Do you ever think that God is surprised by events in your life or decisions you make? Do you think He looks at you and says, “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!” It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But often times we actually believe that He is taken by surprise and that is quickly followed by, “There’s no way He could love me after I did that!” And so we start to believe that God has given up on us. Nothing could be further from the truth and this next passage in Galatians makes that clear.
First, remember Paul’s life story. He was a strict, law-keeping Jew belonging to the sect of the Pharisees. These folks were strict. And Paul says about himself that he was even excelling at being a Pharisee. Not only that but when an upstart group of Jews claimed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, he went after them with a vengeance. He hunted them down and threw them in prison. This was not the type of guy that you could argue into the Kingdom or think he would be a good candidate to lead the new Church. When those first century Christians saw him coming they ran the other way. Yet Paul makes this truly incredible statement about himself.
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me… (Gal 1:15, 16 ESV)
There is something very important to see here. God had called Paul and set him apart from before he was born, before Paul had said or done anything, but God waited until He was ready to reveal His Son to Paul.
God knew Paul. He knew Paul would be a strident Pharisee. He knew Paul would persecute His church and jail His followers. He knew Paul had murderous intent. He knew Paul would care more about tradition than truth. And yet He called him and chose him for his mission to the Gentiles. Not only that, God’s timing was God’s timing. He was not caught off guard or waited too long nor was God shocked at the way Paul had turned out. No, God acted when it pleased him. It was not dependent on Paul’s “readiness” to know Jesus. All this God had decided before Paul was even born!
It should be comforting to us to know that God’s plans for us are already laid out just waiting to be revealed at the right time – at God’s pleasure. So do I think that maybe God is too slow? Yep. Do I think that maybe my time is passing me by? Yep. Is that true? Nope. The same God who set Paul apart, has set me apart and has set you apart for His mission for us in this life. When and how remains in His good pleasure.
I am learning to rest and be assured in God’s perfect timing in my life. “When God was pleased He…” becomes my guiding principle here. God knows my days, my weaknesses, my sin and He calls me and reveals Himself to me at the right time. That is what He did in Paul’s life and I firmly believe that it is true for us too. No surprises.