Of all the books in the world, the greatest is unquestionably the Bible. Of all the books in the Bible, Romans is arguably one of the best. And within Romans, chapter eight, in my opinion, is its crown. In that chapter, one phrase shines out to me like a jewel: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Why do I love this verse so much? Because it assures me that whatever my need, God’s triumphant power is ready to supply it.
We’d had a terrible week filled with troubles. Last month our family moved to an unreached city in Turkey for a three-month special assignment. Some Protestant friends had helped arrange housing for us, but things weren’t working out quite the way we had hoped. The place we were moving into was dirty and required a few days of cleaning. Cockroaches made sudden appearances all over the kitchen just to taunt my wife. During the first three days of cleaning, the electricity in our building was shut off. When the electricity was finally restored, we discovered that, upon every toilet flush, the tank was filling with hot water! “The building is plumbed that way by mistake,” our landlord told us. “There is nothing that can be done.”
Other than flushing away money, several other problems were of concern, including a neighbor who watched very loud television at 4 a.m. every morning. We heard the sizzle of electricity arcing in the bathroom wiring. Perhaps the most serious concern was the black mold that was rapidly multiplying on the concrete walls in the bedrooms despite our efforts to remove it.
Other problems compounded our housing woes that week. I had bought a second-hand bike to ride in the city. I had owned it less than a day before it was stolen from our building. The same week, our car had engine trouble, and I got stranded in the city three times. My wife’s cell phone died that week, leaving her clueless as to my whereabouts with the car troubles. Later in the week, I fell while playing soccer with the kids and had to go to the hospital for x-rays. It was painful, but no bones were broken. What a week! While limping around at the auto mechanic’s garage, I called my landlord about an additional electrical problem, and he said in passing, “If your electric bill is extra high, it may be because the building manager is inflating the numbers. He is dishonest, and you can help me catch him.”
I hung up the phone and said to myself, “I have got to get my family out of this place!” But how? And where could we move? We needed a furnished apartment for three months, without a contract. Also, I needed to rent directly from an owner, because realtors require an extra month’s rent up front. Where should I start looking? Could I find such a deal in short order? I prayed that God would help me. As Martin Luther’s hymn says, the Right Man was on my side.
The next day, after our boys’ schooling, I asked them if they wanted to “hunt for the bike thief.” They were more than excited. After ten minutes, I changed the game and told them to keep their eyes open for an apartment in a good spot. In this giant city, there are no houses, just apartments. Apartments for rent have big yellow signs hanging from their balconies with a phone number. I called on five, but none came furnished.
I found a neighborhood I really liked because of its proximity to a vast area of sand dunes and pines—a great place for the boys to roam. But I was disappointed to find no “For Rent” signs. However, I did see one “For Sale” sign.
I have called to inquire about hundreds of apartments while in Turkey—apartments for SMs, for our church, for an office for our publishing company, and apartments for our family. But I have never asked about renting a house that was for sale. I dialed the number, and in Turkish quickly explained to the man that we were a foreign family only in the area a short time, and we needed a furnished apartment. Would he, by chance, be willing to rent to us? He said the apartment was furnished and not being used. “I hadn’t thought of renting it because I have relatives who are coming from abroad in three months, and they will use it then.” Three months? Wow! Just the time we needed it. I told him we would love to look at the place, and he agreed to show it to me.
I raced home excitedly to inform my wife. An hour later, we went to meet the Turkish owner and his Norwegian wife. The apartment was spacious, clean and well furnished.
The owner asked me what I did for a living. I typically don’t give a straight answer to those kinds of questions until I know a person a bit. But this time I said, “I am a preacher.” He was surprised and pondered for a moment. Then he surprised me: “My wife’s brother is something called a Pas-tor, do you know what that is?” Then he said slowly, “He is an Ad-ven-tist. Do you know that group?”
In eight years here, I have never met a Muslim Turk who knew what an Adventist was! I smiled broadly and shared our background. Immediately we were friends. We laughed together as our world suddenly became very small. The Norwegian wife, who has been distanced from the church for many years, told us her Adventist sister was visiting her right then from Norway, so immediately we went over to their home and visited. A few years ago, I preached at a camp meeting in Norway. We soon found we had some friends in common, and the circle was complete. We learned the sister was recovering from cancer, so I prayed a special prayer for her as we all joined hands together in their living room. It was a tender moment.
As we were leaving, the Turkish apartment owner said, “You know, I hung up our “For Sale” sign just 15 minutes before you called.”
15 minutes! God is for us! Meticulous as a mapmaker, and devoted as a mother, God steadfastly seeks our good. What an awesome God we serve who arranges things with such care! Romans 8:31 places us in a position of serene safety: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:32 explains the extent of God’s eagerness to help us. It says in essence, “Look, God didn’t even spare His own Son, but gave Him up (to rescue you). What would He withhold from helping you?”
What astounding joy to find myself within the great wheels of God’s omnipotence. Not wheels of chance, but of orchestrated, loving care.
Did God connect us with this beautiful apartment and family for our good or for theirs? Did He allow our difficult first week just a setup so we would give Him greater glory at the unveiling of His providence? Had He put us in the first, awful apartment for some unknown reason? (I know there is a bike thief who received three days of prayer he might not have gotten otherwise.) God’s ways are beyond finding out. However, this we do know: “. . . all things work together for good to those who love Him . . .” Romans 8:28
Can you picture this scene in your imagination? “The Bible shows us God in His high and holy place, not in a state of inactivity, not in silence and solitude, but surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of holy beings, all waiting to do His will. Through these messengers, He is in active communication with every part of His dominion. By His Spirit, He is everywhere present. Through the agency of His Spirit and His angels, He ministers to the children of men. Above the distractions of the earth He sits enthroned; all things are open to His divine survey; and from His great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best” (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 417).
When life’s burdens seem too heavy to carry, see God on His throne. He is for us! Someone has said, “Stop talking to God about how big your mountains are, and start talking to your mountains about how big your God is!” When God plans, He plans entirely for our good. And when He plots, He plots entirely for the overthrow of our enemy. When it seems like hell’s cannons have found your range and are shattering your days, meditate on this: God is for you. You might be just 15 minutes away from realizing that you have been in the midst of a miracle all along.