As we approach the seventeenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Towers that killed nearly 3,000 people, we are hearing again the many stories about the people who were late for work for one reason or another and missed their “appointment with death.” And then there was the man who had a flat tire on his way to Boston’s Logan Airport and missed his flight to California. Brooding about his “bad luck,” he returned home only to receive a phone call from a family member shocked to hear that he was still alive, since it was his plane that became a “flying bomb” that destroyed one of the towers. He replied, “God must have had a reason to keep me off of that plane.” He is certain to spend the rest of his life figuring that one out. But how are we to think about such occurrences? Was it luck (good or bad) that he had a flat tire? Was God exercising providential care in keeping only this man away from danger? Such questions are beyond our ability to understand. They deal with issues locked away in the mind of God.
But as interesting as it is to debate such rare occurrences as these, I am more concerned with what the Word of God does teach us about the providence of God. Unfortunately, the topic almost never comes up in general conversation unless it has the mass appeal of this passenger’s story. What the Bible does indicate is not that God is interested in keeping us alive or taking us home through His providence, but in putting us into situations where we can be of use to Him. In other words, my personal survival on this planet isn’t as important an issue as my availability to be used for His purposes. One thinks especially of the story of Joseph in Egypt and the providence of God that brought him to the right place at the right time. Or, we think of Esther, whom her uncle wisely counseled: “Who knows whether you were come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” But we are not to think this happens only to the “ancient greats.” It appears that God is at work in the lives of all of us preparing us for areas of service far beyond our ability to understand. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we should not be so quick to label the events of life either “good” or “bad” for he promises that “God works all things together for good to them that love him, who are called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28).
The question our friend who missed his plane should be asking is not “why?” but “what?” What is God leading me to become? What is He leading me to do for Him? For there will come a time when neither he nor we will any longer be preserved from death. And then the only remaining question will be “What have we done with the opportunities for service God has offered us?”
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship