– Zac Poonen
A Time for Every Purpose
Solomon once beautifully wrote that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Therefore, we know that God has a purpose for every single thing that has ever happened, is happening, and is yet to happen. Solomon adds that “there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him” (Eccl. 8:6). I can remember a pastor who was invited to speak at a huge conference. On the night before the event, he broke his leg walking down the steps on the stage. The pastor asked, “God, why now? Why this?” The hospital said it was so bad, he’d need to have surgery. After surgery he met a woman in rehab who had never heard the Gospel. While they were both exercising, this woman trusted in Christ that very same day! For this woman, now a child of God, it was a huge break (so to speak). Timing was everything, and the “troubles” lying “heavy” on the pastor brought the best of possible things.
The Faith Factor
There are times when God allows some of the worst things in our lives to happen. It is times like this when we are going through a “dark night of the soul” that God might be revealing to us the strength of our faith or trust in Him. God never tempts us to cause us to stumble; neither does He test us to learn how strong our faith is. God is omniscient (all knowing), and He never needs to learn anything. What He might do is test us to let us know how strong our faith is. He may even put us in positions where we have no choice but to trust God. So when your back’s against the wall, remember that nothing is impossible with God (Matt. 19:26).
Good From Bad
There is no way that Joseph or his brothers could have foreseen that selling him into slavery would bring about much good, but that’s exactly what happened. God used the evil of Joseph’s brothers for the good of the brothers and for most of the region’s population at that time, as he said, “As for you, 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). By Joseph being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, there were sufficient grain reserves to prevent the starvation of millions of people during the seven-year drought. Joseph doesn’t overlook the fact that his brothers did evil, but neither does he overlook the fact that God can use evil for His purposes. Look at the cross to see how the very worst thing that has ever happened brought about our very best (John 3:16).
Prison to Print
There were probably a lot of people in Paul’s day who criticized him because he was constantly being thrown into prison. There were even a few riots where he tried to preach the Gospel. Paul’s reputation certainly preceded him everywhere he went. Paul ran into so much trouble because he traveled so far in his life planting churches and bringing the message of salvation to the Gentiles, so the last thing Paul needed was to be thrown into prison. In prison he’d be unable to preach the Gospel and plant and visit the churches. But think about this: If Paul had not been thrown in prison, would we have much of the New Testament today? When Paul was imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to write letters to the churches, called epistles, and these later became part of the New Testament. If not for Paul’s imprisonment, he might not have had to time to write the “prison epistles,” which are Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
We can easily find Scriptures that prove God makes even the very worst things work for our very best (Rom. 8:28). We can trust that God’s timing is always perfect; that He always knows what He’s doing when He tests our faith so that we’ll know how strong it is; that God always uses everything for His purpose, evil included; and that sometimes we benefit in ways we don’t always understand when we are in severe trials, like when Paul was able to write the prison epistles.