But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Corinthians 1:27–30)
The Bible is a wonderfully inspiring book, but it is also the chronicle of the works of God – works that are deliberately designed to challenge every assumption or expectation the world may hold fast to. The ways of God are deliberately and carefully purposed and fulfilled to ensure that His extraordinary nature and character are fully revealed – the ways of God always reveal the limitless power of the great I AM.
The ways of God are mysterious because they operate outside of conventional understanding.
Anything that human intellect cannot readily explain or define is relegated to the mysterious. It’s a mystery because it exists outside of ‘rational’ or ‘logical’ understanding. Our understanding is, in turn, defined by our intellect, knowledge, experience, and scientific rationale. We have created a complex system to explain ourselves, our environment, our world, and our emotions, responses, and behaviours. All these things work together to enable us to establish control – a driving human need in any situation. To maintain control, we must be able to ‘classify things,’ and anything that doesn’t fit into our conventional processes is filed under mysterious. The ways of God are only mysterious to us. To Him, they make perfect sense.
Our fundamental problem is that we like to define and explain – and understand things – from our own perspective. We are our strongest frame of reference, but the problem with this is that it puts the focus on us rather than on God. Our greatest challenge with the ways of God is that they throw our frame of reference out the window. They defy who and what we think we are and know, and they strip away the things that are comfortable and familiar. All of this is well and good if it brings blessings, but when we find ourselves facing trials, it’s easy to come unstuck.
The ways of God operate in a way that puts both man and God in the right perspective.
Man’s greatest enemy is himself. Self never ‘goes away.’ It may be conquered in some areas and brought under the control of Christ, but it ultimately never loses its determination to reassert itself. It hangs onto those areas that we have yet to submit to the leading of the Spirit. It remembers and reminds us of our weaknesses. It throws temptation in our path, and whittles away at our faith and our resolve. It works continually in us to reinforce the perception that the ways of God are not our ways, and always from the perspective that it creates an unbridgeable chasm of separation.
The real truth is that the ways of God are not our ways because they put God in His rightful place – the almighty, all-powerful, omnipotent I AM. His ways point over and over to the absolute truth that He is sovereign. This automatically puts self in the place of humility. When continually faced with the reality of the nature and character of God, we cannot help but be aware of our own insignificance. No amount of intellect, learning, skill, or ability can ever enable us to fully perceive the who and what of God. The truth that self tries to obscure is that this, in Christ, does not imply separation.
The cross is the most perfect and most powerful manifestation of the ways of God.
Today’s verse tells us in great detail just what makes God’s ways so extraordinary. Simply put, it’s because they always manifest the exact opposite of what convention, reason, and logic would expect. In doing so, they make it absolutely impossible for self to claim any part in the eventual outcome. The ways of God magnify Him in every respect. They make it very clear that He alone has the wisdom, the knowledge, and the power to accomplish the impossible.
If we look at the cross, we see this truth perfectly and completely revealed. Christ was a king who came as a poor and humble servant. He was perfect and righteously holy but died in full identification with the imperfect and the unrighteous. He was beyond reproach, yet endured the worst humiliation man could devise. He died so that He could live again in His real nature, and so that the unrighteous could have righteousness imputed to them. The ways of God are all about redefining the impossible, and they’re all about creating an indestructible bridge that permanently destroys separation between God and man.
The mystery in the ways of God is the stuff of faith
Faith is essentially seeing what isn’t as is, which is, by worldly standards, impossible. We should never confuse this truth with the popular ‘name and claim it’ gospel, or the esoteric worldly teaching that we only need to envision something to draw it to us. Our faith is centred squarely on the nature and character of God. Faith implies an acceptance of the ‘mysterious’ ways of God. It requires that we begin to see His ways as being right and the ways of the world as being wrong. It also means living outside our comfort zone – those things we depend on to structure our world and afford us control.
Because we are no longer separated from God, we are expected to live, think, feel, and respond according to His purposes. These include the ways of God – those mysterious ways that leave us squarely outside our comfort zones. Faith is essentially seeing things as God sees them, and this means that while we may never be able to explain them in worldly terms, we understand them in the Spirit. We accept the ‘contrary view’ of God rather than the established and comfortable view of the world.
The ways of God place us in conflict with the ways of the world.
We’re made in God’s image, and part of our purpose in Christ is to reflect Him to the world. To do that, we must essentially ‘become’ Him in how we think, speak, or act. It’s not enough to blithely say that the ways of God are mysterious as a kind of cop-out – a universal, generic ‘explanation’ for things we cannot explain. This leaves a gap for us to escape participation, and that is contrary to God and His ways. We cannot satisfy our self with ‘explaining away’ what cannot be explained. God expects us to actively live the truth – to make those ways a part of who we are.
We find this explained in principles like loving our neighbour, forgiving others, denying self, and turning the other cheek. All of these examples have one common element – they defy the conventional wisdom of the world. Yet this is how God wants us to live. When we accept the ways of God and assimilate them into the new creation we have become in Christ, our ways become exactly the same as the ways of God. They cannot be explained, and the rest of the world will look at us and wonder, and perhaps even mock and attack us. The ways of God are always in conflict with the ways of the world. When we begin to believe them and live them, we automatically ‘cross over’ the invisible line which puts us in conflict as well.
The ways of God are the foundation of knowing God.
The most significant and powerful event, the pivotal point in the history of mankind, is the cross. The entire Old Testament points and guides mankind to the cross, and from Acts onward, the New Testament reveals in practical exposition. The reason for the cross is simple – to remove the separation between sinful man and a holy God and to restore a righteous relationship. The very essence of this relationship is that we come to know God as He truly is and respond to Him based on that. To know Him, we must know His ways.
Christ came to earth to reveal God. For relationship to be restored, that intimate knowledge must be present. Salvation is rooted in the real and true knowledge of who and what God is. We learn that by learning the ways of God, because His ways reflect His nature and character. Repentance and forgiveness are, of course, absolutely critical, but they are the means, not the destination. The destination is righteous relationship with God. Fundamental to this is the fact that God used every possible impossibility, every contrary principle, and every unexplainable paradox to reveal to us that He is so much greater than us, our unrighteousness, our weakness, our temptations, and our self-sufficiency.
The glory due to God is the principle that governs the ways of God.
The reality of the cross is that man cannot save himself. The craziest truth of all is that the almighty, all-powerful, omnipotent, vast, infinite, and indescribable I AM chose to die so that we could live beyond human expectation. In the ‘real world,’ it cannot and will not ever make sense. This is the ultimate example of the ways of God. But this contains another truth that self would prefer to avoid – we can claim no glory whatsoever.
Aside from the fact that it’s pretty much the height of cheek to even consider taking credit for anything God does, the ‘mystery’ inherent in God’s ways has a broader practical implication. It’s absolutely true that God will never – and justifiably so – share His glory. He’s way too awesome for that and He alone deserves all glory, honour and praise, simply by being Him. But on an entirely practical level, if it wasn’t abundantly clear that God alone could accomplish the impossible, mankind would face a dilemma. Our faith is founded on the truth that God died for us. If it wasn’t abundantly clear that He alone accomplished our salvation, we would face the possibility that perhaps we don’t have what it takes. In other words, we could look at another and see that we don’t have this quality or that strength, and so assume that salvation cannot be achieved.
Accepting the ways of God brings us to receiving the grace of God.
The mystery wrapped up in the ways of God is essentially simple and practical – if we can move beyond our own expectations, familiar conventions, and need for control. The moment we accept that the glory belongs to God alone is the moment when we relinquish our misplaced confidence in self. It’s also the moment when the beautiful principle of grace begins to work the miracle of transformation. I thank Him daily that His ways are not my ways. It’s a tremendous release to rely on the ways of God rather than the ways of the world.
While it may bring an entirely new conflict, the truth is that it actually sets us free. It empowers us to believe for the impossible, and it enables us to praise and thanksgiving, the things that bring us into a deeper and more intimate place in Him. When I look at this messed-up world, with its ugly and evil belief structure, I cannot help but be grateful that He provides the opportunity to live in the ways of God instead of the ways of the world. What a blessing it is to know that we are empowered by the God who makes the impossible possible rather than by the bondage of a world steeped in sin and expectations that condemn us to living outside the extraordinary power and glory of God.
We thank You, Lord, that Your ways are not our ways, that in You we live in the spiritual and not in the limited and restrictive conventions of the world. Help us to always see things in the light of the cross and the full revelation of who and what You are. Draw us close, and enable us to live Your ways, even when this brings us into conflict with the world, so that we may reveal You and Your glory.