Paul Scanlon, pastor of Life Church in the UK, returned to City Harvest Church with a reminder tthat God makes all things work together for good.
Paul Scanlon, pastor of Life Church in Bradford–one of the fastest growing churches in the United Kingdom–delivered an impactful message at City Harvest Church on the weekend of Mar 1 and 2.
Scanlon began by reading 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, which lists the many sufferings of the apostle Paul. “Without knowing the context of these verses, one may assume that they were reading about a criminal’s life or the life of someone before he came to Christ. But you now know that these are the sufferings of Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. He suffered all these for serving God and for doing right!”
He went on to read Romans 8:28, on which his message was anchored, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
“‘All’ is a small word, but there is nothing that does not fall under ‘all’,” Scanlon pointed out. “Paul knew that everything was either God-sent or God-used. This verse says all things, which means there are no conditions or exceptions, but all things: good things and bad things and neutral things.”
The preacher also said that because Paul had personally gone through these ordeals, his words carried more weight. Scanlon then gave two such examples. “For Nelson Mandela to speak about forgiveness to the South African government and the whites—after he had been imprisoned for 28 years—it became the key to a paradigm shift in the nation. For John Newton to write the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’—the song came from his heart because he had been in the slave trade and experienced the grace of God that saved a wretch like him.”
TRUST GOD EVEN WHEN YOU CANNOT TRACE HIM
Scanlon encouraged the congregation to see beyond the natural circumstances.
“God is doing far more behind your back than in front of your eyes!” he declared. “The way we trace God in our lives is through the things we perceive to be Him. Eventually, we start to base our faith on our ability to track and trace God in our lives.
“But the key is our ability to trust in God even when we cannot trace Him. There are, right now, a lot of things that are working together for good in your life. God is using things from your friends, and your enemies too, things that are visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, things you remember and have forgotten, good decisions and bad decisions—all these are listed under the ‘all things’ that God can bring together and weave together for your good as His people. Nothing is wasted!”
Scanlon then referred to several events in the Bible to show how God was the Person-in-charge of the “all things” department, who could even go against nature to make things work for good for those who love Him. He was the One who made donkeys talk (Balaam’s donkey in Numbers 22), the One who made whales swallow people (Jonah 1), the One who tamed the lions (Daniel in the lions’ den in Daniel 6) and the One who made selfish ravens feed hungry prophets (Elijah in 1 Kings 17).
THE FOUNDATION OF PAUL’S FAITH
Scanlon then shared four key beliefs that formed the foundation of Paul’s faith, allowing him to be able to believe and write Romans 8:28.
1) God is sovereign
God has supreme, independent power and authority. Paul wrote of the sovereign, everlasting, unbeatable and irresistible love of God. It was not just a theological statement, but something written out of an experience with God.
2) God is omniscient
This means that God has complete, unlimited and infinite knowledge. Psalm 139 says “all the days of our lives have been prepared even before we were born.” God sees his people’s lives from the future. Sometimes, Christians panic when it is not evident that God is aware of their problems or working in their lives, but Scanlon assured the congregation that God is often working unseen. He is immune to being early or late because He does not work according to human schedules—He dwells in eternity. Scanlon raised the example of Lazarus, whom Jesus intentionally went to see after he was dead. God knew the end of that story, He knew what the others did not know—that Lazarus would be resurrected.
Scanlon went on to liken God to a Global Positioning System. On a drive from England to Scotland, the GPS in his car did not give him any instructions for three whole hours. There was no assurance that he was driving in the right direction, until he had reached the outskirts of the city, then the GPS began to guide him to his. Even when he took wrong turns, the GPS would give alternative routes to his destination. In the same way, it is common for God to keep silent until He needs His people to move in a certain direction. God is in control and even when we take wrong turns in life, He gives alternative options for our lives.
3) God is omnipotent
He is all-powerful and never out of resources. He is never weary and does not need help. Paul knew this about God, and all Christians need to know this as well.
4) Bad things do happen to good people
Yet, this does not make them bad people. Just like in Luke 13:4, the 18 who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them were not worse sinners than others. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.
“Those who do not understand this will be shaken, lose their stability, question God, question the church and question the gospel. Christianity is not an immunity shot for bad things,” Scanlon said. Paul knew this, and he did not question God’s hand in his life.
Scanlon ended the service by reminding the congregation of the message he preached in 2012 on “Springtime” and encouraged them to see that now is the time for revival and growth.
Eliza Gan, 30, a financial consultant, felt strengthened by the message. “My main takeaway from the sermon is that God can go against nature to make things work for a good purpose at the end of the day. It was a great reminder to me that God is always at work behind the scenes.”