“You never know!” There are a couple different places I hear these three powerful words.
One place is in the midst of chaos and pain. It is a phrase that is frequently heard in hospitals or at funeral homes. It usually comes after an accident, a diagnosis, or sudden death. It comes after the telephone rings in the middle of the night, and it is not the wrong number. It comes when we hear words from our employers like “cutting back,” “laying off,” letting go,” or words doctors like “cancer,” “inoperable” and “terminal.”
“You never know when life might change, and change dramatically. You never know what each day will bring. You never know what tomorrow is going to be like. You never know from one day to the next. All of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, your whole world can change. You just never know.”
Then the other place that I oftentimes hear these words is when God suddenly takes us by surprise. We think we have life all figured out. We think we finally have a plan our lives. Then God somehow, some mysterious way reminds you that God is the one with the plans. Someone once asked me: “Do you know how to make God laugh?” Make a plan.
It was only one short year ago. We had just bought a new house in Farmville, North Carolina. We told several members of our church family that we were there to stay. “Eastern North Carolina is our home,” we said. “We have no plans to ever move again,” we said. Well, you never know.
This type of surprise is what I would call a God-ordained surprise, a divine, holy surprise. I think it would also be fair to call it a “Pentecostal surprise.”
Pentecost, that time and place when and where “suddenly” (“suddenly”—now there’s a good Pentecostal word, a word that denotes great surprise), “suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house.”
Then they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Holy Spirit enabled them.
You just never know.
But that is not the only thing that surprised them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
You just really never know do you
It’s what Joel was talking about when he said, young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams and sons and daughters will prophesy. You never know.
I believe this is exactly what Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus when he was describing the life of the believer. It is what happens to a person when that person no longer lives by the flesh but by the spirit of God living in them.
We read in John’s gospel:
“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born anew.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
In other words, “Nicodemus, if you are born of the Spirit, if you are filled with the Spirit, and if you are led by the Spirit, I can promise you this old friend, you will never be bored. Cause you just never know.
Last Sunday, since it was Mother’s Day, I had a longer than usual phone conversation with my mother. She told me that she had just started babysitting a two-year old little boy, while the boy’s father, who suffers with bells palsy, goes to his part-time job. My mother, whose grandchildren are all grown, who is not in the best of health, is now caring for a toddler almost daily, ministering to a young family in need in a way she could have never dreamed. You never know.
My sister called me later that day. We talked about mama taking care of this little boy, how she is helping out this struggling family. It was then my sister said, “Oh Jarrett, Mama is not helping them out as much as they are helping her. That little boy has given mama a reason to get up in the morning. That boy is what keeps mama going. That boy and that family is ministering to mama. You never know.
You never know when God reveals greater purpose for your life, a purpose that is bigger than your life, plans that are bigger than your plans. You never know when your life might change and change dramatically.
One Sunday Jesus rides into Jerusalem celebrated as King of the Jews by children with palm branches singing Hosanna. A few days later the shouts of Hosanna turn into shouts of “crucify him, crucify him.”
On Sunday they throw you a parade. On Friday they crucify you between two thieves and bury you in a tomb.
But here is the good news, “Although your world is turned completely upside down, even if you are buried in a tomb that is sealed with a stone, the good news is, are you ready? The good news of our faith is: “you never know.”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, trying to comprehend what had happened, how in a blink of an eye, their whole world changed, went to see the tomb.
And before they knew it, it happens. “Suddenly (there’s that great Pentecostal word again), there was a great earthquake. And in the midst of their surprise, an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it and surprised them even more. You never know.
The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then, go quickly and tell his disciples. “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. This is my message for you.”
“Then, we are told, “Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” “And the women came to him,” and did the only thing they could do, “They took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.” Then Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Hold on! I thought the women were in Galilee. For that is what the angel had said, “He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.” The angel even bolsters these instructions by saying, “This is my message to you.” But where do they see Jesus? Somewhere along to road to Galilee. The angel’s wrong. The good news of the gospel is: even the angels just never know.
And listen, if the angels do not know exactly when or where the Risen Christ will suddenly appear with a presence and with words which cause us to take a hold of his feet and worship him, how can any of us presume to know?
Thus, as Christians we should never despair, that is, we should never believe that things have gotten so bad that the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ might not show up. Because we never know.
The good news is that when our lives are suddenly surprised by evil, Christ will always come, suddenly, perhaps when and where and in ways we least expect it, but he will suddenly come nonetheless and surprise us some more.
The risen Christ will suddenly come and change our world forever. And Christ will do so until that day comes when the Spirit utterly amazes all disciples with the undeserving gift of eternal life, a life that is so amazing and so wonderful, that until we experience it, we will never know.
Until that day comes, the Holy Spirit is here. The Holy Spirit is here touching each person in this place. Calling each person here to use his or her gifts to be the embodiment of the living Christ to meet the needs of people in our community and in our world in ways we’ve never dreamed.
Think of what would happen if every believer in this church truly answered this call of God’s Spirit, truly believed that the Holy Spirit has a greater purpose for your life, a purpose that is bigger than your life, plans that are bigger than your plans, a purpose that will not only bring you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, but one that will be the reason you get up in the morning.
Imagine what this church would look like, how this community would change if every believer suddenly commits him or herself to follow the Holy Spirit of Christ wherever he leads.
Well, you just never know!