Marc Drake, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Sun Lakes

Until my wife and I moved to Arizona five years ago, I don’t think I had ever heard of the town, Surprise. Recently, I learned that it was founded in 1938 by a woman who named it Surprise because she “would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much.” Well, it certainly has! The town was incorporated into a city in 1960 and has experienced much growth over the years.

When you think about it, you realize that the Bible is full of surprises. Big surprises! Like the one when God said to Noah, “Build an ark, I’m going to flood the world.” Or when Joseph’s brothers, during a time of famine, went down to Egypt just to buy food. While there they encountered a man who turned out to be not only the Prime Minister of the nation, but their long lost brother as well. Talk about a surprise! But God had His purposes in all of this (See Genesis 50:20) – purposes that would result in the formation of a new nation (Israel) and ultimately in the arrival of the Messiah on this earth. Isn’t that amazing? And Joseph’s brothers thought they were headed to Egypt just to buy food. Surprise!

The story of Moses certainly has its share of surprises. Suddenly, he is confronted with a burning bush out in the desert. This, of course, leads to more surprises: plagues, millions of frogs and 40 years of traveling around in the desert (to name a few). But, of course, the story doesn’t end there.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells the story of people playing while the boss was away. But then the boss came back. Surprise! We are also told that Jesus Himself will return like a thief in the night. Those not ready will be surprised – but not pleasantly! On the other hand, those who know Him will have joy inexpressible at His coming. Yes, Scripture is full of surprises.

A beloved German pastor used to say to his congregation, “We live by God’s surprises.” Now, interestingly, he spoke those words – not from a quaint little church in some picturesque, alpine setting – but rather standing in his half bombed-out church building in World War II Germany, not knowing when the next wave of Allied bombs might fall.

Civilizations clash. Ideologies clash. But God has His surprises and perfectly fulfills His purposes, no matter how difficult the times or great the upheaval. That’s certainly encouraging to remember here at the beginning of the New Year. God’s track record of faithfulness is perfect. As the Bible says, “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). God is the same today. Just as He has provided for His children in the past, so will He continue to do so. And that, my friend, is no surprise.