I talk to two of my neighbors on a regular basis and feel fairly close to them. We talk about a lot of things, but they tend to shut down the conversation when I start talking about God or salvation. I’m constantly looking for ways to insert meaningful comments in a way they will receive.
You probably have similar friends in your lives. Sometimes we have to build friendships with people before they will listen to the Gospel. My husband, Art, played badminton every Tuesday night with a man for more than ten years before he became a Christian.
So we want to be bold witnesses for Christ but we also want to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. We want to build a relationship that will break down some of the barriers our friends have that make them not want to listen to the Gospel. It’s not easy is it?
One of these ladies often uses the term “meant to be.” Like: “My friend is dying of cancer, but it’s meant to be, don’t you think?” This woman doesn’t claim to be a Christian or show interest in the Bible or spiritual things, but she still uses this phrase, “meant to be,” a lot. As a Christian, I believe in the sovereignty of God and the good purposes he has for situations we encounter in our lives. So when an unbeliever uses this phrase, I always wonder what they mean by it. When my neighbor asks if I think something is meant to be, I want to tell about the way God works in our lives. But this is not a yes or no answer. You really need to be able to say more to answer a question like this, because if God causes all the bad things that happen in our lives, why would they want to believe in him?
My way of dealing with this with my neighbor was to write out a careful response explaining my version of the phrase. Then I popped into her house for a chat. I was able to insert a quick summary of what I wanted to say and then handed her an explanation she could read in her own time. This gave me a chance to insert more than I could actually say to her at the time. I plan to do a similar thing with another neighbor at our once-a-month game time together.
Since this phrase, meant to be, is a common part of both New Zealand and American culture, this can be an opening to talk about the God we love. I’m including the remarks I gave my neighbor in hopes others can use it with unbelievers they know. Feel free to copy this article, even change it, to use with your friends. I don’t feel my friends are ready for Scripture verses so I’m not including them. I have, however listed verses at the end that you could insert throughout this article. The verses go with *’s in the order they are given.
May God give you opportunities to share his love to those around you today.
Meant to Be – What does it mean?
I often hear people say something “was meant to be.” They may ask me if I agree. I could say that I certainly do if I can define what that means to me. On the other hand, I certainly don’t agree with how some people define that phrase.
Some people believe in chance, that all of life is a gamble and it doesn’t matter what you do. Contrary to that idea, people who say an event or condition was meant to be usually mean that it was caused by fate, destiny, or God. In each of these cases they believe that many things in life are beyond our control and are predetermined by a supernatural power. Some call these powers “kismet,” “fortune,” or “karma.”
Fate says you may have some choices that influence your life, but by and large you can’t escape your fate. Fatalism says if you can’t change what’s going to happen to you, why even try?
Destiny also maintains that our lives have been planned out before hand, but that we can shape our destiny by what we do.
I believe that God is in control of the world and everything happens according to his plan.
The Bible says that God plans out our lives before we are born. He knows what will happen to us and he works in our lives, but he also allows us free will. What we do does make a difference in the outcome.
Adversity is part of life on earth.
The Bible tells us that God created a wonderful, perfect world. Satan, a created being who rebelled against God, brought sin into the world.* Adam and Eve used their free will to follow Satan into rebellion. From that time on, the earth has been cursed by sin. Many bad things happen because of that curse. Sickness and death have become a part of life. Things decay and wear out. On earth today, these things are a part of life. God can stop bad things from happening, but he allows some bad things to happen because these experiences are a part of life.
Some bad things that happen are a result of wrong choices. Unwise choices often bring undesirable outcomes. We were also created with the ability to make moral choices and we’re responsible for the choices we make. When we make wrong moral choices we hurt, not just ourselves, but other people as well. Wrong actions can bring harsh consequences. Many people choose to do morally wrong actions and then blame God for the consequences of those actions, but they have brought these problems on themselves.
Evil is part of life on earth because of sin, but evil doesn’t tie God’s hands or defeat his plans. God can even use bad things for good purposes. The Bible character Joseph is a good example of this.* Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and hated him so much they sold him to be a slave in Egypt. As a slave Joseph worked hard for the good of his master, earning a position of great trust. Then someone lied about him and he was thrown in prison. Even in prison Joseph earned the trust of the prison warden. Joseph suffered much injustice for thirteen years, but he continued to trust God and keep a good attitude. In time, Joseph interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh and was promoted to be in charge of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. For thirteen years of his life, it looked like God had forgotten Joseph, but actually God used the tragedies in Joseph’s life to bring him to a high position in the government. In that position he was able to save the lives of all seventy members his family and Egyptians and people in neighboring countries by helping them prepare for an upcoming famine.
We often don’t understand what’s happening in our lives but God can even use adversity for good.*
- Make us strong
- Teach us compassion
- Equip us to help others*
- Motivate us to find answers to life’s problems
- Draw us to God
- Be used by God in ways we can’t understand*
Good and bad things come to all people:
While people often ask why God allows bad things to happen, they forget that every good gift comes from God.* Every day God gives good gifts to good and bad people alike. Every breath we take is a gift from God. So is food, clothing, health, strength, family, friends, ideas, beauty, skill, nature. The list is endless. We may work hard to earn money to buy some of these things. We may study and work to develop skill. We share in things invented or developed by other people. But ultimately, all things come from what God has created or allowed us to have.
God doesn’t just give good things to good people and bad things to bad people. God even gives good gifts daily to the person who hates God, shakes his fist at God, and blames him for every problem. God gives good things to every person on earth. He also allows tragedy to strike every kind of person. None of us is truly good and perfect like God. He doesn’t give us good things because we deserve it but because he loves us and is gracious.
God is in control of our lives.
God is in control but he allows our actions to affect the outcomes in our lives. Our choices make a difference in what happens in our lives.
Salvation makes me God’s child and gives me a strong, personal relationship with God. It doesn’t make me perfect, but it does get me going in the right direction.
Following God’s plan brings blessing into our lives. That doesn’t mean we won’t have any problems in our lives, but that God will use even adversity for our good. Obedience to him makes a difference because we are working with his plan, not against it.
Though God plans our lives, he has also left room for prayer to make a difference.*
When life seems to spiral out of control, God is still working in our lives. He may not stop these things from happening, but he will help us through hard times if we trust in him. Trusting him gives us confidence that we have purpose in life and God will use all things, even adversity, for our good. Even evil and tragedy must bow to the good purposes of our God.
So when I hear someone say certain things in life are “meant to be,” do I agree with them? I agree if I can define what I mean by that. I believe God works in our lives for good and brings everything into our lives for a reason. I believe God controls our lives and, as I cooperate with him and follow his lead, God is bringing my life to a place that accomplishes his purposes and gives meaning to my life.
Let’s say someone tells me their friend is dying of cancer, but that it was meant to be. What am I thinking?
- God has allowed this to happen. He could use medicine to cure them or he could do a miracle to cure them, but he may not.
- God controls how that person will come through medical treatment, how the disease progresses, how the person will eventually die.
- Prayer makes a difference in what will happen, but we leave the results with God.
- Death is a part of life and each of us will die in some way.
- God wants that friend with cancer to come to him in salvation so he or she will be prepared to die and spend eternity with him.*
- God cares about the family and friends of that person and the journey they go through as well.
How does God’s control change my life?
- As I look back on my life, I see how God has been faithful to bring me through each difficulty. I know that he will be faithful to bring me through my future.
- I can face uncertain times with confidence because I know that God loves me and will work out things for my good.
- When life gets crazy and I don’t know what to do, I know God is still in control. He will lead me to the right course of action in time for me to take it.
- I can do certain things to plan and move forward but if I feel stuck I don’t need to despair. God is still working in ways I can’t see. I can trust him.
- My life has purpose because what I do matters. God can use me in ways I don’t understand.
Life on earth will pass and each of us will face our eternal destiny. God gives us many blessings on earth, but he also gives us this time to prepare for death.* People come up with many conflicting ideas about what we must do to prepare to meet God. Many people think if their good outweighs their bad, God will accept them, but God says differently. God reveals himself in the Bible and the Bible gives only one way to prepare for an eternity in heaven.
I can try all my life to be the best person I can be, but I still do wrong things that offend God. He is holy and he can’t accept the wrong moral choices people make. He can, however, forgive them. God’s Son Jesus had no sin of his own, but he allowed soldiers to crucify him to pay the penalty for the wrong things we do. We have a choice about our eternal destiny. He offers us salvation but we must accept it.
How can I get this salvation?
- Be sorry for the wrong things I’ve done that have offended God*
- Believe that Jesus died in my place, paying the penalty for sin *
- Choose to accept God’s gift of salvation*
[Sentences with an * by them match Bible verses that explain these ideas. The Bible verses are: Genesis 3, Genesis 37 and 39-50, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, Isaiah 55:8-9, James 1:17, James 5:16b-18, 2 Peter 3:9, Hebrews 9:27, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Acts 16:30-31, Romans 6:23.]