Murphy’s Law And Christ’s Gospel
I read to you from the fifth chapter of the Book of Job, beginning to read at the sixth verse. This is the Word of God. “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. As for me, I would seek God. And to God would I commit my cause. Who does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. He gives rain upon the earth and sends waters upon the fields. He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty so that their hands achieve no success. He takes the wise in their own craftiness and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime, and they grope at noonday as in the night. But He saves the fatherless from their mouth, the needy from the hand of the mighty, so the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves.
“Therefore, despise not the chastenings of the Almighty, for He wounds, but He binds up. He smites, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles in seven. There, no evil shall touch you.”
Soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh God, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
My guess is that you have heard of Murphy’s Law. It goes like this. “If anything can go wrong, it probably will.” But I wonder if you have also heard of O’Toole’s comment on Murphy’s Law. O’Toole said Murphy was an optimist.
Well, I dare say that all of us can identify with that, for there have been times in all of us when we have seen Murphy’s Law working itself out with painful regularity in the living of our days. There have been times for all of us when we would have to agree with O’Toole’s comment. There have been times for all of us when the theme song of our every day was “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” There have been times when we would be quite willing to echo the word recorded in the Book of Job, “Man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward.” For it’s true, is it not? We are troubled people living, as always, in a troubled and troubling time.
But thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the Gospel of Jesus Christ presents us with the faith which stands alone among all of the faiths of the world in terms of confronting the reality of trouble in life. You know that that’s true? Buddhism does not confront the reality of trouble. It loses itself in selfish introspection. Hinduism does not confront the reality of trouble in life. It loses itself in dubious totems and charms. They call them mantras. Islam does not confront the reality of trouble in life. It loses itself in a rigid, unbending fatalism. Only Christianity, of all of the faiths and religions in the world, only Christianity has the spiritual courage to confront the reality of trouble in this world.
And Christianity has at its center, remember, One who knew what trouble was all about. Christianity has at its center One we call the suffering servant, the wounded healer. It is Christianity which sets before us face up and head on the reality of evil and the reality of trouble and the reality of death. And then it is Christianity alone which sets before us the greatest hope the world has ever seen, that the power of God Almighty is stronger than the power of trouble and death in this world. That is our hope as Christians. I love the way that Simone Weil sums up the Christian approach to trouble. She says, “The greatness of Christianity is not so much that it seeks a supernatural cure for trouble as that it seeks a supernatural use for trouble.” Oh, that’s powerful.
And so, yes, you know it as well as I do. Murphy’s Law may well be true. If anything can go wrong, it probably will. And O’Toole may have been onto something after all when he said that Murphy was an optimist. And the Book of Job may be very close to accurate when it says that man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward. But the glory of it is that the Word of God in Job does not stop there. It goes on to say in your trouble, when it comes, seek God. Commit your way to Him, and He will do great things, unsearchable, marvelous things beyond your numbering. Our faith offers us a response to Murphy’s Law, and I want to show you what I mean by that.
First, this. Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it probably will. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that when things do go wrong, God is at work in the midst of the trouble to enlighten us.
Now, you know that we are so busy, we are so preoccupied in our journey through life that we resent any interruption that comes our way. We don’t like anything that comes along and derails us from the track of our plan and our purposes in life. And yet, you know, that’s precisely what trouble does. Trouble interrupts us. It derails us. It gets us off the track. It does it every time. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us as Christians to learn that God works in the midst of trouble to enlighten us, to enable us to see that many times, the troubles which beset us in life are in fact nothing other than the purveyors of God’s grace and blessing in life.
I’m thinking here of a young man who was traveling in Europe a good many years ago now. On the way, he became afflicted with profound homesickness. It almost paralyzed him, in fact. It was a terrible interruption. It got him off the track. It set him back in the course of his plan, and he didn’t know quite how to deal with it. And he was frustrated by the fact that here he was in Europe, and the only way that he could communicate with the people that he loved was by letter, and that would take weeks and weeks to accomplish. And as he tried to deal with the hurt and the trouble which was upon him at that moment, his mind, for some reason, focused in on some lessons that he’d learned when he was taking physics at Yale University, of all things. And his mind began to recall for him the fact that he had learned that electricity could be carried along a wire at great distances instantaneously. And the thought to himself, “If only there was a wire that went across the Atlantic Ocean, then I could establish contact with those people that I love, those people I need to hear from so badly.”
And then he remembered something else. He remembered that the professor had said if a current of electricity be interrupted, then the electricity will become visible in the form of a spark. And he thought to himself, just suppose that those sparks could somehow be used to represent letters or numbers or even words, and not only the sparks, but also the spaces between the sparks where the current continued. And you know, out of that little germ of an idea, there developed a code which we know by that young man’s name. His name, of course, is Samuel F.B. Morse. And the Morse Code has become the telegraphic language of the world and has been such a blessing to the world. We know of instances where there are people who were so close to death that they couldn’t speak any longer, and they managed to communicate through the Morse code by blinking their eyes or tapping their fingers on the bed. And we know of instances where prisoners of war have been able to communicate with one another through the Morse code by tapping on the walls of the places of their confinement. It’s been such a great blessing to the world, and it came out of the midst of a young man’s profound trouble. He was interrupted by trouble along the way, and yet, in the end, the trouble proved to be a blessing to the world as a whole.
That’s the way it works so many times. You remember Joseph in the Old Testament? You remember the story. Joseph, he had all of his life and all of his dreams stretched out before him, and then came the interruption. Then came trouble. His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. You remember how he was jailed and how he was released and how he then managed to work himself up to a position of power second only to pharaoh himself. And then the Bible tells us that a famine came in Joseph’s homeland, and thousands of people died. Do you ever stop to think about this? Joseph himself might’ve died if he’d still been there in the midst of that famine. But the trouble, you see, had interrupted his life, had taken him out of that place. And so he was alive, and not only alive, but in control. He was in power. And members of his family then came down to Egypt looking for help, and when they got there, they went to Joseph, the second in command. They didn’t recognize him. He knew them, but they didn’t know him. And then he finally chose to reveal himself to them. You remember what he said? He said, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” There it is. Joseph came to see that the troubles which beset him in his life in fact were used by God to accomplish good and great things.
Now, understand me. I’m not going to try to be casual or clever about this. No. I know perfectly well that when you talk about trouble in life, you’re talking about a desperately serious matter. And I do not approach this subject frivolously, not at all. And I want to say to you right now with utmost seriousness that when trouble comes in your life, and sooner or later it will, when things go wrong in your life, then follow the word of Scripture. Seek God in the midst of your trouble. Commit your way to Him, and He will do great and marvelous and unsearchable things without number in your life. That’s what Job says. When trouble comes, God works in the trouble to enlighten us.
But then this. Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it probably will. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ says that when things do go wrong, God is at work in the trouble to energize us.
You remember in the New Testament the time when Jesus and His disciples encountered that great crowd of 5,000 people? And Jesus turned to Philip, one of the disciples, and He said to Philip, “Feed them.” And Philip was thunderstruck. He said, “Have you gone mad? Feed all this crowd? We haven’t got money to do that. We can’t possibly do it.” Now, John, in recording that story for us in his Gospel, makes a very interesting comment. John says that Jesus instructed Philip to feed the crowd in order to test him, in order to provoke him, in order to move him into action. That’s what it says. And you know, just so, I believe that God can use the troubles which beset us in life to test us, to see what we’re made of, and to provoke us, to energize us into action.
You ever stop to think about this? Do you know that you can see farther in the darkness than you can in the light? You aware of that? In the daylight, all you can see is the world that is around you, but at night, in the darkness, you can see other worlds. You can see all the way to the stars. You can see the other planets. You can see farther in the darkness than you can in the light. And that’s why I believe that sometimes the darkness of trouble is something which God uses to test us, to enable us to see more clearly ourselves, and to see God more clearly, and to see more clearly what God wants us to do in life. Trouble can do that. It can energize us into action for God.
Sir Edwin Landseer is one of the great artists of British history. Now, there is a particular inn in the town of Perth in Scotland, and that inn has as its only claim to fame the fact that on its walls there is a mural painted by Sir Edwin Landseer. When that mural was completed, Landseer himself was there for the dedication. There was a great celebration. And in the midst of the celebration, a bottle of soda water accidentally exploded, and the soda water splashed up on the mural. And it caused the paint right in the center of the mural to begin to run, so that at the end there was nothing left in the center but a great, ugly brown stain. It was a disaster, and everyone was upset.
That night, late, after everyone else had gone to bed, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer got up, went down to the room where the mural was, locked the door, adjusted the lights, took out his paints and his brushes, and set to work. And he worked all through the course of that night. And in his work, he proceeded to transform that great, ugly brown stain into a large rock, a great boulder jutting up out of the earth. And around the boulder, he painted evergreens. And there was a rushing mountain stream. And then right at the top of that great rock, he painted an enormous mountain goat standing so straight and proud with great, curled horns. And he retitled the painting and called it The Mountain Stag. And that painting has been reproduced thousands of times. You may even have seen it yourself. It’s now regarded as perhaps his greatest work of art.
Now, think about what happened here. Sir Edwin Landseer created a marvelous painting. Everyone agreed that that was true. But then trouble came, and the result was a terrible brown stain right in the middle of it. It was ruined. But the trouble moved Edwin Landseer to attempt to produce something even better than he had been able to produce before. The trouble energized him to transform an obstacle into an opportunity.
That’s what God can do in your life and in mine. He can work to transform obstacles into opportunities. That’s something of what Job says here when he says “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, and the schemes of the wily are put to a quick end, but to those who seek God in their trouble, He does great, marvelous, unspeakable things without number.” God can use trouble to test us, to challenge us, to call us, to move us, to energize us to become all that God wants us to be in life. That’s what the Bible says.
But then there’s this. Murphy’s Law says if anything can go wrong, it probably will. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ says when things do go wrong, God is in the midst of the trouble working to encourage us.
Hebrews 12:11. Write that down in your mind or on a paper. Hebrews 12:11. That’s a verse that’s worth memorizing sometime. “For the moment, it says all troubles seem to be more painful than pleasant. But later on, they yield a harvest of peace and righteousness to those who are trained by them.” Oh, that’s strong medicine. Hebrews 12:11.
Doctor Maria Ray would certainly agree with that sentiment. Do you know who she is? She is a noted psychologist in our time. She’s engaged in a very lengthy study of the relationship between success and suffering. And you know what she’s discovered? She’s discovered that those who grow most significantly and most successfully in life are those who have been forced to defeat great troubles. That’s right. Their success has come out of their struggle. That’s what she says.
That sounds to me a lot like Paul, who said, “We are troubled. We are distressed. We are perplexed on every hand. But we are not destroyed.” That’s the Gospel. Our success, many times, grows out of our struggle in Christ.
That was true of Joni Eareckson. You know that name, don’t you? A book and a movie have been produced about her life. Her name is spelled J-O-N-I. It’s pronounced “Johnny.” Joni Eareckson. A diving accident transformed her from a young, athletic, vivacious girl to one who was confined for life to a wheelchair, no use whatever of either arms or legs. At first, she was devastated, understandably so. “God, why would you do this to me?” At one point, she was in such despair, she actually asked a friend to slip her some pills so that she could take her own life. And then she encountered the Word of Jesus in Scripture, the word which says, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” And at first reading, she thought that sounded like a mockery. The very idea. Abundant life for her? Who’s He kidding?
But then, gradually, she began to see God beginning to work in the midst of her pain and of her trouble. And she began to accept her limitations. Painful a process though it was, she began to experience something of the abundant life which Christ had promised. She became an artist and creates marvelous works of art. And you know how she does it? She does it with a pen stuck between her teeth. She is a powerful, radiant witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. And her hope is built upon the future which God promises that one day her life and her body will be glorified in the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s what motivates her. And you know what she says? She says, “I have not been cheated of being a whole person. It’s just that I’m in the midst of a 40-year delay.” And God continues to encourage her in the midst of it all.
Do you hear what I’m saying? Please do. Trouble for the Christian is not seen as a soul-breaker. No. Trouble for the Christian is seen as a soul-maker. That’s it. So here’s Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it probably will. And you know and I know that many times, that’s so true. But here, also, is the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ. “In the world, you have trouble, but be of good cheer, for I,” yes, “I have overcome the world.” That’s what makes the difference. No. No. I want to change that. No. He, He is what makes the difference.