Are There Coincidences in God’s World? Does God do Things by Chance?
People like to refer to the word coincidence as a happening of chance, or something that happens without prior planning or expectation. Now, for us Christians, is there such a thing as coincidence? I put it to you that for the more important things that happen in our lives, coincidence does not apply. Let’s look at a couple of examples from the Bible.
The Shunnamite Woman
2 Kings 4:8-10 “One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” (NIV)
Elisha was a man who moved around a lot, meeting many different people in every town he visited. The well-to-do woman from Shunem was one of them. As seen in scripture, they hit it off because every time Elisha passed through Shunem, he stopped by for a meal, and with time, to spend the night in the room she and her husband had prepared for him.
Elisha observed how this woman and her family went out of their way to treat him well, and he decided to ask her what she would like as a reward. Naturally, she said that she was okay, but on further investigation, Elisha found out that she had no children. He then called her and promised that she would have a son.
2 Kings 4:15-16 “Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” (NIV)
True to Elisha’s words, in one year’s time, the woman had a son. What a joy! He grew, bringing great pleasure to his mother and father, until one day he fell ill and died. What did the woman do? She looked for Elisha and got him to heal the boy. Was all this a coincidence? Certainly not!
First, the fact that she recognized the man of God needed a meal and a place to rest after his long journey was most likely an action that was prompted by God. God must have seen her deep-seated need for a child, and he brought Elisha into her home so that this desire would be fulfilled. God chose her to be the one to host Elisha whenever he was in Shunem so that his glory would be revealed in their lives. Elisha was used by God to meet this woman’s need, not once, but twice.
Sometimes people come our way because God literally sends them over. The other day I talked on the phone with a wonderful woman who I had never met before. Our conversation centered on autism, and as we talked on the phone, I realized that she was sent to speak to me at that specific moment. Her words of advice and encouragement were timely and invaluable, yet we were strangers. Was it a coincidence that we happened to have a mutual friend who introduced us, that we had been in touch but had not spoken for two months, and that we finally talked on the very day when I was at my lowest? With God, there are no coincidences!
The Man at the Pool of Bethesda
John 5:1-7 “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (NIV)
This man had the most frustrating life. Every time he was just about to get into the pool after the waters were stirred, someone got there before him! Can you imagine how many years he had been lying there hoping to get into the pool and be healed?
Jesus happened to be passing there as he went for a Jewish festival. Around the pool were five covered colonnades, and Jesus could have chosen to pass under any of them, but he chose to pass where the invalid was. Coincidence, you say? No way!
Jesus saw the desperation in this man, and asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Instead of saying, “Yes, I want to get well,” the man starts a long story about how there was nobody to put him in the water, and how there was always someone who is healed ahead of him. Here is Jesus’s response.
John 5: 8-9 “Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. “(NIV)
Now – there were probably many other people lying around the pool waiting for their turn to dive in once the water was stirred, but Jesus chose to speak to this one man who had waited 38 years for healing. Note, also, that Jesus could have chosen to go with the guy’s argument of not being able to get into the water, and either put him into the water after the water stirred or left him closer to the pool. Instead, he chose to tell him to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus chose to use this man to display the power of God by telling him to do something that nobody else expected – stand up and walk, not get into the pool.
Was it a coincidence that this man was at the pool when Jesus passed by? No! Was it by chance that Jesus saw him and nobody else? No! Jesus must have known about this man way before he headed to the pool – He understood the pain that this invalid had endured over the years, and the disappointment he faced daily. Jesus knew who needed his help most at that very moment.
Have you ever been in a situation where you are left thinking, “If that person had not shown up, I would have been in big trouble,” or “If I had not been delayed for just a few minutes, the outcome would have been disastrous?” There are no coincidences with God. He plans things for our good, goes out of his way to protects us from evil, and works things out for his glory. He is always at work behind the scenes even when we are clueless about what is happening. With God, there are no coincidences!
Lastly, let me share one of my favorite verses, one that gives a fitting end to this week’s thoughts.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)