[Chapter 14 of “How God Guides”… You know when you find yourself in a situation that seems coincidental, but you’re pretty sure this wasn’t just the power of fate or luck? You know when you have a “chance meeting” someone in a place you never go, with someone you haven’t seen in years, and you have an amazing conversation that leads you both to feel better when you part? You know when… OK, you get the idea. I’m not saying that every one of these could be considered something that God set up, but some of them definitely are… I call ’em “Divine Appointments.”]
It’s only recently that I began to think of “Divine Appointments” (DA’s) as being a method of divine guidance. A “Divine appointment” is when God sets up an unexpected and fortuitous encounter for you, usually without consulting you or warning you. You run into the perfect person at the precise moment, who can hook you up with the job you are about to apply for. You sit next to a person on the bus who is wondering about God, and a conversation ensues. In a crowded mall a person you haven’t seen in many years, but have been praying for, walks right by you. Some people call them “God sightings” or instead of “coincidences” – “Coinci-Gods.”
Examples from the Bible abound… Ruth had a fortuitous meeting with her close relative Boaz (Ruth 2:3). Abraham’s servant, who was looking for a wife for Isaac had a “chance meeting” with Rebekah (Genesis 24:15). Philip the Evangelist had an amazing divinely concocted appointment with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27). The Ethiopian just “happened” to be reading the Old Testament’s clearest predictive prophecy of the cross when Philip intersected with him on a remote section of the road to Gaza!
I think one key to knowing
what to do is being willing
to do “whatever” he
wants us to do.
The other day I went for a walk on the beach. Prayer walking on the beach is one of my favorite activities in life. It was a beach on which I’ve walked maybe two or three hundred times and have only run into people that I know maybe a dozen times. On this day I ran into two different old friends of mine with whom I had significant, even pivotal conversations. When I started out, I had on my mind my usual prayer agenda, and wasn’t looking for interaction with anyone but Jesus. But it was obvious to me that these were appointments that had been arranged by him. Rather than talking to God about people, that day I got to talk to people about God!
The first of these was with a struggling brother whom I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. I think I was able to encourage him, and then we parted after an hour or so with joyful tears in our eyes. The likelihood of us running into each other that day, at that place, at such a strategic moment was way beyond the boundaries of coincidence. When I look back at these, it’s obvious to me that these kinds of unplanned “engagements” happen to me quite often. For years now I’ve been in the habit of praying for these and trying to be prepared for them when they occur.
When I was in the middle of what I call a “Hell of Mercy,” I had dozens and dozens of perfectly timed phone calls from friends at moments of my greatest agony, just when I needed someone to talk to. Someone would write a card and it came in the mail on the very day that I needed what he or she wrote to this broken brother. Another friend or family member would come to my house and visit just when I was at my wit’s end. God knew my needs and sent his willing friends just in the nick of time!
Are there such things as “coincidences”? Many Christians say no. I can’t agree with that. As I said above, God is in control, but not he’s controlling. He doesn’t control everything in his universe, especially in light of the free will experiment that we’re engaged in. He doesn’t control every flip of the coin or every chance meeting between people. But there are times he does insert himself into the affairs of people in astonishing ways.
We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I call these “good works,” which are pre-planned by God, “Eternally Ordained Opportunities” (EOO’s for short). I see them as providentially placed opportunities to help someone or glorify God in some way. From eternity he plants them in time. Since I’m confident that God has left these EOO’s in strategic places for me to simply run into, I’m not nervous about finding good works to do. I’m convinced that I’m going to find them on the path I’m already on (as long as I’m on the path of submission to his will). I’m on a treasure hunt of sorts, and when I find the gems he’s left in strategic places for me, I do my best to cooperate with him in doing whatever he ordained in eternity for me to do with that gem.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15
Be prepared in season and out of season. 2 Timothy 4:2
How to miss your divine appointments…
Can we miss the “appointments” that God sets up for us? Yes we can, and unfortunately I have quite a bit of experience in the art of missing them. Here’s how you can miss them too…
You can miss your DA’s by living a wayward lifestyle.
When we’re off track with God, instead of encountering the kingdom prospects that he eternally ordained, we tend to miss them. One of the common terms in the Bible for sin is “trespasses.” When you trespass on someone else’s property you’re someplace you shouldn’t be, and conversely, you’re not where you should be. You’re off the path where you were supposed to run into those opportunities to partner with God and do a “good work.” Until you get back on the road of obedience, you’re likely to miss any number of DA’s and EOO’s.
A train will take you through certain stations at prearranged times. But if you board the wrong train (one that’s going the wrong direction), you’ll miss all the stations that you were intended to reach. If you had a person waiting at one of those originally intended stations, and you planned to intersect with them at a certain time at that location, you’re both going to be disappointed! You have to be on the right train in order to make the right stops at the right times. If you’re not “on track” with the Lord, there’s no doubt that you’ll miss some “appointments.” On the other hand, if you’ll get on the right train, it puts you in a position to make those appointments so that you can partner with God for good!
You can miss your DA’s when you fail to do the thing for which God set the meeting up to begin with.
You can be at the God-appointed place and time, but still miss the appointment by being preoccupied, timid, or just too lazy to do the thing God was hoping you’d do. This has happened to me more times than I wish to recall. For instance, when our mother died, my sister and I got together to plan her funeral and other next steps. We were sitting in a restaurant reminiscing, and she said to me, “You’re always so strong.” Later, when I looked back at that moment, I realized that this was a pitch I should have hit over the fence! It was right over the plate, and I let it go by. “Strike one!” I said something innocuous like, “No I’m not.” And that was it. I should’ve said, “I’m absolutely not strong all the time, but if I appear to be, it’s because Someone is propping me up!” I’m under no condemnation about my “called strike one,” because I asked the Lord to forgive me, and have had many other DA’s to converse with my sister about Jesus since. But this and all the other times I’ve been called out on strikes have served to remind me to keep a keener eye out for my DA’s and EOO’s and not wimp out when I get one!
A perfectly timed appointment…
I had just come back from the dentist who told me I needed to replace a crown on one of my molars. It would cost $950, definitely a stretch for me at the time. I went directly home and saw that the mail had been delivered, which was odd because it was several hours earlier than usual. I noticed that the postmark dates were from a week prior. I deduced that these pieces had been mistakenly delivered to the wrong house, and a neighbor had, after a several day delay, come over and put the letters in my mailbox. The first piece I opened was from a very dear old friend who, out of the blue, sent me $1000 check, which covered the looming dental bill with $50 to spare! Not only was the amount an absolute miracle, but equally shocking was the timing of it. Had I gotten the mail when it was originally sent I would’ve had the money in hand – an amazing God sighting in itself. But by putting it in my hand 10 minutes after getting the news of the need, was to me an indisputable love note from my Father, reminding me he’s with me all of the time and taking care of me no matter what!
Talk about God’s leading! He put it in my friend’s heart to send me that particular amount of money at that particular time, just when I needed it! My neighbor, albeit unaware of the part he played, was also involved in the supernatural set up! My part was easy – just open the mail, get the crown, pay the bill, and give the other $50 away to someone else!