Devotional Thought: The Sovereign One is Working! (Philemon 15-16)
Epictetus was born in 55 A.D. in Phrygia and spent his youth as a slave in Rome serving Epaphroditos, Nero’s secretary. Eventually, he became a philosopher with the following perspective. Epictetus taught that much of human suffering is self-inflicted, arising from our attempts to control what is uncontrollable and from neglecting what is actually within our power to change. He wrote, “…those who right these errors will achieve happiness and peace of mind. Those who don’t, their punishment is to be as they are.” (The Enchiridion)
So...by controlling the things we can control and letting go of the things we can’t, we will find happiness and peace of mind? Hogwash! This philosophy can never deliver what it promises! While his words are not completely void of anything useful, this is an example of a worldly philosophy. It lacks any understanding of God’s grace and sovereign leadership in human lives. Paul offered a better path to peace of mind when he said, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) In today’s verses, it seems Paul was teaching with this truth in mind.
Philemon was focused on what Onesimus had done wrong. Paul had his sights on what God was doing right. Philemon, no doubt, evaluated the situation as “bad”. God was using it for “good”. A story is told of an old man who had a prized stallion. One day, it leaped over the corral and disappeared into the distance. His friends came to comfort him. "That's bad news," they said sadly. "Who's to say if it's good or bad," said the old man. "All that we can say is that the horse ran away."
A few days later the stallion came bolting back into his corral, bringing with it a dozen other wild horses. His friends crowded around. "That's good news!" they shouted. "Who's to say if it's good or bad," said the old man. "All that we can say is that the horse has returned and brought other horses with it."
Later, the old man's son began the dangerous challenge of training the dozen wild horses and was thrown to the ground, breaking his leg. The old man's friends once again gathered, saying, "We heard the bad news that your son – your only helper – has broken his leg." Again, the old man replied, "Who's to say if it's bad news. All that we can say is that my son – my only helper – has broken his leg."
A few days later, war broke out in the land and all the young men were called to duty. But the old man's son could not enlist because of his broken leg. As the war raged on, one by one of the sons of his friends were reported injured or killed. (Author unknown)
As believers, we can resist evaluating every situation as “bad” or “good.” The only thing we are sure of is God is good and what matters is how we respond to His love and grace in our lives. He can bring good out of what, at first, seems like a bad situation. We can have peace of mind because the Sovereign One is working!
Rev. Will Mackey, Director of Enrollment Management and Adjunct Faculty
Filed Under: Blog Published: 12/12/2018