Can This Be God’s Will?
Matthew 14:4-12; Luke 3:19-20; John 1:26-27
“So John was beheaded in prison.’” – Matthew 14:10 NLT
How many times in life does something happen that makes us ask the question, “Can this be God’s will?” Usually, it involves an event or situation that appears tragic, unfair, unexplainable or, in our minds, unacceptable. It could be the death of a child or a spouse. Someone innocent who is treated unfairly or accused unjustly. At those times in our lives, it is easy to question God and wonder about His will. Was He in charge? If so, why didn’t He do something about the situation? Why didn’t He intervene? Doesn’t He care? If it was all a part of God’s will, how can a loving God allow something so tragic or unjust to happen? Invariably, we begin to measure God based on our understanding of the circumstance, rather than the other way around.
Here in the opening days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we read the tragic story of the death of John the Baptist. John had been arrested by Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for publicly reprimanding him about having an immoral relationship with the wife of his brother, Phillip. Here was John, the cousin of Jesus, and the one chosen by God to herald the coming of the Messiah, locked in prison for speaking the truth of God. He and his disciples had to be wondering how this could have happened. He had a God-given job to perform. He didn’t have time to sit in prison. He had a message of repentance to preach and more people to baptize. But not only was John confined to jail, he was about to be beheaded at the request of Herod’s wife, as a party favor for a dance her daughter performed for his friends. John’s head would literally be handed over on a silver platter, ending his life and putting an end to his career as God’s voice in the wilderness.
But why? How could God allow this to happen? How could this tragic event be a part of His divine will? Those are legitimate and yet difficult questions. And there are no easy answers. But we must not allow ourselves to question the wisdom, righteousness, or justness of God. We must remind ourselves that at no point was God up in heaven shocked by these events, or caught off guard by the outcome. He was fully aware and fully in control – otherwise He would cease to be God as we know and understand Him. As difficult as it is for us to understand the why behind events like these, we must refrain from questioning the Who. God reminds us, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine” (Isaiah 55:8 NLT). God does not always act in ways that we can understand or comprehend. He does not operate according to a rule book devised by men. There are things happening behind the scenes that we cannot see. There are outcomes we are not aware of. We tend to equate the activity of God with those events we deem good and that produce for us a measure of happiness. A job promotion most certainly be God’s will. The birth of a baby must be His will. A bride and groom exchanging vows and rings has to be within the will of God. But should anything seemingly negative or unfair happen in or around our lives, and suddenly we begin to question God and His will. And yet, when Job found himself covered in sores, financially devastated, and having lost all of his children through a tragic event, he told his wife, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT).
Yes, John the Baptist died a tragic, undeserved death. From our point of view, it was unnecessary, unfair and far to early in his young life. But God had a reason. There was a purpose behind it all. Does He explain it to us? No. Is He obligated to explain Himself to us? No. But would the death of Jesus be any less tragic, unfair, seemingly unnecessary, and unacceptable to the disciples when it took place just a few years later? No. Would they question the will of God for allowing their Messiah to be murdered at the hands of their own religious leaders? Probably. But God had a purpose. God had a plan. It was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die. And for some reason, it was necessary for John to do the same. Why? I don’t know. We can speculate that God needed to remove John from the scene so that there would be no chance of anyone mistaking John for the Messiah, but the Scriptures don’t tell us. God doesn’t give us His reasoning. But rather than view God through the lens of life’s events, we must learn to view life’s events through the character of God. We must remind ourselves that He is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, sovereign, wise, just, righteous, holy, merciful, gracious, and in complete control of ALL that is happening in the world around us. We see only in part. Our perspective is limited. Our understanding is restricted. So we must learn to trust that God, in His infinite wisdom and love, is doing what He knows to be best, according to His divine, perfect will.
Father, open our eyes and help us to see You. It is so easy to concentrate on what we see happening and not recognize that we have a faithful, loving, all-powerful God working behind the scenes in ways that we cannot see or comprehend. We have such limited perspectives and are quick to call You unjust or unfair without knowing the full outcome. Teach us to continue to trust You even when we don’t understand. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men