bought them”  “Because” she replied, “I think it is awesome that God provided me with the groceries and even made the devil pay for them!”.

Looking to the life of the Apostle Paul, we can see a man provided for by God through many people; some friends and some foes, yet God was behind it all, and Paul recognized this through his praise (Phil. 1:3, Rom. 1:8, I Cor. 1:4). Paul knew that even the very ones responsible for his arrest and imprisonment, God would use for His glory, therefore, worthy of his praise. This ideal could not be more exemplified than in the story found in Joseph’s life in the Old Testament. Joseph, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by his own brothers, stood as the second most powerful man in the known world years later when those very same brothers approached him asking for food through the famine. Joseph did not exact vengeance upon them but rescued them in their hour of need. Joseph comforted his brothers by saying, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen. 50:20, ESV). His words to them reveal an understanding; God uses both friend and foe to bring us closer to Him, make us stronger in Him, and be used more for Him.

We must never forget there is no struggle between good and evil; good will always prevail because God will always be God. While we will never be able to trace God’s hand, we can always trust His heart. And, while it is impossible to figure out “how” God does what He does, we can always trust that God knows what is best for our lives and is a genius at using the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise (I Cor. 1:27).  

Perhaps we don’t really have “enemies” in this world, only tools used in the hands of The Giver to help shape us into the image of His Son.

Scripture: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” -I Timothy 2:1, ESV

Question: How about you? Do you struggle when the voices of opposition rise over your praise? Or when those against you mock the power within you? 

Prayer: Father, there seems to be a growing army of opposition toward Christians in our culture. People are against me on social media, mocking me at work, angry that I am a Christian. Please help me see that you are either allowing or sending these people into my life for a purpose. I ask not for understanding, but the faith to believe, the courage to walk the path, the strength to overcome each obstacle, and the love as I face all people, recognizing they are part of your plan for my life. Thank you for knowing what is best, and thank you for your provisions, no matter how they arrive. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.