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Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Presume

It was November 10, 1871 when probably one of the most famous meetings of all time took place. Henry Stanley met missionary David Livingstone after searching for him for 8 months. He took off his hat and said, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” He presumed correctly. The greeting and the rest of their lives are history.

It was probably easy for Mr. Stanley to presume that the only other non-African man was the one he sought. Dr. Livingstone’s helper had greeted Mr. Stanley first, in English, so Stanley knew Livingstone was there. It was a sure “presumption.”

I think, however, that sometimes maybe we presume too much. Here are some of the statements I’ve heard or read recently: 
  1. We are in the end times.
  2. Satan is obviously attacking you.
  3. This was God working in __________’s life.

Let’s take these statements one at a time.

1. We are in the end times.—We may presume that we are in the end times, since Jesus told His disciples that His return was imminent. (John 16:16) They believed they were in the end times, and we may safely assume the same two thousand years later. The truth is that we don’t know the day, but we must be ready. Remember the parable of the wise and foolish virgins? The wise ladies were the ones who were ready when the bridegroom came. That’s the way we’re supposed to be: ready and waiting. (Matthew 25:1-13) God hasn’t told us the date, and He hasn’t given us very specific occurrences. When World War I was happening, many Christians thought they were living in the end times. During World War II, people believed it was then. Jesus said, But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (Matthew 24:36; similar verse in Mark 13:32). So yes, we are in the end times, but we don’t know how close to the end we are. We have no idea if the Lord will wait another thousand years or if He might come tonight. God has a different sense of time than we do. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). What we can say with surety is that Jesus is coming. The end times are near, and we need to be ready because Jesus return is imminent. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).

2. Satan is obviously attacking you. Except for Job and a couple other instances in the Bible, we are not told what exactly Satan is allowed to do in a life. In the book of Job, we’re given a “ringside view” of how Satan accused and got permission to afflict Job. All of his attack was subject to God’s last word, and, as we know, God blessed Job more in the end than at the beginning. We do know that Jesus was able to discern the workings of Satan, since He reproved them. (Matthew 4:10; 16:23; Mark 18:33) He recognized that Satan had hurt people, like the woman with the issue of blood, Peter, and Judas. Jesus is God, so He understands these things. He’s the One Who is over everything that happens in heaven and on earth. So, He knows. But, we don’t. Except for characteristics of the devil (deception, lying, possession, and oppression) we have no idea if Satan is doing something, if a demon is involved, or if the sickness or infirmity was allowed for God to get the glory. (See my post on the man who was born blind, here.) I feel like we give a little too much credit to the devil and not enough to Him Who is all-knowing and sovereign. We don’t know and can’t know. We’re not God.

3. This was God working in __________’s life. Just as we can’t accurately discern the enemy’s work, I’m not so sure we can know exactly how God works. Oh yes, there are direct answers to prayer, and we know God did something wonderful. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to something like this: A lady has been living in sin. She had claimed to be a Christian and had actually been very active in the church for a time. Now, she is living with her boyfriend, and it’s been going on for a few years. She is not longer in church. One day, she goes to work in her car and has a terrible accident. She ends up in the hospital on a ventilator and very bandaged up. Thankfully, she recovers.* The people in her former church start commenting, “This was God working in Lady X’s life.” Again, how do we know? If Jesus had used this example in the Word of God, well then, that would be knowing. But, we are not privy to how God works. Oh yes, He could be trying to get Lady X’s attention. Very possible. But, we can’t be sure, since we are not God. If we were in the church that Lady X used to attend, our response should be to encourage her in her recuperation. If you felt led by the Holy Spirit, you might speak to her about living in sin, that you would like to pray for her to do right before God. You might offer to have a Bible study with her. But, you cannot judge how God is doing things. Yes, God spared her life. You can rejoice with her that He gave her another opportunity. Solomon put it this way, Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it (Ecclesiastes 8:17). We are accurate inasmuch as we observe that God allowed something to happen. We cannot, though, assume that we understand exactly what He means to do through it.

What we can presume is that God knows what He is doing, at any time, and at any point in history. He knows what He is doing in your life, and He knows what He’s doing in mine. He is sovereign, and He has already won the victory over sin, death, and the devil himself. God is great! Praise Him!

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren,
be ye stedfast, unmoveable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

*I made up this story. It does not represent anyone.


  1. Si, esto es muy posible. La persona que pasa por eso al principio solo piensa en el que dirán, posiblemente tenga incluso miedo de volver. Pero si vuelve, ser amable, cariñoso y sociable es muy importante para la persona. El no sentirse rechazado animará a la persona a seguir, acudiendo a la iglesia. Incluso a ser mejor que antes, pero siempre es bueno estar algo pendiente de la persona para poder aconsejarla en todo lo que necesite y que no vuelva para atrás. Es bueno suponer que Dios sabe lo que está haciendo en nuestras vidas y que nos usa para hacer su voluntad.

    1. Thank you, Tere. Yes, the Lord knows what He's doing! Praise Him!

  2. I heard an illustration once (made up, I'm sure) that went something like this: A man was out walking when he was hit by a car. He sustained terrible injuries and was taken straight to the hospital. One friend who heard the news right away went to the hospital and said, "Brother, this is Satan working against you, trying to discourage you and trip you up. We need to pray against him!" Another friend came by and said, "Brother, God allowed this for His own good purposes. He is trying to teach you something through it." When his wife finally got there, the first thing she said was, "Why didn't you watch where you were going?!"

    Sometimes God's purposes, Satan's attempts, and human error are all a part of a situation, but you're right, we can never assume exactly what God is doing in a situation. Sometimes even the person it happened to will say, "God allowed this because..." of whatever they learned or whatever resulted from it. I tend to think in response, "Maybe. He may have had purposes we know not of."

    Whatever He allows, we know He has a purpose and has promised to be with us and help us. Sometimes that's all we will know about it til we get to heaven. I wonder if we'll even know then - I hear songs like that: "We'll understand it better by and by," "I'll ask the reason, He'll tell me why, when we talk it over in the by and by." I hope so, but I haven't seen a place in Scripture that says that, though there may be and I am not thinking of it.

    1. Wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I think we might know things--if they're important--in the hereafter. The Bible does say we see through a glass darkly. So maybe a lot will be cleared up in heaven. Or maybe it won't be necessary. We'll just be very happy. I don't know. Thank you so much for sharing, Barbara. God bless you!


Please share your thoughts.