The God of Surprises

“…Nathanael replied, ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’…” (John 1:46)

     A swelling crowd joyfully met the bridal car, an elegant limousine, as it careened its way to the front of the church. The guests were ready. The photographers were positioned. The wedding organizers were expectant. The car door flung open. With bated breath, everyone awaited the emergence of the beautiful bride. And then what they saw thereafter was one worthy of TV’s Funniest Videos… the groom stepped out of the bridal car!

This is a true story. A real event. An actual occurence. I know. This was my wedding. And I was of course the groom who emerged from the bridal car.

I will reserve the explanation in another blog entry. But suffice it to say that because of a series of unexpected events, I ended up arriving on my wedding day in the car reserved for my bride.

Surprises! Surprises!

Sometimes, our expectations do not meet reality. What we anticipate does not materialize. What we hope for is not realized.

We can laugh about a funny incident like what happened during my wedding day. But when it happens in other aspects of our lives, laughter is the last thing we would want to do.

Talk about a good couple whose crib has been empty for a number of years now.

Or a court case filed against you by the company you’ve dedicated your life to just a year before retirement.

Or losing your husband to a heart attack at the peak of his youth.

Or getting unexpectedly retrenched.

Or getting the news that it’s malignant.

Surprises! Surprises!

And because of this, people begin questioning God’s goodness. You see, sometimes when God acts differently from what we expect from Him, we lose faith. But the problem isn’t really with God. Neither is it with us. The problem is really with “expectation” itself. 

In today’s gospel, Nathanael shows the folly of “expectations”. In trying to box God’s ways with his expectations of where the messiah should come from, Nathanael nearly missed encountering the Messiah Himself.

“…Nathanael replied, ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’…” (John 1:46)

His expectations shaped for Nathanael the kind of messiah he wants. Probably not from little known Nazareth. Nope. The messiah should come from Jerusalem. Or even Bethlehem, perhaps. But not Nazareth. Too un-Kingly. Too un-characteristically simple for an awesome God.

But that’s where he was wrong. That’s where we are wrong most of the time. When we try to box God into our own expectations of how he should act, we miss out on the blessing.

Today, I invite you. Trust in God even if He seems to act differently from what you expect of Him. When He didn’t answer that prayer. When He has yet to give you that child. When he has yet to bring you that healing. When He allowed your business to close down.

Still trust. Don’t waiver. Hold on.

Our God is a God of the unexpected. He is typically untypical. He is predictably unpredictable. And before you know it, you will realize that He actually answered your prayers but in a way different yet far better than what you expected.

So get down on your knees and say a prayer of trust today. And be ready to expect the unexpected from no one less than the God of surprises Himself!

Bobby

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Jesus is Enough

“…Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?…” (Matthew 19:16)

One of the young retreat participants boldly shared during the closing plenary session in one of the retreats I was giving, “I will follow Jesus because I know he will let me pass the nursing board exams next month.”

Her sharing was met with a thunderous applause from her fellow participants. Pats on the back. Hugs. Cheers. Her sharing was indeed very inspiring. Except for one thing: It was very dangerous.

You see, many people follow Jesus today thinking that when they do, Jesus will automatically answer their deepest prayers and reward their finest efforts. He will bring physical healing to them. Or make their business prosper. Or give them that promotion. Or let them pass that exams. Oftentimes, he does. But what if he won’t? Do we stop following Jesus then? Do we give up on him just like that? Do we waiver in our faith and try to take matters into our own hands?

In the gospel today, Peter’s question may have been ours when he said:

“…’We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?…” (Matthew 19:16)

In modern day lingo, it was as if Peter was asking: What’s in it for us?

Don’t we sometimes fall into the same trap? We pray more because we want our prayers answered not so much because of Him who answers our prayers. We sometimes substitute the gift for the giver, the blessing for the bless-er.

Let me ask you this: What if the only reward for following Jesus is Jesus alone. Not passing the board exams. Not a bigger bank account. Not a solution to your debts. But more of Jesus in your life. Greater peace. Greater joy. Greater love. 

Won’t Jesus be enough?

Today, I confronted myself with that question. Here I am a missionary, spending most of my time preaching God’s word to different companies, schools, prayer groups and organizations. I gave up substantially my being a lawyer to spend more time bringing people closer to God. My human tendency is to ask what Peter asked: What’s in it for me?

Prosperity? Success? Riches? Surely, God has provided well for me the past three years. And His promises of a brighter future inspires me to serve Him more. But the life-changing question lingers: What if he won’t? Will I still serve Him? Will I still follow Him?

Won’t Jesus as reward be enough for me?

Tough question. 

Today, I pray for the grace, not only to say with my lips, but also believe in my heart that Jesus is and will always be enough.

How about you? Isn’t Jesus enough?

He should be. With Him, we can’t ask for more!

Bobby