396: I Love It When God Pulls Out the Overkill
On Thursday mornings, I eat breakfast in a diner-like restaurant with several of my friends. The first half hour is a round of “So, how was your week?” The rest of the time, we discuss what we learned in our assigned Bible reading. This past Wednesday centered around an odd passage of the book of Acts. In it, the apostle Paul learns from his nephew that more than 40 Jewish leaders have made a pact not only to murder him but also not to eat or drink until he’s dead.
You know: everyday politics.
Paul sends both his nephew and his military guardian to tell the local Roman elected official about the plot. Then a wild thing happens. Unbeknownst to Paul, this nonbeliever from the world’s largest superpower ordered a shock and awe campaign. Paraphrase: “Grab 200 of our hand-to-hand combat guys, 200 of our spear throwers, and 70 of our horseman; and sneak this man down to the governor’s office before breakfast.”
No joke: 470 infantrymen and 70 horses.
Against probably 47 religious leaders.
So, yeah: slight overkill on defense—way more than the 2000 Ravens or Seattle’s Legion of Boom. God went way over the top to provide for Paul.
The night before Paul learned of this plot, Jesus literally stood next to Paul and told him not only that he was going to get out of Jerusalem but also that he would eventually make it to Rome. Cryptically, the Lord didn’t tell him how. Then Jerusalem’s Hebrew leaders made the plot. Then Paul learns of this plot. God told him he was about to punch a ticket out of a hot spot—and then upped the stakes.
God likes better stories. They’re more likely to go viral.
This isn’t just a first century legend or early church folklore. God’s over-the-topness isn’t confined to people in the Bible.
I’ve seen it time and again in just my life. After submitting more than 40 résumés in 2002, I lay in a corn field and asked God if he could find me a career job on the East Coast. “Nah, son. How ‘bout I give you a temporary job that turns into a company that gives you free trips around the world?”
I’m privy to miraculous physical healing so dramatic that doctors stood befuddled. I’ve watched split marriages not only reconciled but also turned into marriage ministry. I’ve heard of obstacles that become trebuchets to accomplishment. I’ve had vacations serendipitously become grand adventures. I’ve lived through moments in an asphalt parking lot that felt like heaven. I’ve experienced moments so surreal that it’s like I absorbed the Mario invincibility star and ran through the fourth wall.
Recollecting those memories leads me to wonder and then to worship. It makes me feel loved.
To be fair, God doesn’t always work this way.
We don’t always get the Disney version of the ending. During another torches-and-pitchforks episode, Paul escaped in a wicker basket on a rope instead of a military escort. At other times, he floated on broken pieces of a ship for days, waiting to be rescued. In the end, God didn’t spare him from a beheader’s axe.
Being aware of God’s promises and his provision helps us understand the narrative he’s writing, even if we don’t know the next chapter. When he reveals his character, he overpowers our insecurities and confronts our doubt. When he supernaturally interjects sovereign moments into our lives, he’s doing it for our good and his glory.
When he shows up to 10x what we could use, he’s leading us to worship. He’s giving us a blockbuster to share with our friends and family. Or our blog readers.
So, how ‘bout you? How has God gone all 470 to 47 in your life? I’d love to hear it, and I’ve got goosebumps and exclamation marks on the ready.
Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com