Is Your Life God’s Second Best?
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God’s Second Best
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Do you remember Joseph’s life? Do you remember he was born into that family with many brothers? Then, you remember, he became his father’s favorite son; and he got the ‘coat of many colors’; and the brothers were jealous. And then you remember, then he was sold into slavery by them. And then he was taken into Potiphar’s house I think, and Potiphar’s wife, you remember, tried to get him into bed with her, and he ran out, and eventually ended up in prison; and then became the premier of Egypt.
Have you ever thought, “Could it have happened some other way? Could it have happened some other way? I mean, did it have to go that way? If he maybe hadn’t been proud, maybe his brothers wouldn’t have got jealous, and so he wouldn’t be sold into slavery. Or maybe he’d have got to Potiphar’s house and he’d have just become very competent there, and very trusted, and then would have moved to the premiership.”
Have you ever wondered, “Now, wasn’t it meant to happen that way? I mean, surely the only reason it went the way it went, with him in prison, and all that suffering, was because other people didn’t act the way God wanted them to act, or Joseph himself didn’t act the way God wanted him to.” Or, have you ever thought about Moses and those – I mean, he spent most of his time on the backside of the wilderness they said, way in a remote desert. Now, was that God’s original plan for Moses? Did God plan for Moses to spend all those years in the remote desert? Was it not the attitude of Pharaoh’s daughter when she found him as a little baby and tried to bring him up as a son of the Pharaoh and then him not fitting into that kind of cultured civilization, was that not all part of it? And if that had not all happened, would God not have gone directly from birth to the position of leader of his people?
Or, you think of Job and you read — you read about him at that time when he was covered in boils and just broken in body and had lost all his rich possessions, and all his position with people. And he was just nothing. He was less than the dirt. And then of course, eventually God restored him. But, did he have to go through all of that?
Now, I wonder, have you thought of those things? Have you ever wondered now, did not all those things happen because of the failure of this person, or that person, or the other person? And really God would have done it in a clean direct way with none of that kind of thing? And yet, it’s quite tricky isn’t it, if you go too far that way, because you very quickly end up saying the whole Bible is kind of a list of God’s second bests. And really, if God had the doing of it, it wouldn’t be like this at all.
And then that kind of sets you back on your heels. Now, well what have we got here then? Kind of a history book of God pulling man out, time after time as best he can? And I wonder what it would have been like if man had done exactly what God had wanted? And that’s the kind of situation I think that Peter got himself into. If you’d like to look at one of his most uncomfortable, and it’s putting lightly to say, embarrassing moments, one of his probably most rebellious moments. Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me;
for you are not on the side of God, but of men.’”
And you almost quake in your boots. You feel, “Boy, I’d hate to be in that position where Jesus had to say that to me. He rebuked Peter so severely.” Why? And I know all of us know, for one thing, Peter was urging Jesus to self-love. “Pity yourself, Lord,” one of the translations goes. “Pity yourself; this shouldn’t happen to you.” And so obviously Jesus was rebuking that, because he knows that that self-pity comes straight form Satan.
But there was another reason. Peter was suggesting that Jesus didn’t need to die. He was saying, “No, no, you don’t need to die. For you to die would be a terrible second best! I mean, it’s unthinkable!” And you can see it, if you put yourself in Peter’s shoes. The Jews have been under the heel of the Romans for years, as they have been under the heel of Sennacherib, and of all the other nations that have overruled Israel over the years. And they were probably at their weakest now. And they were just a nothing in the earth. And suddenly there appears this man who talks like the Messiah, and people like Peter begin to sense, “This is the moment for Israel. The Messiah is going to deliver Israel from the heel of these Romans, and from the domination of all foreign powers forever. And he is going to establish his glorious kingdom here on earth. This is the Messiah. He talks like the Messiah; he heals like the Messiah. Everybody is beginning to listen to him. He speaks to the Romans, and they’re impressed. He speaks to the tax gatherers and they’re impressed. He speaks to everybody and they’re impressed with him. And the whole world, the Bible says, is going after this man.”
And Peter and others like him thought, “This is the moment of deliverance for Israel. This is the way God wants us to go.” And the next moment this man Jesus is walking down Via Dolorosa with any beggar that chooses spitting, and the Roman soldiers beating him with their fists, and then hoisting him on the cross and killing him. And Peter suddenly thought, “This can’t be! This can’t be the way God meant it to be!”
Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever thought to yourself, “I mean, surely God’s plan was for Jesus to come and live among us, and for us to receive him and accept him, and to allow him to give us his spirit. And then we would be born of his spirit and we would become one of his brethren. He was the first born among many brethren and we would be the rest of the brethren. And then we would be translated like Enoch and go to heaven.”
Have you ever thought that if God had had his way without ‘the Romans’ in it, or without ‘Judas Iscariot’ in it, or without ‘Pontius Pilate’ in it, or without the ‘Jewish Pharisees’ in it; if God had had his way it would have gone differently entirely? In other words, have you ever thought to yourself? “This was probably the best God could do in the circumstances. It was the best he could do in the circumstances. It wasn’t his ideal at all for Jesus, but it was the only thing he could do given the opposition that people produced to Jesus.”
What about your life? What about your life? Have you ever thought in the same terms about your life? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, it’s God’s second best? I mean, I can mark out places in my life where if I had done something differently, or if I had taken a different attitude, or if I had decided differently, or if somebody else had had a different attitude to me, or somebody else had behaved differently towards me, yeah my life would have gone differently. And that’s the way it is, and God had to adjust. He had to adjust his plan. And so I end up with this plan which is, you know, good. I mean, God’s going to work something out of it, but it’s certainly second best.”
You still think of the ideal way that you would like your life to have gone. You think, “Now, yes I know the way it should have gone. I can picture the way God undoubtedly wanted it to go. Yes, I’d have married this person, and then we’d have done this. I would have bought this house, and then I would have become this in my job, and then I would have moved there. And yes, yes, I can picture it. But I mean, what’s the point? I mean, you have to be realistic. I mean, what I have got is what I have got. This is, as they say, the cards that have been dealt to me. This is what God has managed to rescue and salvage out of the mess. And so this is it. I mean, there’s no point in ‘crying over spilled milk’. There’s no point in looking back over things and wishing they were different. This is it. This is what I’ve got.”
Do you see you’re in the same deception as Peter? You’re in exactly the same deception as Peter. You’re thinking, “Somehow it is the same death. Somehow God is ‘making do’.” And that brings just a train of consequences with it. Satan just brings all his horde of evil spirits and evil attitudes that dog your life. It just paralyzes you. It paralyzes you as far as present faith, and present love, and present joy, and present peace and concern. It just paralyzes you.
You memory: it gets all cluttered up with ‘might have beens’; all cluttered up with ‘might have beens’. You’re not living in the present! You’re always living in the, “Oh what might have been;” ‘might have beens’ that were never intended by God at all — never intended! They exist only in your deception, in your foolish, lying, ideal picture that Satan has created in your mind, that your life was supposed to be. ‘Might have beens’ that were never intended by God at all, but your memory gets cluttered with them! Cluttered! And you carry it like a heavy weight, like the Pilgrim in “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Yeah, a heavy weight on your back! And it consists of this memory of all these ‘might have beens’ that bear no relationship to reality, or God’s ideal, or his original plan for you at all. They are purely Satan’s pictures that he creates in your mind.
Your spirit and emotions are weighed down with a whole backlog of regrets, and griefs. So that you can’t live joyfully in the present moment and enjoy all your Father’s goodness. You have all kinds of regrets. You keep them quiet; you don’t mention them to anybody. But when you turn over a little old yearbook or something like that, you look at it, and you go, “Oh yeah, that was…” Or, something happens to your mother or father and you’re, “Oh, I wish…” You’re filled with regrets and with half wonderings of what ‘might have been’ and with half resentments that it isn’t, and with half disappointments in yourself, that you made a mess of it, and that you forced God into this second best life that he’s given you.
Your faith is paralyzed, because you never catch up with where God is leading you next. You’re so preoccupied with where you think you would have been, had he had his way. So, you haven’t time! You can’t catch up with him! You can’t catch up with the present moment! You’re still back a few years ago, trying to think through what ‘might have been’.
I’ll show you the answer, it’s in Ephesians 1:11. Just so plainly! “In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” “Who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” “All things!” Not eventually your getting into heaven! Not the eventual thing! Not your eventual destiny! Not now and again, an odd thing: maybe it hits right on the marriage; hits right on the job; hits right from time-to-time on some things. No, “Who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” Everything that has happened in your life so far has been God’s will and is necessary. Everything! There are no ‘second bests’ in God’s loving providence.
God foresaw everything. That’s what the Psalmist says. God foresaw every day of your life before any of it was lived. God foresaw every detail. Everything that has happened in your life has been necessary. And everything that has happened here in our fellowship has been necessary. That’s the glorious deliverance that we have. Everything! You say, “Everything?” [Pastor pauses in emotional contemplation, then whispers,] “Yeah, everything!” That’s a glorious… “Barb?” [A member of the fellowship] “Yes!” No second bests! Not God trying to rescue something from the mess that we make! But God working his perfect plan out as perfectly and as completely as he worked Moses’ life out. No second bests!
Nothing has happened that was not necessary to happen. And nothing has happened in ‘your’ life that was not necessary to happen. Everything that has happened has been God’s perfect will for you. Every so called accident, every apparent disappointment, every single disaster that has taken place in your life, or in our life together, has been God’s perfect plan. He has not allowed one mistake. There was no other way! It’s that real! Given you and given me, there was no other way our life could have gone. God’s perfect plan has been and is being worked out in our lives. You’re exactly where you ought to be.
But, not only that, everything that has happened was necessary to happen. There are no mistakes. There are no failures. Was ‘The Fall’ necessary? Every bit! Was it not meant to go differently? Not a bit! Could God have achieved his purpose without any messes? Not at all! Is he not disappointed and sorry that you didn’t do differently? Not at all! No, no he isn’t.
Has there been terrible loss, and harm, and hurt, and pain? Look upon Jesus’ wounds. Was there terrible loss, and hurt, and pain? Yes, of course. And is it necessary? Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief.” Yes, yes it is God’s will. And was the pain, and the disappointment, and the agony necessary? Yes. And it’s necessary because God saw you and me from the very beginning, from before we were born, and saw all that was necessary to bring us to himself. And every step has been his plan. And there have been no mistakes. And it could not have been more efficient.
And it is rank ‘desire to be God’ on our part, that tries to think of some more efficient way. That’s why Jesus was so severe with Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan!” “Only Satan suggests a better way than my Father has found. My Father has found the only way. The only way that could possibly exist.”
Repent of any ‘Peter attitude’ you’ve had. Repent! And just rebuke Satan! And just refuse him to his face. And don’t allow him to steal one more moment from your life. Don’t allow him to steal another moment in regret, or in wondering, or in wishing. Live gloriously at this present moment, knowing that your Father has brought you to here by the only right that he could find! And it is the perfect way for you! And everything that has happened has been God’s perfect plan.
In other words, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s it. Give thanks in ‘all’ circumstances, because those circumstances are God’s will, in Christ Jesus, for you.
So it is glorious. No more regrets, no more being led ‘by the nose’ ‘by Satan’ about what ‘might have been’. Your life is unique, and God has guided it perfectly. And nothing has happened in it that was not necessary to happen. And there is nothing that needed to happen, that has not happened.
God has brought you by the only way possible. And he is satisfied. And he now asks you to be satisfied.
Let us pray. Dear Father, we do thank you, that you have worked all things according to the counsel of your will. We thank you Lord, that nothing has occurred that did not need to occur. Lord, we think of our mums and our dads; we think of our brothers and sisters; we think of colleagues of past days; we think of good times and bad times; we think of times when we couldn’t find our way, and times when we felt certain we knew the way. And Lord, thank you that we can bow down to you today. And thank you that ‘what we are today’ individually, and as a body, is a result of your perfect way for us.
There have been no surprises for you. You have not been let down or disappointed by anything that has happened. You foresaw it all. And in Christ Jesus you reconciled it all. And you made it all work together so that your will is being accomplished. So Father, we bow before you this morning, and thank you for all the ways your hand has led us, and thank you for your omniscient providence that has worked all things together for good, and has designed all things so they would work together for good.
Lord we thank you. We repent of any ‘attitude of Peter’s’, any tendency to have regrets, or to wish things had been different, or to think for one moment that this wonderful life you have given us is a second best, and is the only thing you could do in the circumstances. Father, forgive us. We repent of such an insult to you, and such ingratitude, and such lack of faith in the completeness of your love for us, to think that you would ever give even the littlest of your child, a ‘second best’.
Father, we thank you. This is your first best for us. Thank you for it, Lord. Thank you it’s the very best that you could give us in this present world. And we rejoice in it. We commit ourselves from now on to “giving thanks in all circumstances knowing that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” We do this in Jesus’ name and for his glory from this moment on in our lives, and for your pleasure. Amen.