Follow Jesus and you’re destined to be part of a great adventure. From the calling of the 12 to the present day, followers of Jesus eventually encounter one of His unique traits: He seems to do things in a way that defies logic, order, understanding, conventional wisdom, and experience. Here’s a small sampling of biblical events that twist and turn, defy and amaze — all because they arrive at a beautiful result, yet by way of mind-boggling paths.
Gideon is greeted by an angel of the Lord as a “mighty warrior” while he’s hiding from his enemy in a cave. Later, Gideon’s army of 300 defeats Midian, an army so great they could not be counted (Judges 6 and 7). Then there’s Joshua, who asks for the sun and moon to stand still, which they do, so the Israelites can defeat their enemies (Joshua 10). When God is involved, the Red Sea parts so His people can cross over on dry ground (Exodus 14:21–22); Daniel spends the night with hungry, ferocious lions and remains unharmed (Daniel 6); and Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:9–11).
How many more unexplainable things from Scripture could be named? The dead are raised, the sick are healed with simple touches or no touch at all, seas are calmed with a single command, demons are cast out, and Jesus declares Himself to be King of an eternal kingdom with absolutely no royal pomp or wealth.
Perhaps the most confounding thing about these accounts is their outcome. In the end, things work out. The means seem to justify the end, but how? Sleeping all night with hungry lions usually gets you killed, seas don’t part, and the sun doesn’t stand still. Water doesn’t turn into wine, and dead people don’t come back to life. Yet … they do! Who is God that He would do all these things? What kind of God intentionally chooses to pull things off by the most unconventional means possible?
God doesn’t need stunts or magic-trick-like illusions. In fact, none of those means are for God’s benefit. No. God uses these means to shake us, stir us, challenge our thinking, show us that there is more to reality than what can be seen with the naked eye, and bring us to places where we will trust Him. God does things backwards and upside down to get us thinking, acting and aligning with heaven even as we live on this earth.
One passage of Scripture that returns to my life over and over is James 1:2–4. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
The upside-down paradox of joy in the midst of trials is plain and clear. However, experiencing joy amid trials is upside down and backwards from what we know as “normal.” This passage may cause the reader to experience mental intrigue, but being transformed by persevering through pain and troubles, being more complete in Christ because of it … that’s the real deal!
Throughout this issue of Light + Life, you’ll read about the upside down and backward ways God has worked in the lives of people. Elisée Ouoba shares how his plans and God’s plans came into direct conflict with each other. Kristy Hinds helps us to realize that some of our daily detours are actually opportunities in disguise. AJ French digs deep into our desire to preserve our comfort (even regarding human relationships), and John-David VanValin takes us on a “Christmas in July” kind of detour to the manger where we see God’s unique ways at work as Jesus was born.
As you read, bring your story with you. Relive your experiences with God that seemed upside down and backward at the time, but now make perfect sense to you. Discover the wisdom and beauty God teaches us all as we learn that in Him, the means really do justify the end.
Brett D. Heintzman is the Light + Life publisher and Free Methodist Church – USA communications director.0