You’re lying in bed at night processing the day. You’re doing that thing where you replay a situation through the lens of what I’m going to call the what could have been. You know the way it goes: ‘what if I’d spoken up sooner,’ or ‘if only I’d done this instead of that,’ or ‘why did I leave it so late to make that decision.’ In case you’re wondering, this is not a blog on relationships (Naomi Harris is the expert there). But, if you want to use this framework to process your relationship history, be my guest.
Ephesians 1 is an awesome passage; it’s also the one you probably don’t want to have to lead the Bible study on. Why? It has that scary word ‘predestined’ in it. This blog is also not about whether we should be Calvinists, Arminians, or all the scary options in between (but sorry, no prizes if you can guess what I believe).
In the opening verses of the chapter, Paul paints a picture of just how great our God is. Great in His identity (v3), His choices (v4), His love (v5), His grace (v6), His revelation (v8), His plans (v9)—even though I could, I won’t go on (nor will I charge for use of that sermon outline).
So how does this help us lying in bed at night? Three ways:
1. The what could have been was never going to be
There is a clear message in the early verses of Ephesians 1—we are chosen. Our lives have been intricately woven together by the Creator of the Universe (and beyond). This is not the place for a discussion on sovereignty-versus-freewill, but somehow God has allowed and enabled both to exist. You can be sure that nothing in your life takes God by surprise. Nothing leads Him to say ‘uh-oh, that wasn’t meant to happen.’ Yes we sin, yes we are less than what we should be, yes we make bad decisions—but God knew it all before a single quark, electron or atom was spoken into existence. If we can believe God has chosen us as His children to become ‘holy and blameless before him,’ (Ephesians 1:4), surely we can trust Him for our daily decisions and their outcomes? Whatever the ‘thing’ is that didn’t happen in your life, no matter how good you thought it would have been for you, it was never going to happen. So sit down and thank God that it didn’t.
2. Focus on the what has been
Paul doesn’t want his readers to stop at verse five. There is a reason why our lives are able to be chosen and planned. It is only ‘through his blood’ that we have redemption. It was an unspeakable cost that Jesus paid. Our understanding of what was accomplished on the cross is minuscule. But we’re asked to think upon it, and be thankful for it. That’s why Christians take communion—not so we’ll fully understand, but so we will fully remember. Look at verse seven: our trespasses have been forgiven. Every wrong decision has been paid for by Christ’s blood. They have no hold over us. At this point I should say—we must always seek to make godly decisions, but being gripped by the fear of getting them wrong is not Christ-like. The redemption of our bad choices has already been bought. So get your focus right today; think on Jesus and all He has done. It’s a much better use of your time than constantly replaying the choices you’ve made.
3. Look to the what will be
But don’t stop there! From verses eleven to fourteen we are called to understand that we have an inheritance. One day all will be made right. The end of our journey will have come, and no matter what junctions we’ve decided to take, the road will have brought us to heaven. As we look back over our lives (if such a thing will be possible) we will realise just how insignificant our journeys are when compared to the majesty of the One who holds the paths of the galaxies together. Our focus should never be consumed by today, or tomorrow or yesterday. It should be on the journey’s end. In the words of the gospel singer Rance Allen (who you’re all much too cool to listen to), we are all going to see Jesus and ‘that will be good enough for me.’ It sure will.
It is more than ironic that as I was typing this very blog I received an email saying I hadn’t been selected for a job interview. Rubber has met the road. God is good.