Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Peter M. Prange
God works in mysterious ways. We’ve probably all had opportunity to experience that reality. For instance, we may have the feeling at times that God has abandoned us in our time of need, only to have the problem we’re facing resolve itself in a way we could have never imagined. With a smile, we conclude, “God works in mysterious ways.”
His mysterious ways
The Scriptures indeed tell us that God works in mysterious ways. He’s acting behind the scenes, so to speak, hidden from our eyes. That’s what a mystery is: a reality hidden from sight.
The Old Testament believer Joseph had a wonderful and heart-wrenching opportunity to suffer God’s behind-the-scenes work in his life, only to have God’s good purpose revealed to him much later on. He went from being a young prisoner sold into slavery by his jealous brothers to second-in-command over all Egypt and in a position to save his family and many others from starvation. “You intended to harm me,” he reminded his brothers, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
The reality is that God is present with every person every moment of the day, acting in and through the people of this world, both believers and unbelievers. “For in him we live and move and have our being,” St. Paul taught the skeptical crowd at Athens about their “UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23,28). But our loving Father’s acting in us and through us is hidden from our eyes and the eyes of the people around us. We don’t normally see or understand it because God works in mysterious ways.
His actions through us
Have you ever considered yourself one of God’s actors? That’s what you are. Martin Luther described all people as “masks of God” to illustrate how God is acting through us. Especially as someone who trusts in Jesus, God employs you and your spiritual gifts to bless the people and world around you. He has sent his guiding Holy Spirit into your heart to lead you gently in all your thoughts, words, and ways. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Yes, God has been acting inside you and through you in a mysterious way, even if you didn’t realize it!
And what’s God’s ultimate “good purpose” for your life? Simply put, he doesn’t want you to “be overcome by evil, but [to] overcome evil with good.” God is good, and he can do nothing but good, even when we initially judge his work in our lives to be evil. In all circumstances, God has called us to be his actors in a spiritual war against evil. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood [i.e., human beings],” Paul reminds us, “but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). We need to realize that our enemy, the devil, also works in mysterious ways, “looking for someone to devour.” We need to be alert (1 Peter 5:8).
How do we win this spiritual war against our unseen, evil enemy? By putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), which will protect us when the day of evil comes. Then the devil won’t get the best of us. Instead, God’s Word will lead us in victory over Satan’s evil schemes, as we allow our loving God to reveal the good he desires to produce in us and through us as his actors.
Author: Peter M. Prange
Volume 106, Number 8
Issue: August 2019