1 Timothy 4:7: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
I believe we are living in an increasingly superstitious time. I think many are grasping at straws to try to have a sense of control or peace and so they are looking to philosophies and are believing in things that are earthly in their origin and have no validity or power to change a person’s circumstance or any authority to dictate their future. And probably, many of us, if not all of us, have fallen casually into thinking about some of life’s happenings in a superstitious way. How many of us make a wish before we blow out candles on our birthday cake? I know I have many times. I grew up doing it, and I encouraged our kids to do it when they were little. What is that? It is superstition.
How many believers are sending chain letters that say if you forward something to forty people in the next forty minutes, they will have a financial blessing or something good will happen to them? How many of us are receiving those and forwarding them “just in case” something bad would happen if we didn’t follow through? What is that? It is superstition. Why would we need to put hope in a chain letter when we have the Promises of God? Hello? Philippians 4:19 says God will supply all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus? Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God has a hope and a future to give us. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that if we trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our own understanding, He will direct our paths. Romans 15:13 says we can have joy and peace to the full and that our hope can overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 55:22 tells me I can offload my cares onto the Lord and He will never let me fall. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. We don’t need to forward chain letters in order to have a good life. We just need to follow the Chain-Breaker. He will direct our steps and grant us what we need.
Apparently, it was thought at one time that if you got out on the left side of the bed, you were opening yourself up to evil spirits. What is that? It is superstition. Whether a rosary or a rabbit’s foot, whether knocking on wood or hanging a horseshoe in your home, whether a four-lead clover or a broken mirror, whether you walk under a ladder or cross your fingers, whether you see a black cat run by or the ground hog sees his shadow—none of these have the power to shape your future—to take anything away from you or add anything to you. You will not break your mother’s back if you step on a crack, constellations and cosmic happenings will not determine whether or not you will get a promotion, get married or have children, a fortune cookie has nothing to say about your well-being or relationships, Friday the 13th will be just another day of life, and good vibes can’t be transmitted from one person to another. But, I am telling you, the world puts a lot of stock in all of that mumbo jumbo.
How do we make sure we aren’t buying into any of this crazy stuff and keep our eyes on Christ alone for the happenings in our lives? I would suggest to you first of all that we need to:
- Trust in the Sovereignty of God and not in superstition. Our faith doesn’t come in and through objects or rituals, but our faith is built on and grows in the Person of Jesus Christ. Look again at Colossians 2:8 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
As you study the life of Christ, you will see a life lived in connection with God the Father. Jesus didn’t look for earthly crutches or earthly comforts or try to control times, people, and situations, but He depended fully on His relationship with the Heavenly Father to enable Him to carry out the plan that had been determined before the world was even created. Jesus absolutely had nerves of steel because He had ultimate faith in the Sovereign plan of God. Look at this stunning story in John 19. Jesus is in Pilate’s custody. He has been beaten. The crown of thorns has been placed on his head. He is being struck in the face. Pilate still didn’t see any reason for Jesus to be charged. We read in verse four:
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “YOU WOULD HAVE NO POWER OVER ME IF IT WERE NOT GIVEN TO YOU FROM ABOVE.”
Wow! Jesus acknowledged right here that Pilate could only do what God would allow him to. Pilate was not controlling anything because God was never out of control. Jesus was never out of God’s plans or His hands. And neither are we. Romans 8:28 is a promise you can count on. God will cause all things to work together for our good as we love Him and as we have been called according to His purpose. See, that’s the thing. It is the purpose of God that always prevails. It is the plan of God that is completely unstoppable.
God is working out a plan through the course of human history that is pre-determined, but it is one that also doesn’t override our free will. It’s tough to wrap our minds around, but it is true. God is using even people’s disobedience, people’s hard-heartedness, the rise and fall of nations, our good choices and our bad choices, and even Satan to accomplish His purposes. Jesus understood what we can rest in: God is in control. That’s what God being Sovereign means. No doubt the intense suffering of Jesus could cause someone to wonder if God really knew what He was doing, if He was really in control, but the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is proof that God is in control! If death could not conquer Jesus, there is nothing left to question! Death is the worst enemy we could face, and it has been defeated. If Jesus can tackle the worst thing we face, then He can handle everything in between. Jesus never questioned if God knew what He was doing. He never questioned the will of God—only His personal willingness or desire to do God’s will, but He never questioned if the Father had messed up when He purposed for Jesus to die for the sins of the world.
Faith in God requires a commitment to trust when we don’t feel like it, to trust when we don’t understand. Superstition seems more accessible, easier to grab on when life is tough, but it only gives us a false sense of control. We control nothing when we embrace superstition. Let’s be honest: Embracing superstition is a way to try to be in control rather than recognizing God as the one in control. Can we agree that God can truly handle running the universe? He can handle hearing everyone’s prayers at once. He can handle meeting the needs of everyone all at once. He doesn’t need us checking in with fortune tellers and the stars to make sure He is on track or performing the way we want Him to. Here’s the thing. God cannot be manipulated. He is Sovereign. Completely. Fully and forever sovereign.
- Trust King Jesus, and not karma to deal with wrong and injustice. I see a lot of Christians talking about Karma as if it is a Christian principle. There is a principle of sowing and reaping in the Bible, but it isn’t Karma. We understand there are consequences for actions. God blesses obedience to His Word and punishes disobedience for sure. Sin has a price tag. The wages of sin is death. It causes destruction. We get all of that.
To ascribe some kind of power or energy or authority to something called Karma isn’t biblical. Karma is one of the principles of Hinduism and Buddhism that teach that the sum of a person’s actions in previous stages of existence and in their current existence will determine their fate in later existences. Christians believe that we live once and then heaven or hell await. Hindus and Buddhists believe that what happens now will impact your future lives. That Karma will bless you or bite you in the lives to come.
I see many Christians, who aren’t necessarily into the reincarnation facet of Karma, suggest it is still a real thing that comes back to bite people or wreak havoc on people who do the wrong thing. Karma is some cosmic, impersonal force. We don’t need to wish Karma will haunt people or pray for Karma to clobber people. We can trust that a holy God will right every wrong. We can turn our enemies over to God to deal with. We don’t need to wish harm on anyone. We can trust that God will do what is right to everyone who has wronged us.
Another note about Karma. Karma is the principle that everyone gets what they deserve. We need to be be thanking God right now that Karma doesn’t exist because if we all got what we deserved, we would all be in big trouble. Not only does God, in His sovereign wisdom, deal justly with us, but He also deals with us in grace. Aren’t you glad this morning that our God is a gracious and loving God. The Bible says He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He is gracious. He has taken on punishment that we deserved. He forgives us. He gets us out of messes. He restores things to us that we lost because of our own stupidity or arrogance or selfishness or self-indulgent natures. Let’s be glad that it is God and not Karma that is calling the shots in our lives.
- Live securely in the blessing of God rather than the folly of luck. Luck is “good fortune; advantage or success, considered as a result of chance.” When you wish someone luck, (like all of us have), you are essentially stating that you believe that what happens will be the result of random chance. What the Bible tells me is that God either causes everything that happens or allows it to happen. As we have said, nothing is outside of His Sovereign plan. We either believe God holds the future or we believe in luck. We can’t have it both ways.
One of the big problems with luck is that it leaves God out of the equation. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” When good things come your way, it isn’t because you are lucky. It is the blessing of God that has delivered that promotion, that special relationship, that new home.
Here’s the thing about God’s kind of blessing. It is comprehensive! You can be blessed when life is good, and you can be blessed when life is bad. Luck could never be defined that way. You are only lucky, in the world’s estimation, when everything turns out the way you want it to or the way the world would define to be positive. Listen, when bad things happen, it isn’t because you are unlucky. It is because God wants you to see how big and powerful He is. He can take the bad things we face and turn them into blessings in our lives, things we would never trade for the world.
Do you know the song “Blessings” by Laura Story? The lyrics go like this:
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?
What IF trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?
God’s plan is to give us a hope and a future, to bless us, and sometimes those blessings come to us through hardships. People who rely on luck will never see God at work in the hard times, because they will dismiss trials as something bad, something unkind, something unlucky, or unfortunate. I’m telling you that when we walk with God, the tough times can become the greatest blessings of our lives because of what they teach us about God and ourselves and because of how they develop and refine us in the process.
One commitment God has made to us is to prosper us. He has a plan to bless our lives. Jeremiah 29:11-13 promises it is so. Whatever you are going through, no matter how long it lasts, how confusing it is, or how oppressive it feels, God will transform it into something wonderful if you keep walking with Him. When you let God write your story even the bad chapters will turn into victory.
If you were to study the life of Joseph, you could conclude at the end of chapter one that his life was awful. It was a tragic tale of a young boy with great dreams who was favored by his father and hated by his brothers; hated so much that they sold him into slavery and faked his death to their father. Who does that? What kind of rejection and betrayal would he have dealt with and why? All because he maybe bragged a little much? He didn’t deserve what was done to him. If that was the end of the story, it would be horrific.
Chapter two didn’t get much better. Oh it looked promising for Joseph as he was sold by the slave traders into the home of Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. Joseph did such a great job serving in his home, that Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household.
Joseph became the manager of everything Potiphar owned. Well, Potiphar’s wife took notice of Joseph and decided to seduce him. Joseph, being a man of integrity, didn’t take advantage of the fact that she was throwing herself at him, and he rejected her. She didn’t handle that well. She accused Joseph of trying to rape her, and he was thrown into prison. Not only did Joseph do nothing wrong, but he had done everything right. Once again, he didn’t deserve what was done to him. If that was the end of the story, it would be horrific.
While in prison, the warden was pleased with him to the point where he put him in charge of the goings on in the prison. Things were starting to look up again for Joseph. Well, Pharoah was mad at two of his employees. He had the chief baker and the chief cupbearer put in a prison-like situation where they interacted with Joseph. The two men had dreams they couldn’t figure out, and Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. It was a God-given gift. So, Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream. His interpretation was good news. He was going to be restored to the Pharaoh’s service. He asked the cupbearer to remember him to the Pharaoh when he got out so that Joseph, too, might be pardoned. The baker’s interpretation was significantly less favorable. He was going to be killed by the Pharaoh. Everything happened just as Joseph said it would. The baker was killed. The cupbearer was restored. But the cupbearer never mentioned Joseph to the Pharaoh which meant he was still confined to prison. Wasn’t Joseph’s life worthy of consideration? Worthy of mention to the Pharoah? He had helped the cupbearer. Couldn’t the cupbearer even mention his name? Once again, he wasn’t done right. If that was the end of the story, it would be horrific.
It was two whole years later that the Pharaoh had a dream that he didn’t understand when the cupbearer remembered he knew someone who could interpret dreams. When it would get him a pat on the back by the Pharaoh, the name of Joseph, the guy in prison, rolled off his tongue with no problem. Joseph was sent for and he came to interpret the dream.
The short version is that the Pharaoh’s dreams represented seven prosperous years where Egypt would produce an abundance of grain that would be followed by seven years of famine. The dreams were sent by God to give Pharaoh a “heads up” so he knew how to prepare the land for the upcoming hardship. Joseph recommend putting someone in charge of creating a strategy to enable the Egyptians to weather the seven lean years, and guess who Pharaoh chose? No more prison for Joseph. He was made second in command in Egypt. God allowed everything that happened to Joseph including being taken far from his homeland and into Potiphar’s home and prison so that he could richly bless him and make him a blessing to an entire nation and beyond.
And here is the cherry on top, when Joseph’s brothers were out of food due to the far-reaching famine, they traveled to Egypt to fall upon the mercy of the Egyptians who had planned ahead. When they got there, after a series of events organized by Joseph to find some things out, and maybe some things he put into place to make his brothers sweat a bit, he revealed himself to his brothers. Look at the text: Genesis 45:3-8 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that GOD SENT ME AHEAD OF YOU. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, IT WAS NOT YOU WHO SENT ME HERE, BUT GOD. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
Are you seeing this? He didn’t cuss them out. He didn’t demand that they suffer the way he had suffered. He didn’t pray for Karma to bite them. He didn’t make them slaves. He said, “You didn’t even do this to me. The Sovereign God sent me here.” He said, “I have been blessed to be father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” Joseph saw his life as blessed! Joseph not only fed his family, but he took them in and took care of them. Listen, when you realize that your life is blessed of God, it doesn’t matter what people have done to you, you can simply bless them back.
And later, this happened: Genesis 50:18-21 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Because Joseph saw himself as blessed, he could be a blessing. People who were looking from the outside on Joseph’s life, people who didn’t know God like Joseph did, if their life was like Joseph’s, they might determine it was a string of bad luck, a series of unfortunate incidents. Joseph saw a strategic plan for a strategic purpose and he was blessed to be part of it.
Your life isn’t random. Your pain isn’t a cruel joke. Your suffering isn’t for nothing. Be still, and wait for the Lord. Don’t turn to superstition to try to make sense of what is happening to you or what will happen in the future. Don’t reach out to some cosmic impersonal powerless force the world calls Karma to try to get even with people that do you wrong. God has a plan to use even injustices to suit His Sovereign purposes. Trust that not only does God know what He is doing, but believe that in time, He will reveal it to you. And when He does, you will be so blessed to have been through what you have gone through, to learn what you have learned and to be elevated to the place where He is taking you.