We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having things go our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise, I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t, I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes, the answers are easy. Sometimes hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

The Biblical characters were very much like you and me. They were, in fact, totally human. Just like you and me. Life didn’t always pan out for them too. How they responded and dealt with the mess they weren’t expecting  can be a compass, or a lighthouse, to get us back on track with the Lord. So, from beyond the grave, the dead speak and show us how to continue being faithful when it looks as if God isn’t.


My sister-in-law came down with a really aggressive form of cancer a couple of years ago. She started getting really sick in November 2012 and by January 2013 she was in a real fight for her life. Things didn’t look good for her and my first inclination was to let her go to be with the Lord. But Doreen was believing for life. She had a promise of healing from God’s Word. And she wouldn’t have any talk or thought of dying. She was gonna get healed of cancer!

Well, if she was believing for healing and life, I felt we owed  it to her as a family to believe with her. So we took up arms against the devil, lifted up the shield of faith, and wielded the sword of the Spirit. We warred and sang our way from one battle to another. And God worked miracle after miracle! We were stunned! We maybe shouldn’t have been. But we saw God’s power working miraculously in response to the faith and prayers of God’s people. We were so humbled by God’s love and mercies towards Doreen and us. So encouraged by the fact that we were seeing God’s Word and power and faithfulness in action. So grateful that faith and God’s promises do work!

After another successful day of warfare and miracles, we went to bed Saturday night confident and hopeful that Doreen was on the mend. She was able to swallow again. That meant she would eat and drink more, get strength, gain weight, and mend back to health—just as God promised and just as we believed.

I was stunned when I woke up early Sunday morning with the news that Doreen had only a few hours to live. How can that be? She was doing good when we left her late Saturday night.

Then I remembered a dream that the Lord had given me that very early Sunday morning. Doreen’s husband, Jeremy, and I were in a boxing ring, the devil was on the canvas, and Jesus the Referee lifted up both of our arms and said, This fight’s over. This fight’s been won. Ominously, when I woke up Sunday morning, there was this dread, this knowing, that God was taking Doreen home. Sure enough, when the text message came, it was like a text message from God: It’s time to quit believing for healing and life. I want her home with Me. It’s time to let her go. This fight’s over. This fight’s been won.

Won? By dying? I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t. I’m hurt and grieved. But, I’m a believer and I still sing God’s high praises because He’s true and faithful no matter what happens.

I’m talking about what we do when things don’t pan out the way we thought or believed they would. A friend of mine was sharing her story with me recently. She’d been contemplating adopting another young child. She’d prayed about it and, one day, God gave her the go-ahead and told her the child would be a blessing to her every day of her life.

Life didn’t pan out for her the way God said it would—at least, not in the way she understood God’s words. The child was a handful and a trial in many ways. A lot of heartaches, disappointments, and tears. It contradicted what God told her. For years and years she didn’t understand.

Then one day recently, after years of enduring a reality that contradicted God’s promise, God showed her what He meant by the promise. The blessing that the child would be every day was not so much the child, but the work that the Lord would do in her through the child. The blessing was God’s transforming work in her.

In her case, when life doesn’t pan out the way you thought or believed it would, the problem is not because God didn’t keep His promise. He keeps it. He always does. The problem is our understanding of what He promised. We think we understand. But really we don’t. So what do we do when life doesn’t pan out? Whether we understand God’s ways or not, we keep believing God. God’s Word is true no matter what.

What I went through with Doreen and what my friend went through with her child reminds me of an incident in King David’s life. The King wanted Joab his General to number all the men of war. Joab, however, didn’t think that this was a good idea. Unless God told you to count, you didn’t count. That’s because you’d start trusting in your numbers instead of God to win your battles. Anyways, Joab knew this and advised the King not to do the census. The King, however, prevailed and Joab reluctantly did as he was ordered.

When the numbers came in, David felt guilty about what he’d done. But it was too late. God had His punishment in store for David. The King could choose one of three punishments: (1) three years of famine; or (2) three months on the run from his enemies; or (3) three days of the plague (2 Samuel 24).

Well, David knew the Lord to be a merciful God. With a merciful God, what could possibly go wrong? Sure, some people would get sick. Some might even die. But it isn’t going to be a catastrophe because God’s merciful. He isn’t going to let that happen! So David thought.

But the plague didn’t pan out the way David thought it would. In three days’ time, no thanks to David, seventy-thousand people were dead! Seventy-thousand! This clearly wasn’t what David was expecting! When David grasped the awful reality that confronted him, he, I’m sure bitterly, cried out to God and said, I’m the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let Your anger fall against me and my family (2 Samuel 24:17).

David was trusting in God’s mercies to spare him and the nation from the worst. God is merciful. But His idea of mercy doesn’t always line up with ours. Seventy thousand dead isn’t our idea of mercy. Evidently, for God, it was.

Grief-stricken and stunned beyond belief, David built an altar and worshipped God (2 Samuel 24:25). In doing so, he shows us what we do even when it seems as if God failed us or punished us disproportionately to our sin: we still believe, worship, and follow the Lord. No matter what comes. No matter He does or allows. No matter what’s happened. We still believe.

We don’t always understand. Sometimes we think we do. In either case, when life doesn’t go the way we thought or believed it would—the way God promised it would—it’s not because God led us wrong. Sometimes He lets us know why. Sometimes He doesn’t. No matter what, we still believe and worship God. Maybe, like Satan and Job, God just wants to show us off to the devil and prove to that liar that God’s people will still love Him, trust Him, serve Him, and praise Him, no matter what misfortunes come their way.



How well do you know Jesus? We all like to think we know Jesus pretty well. I’ve had close to fifty years of wonderful, sweet communion with Jesus. I’ve devoted over forty years of my life to studying and teaching His Word. I’m talking about going back to the original languages and learning as much as I can about Jewish culture, institutions, and beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Know-It-All. And you can ask my kids: I’m not inerrant or infallible. But still, knowing what I know, I’d like to think I know Jesus pretty good. To my pleasant surprise, however, I don’t know Jesus as good as I think I do. To this day, He still shows me more about Himself. Here, let me give you some snippets of the Jesus I never knew.


Hi guys. I wish I had some uppity-up things to say to you today. I’d like to cheer you up. But I’m in need of cheering up myself. I’m about to lose my head. Literally. And, as you can imagine, I’m not too thrilled about that. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Here. Let me start over and introduce myself.

I’m John the Baptist. And here’s my story. As many of you know, I’m the forerunner of Messiah. For those of you who don’t know what that means, for hundreds of years our prophets told us about the Messianic King who would come to Israel and rule the world. Messiah had to be preceded by His forerunner. This was the guy that went before Messiah and announced His coming. We Jews have been longing for Messiah for hundreds of years. When the forerunner appeared we knew Messiah was not far behind.

Well, before I was born, an angel appeared to my dad while he was serving as a priest in the holy place in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 1:5-17). He told dad that I would be Messiah’s forerunner! I was special! God Himself trained me in the desert where I took up residence. When it came time for me to make my move, I started preaching and baptizing in the Jordan River. Then I told everybody the great news. Messiah has come! I even know who He is! He’s Jesus of Nazareth! So, from an advertising and PR point of view, you can say I’m a pretty important fellow. I’m a pivotal figure in Jewish history (if I may humbly say so myself).

We all knew that Messiah would be a political, militant, conquering King. He would come to Israel, free us from Roman domination, and restore Jewish independence and sovereignty. From here He would go on, with us as His followers, to conquer and rule the world. He would establish the worldwide kingdom of God on the earth. And we, of course, would help Him rule the world. We lived for this dream and this day! And now that Jesus was in our midst we were pumped up with excitement and the realization that we were uniquely blest by God to live in such a signal moment of history as now.

I was at the crest of my popularity when Herod Antipas caught me baptizing in Galilee and had me arrested. Herod was the Governor at that time and, seeing that he was in an adulterous marriage to his sister-in-law Herodias, I spoke out against him and that’s why he busted me and threw me in the dungeon at his palace fortress in Machaerus.

If you’ve never been in solitary confinement in a cold, damp, dark dungeon you wouldn’t know or understand the doubts that began to run rampant in my mind. Jesus was the Messiah. I knew that beyond all shadow of a doubt when I saw the Spirit of God descend upon Him like a dove after I baptized Him in the Jordan River. But persecution and suffering have a way of getting you to doubt things that you never imagined you would doubt. Jesus was out there. I’m in here. Why hasn’t He come to free me from his hell hole in the ground? He wouldn’t begin the liberation of Israel without me, would He? Even if He did, He’d still come and get me, wouldn’t He? I am, after all, His PR man. He needs me! I served Him faithfully. I even put my neck on the line for Him. No way is He going to let me rot or hang in here! But if He’s the Messiah with the power to conquer the world, why hasn’t He come for me? Why am I still in here? Could it be He’s not the Messiah after all?

When I couldn’t bear it any longer, I sent some of my disciples who had come to visit me to go find Jesus and ask Him if He really was the Messiah.

When my disciples came back a few days later you should’ve seen them. They were all pumped up about Jesus! He did all sorts of miracles that you wouldn’t believe. The blind saw. The deaf heard. The dumb spake. The paralyzed moved. Demon-possessed people were set free. Jesus did all these, and more, for my disciples to see. He was doing exactly what the prophets said Messiah would do when He comes to Israel. The miracles were Jesus’ way of letting me know that, yes, He was still the Messiah! Then He told my disciples, Go and tell John what you see. And give him this message from me, Blessed is he who doesn’t stumble over Me (Luke 7:19-23).

You’d think I’d be jumping over chairs with jubilation about the miracles Jesus did. I was. I was relieved to hear it straight from Him that He was truly the Messiah. But, and this is what I asked my disciples, Did He say anything about coming to get me? Is He going to get me out of here? Is He on His way? When is He going to rescue me from Herod’s dungeon?

The jubilance of Messiah’s miracles was instantly changed into a deafening silence. Somberness instantly set in and heaviness hung in the air. It was as if death itself had come into my dungeon cell riding his pale horse.

Turned out Jesus didn’t say anything about coming to rescue me. If He was going to do it you’d think He would’ve said something to my disciples. His silence was ominous. 

Even more ominous were His words the longer I thought about them: Blessed is he who doesn’t stumble over Me. They were cryptic at first. But the longer I thought about them the realization finally hit me: Jesus wasn’t going to come to the rescue! Why in the world not? That didn’t make any sense at all to me! Jesus needs me! I did my part serving Him! He owes me! You bet I was starting to stumble over Him. He was tripping me up royally! I was a fuming and a flipping! God, I just don’t understand what you’re doing! And why!

After I settled down and dried my tears, the words of Jesus came back to me. One word in particular. Blessed. It’s as if Jesus knew I was going to flip out over Him not coming to get me. He would still bless me if I could just pull myself together and stay loyal to Him no matter what. Even in His abandonment He would bless me. I won’t be resentful or hateful. I won’t turn my back on Him. I’ll be blessed.

As you would understand, Jesus’ answer was not the one I wanted to hear. I fully expected Him to tell me He was on His way. He’d get me out of this hole in the ground. Freedom would be my reward for my faithfulness. Of course I was disappointed. Big time! I thought God let me down. He didn’t come through for me. He was a No-Show when I really needed Him the most.

But I had it all wrong! It was what I wanted, not what God wanted. Anytime we want things our way we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment because God doesn’t always do things our way. He sees the big picture. He knows what’s good for us. And He always does what’s good for us. Yeah, He may disappoint at times. But even in disappointment He speaks comfort. He’s the Comforter. And He knows how to cheer us up if only we’d listen.

Want to feel better? Take it from me. Listen to God speak and you’ll be feeling a whole lot better a whole lot sooner. Stick to your ways and you’ll be in the dumps. Trust God’s goodness, let Him have His way with you, and you’ll be victorious over life’s disappointments.

I thought I had Jesus all figured out. He was gonna come get me because He was the political, militant, conquering King. He was. He still is. But He’s also the sin-saving Savior, the spiritual Messiah as the prophets also prophesied (which all of us Jews conveniently forgot). We wanted our King! God would give Him to us. But first He would give us our Suffering Servant and Sin-Savior. He wasn’t going to rescue me because He wasn’t going to reign. The cross had to come before the crown. I didn’t understand this at first. But now I do.

I’m going to lose my head. That’s a tough way to go out. But I’m going to stay faithful and true to the end because I want to be blessed. I know you probably won’t understand me, but I value faithfulness now more than freedom. I value loyalty more than life itself.

I thought I had more to do for Messiah. I guess not. God’s done with me. I’ll die holding my head up high, privileged to have been Messiah’s forerunner. I won’t get a chance to read my obit, but I know Jesus will say something good about me. I AM blessed. So don’t feel sorry for me. The good thing about losing my head is I’ll be with God in glory. And you can’t be any more blessed than that!