Mystery II: Ends & Means

18 Dec

In Sunday’s sermon, I read this poem/hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” There is a great story behind the writing of the hymn. It was penned by a Brit, William Cowper, in 1774. Cowper was depressed. He called for a driver to take him Thames River, where he determined to drown himself. Cowper struggled with depression for much of his adult life. Thoughts of suicide was nothing new. A dense fog settled in and the cab driver was unable to find the River. After driving around aimlessly for sometime he stopped to let Cowper out of the cab. As he stepped out, Cowper was shocked to find himself on his own doorstep. He reasoned that God sent the fog to spare his life. (Read more about Cowper here.)

It was this encounter with the mysterious hands of Providence that led Cowper to write these words:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

I was re-reading these words this morning and I scribbled down the following thoughts about mystery.

~Ends & Means~

God very often makes clear what he is going to do. The Scriptures are a declaration of his will, his plan—the WHAT in his doing. The mystery is in the HOW.

The end is not in question; it is the means that remain mysterious. God declares the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). He does this both in biblical prophecy and through present-day expressions of prophecy. God leads us with a clear picture (or not-so-clear picture) of the end result, but then he guides us with mysterious nudges through the means. God called Abraham with a definitive call – Go from your country to a land I will show you – and a clear picture of the end – and I will bless you, make you a blessing to others, and make you the Father of Many Nations. The end is clear. The means were much more mysterious.

Joseph had a picture of the end—rulership. The means were filled with hardship. God “rode upon the storm” – storms of slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment.

Peter could see the end—reigning with Jesus in glory. Jesus told him, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

“How endlessly difficult it is to become a Christian.” Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity

The ends are clear.
The means are mysterious.

We will arrive at the end.
We live in the means.

Our hope is for the end.
Our faith is for the means.

The end is more like dream.
The means are raw reality.

Jesus is at the end.
Jesus is in the means.

Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

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Posted by on December 18, 2007 in Theology


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