If our lives were any different

December 2, 2013


I had a blast yesterday preaching the first part of our “Reel Christmas” sermon series. Each week of Advent I’m preaching the Christmas story—and the gospel in general—using clips from holiday TV classics. Yesterday I preached Matthew 1:18-25 and showed clips from It’s a Wonderful Life to illustrate points I was making.

As always, I didn’t have time to say everything I wanted to say. For example, I could have shown the scene in which the angel Clarence gives George the alternate-history tour of a Bedford Falls in which George had never been born. George is able to finally appreciate the positive difference his life had made.

This scene would illustrate an idea about which I’ve been thinking out loud (on this blog and in sermons) for a while: God’s providence, and how we can’t begin to imagine the consequences of one choice we make over another, or God’s answering one prayer and not another. We may wish our life were some other way, but if it were, how confident are we that this “better” life would be good for us, or for our world?

What if we instead trusted that God knows what he’s doing, and that he’s given us the life we have because this is potentially the best life for us and the world? I say potentially because our own free choices (including sinful choices) play a role in the extent to which we realize this “best life.”

For any Wesleyan scholar or clergy out there: Am I correct to say that we Methodists avoid discussing providence (or the related idea of God’s sovereignty) because we worry that it impinges on human freedom? Regardless, I’m all for recovering a more robust understanding of the doctrine: I find it very comforting.

4 Responses to “If our lives were any different”

  1. Lynn Swann Says:

    Your messages are always good, Brent, but this one impacted me mightily. My step-son in NC really needs spiritual emotional, mental, physical, and financial healing. Healing that I believe only God can provide. I am standing on the promise that intercessory prayer changes things. Thank you, my prayers will be more specific, more fervent, and more faithful as I depend on God to set His plan in motion. God Bless You! Thanks for your service to The Lord.

    > Lynn Swann Cell: 828-215-6967 > > Sent from my iPad > > >


  2. Clay Knick Says:

    We’re afraid if we say something about providence we will say too much. So we Methodists don’t say anything & a void is created in our churches for all sorts of false, silly, dumb, & vapid theology. Often we UMs seem to be theologically timid.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Apophatic theology springs to mind, although that may not be what you’re thinking of. We’re in love with silence and “mystery.” Oh, brother!

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