A German mother who photographed her infant son in 1914 left the film to be developed at a store in Strasbourg. In those days some film plates were sold individually. World War I broke out and unable to return to Strasbourg, the woman gave up the picture for lost. Two years later she bought a film plate in Frankfurt, over 100 miles away, to take a picture of her newborn daughter. When developed the film turned out to be a double exposure, with the picture of her daughter superimposed on the earlier picture of her son. Through some incredible twist of fate, her original film, never developed, had been mislabeled as unused, and had eventually been resold to her. We have all experienced remarkable coincidences. But are they really coincidences?
¶ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
I want to help you. If we can grasp a clearer vision of Bible's revelation about God it will help us to see the invisible hand of God in the midst of life's difficulties and delights.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
Things happen. Some of these things cause us to wonder whether God realises or even cares. These things might hurt us or perhaps simply disappoint us. Like Job's wife, we often ask, "Why God?" But perhaps like Job, we need to respond by acknowledging that there really are no random coincidences, instead, all things are ordered by God.
And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
What Job knew, and was about to be tested regarding, was that God is good. Life is full of stories of amazing coincidences. For example -
A computer error gave two women in America called Patricia the same social security number. When the two women were brought together in an office to rectify the blunder they discovered that they had both been born with the names Patricia Ann Campbell. Both of their fathers were called Robert Campbell. Their birthdays were on 13th March 1941. They had both married military men in the year 1959 (within eleven days of each other). They each had two children aged 19 and 21. They both had an interest in oil painting. Both had studied cosmetics. Both had worked as book-keepers.
Most of the coincidences we experience do not seem to be coincidences at all. They seem random, almost haphazard. Accepting that God orders the world may be interpretted as a cold statement about God which could potentially mislead someone to think of God as heartless and cruel - if it wasn't for the overshadowing grand truth about God: He is good!
Bill Hybels tells the story that he had to dismiss a staff member who was heading up their international ministry because he no longer had the capacity to lead that ministry. They had been friends for a long time. The staff member was shattered and left most ungraciously even though the Willow Creek Association paid him out far more than the amount of his entitlements required. His whole family cut themselves from Bill and ceased attending Willow Creek Community Church. Bill began receiving abusive letters from the man accusing Bill of unChristian behaviour. A few years went by and Bill was speaking in Europe when as he returned to his motel, his former international ministry staff member was sitting on a lounge in the lobby. Bill said that he emotionally sunk with the thought that this man was now stalking him wherever he went in the world. But as the awkward conversation commenced, the former staffer told Bill that he happened to be in town with his new job and thought that he would catch with Bill. He then thanked his former boss for dismissing him! He went to say that he initially had great difficulty processing the dismissal. However, after he picked himself up he was head-hunted by another international ministry who were paying him far more than Willow Creek ever did, plus he got to do what he loved (travel the world) and that these last few years had been the best of his life! Sandwiching his thanks to Bill he finished with a profuse "thank you" for dismissing him as "it was the best thing that ever happened to me." Was it a coincidence that the other ministry was looking for someone with just those skills at just that time the sacked man had processed his dismissal? At the time, it didn't seem so to the dismissed man.
The steps of a person are ordained by the LORD–
so how can anyone understand his own way?
Scripture places a precious gem in the hand of the Christ-follower. This gem of revelation is of infinite value. It is the rest that comes from knowing that God is awesomely sovereign. But before any of us fall prey to the dangerous idea that God's sovereignty (His control over the world) means that we bear no responsibility for our decisions, actions or attitudes, we need to hold in the same hand another gem. This exquisitely beautiful gem is gloriously revealed in Scripture: every human being enjoys the power of choice. We are each blessed with the endowed gift of responsibility. Yet, I have not told you the half of it! The follower of Christ has their power to choose further empowered by the grace of God and their responsibility bolstered by light from God's Word.
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
According to First Peter 4:10 God multiplies His grace through the fellowship of believers with each other. This is why church is so critically important for the believer. Is it a coincidence that so many people say that when they put God first through their commitment to church fellowship that they just seem stronger and more able to deal with life's challenges? Is it also a coincidence that when the believer "takes time out from church" that whatever problems they were facing seem to get more difficult? Coincidentally, it is in church that God's "manifold grace" is transmitted through both fellowship and the preaching ministry of God's Word.
Christ-followers eat, breath, and drink "coincidences". We worship a Saviour Who was born coincidentally "at just the right time" (Galatians 4:4). We find strength coincidentally in our times of weakness when we look to the Lord (2Cor. 12:9). Coincidentally abnormal things happen when we pray. And it is perhaps prayer that causes the believer to experience coincidences more regularly than the average person. One atheist scoffed at the Christian for trusting a God they couldn't see, hear or feel. "Why would believe in such a God?" demanded the atheist. "I have come to know God." replied the believer. "Your so-called answers to prayer are merely coincidences!" retorted the atheist. "Perhaps", said the Christian, "but whenever I have stopped praying the coincidences have stopped!" Try it. Pray to God for Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask God to help you to fulfil your purpose for your life. Pray to God for Him to help you to become the kind of person He wants You to be and to find lasting peace and true joy. And if you are brave and adventurous, ask God to remove anything from your life that grieves Him and invite Him to change you into the person He wants you to be. Pray like this and coincidentally you might find these prayers wonderfully answered.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.